No Classes Friday, But Officials Say They're “At the Brink” of a Deal

Union's House of Delegates to meet Friday at 2 p.m.

UPDATE: "Tentative" Deal Reached to End Chicago Teacher Strike

The Chicago Teachers Union strike will continue to at least Friday, completing a full week that public school students have been kept out of class.

However, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel to end the city's first strike in 25 years.

Following another marathon day of negotiations, school board President Dave Vitale and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis emerged separately from the Hilton Chicago at around 1 a.m. Friday and said they were very close to a deal.

"We've got some number-crunching to do overnight and we'll be back here tomorrow to see if we can't finish this up hopefully tomorrow," he said. "I think we've got a general understanding of what we'd like to do if the numbers work."

Lewis said a House of Delegates meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. would go on as scheduled, as the only information those members have is what has been reported in the media.

She said she remained hopeful that students and teachers could return to class on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the parties were "at the brink of getting all the key issues addressed.

Carroll said the main sticking points are still the evaluation system and the union's demands that laid-off teachers get top consideration for rehiring.
"We've made many modifications over the last several days to our proposal,'' Carroll said. "We feel that we're there. And at this point, it's in the CTU's hands to bring it to a close."

Under an old proposal, the union estimated that 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs within two years. A more recent offer included provisions that would protect tenured teachers from dismissal in the first year of the evaluations. It also altered categories that teachers can be rated on and added an appeals process. Additionally, evaluations could work on a graduated scale throughout the term of the contract, comprising from between 25 to 35 percent of a teacher's total score.

"There's a sense of urgency today,'' said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who stopped by the hotel where the negotiators were working Thursday and spoke to reporters. A day earlier, he said the two sides were talking past each other.

Ahead of morning negotiations, Lewis expressed hope the opposing sides could soon resolve their differences.

"Oh, I'm praying, praying, praying. I'm on my knees for that, please," Lewis said. "Yes, I'm hoping for Monday. That would be good for us."

That optimism followed a full day of negotiations Wednesday that had both Chicago School Board president David Vitale and Lewis leaving the talks with smiles on their faces.

"We had a very productive evening," Vitale said, "[There were] really good discussions and proposals on the most difficult issues that we face." 

Thousands of teachers walked off the job Monday after months of negotiations failed to result in a new contract. It's the city's first teacher strike since October 1987.

As teachers plan for another day on the picket lines, CPS extended the hours at its 147 strike-designated "Children First" sites beginning Thursday.

NBC Chicago has an array of reporters and producers covering the Chicago teacher strike. Check our live blog for continuous coverage and updates throughout the strike.

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