DIXON – Negotiations are continuing even though the countdown to a possible teachers strike has begun.
The teachers union and the school board Tuesday sent their last offers to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board, but five new negotiation sessions have been scheduled.
The Dixon School Board last week declared an impasse in negotiations with the Dixon Education Association. By doing so, it started a process in which the union could declare a strike.
Teachers have been working without a contract since August; talks started in April.
Both sides sent their last offer to the board within the 7-day deadline, which means both offers will be posted on its website (www2.illinois.gov/elrb/Pages/default.aspx) before Tuesday.
At least 14 days must pass once the final offers are posted before the union can call a strike. The process could take as few as 9 and as many as 21 days.
Superintendent Michael Juenger said both sides met face to face Monday, for the first time since a federal mediator was brought in for negotiations around December.
After that meeting, five bargaining sessions were scheduled; one for later this month, three in March and one in April.
“It’s positive when both sides are talking,” Juenger said. “There’s still an attempt to negotiate.”
Since the Dixon Education Association voted Jan. 18 to file an intent to strike, an impasse was believed to be required before it actually could do so. The impasse was declared because board members believed negotiations had come to a standstill.
Teachers are asking for a salary increase, adequate staffing in classrooms, updated textbooks, improved training and upgraded technology, according to statements made at board meetings and on a YouTube video from union President Sandra-Sodergren-Baar.
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.
Union officials have agreed to talk with Sauk Valley Media on Monday.