Chicago teacher strike ends after union vote

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: "This contract brings a fundamental change that benefits our children"

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Chicago students have returned to school a day after teachers voted to end a seven-day strike.

Representatives of the 29,000 striking public school teachers and support staff decided to accept a new compromise three-year contract.

Union members had voted on Sunday to extend the walkout, which affected more than 350,000 students.

The negotiations ran into trouble amid differences over teacher evaluations and job security.

It was the first time since 1987 that Chicago teachers had walked off the job, in the nation's third-largest school district after New York and Los Angeles.

'Honest compromise'

The legal challenge asserted that the strike was a danger to public health and safety, partly because thousands of public students rely on free meals for basic nutrition.

Union delegates in the nation's third-largest school district voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to go back to work.

The proposed contract, which includes pay rises and concessions on teacher evaluations and job security, will now go to a vote of the full membership of the union.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the deal an "honest compromise".

"In this contract we gave our children a seat at the table," he said. "In past negotiations taxpayers paid more but our children got less. This time our taxpayers are paying less and our kids are getting more."

Mr Emanuel went to court on Monday in an attempt to force teachers back into the classroom.

Chicago Teachers Union members, including Carol Baudelaire (R), strike outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters in Chicago September 18, 2012 Chicago school teachers have been on strike for seven days over pay and job security

Union president Karen Lewis said no contract would "solve all the problems of the world" but it was time to suspend the strike.

"I'm so thrilled that people are going back, all of our members are glad to be back with their kids," Ms Lewis said.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a former head of the Chicago school system, tweeted that he was "pleased to hear that both parties have come to an agreement in Chicago. This is great news for the city's teachers, parents and kids."

Correspondents say teachers had come under increasing pressure to back a deal that labour and education experts - and some union leaders - have called a victory for the teachers' union.

The settlement does not re-introduce a 4% pay rise, rescinded by the mayor earlier this year, but it does propose a 3% increase in teachers' salaries in the first year of the agreement, followed by a 2% increase in the following two years.

According to the school district, Chicago teachers would remain among the highest-paid in the country, with average salaries of about $76,000 (£47,000) per year.

Union negotiators have also managed to reduce the weighting of test scores in teacher evaluations, and an appeals process to contest evaluations has also been incorporated into the deal.

The city also won some concessions - including a longer school day and a say for head teachers in who gets jobs at their schools. Provisions have also been made to accommodate displaced teachers.

Correspondent say the confrontation with a labour group that generally backs Democratic candidates an embarrassment to President Barack Obama, in his home city and in the middle of a re-election battle.

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