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District opposes teacher protest

May 29, 2008|Jason Song | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Unified School District asked for a court order Wednesday to prevent teachers from skipping class next week to protest proposed budget cuts, leaving students under the supervision of aides and administrators.

The one-hour morning demonstration, organized by United Teachers Los Angeles, is scheduled for June 6. Teachers plan to picket outside their schools before signing in and going to class, sacrificing an hour's pay to draw attention to the state's education funding levels.

In his latest budget, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed increasing education spending by $1.8 billion, although that translates to a $353-million shortfall for L.A. Unified because the budget does not include a cost-of-living increase and does not fund certain programs that instead will be paid out of the district's general fund.

L.A. Unified administrators and board members said the demonstration was illegal and suggested that students could be endangered, especially at campuses that recently have had student violence. Earlier this month, police had to break up a brawl at Locke High School involving about 600 students.

"We clearly support the message, but we can't support the action," said Supt. David L. Brewer. "The safety of the students comes first."

Union President A.J. Duffy said the union approached district officials with the idea of a walkout three weeks ago, but proposed keeping students in auditoriums where they could be watched by aides and an administrator for the first hour of classes.

And because elementary school teachers have to report half an hour before their classes begin, they would miss only 30 minutes of instructional time, Duffy said.

"Our take on it was that they were interested," Duffy said.

Brewer said the district tried to work with the union, but it couldn't entertain the idea. "If something happened to a student, we'd be held liable," he said.

Duffy said the protest was the best way to send a message to lawmakers and the governor.

"We felt that 25,000 teachers giving up one hour's pay for the kids of L.A. sent the strongest message," he said.

The union had held protests in Sacramento and had planned to send a caravan by Schwarzenegger's Brentwood home but ditched that idea after discussing the budget with the governor's staff.

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jason.song@latimes.com

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