Dist. 204 teachers reject contract proposal

 
 

A proposed two-year contract for teachers in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 has been overwhelmingly rejected by union members.

The school board and members of the teachers negotiating team had come to a tentative agreement on a deal that would have taken effect July 1. But 85 percent of union members voted against the pact on Friday, meaning both sides will have to return to the bargaining table this summer.

Paul Gamboa, president of the Indian Prairie Education Association, said he's surveying members to see why they opposed the proposal that would have given teachers raises in each of the next two years, but would have eliminated post-retirement insurance and the 6 percent raises teachers generally receive in their last years of employment.

"We did try to keep the financial situation in the state, as well as with our school district, in mind and try to come to a deal that we felt was fair," Gamboa said Tuesday. "Clearly our members did not feel that it met their interests."

School board President Lori Price said she was disappointed the contract did not receive teachers' approval during a difficult time to predict the future of school financing in the state.

"The board tried to find the right balance," Price said. "We wanted a contract that would recognize the work our teachers do every day, yet reflect our responsibility to the taxpayers of our district."

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Despite the rejection, union and school board leaders say they are committed to working together on a new deal for the roughly 2,000 teachers in the district that covers parts of Naperville, Aurora, Bolingbrook and Plainfield.

"Both sides have always come to the table in a respectful manner. I expect that to continue," Price said.

The rejected deal would have given teachers raises on a 23-step schedule that rewards each year of longevity with the district, Gamboa and district officials said. Teachers who have been with the district longer than 23 years also were due for a raise in both years of the proposed contract -- $500 the first year and $650 the second year, Gamboa said.

Chief School Business Official Jay Strang said teacher raises in the first year were proposed at 3.27 percent, but Gamboa said figuring out a teacher's real pay increase is more "nuanced" than that.

Teachers this school year were under a pay freeze until March, when they were given a 1.69 percent raise and a pay boost the equivalent of one level on the salary schedule, or roughly 2 percent, Strang said. So district officials calculated the 3.27 percent raise proposed for the first year of the contract using an average of a teacher's salary at the beginning of this year during the pay freeze and at the end of the year after the freeze was lifted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Gamboa said the first year's proposed raise amounts to 2 percent if a teacher's salary at the end of this year is used in the calculation instead of an average.

For the contract's second year, a 1.98 percent raise was proposed.

Other measures in the proposed contract -- elimination of post-retirement insurance and elimination of a 6 percent raise generally given to teachers at the end of their careers -- were included to save the district money, the school board's Price said.

Gamboa said he was not surprised by those proposed cuts, given concerns about pension funding in the state. But he's looking to gauge reaction from union members before beginning negotiations again sometime this summer.

"We have a very positive relationship with our school board and with our administration, so this is just a bump in the road," Gamboa said. "We look forward to working together to come up with something that's acceptable to our members."

If the next school year starts without a new contract, teachers will work under the terms of the expiring pact.

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