Tentative Deal For Detroit Teachers

Striking teachers at Cass Technical High School picket outside the school in Detroit, Monday, Sept. 11, 2006.
AP/Detroit Free Press
The city's striking teachers and the school district reached a tentative contract agreement early Tuesday, clearing the way for a possible return to work after 16 days on the picket line.

The deal was reached in a bargaining between the Detroit Public Schools and the 9,500-member Detroit Federation of Teachers after Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick brought the two sides together in his office, school spokesman Ken Coleman said.

"This is a tentative deal, but we are optimistic" that the strike will end, Coleman said. "Our 130,000 students will be back in the classroom ... and will be able to get about the business of improving test scores."

The union's executive committee was meeting Tuesday morning. Teachers will vote as early as Wednesday morning on returning to work that day, said union spokeswoman Michelle Price. A mail ratification vote would follow.

Classes could start as early as Thursday for students, whose school year should have started Sept. 5.

Terms of the tentative deal were not immediately revealed.

"It's a concessionary contract, there's no doubt about it," said union executive board member Vince Consiglio. He said getting a contract was a victory in itself at a time when the district was pressing hard for deep cuts, but he said union leaders would have to work hard to win approval from their members.

Messages seeking comment were left with a school district spokesman Tuesday.

The walkout began Aug. 28 after teachers rejected a two-year contract that would have cut pay 5.5 percent and increased co-payments for health care. The district wanted $88 million in concessions from the union to help close a $105 million deficit in its $1.36 billion budget for the fiscal year.

Union bargainers rejected an offer with a 0.75 percent pay cut the first year and increases of 1 percent and 2.5 percent the second and third years. It also would have required teachers to pay part of their health insurance costs.

The district ratcheted up its pressure on the union last week. On Friday, a judge ordered the teachers back to work, but the majority of still defied the order on Monday, district spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo had said. Oguntoyinbo had warned then that attorneys would go back to court to ask the judge to "enforce our rights."