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Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 10:00am

Chicago teachers and students return to class after union accepts new contract.

After seven days of picketing and protest, stalled negotiations, parents stretched to their limits and classrooms sitting empty, students and teachers got back to work this morning morning in Chicago.

The Chicago Teachers Union Board of Delegates agreed to accept a contract proposal from the city Tuesday evening.

The rank and file, close to 30,000 teachers, must still approve the deal.

That's expected to happen in the next couple of weeks.

Already among the highest paid teachers in the nation, with an annual salary averaging more than $70,000, the new contract provides for a 7-percent pay raise over the next three years.

Two major sticking points in the talks had been job security and performance evaluations.

The city will now rate teachers, in part, on how well students score on standardized tests.

Under-performing teachers can be laid off during the first year of the new contract.

"This settlement is an honest compromise it means returning our schools to their primary purpose the education of our children. It means a new day and a new direction for the Chicago public schools," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said after the vote.

The agreement came on the eve of a court hearing.

The city planned to ask a judge to force the teachers to end their strike and go back to work.

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