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L.A. Union Asks Teachers To Choose Offer or Strike

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Tensions between the teachers' union and the school board in Los Angeles escalated last week, after the union's representative body voted unanimously to send out ballots offering members a choice between accepting the district's latest contract offer and authorizing a strike.

If a majority of the union's 22,000 members agree, a strike could occur this spring, said Catherine Carey, director of communications for United Teachers-Los Angeles.

She also said the union planned by this week to seek a court injunction or temporary restraining order barring Superintendent of Schools Leonard M. Britton from carrying out a threat to withhold the March 3 paychecks of those teachers who failed to turn in their students' official midyear grades.

The union estimates that 80 percent of secondary-school teachers refused to turn in the official forms this month to protest the stalled contract negotiations, now in their 13th month. Many teachers also have refused to participate in nonteaching duties, such as clerical tasks, since school reopened last fall.

Mr. Britton has warned that the district will not protect teachers against the consequences of any lawsuits filed by students or parents of students who do not re4ceive official midyear grades.

Thousands of students protested this month because they feared the lack of official transcripts could jeopardize their applications for college. Teachers have been providing students with unofficial, union-issued report cards.

Contract Issues

Meanwhile, contract negotiations continued last week. The district has offered teachers a three-year contract that would raise salaries by 8 percent in the current school year, 4 percent in 1989-90, and 8 percent in 1990-91, with the possibility of an additional 4 percent pay hike in the second year of the contract.

The union is demanding a two-year contract, with pay raises of 11 percent in the first year and 10 percent in the second.

Negotiators also disagree about how to carry out school-based decisionmaking, how to provide preparation time for elementary teachers, and whether to pay teachers for services they have declined to perform as part of the boycott.

Bill Honig, California's superintendent of public instruction, called on teachers last week to accept the district's latest pay offer. But Ms. Carey said the state chief was "sticking his nose into business that he just doesn't know anything about."--lo

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