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D.C. Pay Accord Calls for School Closings, Layoffs

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Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly of the District of Columbia and leaders of the city's school system agreed last week to finance a pay increase for teachers by closing 10 schools next fall and cutting nearly 900 school employees from the payroll.

The agreement was reached after more than 1,000 teachers staged two days of loosely organized "sickouts'' to protest a city-ordered furlough for most workers. The action crippled many of the district's schools, which were forced to transform gyms and auditoriums into classrooms or waiting areas for hundreds of students.

R. David Hall, the president of the board of education, said the tentative deal, approved by the board and the city council last week, expanded cost-cutting measures already being considered by Superintendent Franklin L. Smith.

"We had planned to close eight schools, and now it will be 10,'' Mr. Hall said. "We were planning to reduce [the staff] by 683, and now it will be 200 more.''

He added, "We'll do all that, but we want some reciprocation from'' the city.

Under the pact, Mayor Kelly and John A. Wilson, the chairman of the council, have agreed not to cut the school budget for 1993 or 1994. But the Mayor insisted that the 12 furlough days--designed to help close a $36 million budget gap this year--will have to continue.

The furloughs mean an effective pay cut for teachers, who have not received a raise in three years.

However, the $20 million saved from furloughs and other sources will be turned over to the schools to offset the cost of teacher raises in the first year, Mayor Kelly pledged.

Mr. Hall was expected to meet with Jimmie Jackson, the president of the Washington Teachers Union, last week to discuss the proposed changes.

New Contract Sought

Although union officials were not included in the "educational summit,'' the resulting agreement would require the school board to renegotiate its contract with the teachers.

Last fall, union negotiators secured a 6.5 percent teacher pay raise for 1992 and a 4.5 percent hike for 1993. However, the city council, reluctant to approve raises it could not afford, never voted on the contract.

Officials at the summit proposed a 6.5 percent salary increase for teachers and a 4.5 percent raise for all other school employees in 1993, but agreed that no retroactive raises would be awarded under a new contract.

Mr. Hall said he expected union leaders to give the plan a "cordial'' reception.

Ms. Jackson, the union president, did not return telephone calls last week.

Pat Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the Mayor, said one of the purposes of the summit--the first of its kind in the district--was to "work on a consensus'' between city officials and teachers.

While one of the conditions for maintaining the 1993 and 1994 budget figures could be a firm agreement between the union and school board, the Mayor is also likely to push for "the closing of the 10 schools and the other reductions in staff'' before any budget promises are made, Ms. Wheeler added.

"There will still be other follow-up meetings,'' she said. "Once again, there could be more issues'' that need to be resolved.

School Closings Undecided

One such issue is which schools the superintendent's office will target for closing.

In an effort to deal with severe budget constraints over the past few years, at least eight city schools have been closed or turned over to the city to be sold, according to Mr. Hall.

Some school board members have expressed dissatisfaction with a deal to shut down additional schools.

"They're worried because we can't guarantee to anybody that a school won't be closed'' in their area, Mr. Hall said.

A decision on the closings probably will not be made until the end of the current school year, after the superintendent has made recommendations to the board and public hearings are held, Cheryl Y. Johnson, a spokeswoman for the superintendent, said.

The superintendent's proposed budget for 1994 already calls for cutting 430 teachers, 100 administrators, and about 150 custodial, food-service, and other school workers.

Under the new plan, about 200 bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, cafeteria workers, central administrators, and aides would probably also be cut from the payroll.

In the meantime, it is still unclear whether teachers' pay will be docked for their planned absences.

After the first day of the citywide job action, Mr. Smith said he was considering "disciplinary action'' against the teachers. In a memo sent to principals, the superintendent said the sickouts could be designated as unpaid leave.

But Mr. Hall said the teachers are not likely to be penalized "if they have medical documentation.''

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