Washington's teachers, caught in a legalistic cross-fire between the D.C. City Council and the mayor, still have not received pay raises this year, even though all other District government employees got their raises four months ago.
"This is a matter of discrimination against teachers," Washington Teachers Union president William H. Simons charged at a press conference yesterday, "and it happened because of the ineptness of the city government."
"It used to be that when something went wrong, they blamed it on Congress." Simons continued, "but Congress is out of the picture now. They told us things would be better once we had Home Rule, but look at this."
The pay raise the teachers want is 4.83 per cent. It is the same as the cost-of-living increase that federal workers were given last Oct. 1, and that all city workers - except teachers - were given the same day.
Mayor Walter E. Washington and the City Council promised that the teachers would get the raise, too, even though their pay is set separately. The process of implementing the raise, however, has been slow.
In early November, Mayor Washington recommended that the Council pass a raise bill for teachers. The Council did so unanimously in mid-December. The mayor allowed the measure to become law without his signature in mid-January but said it was the wrong kind of bill and refused to authorize inssuance of the bigger pay checks.
The bill the Council passed was emergency legislation - good for just 90 days and not subject to Congressional review.
Mayor Washington contended that for the city to pay higher salaries to teachers, the Council would have to pass permanent legislation, which Congress can act on within 30 days after the mayor signs it.
"There was a difference of opinion between the Council and the Mayor on what sort of legislation was needed," an aide to the Council said yesterday, "and the mayor's opinion prevailed. He issues the checks."
Yesterday, Simons said the teachers union might sue to get its pay raise paid.
Meanwhile, the City Council is considering the pay raise again retroactive to Oct. 1 as permanent legislation, a process that takes several weeks.
With the Congressional review requirement, "It probably won't take effect until late April or early May," said Patricia Miner, staff drector of the Council's education, recreation, and youth affairs committee, "which means the teachers probably won't get their retroactive pay until a couple of weeks after that."
Another way the teachers might get their pay raise is through the D.C. government's supplemental appropriations bills, which is also expected to clear Congress during the spring.
Last year Washington's teachers got a 6 per cent pay raise, It was effective Jan. 1, 1976, but because of a series of complicated delays the teachers didn't receive the extra money until September.
If the teachers do get a 4.83 per cent pay increase, it will cost the city $6.2 million. Their average salary now is $16,937 for a nine-month school year.