Tough fiscal times continue to cloud salary negotiations between teachers and school officials in four Westside districts where pay raises, if granted, probably will be meager.
School officials in the Culver City, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and Santa Monica-Malibu districts contend that there is not enough money in their budgets for significant pay increases. While some teachers' unions accept that argument, others contend that their districts have the money for raises, but are not willing to spend it.
Discussions continue in Culver City, where the teachers' association has threatened a work slowdown unless it receives a 3.35% pay raise. The district has countered with a 2.2% increase, calling it the best it can offer.
"If we wanted to take every penny out of the district in salary increases, we could get seven or eight percent, but we'd bankrupt the district in a year or two," said Ara Prigian, a staff member at CTA, which bargains on behalf of teachers in Culver City and Beverly Hills.
The average salary for a teacher in Culver City is $41,094, according to the CTA.
In contrast, Beverly Hills has fallen from its position as the county's highest-paying school district, according to Prigian. The district carried over last year's contract--including a 2% raise--into this academic year.
The district continued the raise this year on the condition it could keep a certain amount of money in reserve and maintain a $400,000 legal contingency fund, according to Ray Cutten, Beverly Hills assistant superintendent for human resources. Now, Cutten said, that raise will be among the matters to be reconsidered in talks on a new multiyear contract.
Beverly Hills teachers earn an average salary of $47,500, and teachers are required to work only nine years before reaching the maximum salary level, compared to the 15 years or more it takes to reach the top in other districts.
Meanwhile, teachers in Los Angeles Unified School District will begin talks in April for next year's salary package, although they may see little, if any, salary hike. Teachers received an 8% raise this year--4% guaranteed from the district and another 4% from a onetime $59-million lump sum, money United Teachers-Los Angeles (UTLA) saved from the teachers' medical benefits package, said Sam Kresner, director of UTLA's organizational services.
Pay has been a contentious issue in that district, where teachers suffered salary cuts between 1991 and 1993, and they are now fighting to have their wages restored. Even with this year's total 8% pay increase, teachers' salaries are not back to what they were before being cut, Kresner said.