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Manhattan Beach Teachers Reject Contract

May 12, 1994|JON GARCIA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Manhattan Beach teachers overwhelmingly rejected a new contract Tuesday, refusing to accept a deal that would have left nearly one-third of them without a raise for a third year.

The contract, which teachers rejected by a 166-26 margin, would have held high school teachers' salaries to 1991-92 pay levels for the 1993-94 school year.

Elementary teachers would have received an average raise of 11%.

All teachers would have received a 3% raise for the 1994-95 school year. Teachers in the Manhattan Beach district earn $25,000 to $51,000 a year.

They have been working without a contract for eight months. An impasse in contract talks was declared last March and a state mediator was brought in. The mediator offered the compromise contract in April, and negotiators agreed to take the proposal back to the school board and the teachers for consideration.

The school board approved the proposed contract unanimously. But for the teachers union, the biggest obstacle was the lack of a raise for high school teachers.

A disparity in salaries arose when Manhattan Beach City School District and Mira Costa High School merged last year to form the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. Mira Costa High School salaries were higher than those of elementary teachers.

Manhattan Beach Unified officials say a $1.5-million cut in state funding and a projected deficit meant that some teachers would have to go without a raise.

"We were looking for more upward movement in the salaries," said Bob Sumpter, president of the Manhattan Beach Teachers Assn. "We're talking about three years at the same pay level for the high school teachers."

The union executive committee, which was not part of the bargaining team, voted 12 to 0 to recommend that members turn down the offer.

Sumpter said teachers are still willing to negotiate with the school district.

Administration officials were angry about the vote. "We're obviously very disappointed that it was voted down," said Catherine Hagen, legal counsel for the district. "My understanding is that the mediator still has jurisdiction and that he is looking at a date to resume the negotiations."

Hagen said administration bargainers felt deceived by union negotiators.

"We will need to evaluate whether we're willing to bargain with the teachers' bargaining team or demand one that really represents the union," Hagen said.

Union officials, however, say they didn't endorse the district's offer but were obligated to bring it before the union.

Mediation is expected to resume this month or early next month.

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