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Chicago teachers back 17.6 percent, 4-year pay deal to end dispute

Scott Olson / Getty Images, file

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) delegates embrace after voting to end their strike on September 18, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union have overwhelmingly ratified a new contract, union officials said late Wednesday, ending a bitter dispute with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over school reforms that prompted the first strike of city teachers in 25 years.

The deal will give teachers an average pay raise of 17.6 percent over four years if the three-year contract is extended an extra year.

The pay increases would cost an extra $74 million a year, the district has said. Chicago teachers make an average of about $76,000 annually, according to the school district.

In addition to the pay raises, the deal establishes for the first time an evaluation system for teachers that is based in part on student performance on standardized tests. It also gives principals more authority to hire teachers for their schools and extends the length of the school day. 

Scott Olson / Getty Images, file

Mayor Rahm Emanuel greets students as they arrive for school at Frazier International Magnet School on September 19, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.

The union got guarantees that any teachers laid off will have preference to be rehired by the district, and Emanuel dropped a demand that teacher pay be tied to merit. 

A statement from the CTU said 79.1 percent of the 20,765 votes cast by teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians were in favor of the contract, put before them on Tuesday. Ratification required a majority vote in favor.

“This shows overwhelming recognition by our members that this contract represents a victory for students, communities and our profession,” CTU President Karen Lewis said. “Our members are coming are coming out of this with an even greater appreciation for the continued fight for public education.  We thank our parents for standing with their children’s teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians.”

The Chicago Teachers Union agreed on Tuesday to end its strike, allowing 350,000 students to return to classes on Wednesday and ending a tense standoff. However, the contract still requires ratification by the union's 26,000 members. NBC's Rehema Ellis reports.

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Members of the Chicago Board of Education must also vote approve the contract before it becomes effective. That vote is expected Oct. 17, and approval seems likely.

Biggest losers of Chicago's teachers strike? The students, critic says

"I am pleased that the members of the CTU have ratified this contract, and we can now demonstrate to our students that even when two sides start far apart, they can find common ground and reach a resolution. It’s an incredibly important message to send," Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale said in a statement.

Thousands of teachers in the nation's third-largest school district walked off the job on Sept. 10 after more than a year of slow, contentious negotiations over salary, health benefits and job security.

Students were kept out of classes for seven days before CTU's members voted to end the work stoppage.

Chicago teachers agree to end strike, classes to resume

Fitch Ratings earlier this week downgraded the Chicago Board of Education's debt rating, citing the school system's increased budget pressures in the wake of the deal.

This followed a downgrade by Moody's Investors Services last week and could mean the district pays higher interest rates on any debt issues. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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