D300 teachers union calls for strike
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org December 3, 2012 1:22PM
Michael R. Schmidt~For Sun-Times Media School District 300 teachers (from left) Mike Block, a strike coordinator, Bob Frazier, a strike coordinator, Michelle Creegan, a strike commander and Mike Williamson, contract negotiator spokesman, on Sunday at Dund
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Updated: January 5, 2013 6:14AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — Teachers in Community Unit School District 300 will strike today, both the district and Local Education Association of District 300 confirmed Monday.
The announcement first came just before 5 p.m. Monday on the teachers union’s Facebook page.
That means all 27 schools in District 300 will be closed, and all activities, cancelled, shutting more than 20,000 students out of their classrooms.
Only its three middle schools will remain open as emergency attendance centers for students in kindergarten to grade six who have no other place to go, according to the district.
District 300 Board of Education spokesman Joe Stevens said by Monday afternoon, 600 to 700 students had registered for those attendance centers.
“We began this morning by informing the Board’s team that our members had rejected their final offer. We hoped they would realize this meant our members needed the Board to make significant movement in order for us to ratify a contract,” LEAD spokesman Mike Williamson said in a written statement.
Discussions between the district and union had had started at 8 a.m. Monday as the clock wound down on the last day before teachers in the sixth-largest school district in Illinois could walk out. And by noon, according to an earlier update on the LEAD 300 Facebook page, the school board was working on a new set of proposals.
That came after the union bargaining team shared with the school board negotiators the results of Sunday’s all-member meeting, at which Williamson said 95 percent of its more than 1,200 members said they would not agree to the board’s last proposal if it was brought to a vote.
“We were then asked to present them with what our members would find acceptable in relation to major areas of contention,” according to the LEAD 300 Facebook page.
The teachers union has said the major sticking points in negotiations with the district, which started in earnest in January, are lowering class sizes, raising teacher pay to be more competitive with surrounding districts and improving the learning and work environment for both students and teachers.
During the all-day negotiations Monday, the school board “agreed to LEAD’s latest proposal to further reduce class sizes at all grade levels and create class size caps for middle and high school classes,” according to a message from Stevens that was posted on the district website and sent to district families and staff by phone at about 5:30 p.m. that day. That would have meant hiring about 60 teachers, up from the 44 the board had proposed in its last offer to the union, the district said later that night.
That package would have added up to more than $15 million over the district’s current spending levels over the life of the three-year contract, meaning the district would be deficit spending over those three years, according to District 300.
That’s a “risky and bold move on our part and a very fair offer,” Stevens said.
But after the board team met the union’s demands on class sizes, the board spokesman said, the LEAD team increased its salary proposal by returning to an earlier salary request.
“No matter how much they say it’s all about class sizes it’s really all about money,” he said.
In a written statement from the teachers union, Williamson said the school board did come down on class size, “but not to a level that the membership feels is acceptable.”
“They refused to compensate people who are teaching additional classes as a result of an overhasty movement to an eight-period-day schedule (this school year) at the high school level,” he said.
The LEAD spokesman said the union team had given the school board the “opportunity to avoid a strike” and invited its bargaining team to reconvene up to 9 p.m. Monday, which it rejected. It also has requested both teams meet Tuesday, he said, and Stevens said the board team is open to meeting “if they have something to offer to us.”
Otherwise, the board spokesman said, “we don’t exactly know” what will happen next. Teachers likely won’t be paid for any strike days, and, he said, the district isn’t sure yet if they would be made up at the end of the school year.
“We’re hoping the teachers and their membership will look at this package and say, ‘Gee, this really is not a bad deal. We did get what we wanted on our No. 1 issue.’ And I would hope they would call off the strike,” Stevens said.