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12 hours of talk, no agreement in Dixon

District: Teachers' requests 'tie the board's hands'

Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 11:41 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2013 11:49 a.m. CDT

DIXON — Talks between teachers and the school board broke close to 1 a.m. Saturday after 12 hours with no agreement.

Classes were canceled for a seventh day Friday as the Dixon Education Association continued its strike.

The next negotiation session is scheduled for noon Sunday.

"[There's] still work to do," Superintendent Michael Juenger said.

Unless the strike has ended, the district will not have students in school next week to take Illinois Standard Achievement Tests. The district said Friday the state school board has extended to March 22 the deadline for administering the tests to third- through eighth-graders.

On Wednesday, board President Tom Balser had said in a news release that students would be testing next week “with or without teachers.”

Administrators said they will continue to keep parents updated on negotiations via the district’s website (www.dixonschools.org) and the automated phone system.

As a result of classes being canceled another day, the district has lost about $57,012 in general state aid. It will lose about $28,506 for every day it misses.

In a news release after the talks, the board said the DEA is demanding language be included in the contract on issues "that tie the board's hands," such as class size and student discipline. The DEA had previously dropped its proposal to include such language in the contract, the release said.

Teachers union President Sandi Sodergren-Baar did not return a phone call and email from SVM after negotiations ended.

Both sides remained apart on salary, health insurance and retirement benefits.

Heading into Friday, the Dixon Education Association was asking for 2 percent to be added to the salary schedule for each of the next 4 years, in addition to pay step increases for experience and education. This would be a 3 percent to 4 percent pay increase for teachers who qualify for step increases. The cost of these proposals is about $330,000 a year.

The board was offering teachers a soft freeze in the first year, meaning only those who qualify for step increases would get a raise of between 1 percent and 2 percent. The board was offering a 1.5 percent raise with no step increases in the second and third year, and in the fourth year a 2 percent raise with no steps. The cost of these proposals is about $160,000 a year.

In another news release issued Friday by the district, the board said it could afford to pay the raises teachers are requesting only at a cost of cutting staff.

“We can, but only if we let go more teachers and aides and cut programs. Even with the raises we are offering, we may be forced to not replace some of our retiring teachers. Our initial offer to the union would have saved jobs and programs, but the teachers were more interested in increasing their own salaries and putting the District further into debt.”

The district is projecting a $1.6 million deficit this year, with a $4.2 million surplus in its education fund.

What's Next

* The next negotiations between the Dixon school board and district teachers are scheduled to begin at noon Sunday.

*  Parents in the school district have arranged for a public meeting Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. with Superintendent Michael Juenger at the VFW, 1560 IL Rt 38. Members of the school board have also been invited.

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