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557,000 Students Idled in Six States : Teacher Strikes Stretch From Rhode Island to Washington

From Associated Press

More than 557,000 students in six states were closed out of classes today by teachers’ strikes, including 430,000 in Chicago, where the union said negotiators bargaining today were close to an agreement.

In Chicago, 28,000 teachers set up picket lines Tuesday in that city’s third strike in as many years. When talks continued into the night, board spokesman Bob Saigh announced the cancellation of the first day of classes.

Negotiators “report they are close to a settlement,” a Chicago Teachers Union spokeswoman said this morning on a telephone hot line set up to keep teachers informed of progress in the talks. No officials could immediately confirm that statement.

Gov. James R. Thompson intervened in Chicago’s negotiations Tuesday, offering what he said was “a reasonable proposal” for a two-year contract. He did not elaborate.

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Saying he was “very frustrated” by the walkout, Thompson added, “I think the board has more money than they said originally.”

The board, which has said it can’t afford to meet teacher demands, criticized the governor’s remarks. “He’s put us in a box,” Saigh said.

The board has offered a 3.5% salary increase, while the Chicago Teachers Union has requested a 9% raise.

In Rhode Island, 330 Newport teachers struck today after voting not to work without a contract, idling 3,900 students. Pawtucket’s 600 teachers set up picket lines after voting early today not to work without a contract, keeping 8,200 students out of classes. They are seeking raises totaling 27% over three years.

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In Seattle, no talks were scheduled between the school officials and the union representing 3,700 teachers, aides and substitutes who walked out Tuesday. At issue were a state-imposed salary limit, class size, extra pay for extra work days and a personal stipend for materials and supplies.

Teachers’ strikes in four Michigan school districts affected 51,400 students and 3,100 teachers.

Strikes in six Pennsylvania districts kept 19,800 students out of class. The largest were in Butler County, affecting 5,200 students, and Pittsburgh’s Catholic diocese, which kept 5,000 pupils away from class for a second day.

In Illinois’ Wheaton-Warrenville District 200, officials planned to reopen four of the 17 schools with substitutes for 550 teachers who struck last week over pay, classroom size and workloads in the 9,900-pupil district.

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