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Detroit Teachers' Union Sues for Retroactive Pay

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The Detroit Federation of Teachers last week was awaiting a response from district officials to its lawsuit demanding retroactive pay owed to the union's membership and other employees of the district, including school principals.

The suit was filed last month after district officials announced a second delay in releasing the retroactive paychecks, which were first promised in February.

The officials attributed the delays to the difficulty of manually calculating the amount of back pay owed to each of the district's more than 12,000 employees.

"We recognize that the board is not automated enough to do this without checking 12,000 records by hand," said John M. Elliott, president of the union. "But they have had since December to work on this, and we just ran out of patience."

Most of the district's employees are owed retroactive pay under the terms of a contract settlement for the current year. The pay is being further augmented due to an arbitration panel's ruling in November ordering a 5 percent salary hike for the 1988-89 school year.

At the beginning of this school year, before the contract settlement and arbitration findings were complete, the district's employees were still being paid on the scale used during the 1987-88 school year.

The district has already issued checks for most of the back pay owed for 1988-89, Mr. Elliott said.

But the district did not incorporate both raises into paychecks until Jan. 21, he said, so most employees are still due the increases that were not paid in the fall months.

A majority of the district's teachers are at the top of the district's wage scale, and are owed roughly $1,500 each, Mr. Elliot said.

The district has vowed to issue the checks by the middle of this month, and may act before a hearing is scheduled on the lawsuit, he said.

Meanwhile, negotiations on next year's contract, which are expected to begin next month, could be complicated by union opposition to Superintendent John Porter's merit-pay proposal. Under the plan, the staffs of "empowered schools" could receive bonuses if their schools met certain goals.

State-Aid Repayment

In other action, the Detroit board has been ordered to repay $1.5 million in state aid after an audit revealed that some 450 students counted in the 185,000-student district's enrollment attended school too infre4quently to be eligible for aid.

The move came on the heels of a separate order to repay $5 million in state aid from last year because of miscalculations of property values by city assessors.

On an enrollment issue unrelated to the recent audit, a Wayne County jury last month awarded $70,000 in damages to a former Detroit teacher who claimed he had been dismissed from his full-time teaching job because of his charges in the mid-1980's that the district was inflating its enrollment figures.

District officials had offered him a substitute-teaching assignment, but claimed that action was unrelated to the charges, which were never investigated or proven.--ws

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