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L.A. Teachers' Contract Expected To Be Adopted

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The Los Angeles school board is expected early this week to approve a contract with its teachers' union, heading off a strike that was to have begun on May 7.

Members of the United Teachers-Los Angeles voted overwhelmingly last week to strike if the board failed to sign the pact, which would restore 2 percent of a 12 percent pay cut imposed last fall.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge last month blocked the board from adopting the contract until it had the $36 million needed to pay for it in hand. (See Education Week, April 28, 1993.)

As teachers prepared to cast their votes, the school district last week unexpectedly received from the state a $35 million reimbursement for court-ordered desegregation activities that should clear the way for a settlement, school officials said.

"I think we've got the money for the contract,'' said Roberta Weintraub, a school board member. "I think it will be signed.''

The union scheduled the strike vote in response to the court order, before the state-aid windfall came through. The union went ahead with the vote, its officials said, to make it clear to the board that teachers would strike if the money was not used to pay for the pact.

"We feared that if we stopped the process, something else would happen,'' explained Catherine Carey, a spokeswoman for the teachers' union. She agreed that the board's approval of the pact would lift the threat of a strike.

The union previously had criticized the board for failing to apply for the state reimbursement earlier this year.

Shel Erlich, a spokesman for the district, said the board "believed we were no longer eligible.''

Speaker's Help

According to Mr. Erlich, Willie L. Brown Jr., the Speaker of the State Assembly, persuaded state officials to release the funds. Last February Mr. Brown mediated the talks that resulted in the settlement and promised the district that he would help it obtain extra state aid.

The board cut teachers' pay last fall to help narrow a $400 million shortfall in the district's $3.9 billion budget. Teachers continue to claim that the district mismanages its accounts.

Late last month, Superintendent Sid Thompson outlined how the district should handle an estimated $143 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

Increasing class sizes, cutting central administration staffing, and laying off or reassigning nearly 1,500 school employees were among his proposals.

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