Teaching Profession

Detroit Union Agrees to Deal Ending Strike

By Vaishali Honawar — September 12, 2006 2 min read
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After a 16-day strike that kept schools closed for more than a week past the scheduled opening date, teachers and school officials in Detroit this morning announced they have a tentative agreement.

Schools would reopen Thursday, after the 9,500-member Detroit Federation of Teachers puts the agreement to a vote before its members tomorrow morning, union President Janna Garrison said at a joint news conference this afternoon with William F. Coleman III, the superintendent of the Detroit public schools, and Kwame Kilpatrick, the city’s mayor.

She added that she expects members to approve the deal.

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Ms. Garrison said while “the package was not everything we hoped it would be, it is enough for us to get back to work.”

Union and school officials would not disclose details of the deal before the teachers vote on it, but in a statement released yesterday, Mr. Coleman said the district had offered teachers a 1 percent increase in the second year of the contract, followed by a 2.5 percent increase in the third year.

The district earlier had asked teachers to accept a 5.5 percent pay cut over a two-year contract, but the union wanted a salary increase of 5 percent for each of the next three years of the contract. The teachers’ union said the district has not been transparent and efficient in its handling of the school system’s finances.

The agreement was reached after an all-night bargaining session that ended at 6:30 a.m. today. Union officials said the breakthrough came after Mr. Kilpatrick, the city’s mayor, joined the talks Monday evening.

The agreement could bring down the curtain on a long period of uncertainty for the already troubled Detroit schools and the 120,000 children who attend them.

As thousands of teachers have picketed outside schools since Aug. 28, frustrated parents have searched for options in the form of charter schools and seats in neighboring districts. Strikes are illegal under Michigan law, but teachers refused to return to schools even after a Wayne County Circuit Court judge ordered them to do so Sept. 8. The continued impasse led Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, to call for a fact-finder to intervene.

School officials say the strike could have led to hundreds, if not thousands, of students enrolling in charter schools and neighboring districts, further jeopardizing the financial future of the district, which started this academic year with a $105 million hole in its $1.4 billion budget.

At the press conference today, Mr. Coleman expressed hope that the students would return once schools reopen.

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