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Chicago, Detroit Teacher Strikes Continue

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By Reagan Walker

A spokesman for the Chicago Teachers Union said last week that the prospects for a quick settlement in the teachers' strike there looked "very grim."

Chicago teachers went on strike Sept. 8 to press for a salary increase, idling nearly 450,000 students in the nation's third-largest district.

It was one of a reported 34 teacher walk-outs nationwide that have slowed the beginning of the new school year for more than 650,000 students.

In Detroit, more than 11,000 teachers continued their strike last week, despite an attempt by the school board to get a court order forcing them to return to work.

Financially Strapped System

The Chicago Teachers Union's 28,000 members are pushing for 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.

Despite a promise from Gov. James R. Thompson of additional funds to help the financially strapped school system, Superintendent Manford Byrd Jr. has said there is no room for salary increases in the budget.

In preparing the budget, Mr. Byrd said, officials were forced to cut three days from the school year. Any additional money would go to restoring those three days, he said.

Chuck Burdeen, a spokesman for the union, said the ctu had not taken a position on how the board might make pay increases possible. But he noted that several local watchdog groups had suggested cutting out $5 million in remodeling costs slated for board headquarters and cutting a scheduled $13-million increase in the board's contingency fund.

"That alone would restore the three days," said Mr. Burdeen.

School support staff have joined the Chicago strike, bringing the total number striking up to 42,000. This is the city's ninth teachers' strike in 18 years.

District officials late last week filed a complaint with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board charging that the union had filed its notice of intent to strike before mediation.

Review Ordered in Detroit

In Detroit, meanwhile, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Maureen Reilly has ordered striking teachers and school officials to review the district's finances and return to the bargaining table. A pro8gress report was to be filed with Judge Reilly last Friday.

Detroit teachers want a one-year contract with a 14 percent pay increase. But the board is offering a two-year contract that would freeze salaries and cut medical benefits in the first year, while offering a 2 percent raise in the second year that would be contingent on an increase in state aid and the renewal of a property-tax levy.

Contract Rights in Idaho

In Moscow, Idaho, 177 teachers ended their first strike ever last week, after settling a contract dispute centering on pay and professional issues. The negotiated agreement included a 6 percent pay hike and contractual rights on decisions made on job transfer, in-service, curriculum and parent complaints.

About 650 school bus drivers went on strike in Boston last Thursday over a salary dispute. Nearly 27,000 students must seek alternate transportation while school officials seek legal action to force the drivers to return to work.

In other districts in Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Washington State, and Pennsylvania, thousands of teachers continued strikes affecting more than 200,000 students.

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