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Tentative deal reached in Chicago teachers strike

(CNN)

(CNN)

CHICAGO (CNN) — A tentative deal has been reached in the dispute between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city’s school board, union chief President Karen Lewis said Friday.

Despite the tentative deal, Lewis cautioned that the strike, in its fifth day Friday, is not yet over.

Union officials will meet between now and Sunday to draft specific language on a “framework for an agreement.” They will present the document to a special committee of union representatives, at which time a majority vote will be taken on whether to suspend the strike.

“Our delegates were not interested in blindly signing off on something they have not seen,” Lewis said.

However, Lewis was optimistic that the deal would be finalized.

“We think it’s a framework that will get us to an agreement but we are not quite there,” she said, adding she is “hoping and praying” students will be back in the classroom Monday.

Lewis declined at a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss details of the agreement.

New hope emerged Thursday after days of sometimes contentious meetings between the teachers union and the school board.

“We will see if we can finish this up, hopefully, tomorrow,” Chicago School Board President David Vitale told reporters Thursday night. “I think we made some pretty good progress.”

The union, which represents nearly 30,000 teachers and support staff, called the strike on Sunday night.

The union previously said the two sides had been close to a deal on pay, but far apart on teacher evaluations, benefits and other issues.

Teachers are concerned about job security in the wake of a new program that evaluates them based on their students’ standardized test scores. Chicago Teachers Union board member Jay Rehak called the program “data-driven madness.”

As many as 6,000 teachers could lose their jobs under the evaluation system, said Lewis, who called the system “unacceptable.”

The mayor’s office, the city and school officials have questioned that job-loss figure.

The median base salary for teachers in the Chicago public schools in 2011 was $67,974, according to the system’s annual financial report.

Parents have been anxious for a resolution of the strike.

“There is … frustration, foremost,” said Sarah Liebman, the mother of two children in city schools. “It’s really affecting the kids right now.”

Ahead of the strike, the Chicago Public Schools crafted a plan — one criticized sharply by union leaders — trying to give parents like Liebman options until teachers return to work.

The city’s famed public transit system offered free rides for students to move between so-called “safe haven” sites.

Chicago’s parks department resumed camp-style sports, art and nature programs at dozens of its locations, while the public library system set aside computers in its facilities for students to use.

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