Detroit Students Back in School After Teacher Strike

Classroom doors finally opened Thursday for the city's 130,000 public school students after their teachers voted to end a 16-day strike and consider a new contract offer.

At Chrysler Elementary School, parent Karen Cherven was relieved. She had been worrying about whether to enroll daughter Kellen, 9, and son Kristopher, 7, in private school.

"The parochial school would have been about $700 a month," said Cherven, a lawyer for the state. "I'm glad school is opening finally."

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The walkout began Aug. 28 after teachers rejected a contract that would have cut their pay by 5.5 percent over two years.

The financially struggling Detroit Public Schools argued that it needed $88 million in concessions from the 7,000 teachers and 2,500 other unionized professionals because of a $105 million deficit in its $1.36 billion budget.

After several days of bargaining, the two sides agreed on a three-year contract with a pay freeze this school year and then raises of 1 percent in 2007-08 and 2.5 percent in 2008-09. Next year's raises would be the first since 2003.

Detroit Federation of Teachers members voted Wednesday to return to work while a ratification vote is held by secret ballot over the next several weeks.

Classes in the district had been scheduled to start Sept. 5.