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RULING PUTS L.A. TEACHERS ON BRINK OF STRIKE

SHARE RULING PUTS L.A. TEACHERS ON BRINK OF STRIKE

Teachers' union leaders said they may have no choice but to call for a strike after a judge effectively restored a 12 percent pay cut by excusing himself from a dispute between teachers and their school district.

"If you want to stand up for your rights, then you're going to have to strike," Helen Bernstein, president of United Teachers-Los Angeles, said Wednesday after Superior Court Judge Stephen E. O'Neil ruled he had no jurisdiction in the dispute.O'Neil said the case belonged with state mediators. The Los Angeles Unified School District, with 645,000 students the nation's second largest, said it would have been insolvent if the judge had ruled against it.

A state budget crisis prompted funding cuts for public schools from $16.4 billion in 1991-92 to $16.2 billion this school year. Meanwhile, the student population increased from 5.4 million to 5.6 million.

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Oct. 2 voted a cumulative 12 percent reduction in the salaries of about 32,000 teachers, librarians and nurses to help offset a $400 million budget shortfall.

Three days later, O'Neil granted the teachers' request for a temporary injunction against the move. His order expired Wednesday, leaving the cut in effect. Before the cut, the average pay for teachers was $42,000 a year.