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Judge orders striking Detroit teachers back to work

DETROIT (AP) _ A judge on Friday ordered Detroit Public Schools teachers back to work after the district and the teachers union could not reach a tentative labor agreement despite nearly continuous negotiations.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Susan Borman said she had ``hoped and was given hope'' that the two sides could reach an agreement, but that the teacher's 12-day-old strike threatened to irreparably harm Michigan's largest school district.

Borman said the teachers must return to work by Monday. She also ordered the district and the 9,000-member Detroit Federation of Teachers to continue negotiating at least 12 hours per day through the weekend.

Borman said she believed district officials who testified Thursday that Detroit students were being driven to suburban and charter schools, undermining the district's financial recovery.

She said other options to counteract the effects of the strike, such as making up lost instructional days by extending the school year into the summer, would be unreasonable because that would hurt students' summer internship and job prospects.

Earlier Friday, she had delayed her decision to grant the district's request for a back-to-work order, saying the sides were making ``substantial progress'' toward a contract.

The union struck Aug. 28 after rejecting a two-year contract that would have cut pay 5.5 percent and increased copays for health care.

The 130,000-student district is seeking $88 million in concessions from the union's 7,000 teachers and 2,000 support personnel to help close a $105 million deficit in its $1.36 billion budget for the fiscal year.

Hundreds of strikers picketed outside Detroit school headquarters Friday, ringing the block three to six deep as they chanted, cheered and held up signs in support of their union. Many were resolved to remain on strike but not happy about it.

``It's humiliating. It's embarrassing,'' said Susan Kalczynski, a teacher at Barsamian Preparatory Center, a program for high school students with legal problems. ``I could cry seeing all of us out here. We should be in the classroom.''
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