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updated: 7/7/2011 6:06 PM

Cary teachers respond to impasse decision

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The Cary Education Association has responded to the school board's declaration that both sides have reached an impasse in negotiating a new contract.

A news release sent late Wednesday night from the teacher's union claims the school board continues to blame teachers for the district's fiscal problems.

"The teachers of Cary are both disappointed and saddened by the (board of education's) approach to negotiations," the news release states. "We feel strongly that the (board of education) has again put information out not to inform the public, but rather to paint the teachers as the reason for the district's financial crisis."

The school board on Wednesday said that after 17 meetings over more than six months, an impasse had been reached. Both parties submitted final offers to the federal mediator and also the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. Parties have been working toward finalizing a teacher contract to succeed the current contract that expires Aug. 23, the day before school starts for the 2011-2012 school year.

The main sticking points in negotiations remain salary, insurance, retirement benefits and the length of the teachers' school day.

The board said in its release Wednesday afternoon that the union had not made significant financial movement in its recent offers. The education association, however, disagrees.

"Although the Cary teachers' most recent offer focused on language and not financial movement, previous offers did reflect substantial monetary concessions by the teachers in both salary and benefits," its statement read.

The teachers' most recent offer, a proposed three-year contract, includes a salary freeze, increased health insurance contributions from teachers and an additional 15 minutes per school day.

In its final offer, the district proposed a two-year contract that includes salary rollbacks to 2008-2009 levels, eliminating post-retirement payouts, as well as reduced insurance contributions. The board also proposed adding 30 minutes to each school day.

In the past two years, the district has laid off 75 teachers, cut special programs like art, music and physical education and closed two elementary schools, in hopes of reversing years of deficit spending.

Union leaders, however, say those reductions were unnecessary.

"The board of education's decision to make drastic reductions that have negatively impacted our children was too much too soon," the union's news release said. "The state allows districts up to 10 years to get their financial houses in order but our (board of education) chose an irresponsible path by attempting to remedy years of mistakes in one fell swoop."