DETROIT – Detroit Public Schools officials canceled classes until further notice Tuesday, the eighth day of a teachers strike.
It was supposed to have been the first day of school for the district's 130,000 students. But instead, students returning from summer vacation were greeted by teachers on picket lines instead of in classrooms.
The decision to cancel classes came after Wayne County Circuit Judge Susan Borman ordered that both sides return to the bargaining table Wednesday morning.
"I don't think anyone disputes the facts that it's difficult to have the kind of learning you want to go on when you don't have a full complement of teachers," district spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo said.
Borman denied a request by district attorneys to order 9,500 members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers to end their strike and return to work. Instead, she scheduled more hearings Thursday to hear testimony from both sides and evaluate the district's motion.
At issue is a 1994 state law that bars strikes by public employees. Jerome Watson, an attorney for the district, said that law is "crystal clear" in mandating an immediate return-to-work order.
The union last month rejected a two-year contract proposal that sought 5.5-percent wage reductions and copays for health care benefits of up to 20 percent.
At Beaubien Middle School, many parents dropping their children off expressed sympathy with the teachers, who are being asked to make $88 million in concessions.
"They have to provide for their families," said Diane Madlock, whose son Jonathan is starting seventh grade. "They can't do that if their salaries are continually being cut."
The Detroit strike is not the only one that has affected the start of the academic year. In Gary, Ind., a strike kept students out for more than a week before an agreement was reached Sept. 1.