INGLEWOOD — Officials of the teachers union say they have little hope of settling their salary dispute with the current school board and instead are trying to elect a union-endorsed candidate in the April 7 election.
"We are not getting anywhere with the board so we are appealing to the voters to help us settle this dispute," said Jacques Bernier, executive director of the Inglewood Teachers Assn., during an interview this week.
"We are not sure who we are going to endorse at this point, but we know for sure that we have to do whatever it takes to keep Tony Draper from getting reelected.
Two Seek Reelection
Trustees William R. (Tony) Draper and William Dorn are seeking reelection and each faces four challengers. Bernier said the teachers association is not attempting to unseat Dorn, who is seeking his second term, because he has supported their salary demands.
Bernier said the union is working against Draper, who is also seeking a second term, because he is opposed to the union's demand for a three-year contract that provides either 7% annual raises or a 10% raise the first year and subsequent raises based on increases in state funding. Teacher salaries now range from $19,649 to $38,816 a year.
Draper said the union's position will not change his.
"I know in my heart that I am doing the right thing and I am going to keep on doing the right thing even if it means that I lose this election," he said in an interview.
Budget Kills Agreement
District negotiators had tentatively agreed upon the 7% annual raises but the board backed out when Gov. George Deukmejian released a budget plan that provided a 2% increase in state funding rather than the expected 5%.
District officials said they could not provide 7% raises during the last two years of the contract without significant increases in state aid, and offered another contract that would provide a 7% initial pay increase and subsequent raises tied to increases in state funding.
Union officials, who suggest that the board dip into its $3.5-million reserve to cover teachers' salaries, said they would agree to the second offer if the district provided a 10% raise for the first year. District officials said they could not afford the 10% raise without eliminating special programs or laying off non-instructional staff such as custodians and maintenance crews.
Union officials met this week to organize the anti-Draper campaign, which will include billboards, mailings and meetings with parent and community groups and endorsing a rival candidate.
'Made People Mad'
"Draper has made a lot of people mad and we intend to let people know that they are not going to get quality instruction and education if they keep him on the board," union President Alma Davis said at a teacher rally last week. The rally was held as part of a one-day teacher walkout, the second walkout since the dispute began.
Draper said he is undaunted by the union's efforts.
"My job as a board member is to act in the district's best interest." he told a group of teachers at the rally. "I can't justify approving a contract that gives you 7% or 10% salaries if we are not sure we can pay them." As he spoke, teachers surrounded him and chanted, "Draper must go" and "Down with Draper."
Though Draper's four challengers say they are seeking the union's endorsement. they differ on how much the district can afford.
7% Raise Favored
Loystene L. Irvin, a minister and local businesswoman, and Lois Hill-Hale, chief deputy to state Sen. Diane E. Watson (D-Los Angeles), say district officials should use reserves or lottery money to provide 7% annual raises in a three-year contract.
Clarence E. Jones, a radiological technologist, says the district should not dip into lottery funds but maintains that the school board should "stick to their original offer" and provide a three-year contract with 7% annual raises. He said the money could come from existing programs.
Don L. Fields, a businessman, said he supports the teachers but declined to comment on how much their salaries should be raised until he studied the district's budget plan.
Draper, who called his challengers' statements "uneducated promises," said his opponents are so interested in getting the union endorsement that they seem to have forgotten about the district's well-being.
Don't Know Situation
"It kills me the way they promise to provide higher salaries with absolutely no knowledge of the district's financial situation.
"Face it, the union endorsement could affect the election. If they have their way the board will go against common sense and give the teachers higher salaries, but those same teachers will be screaming when we have to cut off the heat or lay off some of their teachers' aides."
Union officials, who plan to interview each candidate, said they will endorse a candidate within a week.
Bernier said that if the union's candidate does not win, the union will interpret the defeat as an indication that parents and other voters do not support its salary demands. The union will continue to press its demands, however.