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Request To Defer L.A. Paychecks Is Denied

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A state appeals court has upheld a temporary restraining order requiring the Los Angeles Unified School District to issue supplemental paychecks to teachers to make up for salary cuts that are being challenged in a lawsuit.

The court last week denied the district's request to defer the order because school officials could not demonstrate that the district would "suffer irreparable harm'' from restoring the pay cuts by Nov. 24 as ordered by a lower-court judge.

With the threat of bankruptcy looming for the financially strapped district, officials had hoped to postpone the payment of $20 million in supplemental checks for cuts that took effect this month. The Los Angeles superior-court judge handling the case was to weigh a final decision on the cuts in a hearing set for Nov. 25.

"We have money in an emergency fund to cover the first $20 million'' a month in restored pay, Diana Munatones, the district's communications director, said last week. "After that, we'll be in real trouble.''

If the superior court decides to bar the cuts permanently, the district could be pushed into insolvency and could face intervention by the county government and, eventually, the state, according to school officials. (See Education Week, Nov. 18, 1992.)

The Los Angeles County Department of Education, an intermediate level in California's system of school governance, has already asked the district to submit a report on the likely financial ramifications of a permanent ban on the pay cuts.

Contract Dispute

Helen Bernstein, the president of the United Teachers-Los Angeles, which filed the suit seeking to block the cuts, maintained that the district "still has two-thirds of its budget left.''

"I think they're being alarmist,'' she said of district officials.

The union and the school system have been trying to work through a contract dispute that began when the school board voted Oct. 2 to close a budget gap by adding a 9 percent pay cut to the 3 percent already trimmed from teachers' salaries last year.

The union's lawyers argued in superior court Nov. 5 that the state education code prohibits the district from tampering with the salary schedule after the start of the contract year. That hearing resulted in the temporary restraining order rescinding the cuts, which were first reflected in teachers' Nov. 6 checks.

The school board, faced with a $400 million deficit, has warned teachers that the district would not be able to permanently restore the pay cuts without sacrificing other parts of the school budget.

Officials have said the board might have to consider layoffs of 4,500 people and increases in class size.

The union has countered with other cost-saving proposals.

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