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Eugene, Ore., Schools Reopen With Substitutes

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Schools in Eugene, Ore., where 1,100 teachers have been been on strike since April 8, reopened last week with licensed substitutes staffing the classrooms.

Meanwhile, a teacher walkout in Homer, Ill., entered its 23rd week. A third strike, in Coos Bay, Ore., ended on April 23, a day after the district and its 213 teachers settled their dispute.

No other teacher strikes were reported in April, according to the National Education Association, which monitors such actions nationwide.

The dispute in the 17,000-student Eugene district centers on who will pay for expected increases in health- and disability--insurance premiums, a district spokesman said.

The teachers--who are represented by the Eugene Education Association, an affiliate of the N.E.A.--have demanded that the district pick up the total cost of the increases. The district, however, wants teachers to pay for a portion of the expense.

With the differences unresolved, school officials reopened the system's high schools on April 29. Elementary-school pupils were scheduled to resume classes last Friday.

In Coos Bay, district officials had reopened schools on April 15 with licensed substitutes, and by the time the strike was settled, nearly 70 percent of the district's 4,300 students were attending classes, according to a district spokesman.

A disagreement over who would pay for rising insurance costs and a move by the district to eliminate an early-retirement program for teachers had prompted the walkout by the Coos Bay Education Association, an N.E.A. affiliate.

And in Homer, the longest teachers' strike in Illinois history continued last week. (See Education Week, Nov. 5, 1986.)

Early last month, the 27-member Homer Association of Teachers--another N.E.A. affiliate--offered to return to work under the terms of its previous contract if the district would continue to negotiate. School officials rejected the offer, a district spokesman said.

The district reopened its one K-12 school on Nov. 4, staffing classes with substitute teachers.

Since then, the district has signed most of the substitutes to contracts that run through the end of the school year--a move that would complicate any agreement reached between the union and the district before that time, the spokesman said.--B.R.

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