Following new law, D300, teachers union request mediation
By Emily McFarlan email@example.com July 26, 2012 9:16PM
Updated: August 28, 2012 6:24AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — Community Unit School District 300 and its teachers union have requested a third-party mediator in their contract negotiations, which began in November, according to a statement posted Thursday evening by the district on its website.
That does not mean District 300 and the Local Educators Association of District 300 “are at an impasse,” according to the district’s statement. The district pointed instead to Senate Bill 7, which it said allows the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board to initiate mediation if the district and union have not agreed to a new contract near the start of a school year. The school year begins Aug. 13.
“It reflects compliance with the new law as well as the desire to bring negotiations to a timely conclusion,” District 300 said.
LEAD 300 President Kolleen Hanetho echoed that desire: “We are coming close to the start of the school year, and a mediator can often be helpful to address to issues we have.”
But both the Carpentersville-area district and the LEAD president also said Thursday class sizes have been an issue in negotiations.
Current caps limit elementary school classrooms to 33 students in kindergarten, 35 in first and second grades and 37 in third through fifth grades, Hanetho said. Studies have shown the optimal class size for elementary students is between 18 and 22 students, she said; anything above that is “detrimental” to students.
LEAD has presented a proposal to substantially lower those class sizes, according to the district.
“The school board very much shares this desire to lower class sizes. But without knowing specifically how much LEAD 300 is seeking in terms of salaries and benefits, the school board cannot determine to what extent the district could afford to do so, if at all,” it said.
The statement mentioned District 300’s “limited financial means”: It likely will pay $1 million to $3 million more each year in increased pension contributions because of state pension reforms, it said. It also will not see the financial benefits of the renegotiated Sears EDA for another three years.
“We have to meet the budgetary constraints, but we’ve reached the point where enough is enough,” Hanetho said. “We can’t allow class sizes to grow. We have to bring them down. Otherwise we can’t meet their needs.”
The district doesn’t know how much the union is requesting for salaries only because the district “never gave us an opportunity to give them our salary request,” Hanetho said. That request is tied to class size, and it was ready to present at the last bargaining meeting, she said.
Still, both the district and teachers union have noted their willingness to make concessions. The district decided this spring not to recommend any budget-related layoffs of teachers or other certified staff for the coming school year, it said. And the union made $3.6 million in concessions last year, its president said.
The district and its teachers union last agreed to a one-year collective bargaining agreement in spring 2011. That contract expired July 1, though its terms roll forward until both parties agree to a new contract, officials said.