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L.A. Schools Avert Walkout; Chicago Authorizes Strike

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In a sudden shift in negotiating positions last week, officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District and the United Teachers-Los Angeles agreed to table the two most controversial issues in their current contract talks, apparently averting the possibility of a strike that would affect 550,000 students, according to district officials.

Teachers in another major urban district, Chicago, continued on the job without a contract last week, but voted to authorize a strike on Oct. 3 if no settlement has been reached.

But in New York, about 300 teachers in 11 Roman Catholic high schools walked out last week in a dispute over salary increases and other benefits.

Number of Strikes Dropped

In other districts around the nation, the number of strikes continued to drop from previous weeks. Last week, 11 strikes affecting about 4,220 teachers and 52,500 students were reported, compared with 23 strikes the week before, according to figures from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers..

In Los Angeles, where teachers have been without a contract since July 1982, the most controversial issue was the school board's plan for a mandatory transfer of experienced teachers into "hard-to-staff" inner-city schools.

The board faced about 450 vacancies in these schools this fall (far more than in other schools), as well as an unusually high number of inexperienced teachers and a "chronic" problem of teacher "no-shows," said Rita Walters of the school board. The board's proposal would have established a pool of teachers with from five to 20 years of experience to serve for at least five years in these schools.

Jewell Gould, associate director of research for the American Fed-eration of Teachers, said he knows of no other districts that have contracts with mandatory transfer plans involving experienced teachers. He said school boards in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and other cities have tried and failed to win such an agreement.

In exchange for the transfer plan, the board was offering the teachers a vote on an agency-shop agreement--another controversial issue--which would require nonunion teachers to pay union fees.

The utla could have collected more than $2 million a year from the agency-shop agreement. But under California law, school boards must authorize an agency shop.

One-Day Protest Walkout

The union has angrily fought the transfer plan since it was proposed early this month. On Sept. 16, about 16,000 teachers staged a one-day walkout protesting it. Early last week, the teachers went to the polls to vote on a strike authorization. But last Tuesday, the board and the union agreed to drop both of the controversial issues for this year and to refer the transfer issue to a study committee.

Last Remaining Issue

Late last week, the most important remaining issue in Los Angeles was salary, and the two sides were within a few percentage points of agreement, school officials said.

The board has already implemented a 7.8-percent increase; last week, it offered to increase this to 8.6 percent, if Gov. George Deukmejian signs a bill that would authorize another $22 million for the district. The Governor has until Sept. 30 to sign. The union has been asking for a 9.4-percent increase.

Last year, Los Angeles teachers received no salary increases, but this year the state's $800-million school-reform law provided $115 million in additional state support for the district.

In Chicago, the main issues standing in the way of a contract agreement before Oct. 3 were salary and seniority. The Chicago teachers' union is fighting a school-board proposal to waive seniority in selecting teachers for certain magnet schools, a union official said.

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