Teaching Profession

Detroit Teachers, District Strike Deal to Open Schools

By Vaishali Honawar — September 19, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

After 16 days on the picket lines, teachers in Detroit returned to their schools at the end of last week, ending a period of intense uncertainty and chaos for the already-troubled district.

Schools reopened Sept. 14, after thousands of teachers belonging to the 9,500-member Detroit Federation of Teachers voted to accept a three-year contract hammered out following days of negotiations between union leaders and school officials.

Under the deal, teachers will accept a pay freeze in the first year, but will receive a 1 percent raise in the second and a 2.5 percent hike in the third year of the contract. Also, veteran teachers will now start paying 10 percent of their health- insurance costs—a provision that was earlier required only of those hired after 1992.

Teachers will also lose three days’ pay for three preparation days that were canceled because of the strike.

The district earlier had asked teachers to accept a 5.5 percent pay cut over a two-year contract, while the union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, sought a salary increase of 5 percent for each year of a three-year contract.

Public schools opened this year with a $105 million shortfall in the district’s $1.4 billion budget, and school officials hoped to recover $88 million by asking teachers to take the pay cut.

As a result of the agreement, the district will need to find another $60 million, said spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo, adding that it would likely come from across-the-board cuts.

The end of the strike came as a relief to the 120,000-student district, which is mired in financial and academic problems. (“Walkout Seen as Further Blow to Dwindling District,” Sept. 13, 2006 and “Detroit Schools Struggle to Stem Student Loss,” July 12, 2006.)

As thousands of teachers picketed outside schools, starting Aug. 28, frustrated parents searched for options in the form of charter schools and seats in neighboring districts for their children. School officials say the strike may have prompted hundreds, if not thousands, of students to move on to those other schools, further jeopardizing the financial future of the Detroit district. State aid is provided on the basis of the number of students in the schools.

Mr. Oguntoyinbo said it could be another month before an enrollment count is taken that will show whether the district has lost students.

“We are hopeful that the damage is not so severe, and one of the things we’re counting on is that charters don’t offer the quality of education we offer,” he said.

‘Love Fest’

At a joint news conference last week with William F. Coleman III, the superintendent of the Detroit public schools, and Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to announce the deal, union President Janna Garrison said that while “the package was not everything we hoped it would be, it is enough for us to get back to work.”

“The district wanted a 20 percent cut, a 15 percent cut, a 10 percent cut, a 5 percent cut, a 1 percent cut, a 0.5 percent cut in our pay, but we ended up with a zero percent cut,” Ms. Garrison said.

“This is a great day for the city of Detroit. It is a great day for the Detroit public schools system. Above all, it is a great day for our children,” Superintendent Coleman said.

At the press conference, which one speaker described as a “love fest,” there was no exhibition of the rancor and bitterness that marked days of court-ordered negotiations between the two sides.

On Sept. 5, the first day of school, classes opened for just half a day, but school officials were forced to cancel them after only 27,000 students showed up.

Teachers refused to return to school even after a Wayne County Circuit Court judge ordered them to do so Sept. 8, under a Michigan law that says strikes by public employees are illegal. The continued impasse led Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, to call for a fact-finder to intervene.

The agreement was finally reached Sept. 12, after an all-night bargaining session that ended at 6:30 a.m. Union officials said the breakthrough came after the mayor joined the talks the previous evening.

A version of this article appeared in the September 20, 2006 edition of Education Week as Detroit Teachers, District Strike Deal to Open Schools

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion 11 Critical Issues Facing Educators in 2023
From health and safety to labor shortages, the coming year is rife with challenges for school leaders and teachers.
5 min read
shutterstock 513761242
Shutterstock
Teaching Profession 'Gaslighting' Is the Word of the Year. Did It Haunt Schools, Too?
The Merriam-Webster word of the year often intersected with schools and teachers in 2022.
3 min read
The highlighted word "Gaslighting" and showing part of its definition to include the word "manipulation" on a computer screen.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession It's a Nasty Cold and Flu Season, But Some Educators Are Reluctant to Take Sick Days
Many cite the pile of work—and lost learning—that accumulates when they take time off.
6 min read
Sick woman holding tissues and drinking from a mug while working
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession In Their Own Words 'I Just Want to Get Better': A Teacher With Long COVID Retires Earlier Than She'd Hoped
A former Massachusetts teacher shares how long COVID damaged her cognitive abilities and accelerated her retirement.
5 min read
Betsy Peterson, a former K-5 technology teacher who was forced to retire early due to symptoms of long Covid, pictured in her home in Maynard, Mass., on November 21, 2022.
Betsy Peterson, a former K-5 technology teacher in Massachusetts, has been struggling with bureaucratic hurdles and debilitating symptom since contracting COVID at the start of the year.
Angela Rowlings for Education Week