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Teachers' strike cripples schools

By MICHAEL C. TIPPING

LOS ANGELES -- A paralyzing teachers' strike showed no sign of relenting Tuesday, with thousands of students walking out of classes for the second day while hopes of a settlement hinged on an uncertain state tax surplus.

Despite high student absenteeism, Los Angeles Unified School District officials said all 600 campuses in the district, the nation's second-largest behind New York, remained open and contended teachers were trickling back to work.

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But the teachers' union, encouraged by a roll call showing 78 percent of the city's 32,000 teachers walked out on the first day of the job action Monday, said even more teachers were expected to join picket lines.

'Based on reports we're getting, there is at least as many out there (on picket lines) today, and there may even be more,' union spokesman Don Schrack said.

But a partial survey undertaken by regional superintendents showed from one to seven additional teachers reporting for work Tuesday at each school, school district spokeswoman Diana Munatones said. 'The schools are running smoothly,' she said.

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In either cass, the outlook for meaningful education remained bleak Tuesday as many of the district's 600,000 students once again skipped classes or walked out after showing up for attendance.

Munatones, meanwhile, reaffirmed the Board of Education's resolve to stand behind its latest offer of a 21.5-percent pay raise over three years. The union is holding out for 21 percent over two years.

Any hopes of quickly resolving the strike seemed to depend on larger-than-expected state tax revenues.

Munatones said any extra money the district receives from the state 'would go into that (contract) offer.' But she cautioned that 'it would be terribly irresponsible to commit funds that you don't have in hand.'

Gov. George Deukmejian is expected to release official revised budget and revenue figures later in the week.

Officials have said the state has collected $750 million in additional tax revenue, much to be earmarked by law for schools. Los Angeles-area legislators say city schools could receive an additional $34 million.

The district also was awaiting Wednesday's scheduled issuance of a report by a neutral 'fact-finder' appointed by both sides to analyze the district's finances and ability to pay salary increases, Munatones said.

'We eagerly await this report,' she said. 'These recommendations (in the report) will serve as the focal point for both sides to return to the bargaining table.'

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No formal talks were held Tuesday, although informal negotiations have been ongoing for weeks between union President Wayne Johnson and board members.

The fact-finding process, mandated by state law governing public employee labor disputes, began about five weeks ago and followed unsuccessful attempts by a state mediator to resolve the 15-month negotiating impasse between the district and United Teachers-Los Angeles, which represents 22,000 teachers and 10,000 other district employees.

The Board of Education, which met nearly seven hours Monday in closed executive session with its lawyers but announced no progress, planned to meet again Tuesday afternoon.

Munatones said there were no reports of violence at any campus. But a brief scuffle broke out about 10 a.m. in front of Meyler Elementary School in Carson when a teacher tried to stop a Los Angeles County Fire engine from entering the campus to conduct a fire safety program.

No injuries were reported and no arrests made, sheriff's deputies said.

Salary is the main obstacle in the strike, the first by teachers since a 23-day action in 1970. Teachers are also demanding a greater voice in setting curricula and campus policies.

The district offer of a 21.5 percent raise over three years would bring first-year teachers' salaries to $28,856 from $23,440 by July 1990. Top pay would go from $43,319 to $52,744.

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Under the union's proposal of a 21 percent pay raise over two years, beginning salaries would be $28,620 in the second year of the contract while top scale would be $52,892.

A nationwide survey of teacher pay in 10 large cities placed Los Angeles starting wages at the top. The top-scale wage for Los Angeles teachers fell to fourth place, behind New York ($45,800), Chicago ($45,010), and Washington ($44,401).

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