La Habra City School District and its Teachers Head for a Thursday Showdown

Whether La Habra teachers will walk off their jobs is coming down to the outcome of a meeting scheduled for Thursday.

With 95 percent of La Habra City School District's 223 teachers who were eligible to vote casting ballots last week, 91 percent authorized their union's executive board to call a strike if the district's board imposed "punitive, permanent pay cuts on the educators."

A day after the La Habra Education Association strike authorization vote, the school board on Wednesday adopted a plan to reduce teacher salaries 2% effective Nov. 1 and work days by two days this school year and two more days in the 2011-2012 school year.

The board did provide one increase for teachers: the amount they must contribute if they want to opt into the district's health insurance program.

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The district maintains the reductions are necessary due to state budget cuts, and the teachers agree sacrifices are needed in these times. But, as a fact finder recommended, the teachers want language inserted in a contract agreement that stipulate those cuts are temporary.

To do otherwise, says teacher association president Danette Brown, would completely contradict previous board statements to accept the fact-finding report as a framework.

The membership was "somewhat encouraged" the board delayed imposition of its compensation decision until Thursday's meeting. That at least gives the teacher association time to submit a counter-proposal today, one that would include language indicating cuts are temporary.

"But if they continue to go against the fact finder's recommendations and impose unnecessary permanent cuts," Brown says in a LHEA statement, "they leave us no alternative but to strike."

Negotiations between the district and the association began in September 2009 and reached an impasse the following December. Mediation was not successful and the dispute was referred to a statutory fact-finding process this past summer. The union and district recently received the fact-finding recommendations. That led to another round of negotiations on Nov. 5 that ended without an agreement.

"Under the state collective bargaining law, the parties have exhausted the bargaining process and the district has no choice but to seek reductions in compensation from all staff in order to meet our financial responsibilities," Superintendent Susan Belenardo explains in a statement posted on the district website. ". . . If our teachers strike, our schools will remain open and we will have qualified teachers in our classrooms."


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