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Teacher Strike Idles Detroit’s Students

September 1, 1992

DETROIT (AP) _ A strike by Detroit teachers forced the cancellation of the first day of class today for more than 168,000 students in the nation’s seventh-largest school system.

Superintendent Deborah McGriff said the school system would go to court today for a back-to-work order. Union pay demands were ″totally ridiculous and out of sync with our financial situation,″ she said.

About 2,000 members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers voted overwhelmingly Monday to strike. There are 10,500 teachers in the district.

State-mediated contract talks broke off early Monday, and were set to resume today. Both sides said they were far apart on wages.

Computer science teacher Mark Gniewek, picketing outside Detroit Northern High School this morning, said he and his colleagues are angrier this year than during their last strike, a five-week walkout in 1987.

″I think a lot of teachers would go back to work for a very little raise,″ he said. ″What’s being offered now isn’t really a raise.″

Meanwhile, Rockford’s 300 teachers struck the western lower Michigan district today, idling 6,000 students. Teachers in Clarkston, Mount Pleasant, Grand Haven and Inkster went on strike Monday, affecting 17,000 students.

And in Illinois, 690 teachers were on strike Monday in six districts, idling more than 11,000 students.

The Detroit teachers rejected the Board of Education’s latest offer, which included a 3 percent bonus in exchange for attending 50 hours of workshops without pay, but no regular pay increase.

Teachers have said they are seeking a 6 percent raise; union President John Elliott denied a board contention that the union had raised the demand at the last minute to 8 percent.

Detroit teachers with a bachelor’s degree begin at $27,000 a year and get $41,000 after 10 years.

″I’m behind the teachers 100 percent, and I’ll be on the picket line with them,″ said Karen Soper, whose son goes to private school. ″He wouldn’t have to be there if they would shrink the class size and pay the teachers what they’re worth.″

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said it would organize classes and recreation programs for some Detroit students.

In Illinois, teachers have walked out in Belvidere, Bethany, Downs, Harrisburg, Pittsfield and Rochester.