CHICAGO -- The Chicago Teachers Union and district officials said they will negotiate through the weekend, if necessary, to try to avoid a strike on Monday. Teachers are ready to walk off the job for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, job security and teacher evaluations.

There is a lot riding on this contract for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has made school improvement a central theme of his administration, and for the teachers union, which feels its ability to protect teachers and give them a voice in education is under attack.

Both sides said Friday that they were optimistic that a contract could be settled without a strike, though a union spokeswoman said they remained "far apart" on issues such as job security and pay.

Union President Karen Lewis said Friday night that she was disappointed with the latest offer from the school district, saying it didn't answer members' concerns and "we are here to negotiate for better schools in Chicago." She said negotiations would resume Saturday.

Here is a closer look:

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REMAINING ISSUES

The district offered a cost-of-living raise of 2 percent a year for four years, which the union said was unacceptable – especially after Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year canceled a previously negotiated 4 percent raise, citing budget problems. A school district spokeswoman has said that raise will not be made up and the district will not address it in negotiations. The union has lowered the amount it's asking for, but has not said what its counterproposal is now. Only weeks ago, it sought a 19 percent raise in the first year of the contract.

The union also is concerned about raises based on teacher experience and education. It has said the district agreed to retain language allowing raises based on experience, called step increases, but it would not actually pay the money now. Keeping the language in the contract, though, could be important for teachers in future negotiations.

Teachers also are concerned about new teacher evaluations, health benefits and how a longer school day for students is being implemented.

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HARD FEELINGS

Negotiations did not get off to a good start. The union and school district began negotiating in November on a contract that was to expire seven months later, in June. Things heated up in May, when teachers picketed over a lack of progress on talks. Then in June, 90 percent of teachers voted to authorize a strike if a contract wasn't reached over the summer.

It all began when Emanuel last year asked the union to re-open its existing contract and accept 2 percent pay raises in exchange for lengthening the day by 90 minutes. The union refused, noting he'd already rescinded 4 percent raises over the summer. Emanuel, who had won legislative approval to lengthen the school day, then attempted to go around the union by asking individual schools to waive the contract and add 90 minutes to the day – until the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board told him he couldn't.

The mayor also angered teachers by publicly declaring that students were getting "the shaft," though he since has toned down his rhetoric.

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MIXED MESSAGES

In July, there appeared to be a big breakthrough in negotiations when the district agreed to hire almost 500 laid-off teachers so students would have a longer day but current teachers wouldn't. Both sides expressed optimism that a deal could be reached, but the hires didn't give talks the lift many expected.

Since then, the optimism gave way to a 10-day notice to strike, which goes into effect Monday. Even as the union complained about a virtual stalemate, the district insisted talks were progressing.

On Friday, the union president said the talks had taken a "turn for the better," but her spokeswoman hours later issued a statement saying the two sides remained far apart on pay and job security. The union president then came back Friday night to say she was disappointed with the latest offer.

If the teachers do go on strike, the city has set aside $25 million to keep 144 schools open between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Staffed by non-union and central office workers, the schools would provide activities such as independent reading and athletics, along with two meals.

"What I would say to parents is that I hope they understand that it's extraordinarily important that we have really good schools in Chicago and we will continue to advocate for them," Lewis, the union president, said Friday night.

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WHAT'S AT STAKE

Behind the posturing on both sides is a tense showdown between Emanuel and the teachers, with possible ramifications beyond Chicago at a time when most unions have seen their power slip dramatically.

Emanuel, a nationally recognized, powerful Democrat who has taken a tough stance against other city unions, had made good on his promise of a longer school day, and he could get more concessions from teachers while the district faces a nearly $700 million deficit. But he also risks souring relations with the unions and would be the first big-city mayor to deal with a strike since Detroit teachers walked in 2006. The last Chicago strike was 1987.

Meanwhile, teachers and the union believe they have to take a tough stand now so they don't lose ground on pay raises and have a say in job security issues, especially as teacher evaluations are tied more closely to student performance. They're also aware that their struggle is being watched by other unions around the country, many of which feel as if they're under attack.


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  • Karen Lewis

    Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, centre, tells reporters at a news conference outside the union's headquarters that the city's 25,000 public school teachers will walk the picket line Monday morning after final-day talks with the Chicago Board of Education failed to reach an agreement over teachers' contracts on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Karen Lewis

    Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis walks to a news conference outside the union's headquarters in Chicago to announce that the city's 25,000 public school teachers will walk the picket line Monday morning after talks with the Chicago Board of Education broke down on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • David Vitale, Karen Lewis

    Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale informs reporters at a news conference outside the Chicago Teachers Union Headquarters that final-day talks with the union failed to reach an agreement over teachers' contracts on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012 in Chicago. CTU President Karen Lewis subsequently announced that the city's 25,000 public school teachers will walk the picket line Monday morning for the first time in 25 years. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Karen Lewis

    Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, right, tells reporters at a news conference outside the union's headquarters that the city's 25,000 public school teachers will walk the picket line Monday morning after final-day talks with the Chicago Board of Education failed to reach an agreement over teachers' contracts on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Teachers and pro-teacher community groups rally in front of a building the Chicago Teachers Union has designated its strike headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 in Chicago. The union has vowed to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 if an agreement over teachers' contracts is not reached with Chicago Public Schools by Monday. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Members of the Chicago Teachers Union distribute strike signage at the Chicago Teachers Union strike headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 in Chicago. The union has vowed to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, should it fail to reach an agreement over teachers' contracts with Chicago Public Schools by that date. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Teachers respond enthusiastically to passing drivers honking their horns in support as they distribute strike signage at the Chicago Teachers Union strike headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 in Chicago. The union has vowed to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, should it fail to reach an agreement over teachers' contracts with Chicago Public Schools by that date. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Members of the Chicago Teachers Union distribute strike signage at the Chicago Teachers Union strike headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 in Chicago. The union has vowed to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, should it fail to reach an agreement over teachers' contracts with Chicago Public Schools by that date. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Members of community group Parents 4 Teachers display pro-teacher posters outside City Hall on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 in Chicago. The Chicago Teachers Union has threatened to proceed with plans to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 if weekend negotiations with Chicago Public Schools over teacher salaries and working conditions fails to deliver an acceptable outcome. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Members of community group Parents 4 Teachers display pro-teacher posters outside City Hall on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 in Chicago. The Chicago Teachers Union has threatened to proceed with plans to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 if weekend negotiations with Chicago Public Schools over teacher salaries and working conditions fails to deliver an acceptable outcome. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • TaliSol Medina

    Eight-year-old TaliSol Medina, left, a third-grader from Galileo School, puts the finishing touches on a pro-teachers poster for the Pilsen Alliance community group in front of the Chicago Teachers Union strike headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 in Chicago. The union has vowed to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 if an agreement over teachers' contracts is not reached with Chicago Public Schools by Monday. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • In this Aug. 22, 2012 photo, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis speaks at a Chicago Board of Education meeting in Chicago.

  • In this Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 photo, Vicky Kleros, principal of the Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary School in Chicago's predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood, just southwest of downtown, looks through files at the school. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said more than 26,000 teachers and support staff in the nation's third-largest school district don't want to strike, but are prepared to do so for the first time in 25 years. If there is a strike, Kleros said the school would be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every school day so that children still could get breakfast and lunch and participate in activities that would keep them off the streets. Later in the afternoon, the local library and park district buildings will be open - all part of a $25 million school district strike contingency plan. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • In this Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 photo, Emily Ponce, 8, a second-grader at Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary School, in Chicago's predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood, watches her brother Jose Ponce, 13, a Perez eighth-grader, as he talks about the chance of a teachers strike. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said more than 26,000 teachers and support staff in the nation's third-largest school district don't want to strike, but are prepared to do so for the first time in 25 years. It would be the first big-city strike since Detroit teachers walked off the job for 16 days in 2006. The last Chicago teacher strike was in 1987 and lasted 19 days. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Members of the Chicago Teachers Union hold an informational picket outside Willa Cather Elementary School, calling attention to ongoing contract talks with the Board of Education on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 in Chicago. The union says it is still trying to reach an agreement on wages, health benefits, and job security. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A student watches a Chicago Teachers Union informational picket outside Willa Cather Elementary School, calling attention to ongoing contract talks with the Board of Education on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 in Chicago. The union says it is still trying to reach an agreement on wages, health benefits, and job security. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • In this June 6, 2012 file photo, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis speaks to the news media after casting her ballot during a strike authorization vote at a Chicago high school. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

  • Chicago Board Of Education President David Vitale address reporters after the board unanimously rejected an independent fact finder's recommendation to give teachers a double-digit pay raise, Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard speaks at a back-to-school initiative event in Chicago, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. At the event, Brizard said that an independent fact finder's recommendation to give teachers a double-digit pay raise would cost the district $330 million, lead to thousands of teacher layoffs and increase class sizes. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard hands a package to a student during a back-to-school initiative event in Chicago, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. At the event, Brizard said that an independent fact finder's recommendation to give teachers a double-digit pay raise would cost the district $330 million, lead to thousands of teacher layoffs and increase class sizes. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • In this Sept. 9, 2011 file photo, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard greet students as they arrive at Carl Schurz High School in Chicago.

  • In this June 6, 2012 photo, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis casts her ballot during a strike authorization vote at a Chicago high school.

  • From left, first-grader Travios Slater, fourth-grader Kiante Byrd, their grandmother Jeanette Byrd, their aunt Letitia Daniel, mother Felisha Slater, and cousin Randall Darring pose on Daniel's front porch, Friday, June 8, 2012, in Chicago.

  • In this Oct. 27, 2011 file photo, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, right, visits with Brandy Toliver, left, and Mariah Neyland, in their first-grade class at the CICS Washington Park School in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

  • In this Nov.16, 2011, file photo, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis speaks at a news conference in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

  • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn hands a pen used to sign a landmark education reform bill to the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, at a bill-signing ceremony, Monday, June 13, 2011, in Maywood, Ill. The bill makes it harder for teachers to go on strike and easier for educators to be fired. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn holds up a landmark education reform bill that makes it harder for teachers to go on strike and easier for educators to be fired at a bill-signing ceremony, Monday, June 13, 2011, in Maywood, Ill. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, speaks to teachers during a protest June 22, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Hundreds of teachers gathered to demonstrate outside the offices of the Chicago Board of Education and marched through the city's financial district protesting the board's recent decision to rescind a 4 percent annual raise promised to the teachers in their contracts. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Chicago school teachers demonstrate June 22, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Hundreds of teachers joined in the protest outside the offices of the Chicago Board of Education and marched through the city's financial district to protest the board's recent decision to rescind a 4 percent annual raise promised to the teachers in their contracts. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Chicago school teachers display protest signs from inside a school bus as they leave a demonstration outside the Chicago Board of Education building on June 22, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Hundreds of teachers demonstrated outside the board's offices and marched through the city's financial district to protest the board's recent decision to rescind a 4 percent annual raise promised to the teachers in their contracts. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (L) listens to Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard while participating in a forum about education in big cities at the Katzen Arts Center on the campus of American University March 2, 2012 in Washington, DC. Calling their municipalities 'city-states,' Emanuel, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg supported the idea of individual school districts being able to compete with states for the $4.35 billion 'Race to the Top' grant program created by President Barack Obama. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)