Teachers Accept 3-Year Contract In Los Angeles

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Los Angeles teachers returned to school Friday, following the approval of a three-year contract that will provide them with a substantial salary increase and a much greater say in how their schools are run.

The agreement ended a bitter, 11-day strike in the nation's second largest school district that had kept close to half the city's 594,800 students out of class.

Representatives from the school board and United Teachers of Los Angeles expressed relief that the strike was over and said they were generally pleased with the contract's terms, despite concessions on both sides.

"I'm just thrilled about the settlement," said Roberta L. Weintraub, president of the school board.

And Don Schrack, a spokesman for the union, said, "I don't see how anyone could view it as anything but a great victory for utla"

The agreement will provide teachers with an 8 percent pay hike in each of its three years, beginning in 1989-90. During the life of the contract, salaries for beginning teachers will jump from $23,440 to more than $29,500. Top salaries for teachers with an advanced degree will climb from $43,319 to more than $54,500.

In addition, a school-based-management plan will go into effect immediately that will provide teachers with a dramatic gain in authority over how their schools operate.

Under the plan, each school must establish a school-site council, half of whose members are teachers. The rest of the team will be composed of parents, administrators, and other school staff.

The councils will make a number of decisions previously reserved for school administrators, including class scheduling and the allocation of discretionary funds.

In a major victory for the union, principals and district officials will not have veto power over a council's decisions.

Members of utla approved the contract by a voice vote during a rally at the city's sports arena on Thursday afternoon, although they did not take an official paper ballot.

Later that day, Ms. Weintraub announced that the board had tentatively approved the agreement during an executive session.

She said the official vote of the seven-person board will not be revealed until June 19. But she added that a majority of board members were definitely in favor of it.

Only one board member, Rita Walters, publicly expressed her reservations about the contract during a press conference Thursday.

In particular, she questioned whether the district would be able to find approximately $170 million in budget cuts that she said were needed to fund the settlement.

"I think the teachers deserve a raise," she said in an interview, ''but I don't think that you can run a school district in a fiscally prudent manner by putting money into contractual agreements that you don't have."

Ms. Walters also accused Ms. Weintraub of acting "unilaterally" on a number of provisions, without taking a full reading of the board's views.

The board president admitted that it would be hard for the district to find the money needed to fund the agreement, but she added, "we have commitments from Sacramento to give us the dollars that are necessary."

State officials have estimated a tax surplus of up to $2.5 billion in the next two years. As much as $48- million of that could come to the Los Angeles Unified School District in fiscal 1990. But it is not clear what portion of those funds would be free to be spent on teachers' salaries.

'A Bitter Pill'

A major loss for teachers was their decision to give up most of the pay they that have been docked for boycotting nonteaching duties since the beginning of the school year.

Although the district has agreed to refund some of the money for teachers who refused to turn in their gradebooks at the end of the first 10-week marking period, it will not reimburse them for other noninstructional tasks they refused to perform.

Mr. Schrack described that as a "bitter pill to swallow."

"It's a compromise that certainly doesn't please teachers," he said, "but there's rarely a contract that pleases one side totally."

The contract also ends obligatory yard duty for teachers, and guarantees elementary teachers 30 minutes of preparation time before school and 10 minutes at the end of the school day. However, it does not provide8them with any additional preparation time, as the union had requested.

External Pressure

Contract negotiations in the district had become increasingly acrimonious since they began some 16 months ago.

Last week, state legislators from Los Angeles tried to exhort officials on both sides to reach an agreement by calling them up to Sacramento to discuss their differences.

Representative Maxine Waters, who helped bring the parties together, said the purpose of the meetings was not to "negotiate" between the two sides, but to clarify what was keeping them apart.

"We did not wish to involve ourselves directly," she said of the 15 lawmakers who met with union and district officials, "but the state has a lot of responsibility for the education of children."

The talks apparently were instrumental in bringing both sides back to the bargaining table on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, community leaders said it was too early to speculate on the longterm effects of the strike.

Carole M. Keen, president of the 10th district pta in Los Angeles, captured the sentiments of many district residents when she described her primary feeling as "pure and simple relief."

"I feel that there is hope now for our children to consummate their year-long efforts to be educated," she said. And she urged both parties to bury their animosities and demonstrate a renewed sense of "solidarity" to the district's students.

Vol. 08, Issue 36

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