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UNO Network Avoids First-Ever Charter School Teachers' Strike

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A week after the Chicago Public Schools dodged its second major teachers strike in four years, one of the city's largest charter school networks averted its own strike with a tentative contract agreement.

More than 500 union teachers at UNO Charter School Network (UCSN) had been prepared to walk off the job Wednesday morning before reaching a deal overnight, so the 8,000 students at UNO's 15 campuses will have school Wednesday.

The tentative agreement on a two-year deal was announced around 3 a.m., after negotiating through the night, working through the midnight deadline in an effort to avoid the first ever strike by charter school teachers in the nation's history.

The United Educators at UNO, the union representing 525 UCSN teachers, had threatened to strike over salary issues and concerns over classroom size.

After eight months of negotiations, the two sides were able to hammer out a deal early Wednesday.

"A few hours ago, we were super-divided, and we just really had to go back and forth and work those things out, and fortunately UCSN really stepped up and decided that they wanted to stand with their teachers and actually back up what they say; that they value the education of the students, they value their teachers," said union spokeswoman Erica Stewart, a fifth grade teacher at UCSN.

Union officials said key points were pay raises for teachers and support staff, pensions, class sizes, and the length of the work day at high schools.

Officials with the charter network said they needed concessions from the teachers due to budget cuts from the Chicago Public Schools.

"Bargaining teams from both sides worked very hard to reach an agreement that offers a competitive compensation package for teachers and staff, and still delivers a quality education for which UCSN has been recognized," UNO Charter Schools CEO Richard Rodriguez said.

CPS avoided its own teachers strike last week when the Chicago Teachers Union agreed to a tentative contract deal. CTU's House of Delegates was reviewing that proposed four-year contract, and decide whether to recommend it to the full union for a vote.

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