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Fewer Teachers Out on Strike This Year Than in Recent Past

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As schools open across the nation, fewer teachers are walking the picket lines over contract disputes than in recent years.

Six school districts were coping with teacher walkouts last week--half as many as reported strike activity about this time last year, according to statistics from the National Education Association. (See Education Week, Sept. 15, 1993.)

Two years ago, at the beginning of the 1992-93 school year, teachers in about 25 districts walked off the job.

The few urban districts that last month had been threatened with strikes were on the brink of reaching agreements last week.

Union officials in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, who had earlier talked of walkouts, appeared optimistic last week about avoiding a disruption at the start of classes.

The relative good will between district and labor leaders in some of the largest systems was a departure from last fall's openings, when the Boston and Chicago schools were in turmoil. (See Education Week, Sept. 22, 1993.)

Boston teachers and district officials deadlocked on a contract in the midst of a contentious mayoral election last year, and a budget crisis delayed opening of the Chicago public schools by a week.

The Chicago Teachers' Union had threatened to strike over, among other issues, the district's plan to transfer money from the teachers' pension fund to its general operating budget.

L.A., Phila. Strikes Averted

Last week, teachers' strikes were reported only in smaller districts in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio.

The only walkout in a district of more than 6,000 students was in Ann Arbor, Mich., which has an enrollment of about 15,000.

About 1,200 teachers there went on strike last week, forcing the district to postpone the start of classes.

Dan Burroughs, a spokesman for the teachers' union, said members were protesting the school board's proposal to roll back some wages and benefits and lengthen the school year without boosting employees' pay.

"We don't think [the district] is justified," Mr. Burroughs said. "We're not in a financial crisis here."

The Philadelphia teachers' union--which voted this summer to stage a walkout over pay, benefits, and some school-reform issues--appeared close to resolving its dispute with district officials last week.

The union's rank and file has approved a contract that would give teachers a 5 percent raise over two years and set up a process giving new Superintendent David W. Hornbeck authority to identify and partially restaff some failing schools.

The school board was also expected to endorse the pact late last week.

Meanwhile, members of the United Teachers-Los Angeles are expected to vote next week on whether to accept the district's offer to restore 8 percent of a 10 percent pay cut imposed two years ago.

"If everything remains stable and nothing changes in the offer, we'll put it to a vote," said Catherine Carey, the union's spokeswoman. "The members have a pretty positive view, [but] they're not ecstatic."

The union, which had warned of a strike if the full amount was not returned, earlier had rejected the school board's offer to pay back 7 percent of the cut over the next two years.

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