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Judge refuses to stop teacher protest

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Unified School District officials urged parents to send their children to class today even though union leaders are encouraging teachers to skip the first hour of instruction to protest the state’s education budget.

“Schools will still be the best place for them to be,” Supt. David Brewer said at a Thursday morning news conference at 10th Street Elementary School.

The Los Angeles Unified School District filed for a temporary restraining order to block the job action Thursday, but Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe declined the request. Earlier in the week, the state Public Employment Relations Board also declined to file an injunction on behalf of the district, which has expressed concern that the demonstration could endanger students.

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“We’re pleased that the court understood that the district request was not reasonable,” said teachers union President A.J. Duffy.

District officials said students will wait in cafeterias, auditoriums and playgrounds and will be overseen by aides, parent volunteers and administrators as teachers are picketing. School officials plan to deploy an additional 450 employees from central offices to campuses to help supervise.

The demonstration, organized by United Teachers Los Angeles, is intended to draw attention to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest budget, which provides a $193-million increase over last year’s $56.6 billion in education funding. But L.A. Unified estimates that it will face a $353-million shortfall because the budget does not include a cost-of-living increase and cuts support to certain programs that will have to be paid with unrestricted general funds.

Teachers will lose an hour of pay for protesting, which union leaders said is the best way to draw legislators’ attention.

Along with Brewer, state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell asked all teachers to report to work on time and discuss the state’s budget process with their students instead of picketing. He said he was concerned about safety and warned that the district could lose revenue if students don’t come to school.

“I understand the level of frustration . . . but we also know our teachers need to be in class, on track,” he said.

The protest comes as the Board of Education prepares to vote on the district budget Tuesday. District officials have said that they hope to avoid cuts in the classroom, but that about 6,500 probationary teachers could be laid off, a possibility that the union has vowed to fight.

Schwarzenegger, who this week had asked teachers to reconsider reporting late, said he understood their concerns. “He’s just as frustrated over the budget as they are,” spokesman Aaron McLear said.

Some parents, like Cindy Kaffen, whose daughter is a second-grader at Hancock Park Elementary, said they plan to protest with teachers. Kaffen said she wasn’t worried about student safety.

“The district got rid of a crossing guard position, so [students] have to dodge traffic when they cross the street. . . . I’m really not concerned about the demonstration,” she said.

Duffy said he expects all of his nearly 48,000 members to participate in the demonstration, but some have said they don’t like the idea. “How petty of those teachers to take away valuable instruction time from students who need more, not less hours in the classroom,” said Scott Krier, a Panorama High teacher who has been a union member since 1990, in a letter to Duffy this week.

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jason.song@latimes.com


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