A strike date has been set for Grayslake Elementary District 46 teachers, but both sides expect to continue contract talks later this month in hopes of averting a walkout.
Lake County Federation of Teachers union business agent Jim Pergander said Tuesday the instructors will strike Jan. 16 if a deal on a new contract isn't reached. Pergander said a seven-hour bargaining session Monday didn't result in an agreement.
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"Even though we did set a strike date, as before, we hope to settle this at the table," Pergander said.
Since District 46 declared an impasse in negotiations last month, both sides have forwarded final, best offers as required to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. The documents show that differences between the district and union include pay and contract length.
Negotiators from the union and District 46 are to meet again Nov. 28, officials said. Pergander said even when upcoming holiday breaks are taken into consideration, there is enough time to forge a new contract before the Jan. 16 strike date.
"We're floating ideas back and forth, but we're not closing the gap enough for a settlement," he said.
District 46 Superintendent Ellen Correll said at a school board meeting last week the contract negotiations have cost taxpayers about $45,000 in legal fees so far. Talks between the sides began in February.
Instructors want a deal that would cover the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years, according to the most recently available documents submitted to the state. They seek 3 percent base salary raises in each of the two years.
The school board is offering a salary freeze and a $1,300 bonus as part of a one-year contract to all teachers except those who have submitted retirement notices. There also wouldn't be any raises for length of time on the job or additional academic credentials.
All stipends for extracurricular and supervisory duties would be frozen, according to District 46's offer to the teachers. The instructors want an increase of 2.5 percent for all stipend amounts in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
Union members have objected to the district's effort to end 6 percent annual base salary raises over the final four years of employment for teachers who give their retirement notices. Instead, the district wants to limit retiring teachers to 5 percent annual raises in their final three years of work. Raises in the final years affect pension benefits.
Last month, teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize union leaders to call a strike, if necessary, as a result of stalled contract negotiations. Union officials said 317 instructors voted in favor of striking, with three against.
Teachers received $1,100 bonuses paid to them from federal stimulus funds meant to save education jobs in the 2010-11 school season, so "they actually made more money that year than they originally negotiated," according to District 46. Before receiving the stimulus cash, the teachers reworked the final year of a deal by taking 2.75 percent base raises -- instead of a scheduled 4 percent -- to help the district bridge what at the time had been a $2.3 million budget gap.
Instructors received a contract extension to 2011-12 that included raises of about 4 percent. The contract expired June 30, 2012.