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No Strike for St. Louis Teachers; Contract Approved

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Union President Mary Armstrong (center) and other members of the union go over the tally of Tuesday's vote. (KWMU photo)

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO –

St. Louis teachers will NOT be on strike today (Wednesday).

The teachers' union approved a new four-year contract on Tuesday night which was brokered in a last-ditch bargaining session.

The union voted 931-564 in favor of the plan, which indexes salaries to those of five leading St. Louis County school districts, and offers lump sum payments to certain employees.

It also extends teachers' workdays and hours on the job, while increasing their health insurance costs.

Union president Mary Armstrong says the deal still doesn't address discipline, one of the teachers' top concerns.

"They kept saying we don't have any money to fund an in-school suspension program," Armstrong said Tuesday. "Well, they may have to look at reallocating staff in the district to deal with that in every building."

The contract goes into effect immediately.

Some teachers like Jane Sykes say their struggle was not just about money. "If it was about salaries, I would have been gone 20 years ago," Sykes said. "It's about your rights and respect. Those people downtown, they play you.

"And the play on the emphasis that they care about the children, when it's not about the children. It's about the money, and about how many hookups they can give their friends."

District officials say they want to schedule regular meetings with the union to improve communication.

Just last week, the union recommended teachers reject the district's latest offer (that offer was never actually voted on because of the new offer that was reached Tuesday). Three School Board members - Bill Haas, Veronica O'Brien, and Amy Hilgemann - then met with union leaders over the weekend to try to work out an agreement.

On Monday, a federal mediator called for both sides to return to the bargaining table. Both sides did, and hammered out an agreement in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

To hear a report from KWMU's Kevin Lavery, click on the 'listen' icon above.

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