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11,000 Detroit Teachers Walk Out

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Copyright 1987 More than 11,000 public-school teachers in Detroit went on strike last week, while thousands of other teachers walked out in districts in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Idaho, and Washington State. Strike tensions also were mounting in Chicago.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers voted in favor of a walkout on Aug. 31, one day before classes were to begin, rejecting the school board's two-year contract offer.

The board's offer would have frozen salaries and cut medical benefits by 20 percent in the first year, and made a 2 percent raise in the second year contingent on both an increase in state aid and the renewal of a property-tax levy.

The union wants a one-year contract with a 14 percent pay increase. Annual salaries in the district range from $19,672 to $35,695.

School-board members say they cannot increase their offer because the school system is facing a $27- million deficit.

"We must hold the line on expenditures at this time, or there will be a devastating effect on the school system," said Arthur Jefferson, general superintendent of schools, at a press conference on Sept. 1.

The school board filed a request for a court injunction last Thursday to force teachers back to work. Mediations were to resume this week.

Carol Thomas, executive vice president for the union, said the 14 percent raise is needed to bring Detroit teachers up to the salary level of surburban teachers and teachers4in other Michigan districts.

"Many surrounding districts negotiated three-year contracts with 6 percent to 7 percent raises each year," Ms. Thomas said. "We are very determined." About 185,000 students are enrolled in Detroit schools for the fall.

Detroit teachers are joined by more than 1,000 teachers in seven other Michigan districts, delaying school for some 18,000 students.

Members of the Chicago Federation of Teachers were expected to vote for a walkout last Friday. The 28,000-member union is proposing a two-year contract with a 10 percent raise in the first year and a 5 percent raise in the second.

The Chicago School Board has offered a one-year contract with a 2-percent pay cut. The district serves nearly 450,000 students.

In Pennsylvania, more than 400 teachers are striking over a salary dispute in the North Allegheny district near Pittsburgh, giving 6,800 students an extended summer break. Nearly 800 teachers in seven other districts in the state have walked out over contract disputes, affecting more than 13,000 students.

Nine hundred teachers are on strike in Edmonds, Wash., a district serving 18,000 students. Moscow, Idaho, has 177 teachers on strike, and two Ohio districts will delay school until a salary dispute is settled.

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