District 203 teachers announce plan to strike

  • Naperville Unit District 203's teachers union has filed a notice of intent to strike Monday after another day of negotiations failed to yield an agreement on a new contract.

      Naperville Unit District 203's teachers union has filed a notice of intent to strike Monday after another day of negotiations failed to yield an agreement on a new contract. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/10/2021 6:44 AM

With less than two weeks before the start of the school year, Naperville Unit District 203's teachers union has filed an intent to strike notice with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

Naperville Unit Education Association President Dan Iverson said it was a necessary "legal step" in the collective bargaining process.

 

The two sides met Monday for several hours for what union officials called a "robust conversation," but no agreement on a proposed four-year contract. They are slated to meet Friday, Iverson said.

A mediator has been working with the bargaining teams since June, district officials said. No board members are on the district's negotiating team.

"Despite multiple bargaining sessions and much hard work, the sides have not been able to reach an agreement on several key issues," said district spokeswoman Jacque Clermont. "There are several bargaining sessions scheduled over the next couple of weeks, and we are hopeful for a resolution before school starts."

While district administrators told board members "it is common for teachers to return to the classroom without disruption after a contract has expired," Iverson said the board has been warned that has never been the case in District 203. Several strikes have been averted in the past at the district after last-minute agreements were reached, most recently in 2005.

Iverson said there are two main sticking points preventing an agreement this time.

The union wants its membership to be able use up to 60 days of paid sick time after the birth or adoption of a child. Currently, the district allows teachers 30 days.

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According to a 32-page report presented to the school board July 29, the district is offering five more days. Teachers could choose to take more time off, but it would be unpaid.

"We don't think that's too much time to spend with a new child," Iverson said. "This would prevent many of our younger teachers from having to choose between bonding with their newborn or adopted child and their paycheck."

The union is also seeking some additional compensation for extra work they say is created through the district's "Multi-Tiered System of Support" program, which administrators described as "a framework to support educators with implementing responsive and fluid high-quality curriculum and instruction focused on academic and social-emotional learning, including interventions and extensions to ensure the success of all learners."

Iverson said the program helps keep all district students on track at each grade level, but described it as a time-consuming process that requires teachers to consistently work outside of regular classroom hours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's a great system, especially coming out of COVID," Iverson said. "From the beginning of negotiations we've put it to the district there's a lot of ways to compensate us for this."

The district's contract offer includes raises each year based on previous years' inflation rates. In the first year of the new contract, raises would amount to 3.51%, a 2.85% increase in the second year, 4.37% more in the third year and the fourth year would be 55% of the inflation rate plus a new step in the salary schedule.

However, union officials argue that while the first two year's rates are set, the third year has not been determined yet because it's based on this year's rate of inflation, which won't be known until December.

Iverson said the figure is likely to be lower by the end of the year.

"The 4.3% figure makes it look like they're being more generous than they actually are," he said.

Both sides estimate the current offer will cost an additional $4.4 million in the first year alone.

The teachers union has been working on two extensions of the last multiyear contract, Iverson said.

"Our members have been working without a long-term contract for a long time," he said. "Really, too long."

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