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Boycott of Compton Schools Spreads; Contract Talks Off

April 25, 1985|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

COMPTON — A costly three-day boycott in which parents are keeping their children home from school in support of salary demands by teachers spread to at least three campuses Wednesday, as bargaining efforts between school district and teachers' union representatives collapsed.

"We're at impasse," said Supt. Ted Kimbrough on Wednesday afternoon after talks broke off.

Union president Jean Curtis said she would ask the union's 1,400 teachers to authorize a strike at a mass meeting later in the afternoon. She would not say when a strike, the teachers' first since 1973, might begin.

Bargaining ended with the teachers demanding a 10% raise over a period covering the rest of this school year and all of the next one, said Kimbrough. The district offered 8% for the same period, he said.

The union's proposal would have cost the district $3.4 million for the next school year, while the district plan would have meant a $2.7-million expenditure, the superintendent said.

Parents at three and possibly four elementary schools kept hundreds of students out of classes for the third straight day Wednesday and vowed to keep them home until teachers are offered a contract they will approve.

Schools lose $12.11 per day from the state for each unexcused absence, so the three-day boycott, which included about 950 absences on both Monday and Tuesday at Laurel and King elementary schools, could cost the district about $30,000.

Boycott Spread

The boycott spread to Dickison and Emerson elementaries Wednesday, according to Bill Young, spokesman for boycotting parents. School officials, however, said they had no immediate information on Emerson. Supt. Ted Kimbrough confirmed heavy absences at Laurel and King on Monday and Tuesday. He said attendance was up sharply at Laurel on Wednesday, but the boycott was continuing to have an impact at King and Dickison.

Young said parent associations at about half the 35 schools in the 27,000-student district have agreed to keep their children home if teachers strike.

"It seems that the only thing (the district is) concerned about is money, and we're going to hit them in the pocketbook. If the teachers go out, we're going to close as many schools down as possible," said Young.

"The superintendent and everybody up on the board (of trustees) gets good money, but the teachers are the lowest paid in the county," added Young, father of two school-age children. "A lot of teachers are leaving and our children are suffering."

Negotiations in 10th Month

Kimbrough said the parent boycott is irresponsible, illogical and the threat of a greater boycott will not affect teacher negotiations, which are now in their 10th month.

"I think it's deplorable for any adult to tell children not to come to school," said Kimbrough. "It's 110% against what we stand for, and it doesn't make any sense whatsoever."

By keeping children home, parents are cutting district income and taking away money that could go to teacher salaries, he said.

The boycotting parents are breaking the law, the superintendent added, "and whatever legal counsel tells me we can do, we will do."

State law says that parents who keep children out of school are guilty of a legal infraction and can be fined $100 for their first offense and $250 for each subsequent violation. Each day of absence can be construed as a separate offense, said Jim Milner, an administrator at the Los Angeles County Department of Education.

Curtis said the teachers' union has had nothing to do with the parent boycott. "We don't tell children to stay home," she said, "but it's apparently a statement the parents want to make. They have even more invested than we do."

Recommendation Endorsed

Teachers, who have worked without a contract since September, endorsed a state arbitrator's recommendation that they be given a 6% raise, but Curtis has said that they might consider 4.5% for this school year and 5.9% for next year.

The union president said that Gov. George Deukmejian has recommended a 5.9% increase in state money to school districts in 1985-86 and that teachers should get their share of that money. The district's state money was boosted by 6.6% this year, but the teachers have not yet received a wage increase, she noted.

"They're going to get that money and they should pass it along," Curtis said. "But it seems that they have not seen us or heard us."

The district's previous offer, which was rejected last week, was a complicated package that equated to raises of about 4.5% for this year and next year.

The key problem with that offer was that most of the pay increase would have come next year, shortchanging teachers who are retiring this summer, said Curtis.

'Massive Budget Cuts'

Kimbrough declined to discuss details of bargaining but said, "I've offered all that we have. In fact, we don't even have that. I'm going to have to persuade the board to make massive budget cuts in order to give what we've offered."

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