200 Teachers Protest Stalled Salary Talks in Compton

Times Staff Writer

About 200 city teachers who have worked without a contract since September marched in quiet protest Tuesday, but school district officials said it will be at least another week before they know if an employee pay raise is possible.

"We're tired of this kind of stuff going on year after year," said Jean Curtis, president of the Compton Education Assn., as teachers with picket signs and balloons paced the sidewalk at the district's Tamarind Street administration building.

"These people are angry," she said. "It's ludicrous to have to wait until June to finalize a contract. That's when we finally settled on all the issues last year."

Hope to Send Message

Teachers from all grade levels gathered for the after-school demonstration, hoping to send a message that they want higher wages, more school supplies and cleaner and safer campuses, said several protesters.

So far, the district has offered its 1,300 teachers, who are among the lowest paid in Los Angeles County, no raise at all. A beginning teacher makes $14,009 a year; the maximum annual salary after 13 years is $29,011.

"We feel it's unfair that this district is not giving us our fair share of the money that comes from the state," said teacher Zora Hayes of Foster Elementary School, noting that a 5.8% increase in state funding to the district for this school year has not gone to salaries.

Schools Supt. Ted Kimbrough said, however, that Compton employees received an 8.5% increase in salary and benefits two years ago, when the state provided no extra dollars for inflation.

'Reversed Priorities'

Arlen Gaynor, a junior high school reading instructor, insisted that "the district has its priorities in reverse order, with us at the bottom of the totem pole." Gaynor and others also said they are forced to work in deteriorating buildings.

But none of the half dozen protesting teachers interviewed Tuesday were interested in repeating last year's one-day walkout that preceded a settlement and a 5% salary boost.

"I don't think any of the teachers really want to walk out," said fifth-grade teacher Marjorie Shipp. "We just want a contract."

Most Long Beach- and Southeast-area school districts have agreed to 1984-85 contracts with their teachers, said Sharon Scott Dow of the California Teachers Assn. Long Beach settled for a 9.2% annual increase, while Downey gave 8.2%, ABC 7.8%, Norwalk-La Mirada 6% and Los Angeles 13.6%, she said.

The Compton administration and teachers declared an impasse in negotiations in December, and this month chose a fact-finder from the state Public Employees Relations Board to determine if the district has money for employee pay raises. A hearing date has not been set.

Kimbrough said Tuesday, however, that the district may make a salary offer by Feb. 1. after he analyzes spending figures for July through December to see if the school district is below budget.

Kimbrough has maintained that the district can grant no raises unless expenses for the first half of the 1984-85 fiscal year are below projections.

"I know we have had some savings by going (with a new) health plan," he said. "But I don't know how much."

Curtis said the union is ready to bargain at any time.

Five secondary issues, including fully vested paid teacher retirement at age 55 instead of 62, also are being negotiated, she said.

In addition, the teachers at the next bargaining session will call for better campus security, Curtis said.

The security issue has been inflamed by the Dec. 21 rape of an elementary school teacher in her classroom, said Curtis. Compton police have made no arrests, said Cmdr. Terry Ebert.

Security has been a big issue in the district for many years, said Curtis. It was one of the reasons teachers struck in 1973, she said, and it was a point of dispute again last fall, when the school board rejected Kimbrough's proposal to lay off 31 of the district's 97 security employees.

Teacher Raped

The rape of the teacher last month came at 7:30 a.m. and no security guard was on campus, Curtis said.

"If it is necessary for some dedicated teachers to be on campus at that time, the security should be there too," she said.

In response, Kimbrough noted that a janitor and at least three teachers were on campus during the rape.

"There are some things you just can't prevent," he said. "But there is no question that every teacher has a right to work in a safe environment, and I'm going to do everything I can to guarantee that. If that means more security, that's fine."

His staff is investigating what needs to be done, he said.

12% Raise Requested

Teachers opened bargaining last spring on the contract covering this school year, requesting 12% more pay. They have not moved from that position because of the district's refusal to negotiate, said Curtis.

The school board adopted a $93-million budget in September that froze the salaries of all 2,850 district employees, including about 1,300 clerical and maintenance workers. Representatives of those non-teaching employees said this week that negotiations also are stalled with the district offering no raise.

Trustees cut $6 million from last year's budget, but a $760,000 deficit remained.

That deficit was expected to increase by $800,000, Kimbrough said then, because trustees did not follow through with the security guard layoffs that had been budgeted. But he said Tuesday that several security employees have recently resigned and have not been replaced, which will pare down the expected shortfall.

The district has spent about $9 million more than its income each of the last two years, reducing a once-large carry-over surplus to just $2.76 million, officials have said.

The district, which has had a deficit each year since 1977, must learn to live within its budget, said Kimbrough. He will recommend against going into the carry-over surplus this year to pay for salary increases, the cost of which will continue for years after the surplus is gone, he said.

5% Raise Last Year

Kimbrough recommended a 2% raise for employees last year, but the trustees granted 5%, he said. That 5% raise cost the district about $1.64 million, he said.

Even with last year's raise, Compton teachers were among the lowest paid in the county in 1983-84. Compton ranked 43rd out of the county's 43 unified school district with $14,009 salaries for beginning teachers, county analysts reported. The district's maximum salary of $29,011 for a teacher with 13 years experience and with 75 college credits beyond a bachelor's degree was 39th in the county.

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