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A Los Angeles teacher last week vowed to continue her solo hunger strike to bring about improved "teacher benefits and rights."

Annya Bell, a 1st-grade teacher at the 42nd Street School, began fasting on Nov. 17 to help focus public attention on stalled contract negotiations between the school district and United Teachers-Los Angeles.

The city's 32,000 teachers, who have been without a contract since last June, are seeking an immediate 12 percent pay raise, an end to yard duties and clerical work, and more involvement in curriculum planning. The school board has offered a 17 percent raise over three years.

The Los Angeles Public Employment Relations Board has appointed a state mediator, who was scheduled to meet with union and district officials this week in an effort to settle the stalemate.

Ms. Bell, a 19-year teaching veteran who earns $42,000 a year, said she planned to fast until the district meets the union's demands. She is continuing to teach, she said, while drinking fluids and being monitored by a physician.

"I come here every day energetic and ready to begin," she said. "I am an advocate of the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and passive resistance, and I know sometimes you have to sacrifice in order to bring a change."

Donald Schrack, a media consultant to the u.t.l.a., said that the union had not sanctioned Ms. Bell's hunger strike.

In a separate protest organized by the union in September, more than 25,000 teachers continue to boycott yard duties and other "unpaid, uneducational" duties. The employment-relations board recently denied the district's request to seek an injunction barring the boycott.

Annya Bell

Vol. 08, Issue 14

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