District 300 teachers begin strike today
Nearly 1,300 Community Unit District 300 teachers will be dressed in black and white on picket lines Tuesday on day one of the union's first strike since 1972.
LEAD 300, the Carpentersville area district's teachers union, declared the strike Monday afternoon when a day of negotiating — after 11 months of talks — failed to result in a new contract for teachers. The last contract expired July 1.
While union spokesman Mike Williamson said the major issues are class size and compensation, board of education member and district spokesman Joe Stevens said it all comes down to salary.
Stevens said the board agreed to LEAD 300's proposal to reduce class sizes and set caps for middle and high school classes. But Williamson said the cap the board proposed was too high.
The district has average class sizes set for middle and high schools but no caps. Teachers get paid more if the class size reaches a certain number of students, but the contract does not prohibit it. Williamson, a teacher whose paycheck has benefited from overload pay, said the money is not worth it.
"What's worth it is having a class that you can actually manage, where you can actually work with individual students," Williamson said.
Stevens pointed to class sizes the union proposed early Monday that the board would have approved in referencing an agreement, but those class sizes were tied to a salary proposal the board rejected, which Williamson said made the first point moot. Williamson said teachers would need far lower class sizes to make up for less compensation and the district wasn't willing to agree to both parts of the issue.
Monday's bargaining session started at 8 a.m. and continued through late afternoon. Stevens said at the end of the day, the two sides were still almost $2 million apart on salary, and that was already with deficit spending he said would put the district on rocky footing because of a potential state shift of pension responsibility to suburban districts. The district's offer for salary increases is 3 percent this academic year, 2 percent next year and 3 percent in the 2014-2015 year.
Williamson, on the other hand, is convinced the district has the money to pay more. He said discussions were amiable, productive and creative when it came to topics like work environment, but compensation and class size continued to be the sticking points.
District 300 schools will be closed Tuesday with three emergency attendance centers open for the more than 600 elementary students who registered in advance, according to the Stevens. The district will make every attempt to accommodate extra students, but Stevens said it will have to keep safety in mind when doing so.
All school-sponsored events and activities are canceled during the strike, Stevens said.
Williamson said teachers will be on picket lines at their individual schools at their normal start times with actions planned later in the day in downtown Algonquin and at the district's headquarters in Carpentersville. He added that union representatives requested another bargaining session Tuesday that the district has not agreed to yet.
"We are very willing to meet if there is something to meet about," Stevens said. "Right now the board has pulled out pretty much everything in our bag of tricks."
For details about district operations during the strike, visit d300.org.
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