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L.A. Unified goes to court to fight teachers strike

May 11, 2009 |  7:11 pm

School officials said they will seek an immediate court injunction to stop Friday’s scheduled one-day teachers strike.

The expected Tuesday morning filing in L.A. Superior Court is part of a two-pronged legal strategy by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Last week, in its first move, the school system filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board in Sacramento. That action, too, could lead to a court injunction ordering a halt to the strike.

But the employment board might not act in time to stop the strike, or it might simply decide against intervening.

“We’ve decided to go to court tomorrow morning to directly seek a temporary restraining order against the strike,” said district general counsel Roberta Fesler. “Time is of the essence.”

The school system also unsheathed a weapon in the public-relations war over the looming strike. Officials said that about a third of teachers at Verdugo Hills High have elected to cross picket lines if necessary and donate that day’s salary to the cost of retaining teachers at risk of being laid off.

Nearly three-quarters of the teachers who cast ballots favored the strike. But a majority of teachers overall either did not vote or voted against the one-day walkout. Organizers said the purpose of the action is to protest teacher layoffs and the campus disruptions that would result because of increasing class sizes and because many teachers would have to switch schools. More than 2,500 teachers are at risk of being laid off, as are about 2,600 non-teaching employees.

Employee unions have urged the school system to use as much of its federal economic stimulus money as necessary to save jobs now.

District officials have insisted on splitting the money between the 2008-09 and the 2009-10 school years because each is expected to be economically dire. They say jobs can be spared if employees agree to wage concessions, such as unpaid furlough days.

In a related budget move today, L.A. Unified announced an early-retirement incentive for non-teachers. The union representing these workers supports this initiative. A similar plan for teachers has netted nearly 1,400 participants, which has reduced the number of anticipated layoffs.

-- Howard Blume

Blume is twittering about budget woes in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Follow his updates at http://twitter.com/howardblume.