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School strikes still affect nation's students

As Chicago opened its school rooms for classes this week nearly a month late, teachers in Michigan began a new strike of their own. Teachers in the 6,500-student Van Buren School District went on strike yesterday after contract talks broke off without a settlement, the Michigan Education Association said. The 346 Van Buren district teachers had voted last week to strike unless a contract was reached by today, MEA spokeswoman Jacqui Johnson said.

Main issues in the dispute were pay, preparation time and the union's call for high-seniority teachers to have preference in seeking transfers.

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In Chicago, classes began Tuesday for 430,000 public school students, but a school board spokesman warned that the record, four-week strike could be followed by another walkout next year.

``We've got to come up with a 4 percent increase in the salary base plus the 4 percent salary increase next year,'' board spokesman Robert Saigh said Tuesday. ``If we can't do it, the contract is null and void, and we go back to the bargaining table.'' The settlement calls for 4 percent raises this year and again next year if funds are available.

Bickering over the agreement did not seem to affect students. Pupils said they were relieved to be back in class Tuesday, but some said they were upset that they would miss out on most vacation days between now and next June.

In Boston, school buses could begin rolling again today if the school committee accepts the striking drivers' offer to return to work while their contract is being arbitrated. The offer, which is being supported by School Superintendent Laval S. Wilson, came Tuesday, the day after the bus companies that provide service to the school district began taking applications for replacements for the 650 striking drivers.

The bus drivers have been on strike since Sept. 10, forcing 27,000 students to seek other means of transportation.

In western Pennsylvania, classes resumed today in the district of Belle Vernon, where a tentative settlement was reached Tuesday after a one-day strike. The district has 3,025 students and 173 teachers. Teachers strikes continued in two other districts in Pennsylvania and one in Massachusetts.

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