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Some Santa Ana Teachers Want New Contract Vote

March 19, 2004|Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writer

A week after their union overwhelmingly ratified a new contract, a small group of teachers in the Santa Ana Unified School District is agitating for another vote.

About 50 teachers gathered in front of Santa Ana High School on Thursday afternoon to say union leaders unfairly pressured teachers to accept the new contract.

With more than three-quarters of the district's 3,000 teachers casting ballots, 80% accepted the contract that calls for teachers to take a 4% salary cut but extends health benefits to domestic partners.

But Emil Barham, a Santa Ana High math teacher, said union leaders had inaccurately painted a doomsday scenario when they told teachers that state officials would take over the district unless the teachers approved the contract. He also faulted union officials for not waiting to negotiate until after the March 2 election, when voters approved Proposition 57 -- a multibillion-dollar bailout package that eased school districts' budget problems.

Barham also accused union officials of violating bylaws that, he said, grant teachers 15 days to consider their choices during elections. Teachers were given a week to vote.

Tom Harrison, president of the Santa Ana Educators' Assn., dismissed Barham's claims and said Barham spoke for only a small minority of teachers. The 15-day reflection period, Harrison said, applies only during elections of union officials and not to contract ratifications. And the passage of Proposition 57, he said, did not alter negotiations at all, because discussions had assumed it would pass.

Harrison said he and other officials had told teachers about the possibility of a state takeover, but stood by the claim.

District trustees will vote on ratifying the contract Tuesday.

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