Little change in D300 negotiations after strike vote
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org October 17, 2012 8:40PM
Updated: November 19, 2012 3:12PM
CARPENTERSVILLE — Community Unit School District 300 updated its Facebook and Twitter statuses Wednesday morning after its negotiations with its teachers union the night before.
But the status of those negotiations hasn’t changed much. The latest talks were the first since members of the Local Educators Association of District 300 voted overwhelmingly last weekend to authorize its leadership to strike.
“Negotiations between the Community Unit School District 300 Board of Education and the District 300 teachers union are ongoing, and we are hopeful that we will continue to make progress toward resolution,” according to the school district’s Facebook page.
“I would say we’re still hopeful, too,” LEAD spokesman Mike Williamson said Wednesday afternoon.
“But I would say that I think we feel like everybody involved needs to get serious in relation the fact that we’ve got a lot of issues we need to solve here,” Williamson said.
Most notably, those issues have included class sizes, which are higher on average than class sizes in neighboring Elgin School District U46 and state averages, according to Illinois Interactive Report Card data.
Elementary school classrooms in District 300 can have a maximum 33 students in kindergarten, 35 students in grades one and two, and 37 students in grades three to five, according to the district website. That’s much higher than the staffing standards U46 announced Monday at its board of education meeting: one teacher to 27 students in kindergarten to grade three. Classrooms in fourth, fifth and sixth grade are staffed at 33 students, according to the Elgin district.
Williamson also said it is “imperative we come to the point where we attract and retain quality teachers.”
LEAD officials have said District 300 teachers are among the lowest-paid in 26 area school districts, second only to teachers in West Aurora School District 129. The average teacher salary there last year was $63,172, according to Illinois Interactive Report Card data. Meantime, teachers in U46 and statewide did make more on average: $72,198 and $64,978, respectively.
That makes the Carpentersville-area district a training ground for teachers to move on to other, higher-paid districts, according to LEAD officials. Last year, teachers in District 300 had 11.6 years of teaching experience, compared to 14.3 years in U46 and 13.2 statewide.
Representatives of LEAD and District 300 did discuss class sizes Tuesday, and teachers union members now are reviewing the proposal the district gave them.
But, Williamson said, “The long and the short of it is, I don’t think or membership is willing to say, ‘OK, fix one of these issues, and we’ll let everything else go.’ ”
And District 300 officials have pointed to its precarious financial position, thanks to delays and cuts to state education funding, as well as threats from state legislators to push pension costs onto local school districts.
The two sides met without a federal mediator Tuesday, as their mediator also was working with North Shore District 112 in Highland Park, which ended its one-day teachers strike early Wednesday morning. They likely will meet again with that mediator early next week, the union spokesperson said.
The Carpentersville district and its union have been in mediation since late July and negotiations since November.
“We both made a real effort to sit down and try to listen to each other,” he said.
“But as we’ve seen, in the end, that effort fell short again. And unfortunately, we’ve been at this for months and months and months now, and I think our side and our membership feels like it’s time they start hearing us.”