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Chicago Teachers' Union Mulling 'Serious Offer' on Contract From School District

The Chicago Teachers' Union and the school district could be heading toward an agreement on the outstanding teachers' union contract.

Union president Karen Lewis said on Thursday that the union had received a "serious offer" from the school district, which a 40-member committee will review and discuss on Monday.

"While the Union will not release details of the offer without Big Bargaining Team approval, the basic framework calls for economic concessions in exchange for enforceable protections of education quality and job security," Lewis wrote in a statement. "If the Union is able to reach a Tentative Agreement, delegates will be apprised of details shortly."

Chicago Schools CEO Forrest Claypool also confirmed late Thursday that the district had made an offer to the union. Claypool did not provide details either, but expressed optimism that the two groups would reach a consensus.

The union contract expired on June 30 last year, and the two sides had been attempting to reach a new labor pact amid a bleak financial outlook for the school district, which faces a budget shortfall this year of $480 million and a $1 billion structural deficit largely tied to obligated pension payments. The district had forecasted possible teacher layoffs this spring without financial assistance from the state.

In December, 88 percent of eligible union members voted to authorize a strike if the union and district did not reach a new labor accord. An agreement would avert a strike.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the talks between the two camps gained momentum in recent days after Republicans in the state capitol proposed that the state take over the financially burdened school district. That proposal has been opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, state Democrats, and Lewis.

The Chicago school district "has put a serious offer on the table that would prevent midyear teacher layoffs," Claypool said in a statement. "This offer is a true compromise that requires sacrifices from both sides so that we can protect what is most important: the gains our students are making in their classrooms. We will continue to work around the clock to reach consensus on an agreement that is the best interests of our students, educators and parents." 

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