In an unexpected 3-2 vote, the Inglewood school board gave in to teachers' demands for higher salaries despite protests from administrators, who said the district will have to cut academic and extracurricular programs to pay the increased salaries.
A board majority made up of trustees Caroline Coleman, Ernest Shaw and William Dorn voted Monday to offer teachers a three-year contract that would provide a 10% raise the first year, a 4% raise the second year and a third-year raise to be negotiated later.
"The teachers deserve more money, and the district cannot afford to have them out on the picket line instead of in the classroom," Shaw said.
Alma Davis, president of the Inglewood Teachers Assn., said she will recommend that members approve the offer after it is formally presented to union negotiators at a meeting next week.
The teachers union held a two-day work stoppage and a one-day walkout in February to protest stalled salary negotiations, and another walkout was planned next week.
The teachers' previous contract expired June 30, 1986. Under that contract, salaries ranged from $19,649 for a starting teacher to $38,816 for one with five years'experience or more.
The new offer, retroactive to July 1, caught some district officials off guard because the board members--including the three who approved the new contract--had maintained that the district could not afford to meet the teachers' salary demands because of cuts in state funding.
"I don't know where this whole thing came from," said Trustee William (Tony) Draper, who said he is "furious" about the decision.
Even officials of the union, which represents more than 90% of the district's 627 teachers, were surprised by the board's abrupt change in position.
"We don't know exactly what happened to bring this change about, but we are very, very happy about it," Davis said. "We still have to poll our membership about the offer before we formally accept it, but I plan to recommend that they approve this."
But some district officials, including Supt. Rex Fortune and board members Draper and Rosemary Benjamin, warned that the new contract may give teachers better salaries but worse working conditions.
"They (the board majority) are not thinking about the district's future, and they will be sorry when we can't afford textbooks and supplies next year," Draper said. "We just can't afford to do this with the decreases in state funding."
The board had tentatively agreed in January to offer teachers a three-year contract that provided 7% annual raises but backed out when Gov. George Deukmejian released a budget plan that gave the district a 2% funding increase instead of the expected 5%.
The board instead offered another three-year contract that would have provided a 7% raise the first year and subsequent raises based on increases in state funding. The Inglewood Teachers Assn. rejected that offer, but said it would accept a contract with raises based on increased state funding if the district provided a 10% raise for the first year.
Union officials said they interpret the board's new contract offer to mean that the district will take teachers' other demands seriously. "We have been a little passive group that takes our crumbs and settles for whatever we get," Davis said, "but that is just not going to happen anymore."