L.A. Settles Decade-Old Teacher-Compensation Suit

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Thousands of Los Angeles teachers could receive back pay and other compensation as part of a $10.2 million agreement reached last week among the school district, its teachers' union, and a group of educators who challenged more than a dozen of the district's pay-scale policies.

The legal dispute began after the Los Angeles district enacted a series of policy changes in 1985 to entice more teachers to come to work for the system, especially in understaffed subjects. But the effect was to give newly hired teachers more credit for training and previous experience than educators already working within the system.

Complaining that new recruits with similar resumes were getting paid more than they, a group of veteran teachers filed class actions in 1987 and 1988.

"If you want to make a lot of teachers upset, that's a good way to do it," said Lewis McCammon, one of the educators who initiated the challenge.

Claims Planned

Under the pact, the district will put more than $10 million into a settlement fund to be used to compensate teachers hired before 1985 for some of the wages they said they should have earned. The district also agreed to expand opportunities for current and future teachers to get credit for previous work and experience.

United Teachers Los Angeles, an affiliate of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, also agreed to open the union's contract with the district to make the policy changes.

Although not admitting any liability in the case, district officials said the school board voted unanimously last week in favor of the terms to avoid protracting a dispute already a decade old. The new pay-scale directives also could further the district's aim of trying to bolster its teaching force, said Betty Gardin, the director of personnel research and analysis.

The settlement still needs a state superior court judge's approval. Within the next six weeks, district officials expect to notify some 50,000 current and retired teachers that they may file claims for additional compensation, Ms. Gardin said. Of those, she said, perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 could be eligible.

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