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Stalled Beverly Hills Talks : Teachers, District Try New Tactics

May 21, 1987|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

Beverly Hills teachers have taken their case for a salary increase to parents, and district officials are bypassing union negotiators to communicate directly with teachers as a deadlock continues over a 1986-87 teacher salary agreement.

In recent weeks teachers have been walking picket lines after school and notices have been sent to parents calling attention to the failure of the school district to reach agreement with the Beverly Hills Education Assn., the union representing the district's 300 teachers.

The association has criticized the Beverly Hills Unified School District for spending $3 million for capital improvements during the last two years while it has been sending layoff notices to teachers and cutting educational programs.

In response, Board of Education President Mark Egerman wrote a letter to teachers outlining the reasons for the district's current offer of what amounts to a 3% wage increase for the 1986-87 school year and criticizing association leaders for their attacks on district expenditures.

"That is a bit like criticizing a family that budgets its limited income for shelter as well as for food. Clearly the family must have both, just as a school district must have both teachers and adequate facilities," he wrote in a May 14 letter.

Each side has accused the other of distorting the facts.

"The information being distributed by the association was not complete and in some cases not accurate," Egerman said.

The association has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the state Department of Industrial Relations against the district for "interfering" with its members, said Jacques Bernier, the association's chief negotiator.

Bernier said the association has talked with parents because it wants to "alert the community about what is happening with the district's expenditures."

Strike Averted

A teachers' strike was narrowly averted last year after a last-minute appeal by parents for time to raise money for educational programs and salary increases.

The district, however, has not been able to avoid financial cuts this year and has laid off more than 30 teachers and other employees and has cut the budget by $2 million.

The average teacher salary in Beverly Hills is $39,000. The district has offered teachers a 2% salary increase retroactive to September and another 2% increase retroactive to February. The district's offer averages out to a 3% salary increase for the 1986-87 school year.

However, teachers would lose that pay increase during the 1987-88 school year unless the district receives more money from the state. The district said it may be able to guarantee only a 2% increase over current pay levels in 1987-88.

The association, which is seeking a 7% pay increase, has rejected the offer. Bernier said it is unfair for the district to make a 1986-87 agreement contingent on next year's finances.

Mortgaging Future

"That would be like mortgaging next year's increase to get one this year," he said. "If they removed that contingency, I believe the teachers would sign today."

The association has criticized the board for spending $3 million over two years, more than double the normal expenditure, on capital improvement programs. Bernier specifically criticized the board's decision to spend thousands of dollars to replace high school windows and to hire a public relations specialist at $40,000 a year.

"We want to know, why now, why now would they spend that much money?" he said.

School officials said that most of the $3 million allocated for capital improvements is restricted or cannot be used to rehire laid-off workers or increase teachers' salaries.

They said that the money is being spent on needed building repairs, computers, cafeteria equipment and other needed items. Many of the items purchased will save the district money, Egerman said.

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