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Striking Detroit Teachers Ignore Judge’s Order To Go Back to Work

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Teachers in Detroit continued to picket today in defiance of a judge’s order demanding they go back to school, throwing into uncertainty an administration plan to reopen schools tomorrow.

“An overwhelming majority of our teachers did not show up to work,” said Lekan Oguntoyinbo, a spokesman for the district, adding that the reopening of the schools, slated for Tuesday, is now “in flux.” He said the district might return to court tomorrow to ask the judge to hold the teachers in contempt.

Negotiations between the two sides continued Monday, as the strike entered its 15th day.

Schools in Detroit opened Sept. 5 for a half day before closing indefinitely after just 27,000 of the expected 120,000 students showed up.

On Sept. 8, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Susan Borman ordered striking teachers back to work. She said she believed district officials, who testified that students were leaving city schools for suburban and charter schools, further hurting the district’s financial situation. The school system is grappling with a $105 million budget shortfall in its $1.4 billion budget for 2006-07.

In a statement released today, schools Superintendent William F. Coleman III said the administration’s latest proposal to the teachers includes a wage increase in the second and third years of the contract, adding up to a total of 3.5 percent.

The district had originally asked teachers to take a 5.5 percent pay cut, but teachers want a 5 percent increase each year over the next three years.

“Although the parties are apart, we are not far apart. We believe we have made significant progress over the last two and a half weeks,” Mr. Coleman said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, has indicated that if the two sides fail to reach a decision by 6 p.m. today, she will send in the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to help sort out their differences.

Vol. 26

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