DIXON – Teachers want more staff, according to the latest offer released Tuesday by their union.
The Dixon Education Association is proposing 40 to 48 minutes more planning time for teachers in an effort "to improve student learning" and for the board to address special education needs by adding 11 to 14 teachers and 24 paraprofessionals.
The Dixon School Board has rejected this offer.
The union estimates the cost at $32,000 a year plus benefits per teacher and $11,000 plus benefits per paraprofessional. Superintendent Michael Juenger said an additional teacher would cost the district $55,000 on average.
The union estimates its demands, which include changes to special education, cutting class sizes, tuition reimbursement and salary increases, would cost the district about $2 million a year over the life of a 5-year contract. The board contends the demands would cost about $6.3 million a year.
Teachers have been working without a contract since August.
As required, both sides sent their final offers to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board; they were posted on its website on Tuesday.
At least 14 days must pass before the union can call a strike. Five negotiation sessions have been scheduled, including one Feb. 25.
As for its other demands, the union is proposing salaries to increase by 4-percent new money on the previous year's salary schedule. The board is offering no new money on the previous year's salary.
Regardless whether a pay increase is negotiated, some teachers still will receive a 2-percent raise, according to the school's salary schedule. That 2 percent, which will not be negotiated away, is included in the 6-percent increase the board says the union is seeking.
The union estimates these costs at an additional $306,000 in 2012-2013, $318,240 in 2013-14, $330,970 in 2014-15, $344,208 in 2015-16, and $357,977 in 2016-17.
"The soft freeze added no new money on the salary schedule and 31 percent of the teachers received only a one-time $300 or $500 payment," the union proposal said.
The union also asked for class sizes to be capped at 20 students for prekindergarten through first grades, 22 students for second through fifth grades, 24 students for sixth through eighth grades and 26 students for ninth through 12th grades.
Teachers say this could come at no additional cost if four to seven teachers are added.
Juenger has maintained the money is not there to meet the teachers' demands.
The school lost about $700,000 in revenue this year from a drop in property tax intake and general state aid, and even less revenue is expected in upcoming years.
"They need to tell us where the money will come from for these demands," Juenger said of the union.
The union pointed to the school's $11.8 million surplus as a possible revenue source, according to a statement it issued last Friday.
Only the education fund can pay for the teachers' salaries, Juenger said, and that has a surplus of about $4.2 million.
If teachers demands are met, the surplus would disappear within 2 to 3 years, he said.
The proposal also asks to keep the district's health insurance plan as is, while the board is asking to increase health insurance costs. Teachers say those in the family plan could see $7,000 lost per year under the board's current proposal.
The union is asking for 24 paraprofessional positions and seven additional teachers, plus $20,000, to meet special education needs.
Sandra Sodergren-Baar, union president and teacher at Dixon High School, will meet with Sauk Valley Media today to discuss the board's offer.
Dixon teachers host Q&A
DIXON – William Doan came to Books on First Tuesday to ask teachers union representatives one question.
"I hear you want a fair contract, but what do you call fair?" the Dixon resident asked.
A team of Dixon teachers answered with more training, manageable class sizes, paraprofessional support and a raise after 2 years of taking a soft freeze.
Teachers have been working without a contract since August, and the clock to a possible strike has started. If a deal is not reached, teachers could call a strike Feb. 26.
The next negotiation session is Feb. 25.
Doan was one of five people who attended a question-and-answer session – each of the five talking with either volunteers or substitute teachers for the district.
"I don't begrudge the teachers," said Doan, who came with his wife, Phyllis. "I just wish more people would have come to take an interest."
Aaron Eddy, vice president of the union, said teachers want to tell the public their side.
"So many of the things we're negotiating is for (students)," he said.
The Dixon Education Association will hold three more Q&As, on Thursday, Feb. 19 and Feb. 21, all from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Books on First, 202 W. First St.