"Although we have authorized a strike, it is the last thing the Geneva teachers want to do," Carol Young, president of the Geneva Education Association, said in a prepared statement. "We have been working without a contract since Aug. 15 and have taken this vote because of the school board's failure to offer a fair and equitable agreement that will attract and retain quality teachers."
Teachers have spoken out about what they call a "hard freeze" on salaries. According to Young, the district wants to keep pay at the same level it is now, in the first year of the contract.
"These are unprecedented economic times," school board President Mark Grosso said. "Given the economic uncertainty that faces our school district and our community, the board of education has asked all employee groups to forego certain pay raises. Our administrators and all other nonteaching personnel have done so. The board believes that it is only fair that teachers share the load and forego one pay raise."
Young said last week that doing that hurts teachers in the long run, as future step increases and education raises would be based on that.
Meanwhile, the school board met Wednesday evening to prepare its "final offer" for submission to the union and the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board.
The previous teachers contract expired Aug. 15. Negotiations on a new contract started in February and the union declared an impasse Oct. 12. The two sides have been meeting with a federal mediator. Teachers have attended school board meetings en masse, wearing bright-green "United We Teach" T-shirts and speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting. Several residents have also supported the union in public comment to the board, while others have urged the board to hold its ground.
The union has not filed an intent-to-strike notice, which is required by state law to be submitted at least 10 days before walking out. State law says teachers may not strike until at least 14 days after both sides' final offers are made public, which would be Nov. 9, according to a timetable posted on the district's website. The final offers are due to the state board Friday, and the state board will post them Oct. 26.