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Nearing Strike Deadline, Boston Teachers, Board Approve Pact

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The Boston School Committee and the local teachers' union last week approved a one-year contract agreement, narrowly avoiding a strike that was to begin Nov. 12.

After the seven-member committee and Mayor Thomas M. Menino endorsed the pact last week, over 80 percent of the Boston Teachers' Union's members voted to ratify it.

The contract, which gives teachers a 3 percent pay hike retroactive to Sept. 1, is only a stopgap measure. School officials and union leaders are expected to resume bargaining in January on provisions covering the last two years of a three-year settlement.

"We wanted to stabilize things as quickly as possible, because the threat of a strike was hanging over our heads,'' said Larry Faison, a spokesman for Superintendent Lois Harrison-Jones.

But "we needed to keep in mind what our financial capabilities are,'' he added. The one-year settlement is expected to cost the district about $11 million.

Earlier this fall, the school committee had rejected as too expensive a pact that would have increased teachers' salaries by 11 percent over three years. School officials also claimed the pact provided insufficient support of school reform.

The committee's decision angered teachers, who eventually staged a one-day walkout on Oct. 27, forcing the district to cancel classes for its 60,000 students. (See Education Week, Nov. 3, 1993.)

Edward Doherty, the president of the 6,000-member union, said he believed the teachers approved the short-term pact only because it provides "a degree of satisfaction compared to the alternative--a strike.''

Mayor Menino said in a statement that the contract provides the district with "the beginning of reform at a price we can afford [and] allows us to work with the parents and teachers to develop public support for truly genuine, systemic reform of all public schools in Boston.''

The contract retains most of the reforms outlined in the original, three-year plan, Mr. Faison said.

Among the reforms is a provision moving all of the city's 117 public schools toward site-based management. Only 36 schools in the district now have such control.

The pact also will provide all schools with an additional $25 per pupil annually, and will grant more schools waivers from union-contract and school-committee rules.

Denver Dispute Continues

Meanwhile, the Denver Classroom Teachers' Association this month rejected a compromise 1 percent pay raise offered by school officials in an attempt to end a long-term contract dispute in the 60,000-student district.

The union's 4,000 members voted overwhelmingly not to accept the pay hike, which would have been effective next April, in lieu of the 3.5 percent raise agreed to in the teachers' original, three-year salary package. (See Education Week, Oct. 27, 1993.)

Due to a $30 million shortfall, the district did not include that raise in this year's budget.

Although the Denver teachers have not voted to strike, they have staged several sickouts this school year to protest the scaled-back offer. But union leaders indicated after the vote that those protests are not likely to continue.

The union is expected, however, to revive its breach-of-contract suit against the district, which could remain in court for years.

Elsewhere, seven teachers' strikes continued last week in small districts in Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to the National Education Association.

One new strike began in Beverly, Mass.--a northern suburb of Boston--where 400 teachers in the 5,000-student district walked out. It was the first time in the town's history that teachers decided to strike, a move prohibited for public employees under state law.

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