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New Contract Gives 16% Pay Raise Over 2 Years to Teachers


La Canada Flintridge schoolteachers and administrators agreed Tuesday on a contract that will raise teachers' salaries 16% over the next two years, ending a months-long dispute that triggered angry demonstrations and forced a state mediator to intervene.

The contract was approved unanimously and without discussion Tuesday night by the La Canada Unified School District Board of Education. Teachers had voted 118 to 2 to ratify the agreement.

School district officials and representatives of the La Canada Teachers Assn. praised each other's efforts for the first time since last June, when wage negotiations began.

"Everyone's in a good mood because we're back to working as a family again and our real job of educating kids," said Martin Lipofsky, a science teacher at La Canada High School and president of the teachers' association. "We weren't trying to harm the district. It's a pleasure that we have settled our differences."

The agreement calls for a 10% salary increase for the 1989-90 school year that will be retroactive to last September. Teachers' wages will then be raised an additional 6% this September for 1990-91, district officials said.

Teachers are in the second year of a three-year contract that requires wages to be negotiated each year. The agreement reached Tuesday, however, will keep wages off the bargaining table until 1991-92.

The increase will boost the pay of a beginning teacher from $20,270 to $24,660 in two years. Top salaries for teachers with 25 years of experience will jump from $42,970 to $50,760.

The raise will move La Canada teachers--until now among the lowest paid in the state--to more competitive levels, Lipofsky said.

But it carries a heavy price tag, said Judith Glickman, La Canada district superintendent.

Glickman said the 16% increase will cost the district about $1.2 million--$700,000 for the first year and $500,000 for the second. Although the district will be able to pay for this year's increase, it will have to cut about $725,000 from elsewhere in next year's $16.3-million budget to counter the pay hikes and a $300,000 revenue shortfall.

"We don't have enough in our reserves to support the cost next year," she said. "The $725,000 reduction is a significant amount. But we'll work with it. We're very pleased we've settled."

Until now, teachers' representatives had demanded a 10% raise, scoffing at a 7% offer by the district. They claimed the district had $2 million in reserves to use for salary increases. Officials had insisted that only $800,000 was available.

But a review earlier this month of the district's interim budget and a $200,000 windfall from the state for average daily attendance increases allowed the district to make the better offer, Glickman said.

The difference in cost to the district between the 7% and 10% offers was about $200,000, Lipofsky said.

"We think the money has always been there, but that it was a question of priorities," he said. "But school districts plan a conservative budget. That's their job."

Teachers, citing their students' high test scores and their standing among the lowest-paid instructors in the state, had picketed several times at schools and at Board of Education meetings.

In November, they declared an impasse in negotiations and asked the state to send a mediator to intervene. On Jan. 10, the mediator met separately with both sides and had planned to meet again Wednesday. But teachers' representatives and district officials were able to resolve their differences on their own in sessions late last week, Lipofsky said.

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