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'On firmer ground': Chicago schools avert strike with tentative contract

FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2012 file photo, Chicago public school teachers take a group picture as they walk a picket line outside a school in Chicago. Contract negotiations between teachers and officials in the nation's third-largest school district will happen throughout the weekend in hopes of reaching a deal to avert a strike. The Chicago Teachers Union has said its members are prepared to stop instruction for about 400,000 students as early as Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016 for its second major strike since 2012, when teachers were out for seven school days. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Students and teachers in Chicago were heading back to the classroom after the Chicago Teachers Union and the nation's third-largest school district averted a threatened strike with a tentative contract agreement reached minutes before a Tuesday deadline and after more than a year of negotiations. The four-year agreement, which the union will recommend to its members, includes provisions on pensions, classroom sizes and layoffs. The deal still must be approved by the union's House of Delegates and the full membership, a process that could take weeks.

Chicago Public Schools finances will be stronger, and on firmer ground, because of this agreement.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Chicago's school system, which is independent of the city but controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, had a $7 million deficit on June 30, according to a school financial report. The threat of a strike piled extra pressure on the second-term mayor, who is struggling to stop a surge in violence in the city as well as trying to stem Chicago's financial woes. He is expected to give further details on school funding in his 2017 budget address on Tuesday.

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Chicago Teachers Union

The union had directed its members to report to picket lines Tuesday morning unless they heard otherwise from union negotiators for a walkout that would have affected nearly 400,000 students.

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Israel Emanuel(; born November 29, 1959) is an American politician who serves as the 55th mayor of Chicago. A member of the Democratic Party, Emanuel was elected in 2011, becoming Chicago's first Jewish mayor.