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Union meeting Friday could end Chicago teachers strike

By the CNN Wire Staff
September 13, 2012 -- Updated 2217 GMT (0617 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: No classes Friday, union says
  • Union delegates with the power to end the strike plan to meet Friday
  • Jesse Jackson asks to mediate dispute that has closed schools for 350,000 students
  • Both sides say progress was made after late-night talks on Wednesday

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Chicago (CNN) -- New hope has emerged for ending the Chicago teachers strike that has closed public schools for 350,000 students.

Chicago Teachers Union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said union delegates with the power to stop the walkout would meet on Friday at 2 p.m. CT.

There will be no classes Friday, the fifth day of the strike, Gadlin said Thursday.

The union and the school board met late into the night on Wednesday with the parties emerging more optimistic than in previous negotiating sessions.

"We feel like we're in a pretty good place," the union's president, Karen Lewis, told reporters. "Both sides are making movements. We still have a lot of work to do but we are a lot closer together."

Chicago School Board President David Vitale said it was a "very productive evening" with "really good discussions and proposals on the most difficult issues that we face."

With no deal in place for a new contract, Rev. Jesse Jackson offered to find a way to bridge the gap.

"The sense of urgency within the room does not comply with the sense of urgency in the streets," Jackson told reporters late on Wednesday. "They should be meeting around the clock. With each passing day, the pain is compounded."

A teacher's view from the picket lines

Despite new optimism, public schools were closed again for a fourth day Thursday.

"Everyone has their own point of view, but it's the kids who are hurting," said Omar Alday, who has two public school children. "They should be in school learning."

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

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

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

Opinion: Chicago teachers' strike is a test for Democrats

CNN's Ted Rowlands and Lateef Mungin contributed to this report.

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