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Teachers, Students Protest Over Denver Contract Dispute

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About 600 of Denver's 4,000 public school teachers called in sick last week to protest the district's failure to include a 3.5 percent pay raise for teachers in its 1993-94 budget.

About half of the 1,600 students in one of the city's high schools walked out of class in support of the teachers, according to Patty Murphy, a spokeswoman for the district.

The disruptions came just a week after the Denver Classroom Teachers' Association filed a breach-of-contract suit against the district, which had agreed in 1990 to give teachers a 3.5 percent raise in each of the next three years. (See Education Week, Oct. 13, 1993.)

School officials said they have the right to renegotiate salaries under multi-year contracts, but the union contends that such changes can only be made by mutual consent.

In an attempt to avoid court intervention, a judge last week appointed a mediator to work with union and district officials, Ms. Murphy said.

In the meantime, the union has indicated that teachers may continue to organize protests in the schools.

The "sick-out'' doubled the district's average absentee rate for teachers, Ms. Murphy said.

About 70 of 90 teachers in one school were absent on a single day, she added.

Meanwhile, Boston teachers are planning a one-day strike on Oct. 27, a union official said last week, and they plan to mount a full-scale strike if their dispute with the city school district is not resolved by Nov. 12.

The Boston Teachers' Union is protesting the district's refusal to adopt a salary package that would bump up teachers' pay by 11 percent over three years.

The union has challenged the school board's vote to reject the package--arguing that one member was not properly appointed--but no decision had been handed down as of last week.

Most of the teachers' strikes that began earlier this fall had been settled by last week, according to the National Education Association. Only four strikes continued, in small school systems in Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.--J.R.

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