Clock begins on possible strike

Both sides now must submit their final offers

Published: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON – The clock has started on a possible teachers strike.

The Dixon School Board declared an impasse in negotiations Tuesday, Superintendent Michael Juenger said.

Since the Dixon Education Association voted Jan. 18 to file an intent to strike, an impasse was believed to be required for the teachers to call a strike.

Now both sides must make a final offer to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board within 7 days. The school board then would have 7 days to bring the offer to a public forum. Finally, at least 14 days must pass once the final offers are made public before the union can call a strike.

The process could take as few as 16 and as many as 28 days.

Teachers have been working without a contract since August; contract talks started in April.

Juenger said the board declared the impasse because members believe negotiations are at a standstill. He said offers were being returned with little to no changes.

"This should jump-start things," Juenger said, noting this was the first time in his tenure that contract negotiations have reached this point.

Sandra Sodergren-Baar, president of the union and a teacher at Dixon High School, said in a video recently posted on YouTube that little progress has been made, despite calling on a federal mediator.

She said teachers are asking for adequate staffing in classrooms, updated textbooks, improved training and upgraded technology.

"Yes, we're asking for a raise," Sodergren-Baar said in the video. "We took a soft freeze. We agreed to take the freeze to save the district money. Our efforts did not help, because over 20 positions have been eliminated that same year."

Sodergren-Baar could not be reached Thursday.

Juenger said that the district is dealing with a revenue loss of about $700,000 from decreasing property values and cuts to general state aid, and that he expects to continue to slash the budget for the next few years.

The district is projecting about a $1.6 million deficit for 2013. That will force it to dig into its $4.2 million education fund balance, which he also predicts won't last long if the district continues to take from it.

About 85 percent of the district's expenses from the education fund comes from staff salaries and benefits.

To watch

Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQmsq6_67L4&sns=fb to watch the Dixon Education Association's video.

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