Teachers in the Centinela Valley Union High School District have authorized their union to call a strike if such action is needed to break a deadlock in contract negotiations that have dragged on for a year.
Laren Sanders, a business representative for the 250-member Centinela Valley Secondary Teachers Assn., said 86% of the teachers approved the strike authorization, the first in 19 years. District officials said a settlement may be near, but Sanders said a state mediator has failed to reconcile differences after six weeks of meetings.
Both sides said the main stumbling block is a dispute over medical benefits. The district, which has traditionally paid 100% of medical premiums, wants to contain rising costs of insurance by putting a dollar cap on its premium outlays. Teachers would be required to pay any future increases over the current level.
"Medical benefits are tremendously important in Centinela Valley because a high percentage of teachers are nearing retirement age," Sanders said.
The district has offered an 8% salary increase for the current school year, but the union is asking for about 10%.