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School Officials Dismayed by Pay Cut Ruling

November 07, 1992|STEPHANIE CHAVEZ and JEAN MERL | TIMES EDUCATION WRITERS

"Lots is at stake here, including public attitudes about the district," Honig said. Several of the district's other employee unions clearly resented UTLA's victory.

"It is appalling that these teachers are so thrilled over what has happened that they have not stopped to think about what this will mean for the students," said Pearl Hinnant, president of Local 500 of the California School Employees Assn., which represents office and technical workers.

But some teachers said that the order only prolongs their salary uncertainties.

"For the next month we are going to be on pins and needles trying to figure out what is happening," said Elizabeth Munoz, a teacher who wore black in a protest at Union Avenue Elementary School near downtown. She opened her check this morning to find a $400 drop from last month.

What happens next is unclear. The county Office of Education has authority to intervene when it determines that a school district is headed for financial trouble. The district also could ask the state for a loan in return for having Sacramento take over at least some of its spending decisions.

As a last resort, it could declare itself bankrupt, as the Richmond Unified School District did last year.

Deborah L. Simons, director of business advisory services for the Los Angeles County Office of Education, said the county has so far done nothing beyond asking the district Friday to project the effect on its budget that the court ruling would have if it holds up.

"This is a unique, very complex situation we're dealing with here. We've never before had a situation in which the court has intervened," Simons said. "It is much too early to speculate as to what might happen."

If the county decides that the district cannot balance its budget, it would step in, with options ranging from providing budget review and advice to taking over the district.

"Our people are looking at this pretty carefully because it could have substantial implications for all school districts in California," said Tom DeLapp, communications director for the Assn. of California School Administrators.

Many school boards and their unions wait to settle salary issues until after the state adopts its own budget, often well after the start of the school fiscal year.

"If the implications (of the Los Angeles court ruling) are that we must negotiate and establish salary schedules prior to knowing our absolute budget level, we are asking school districts to take a huge gamble on politics," DeLapp said.

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