WINNEBAGO (TNS) – Teachers in the Winnebago School District say they’ll go on strike Sept. 10 unless they and the Winnebago School Board reach a tentative agreement on a new contract.
According to the Winnebago Education Association, union members voted almost unanimously Tuesday morning to authorize a strike.
“A strike is the last thing any of us wants. We’d much rather be in our classrooms working with the students we know and love,” union president Sarah Meador said in a news release issued Tuesday afternoon by the Illinois Education Association. “We’re still hopeful we can reach an agreement and not go on strike.”
Winnebago Superintendent John Schwuchow called the union’s decision “very unfortunate.”
“The (Winnebago School Board) remains willing to meet with the WEA to discuss any reasonable means of resolving their collective bargaining negotiations while remaining fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of the school district,” Schwuchow said in a statement shared with the Register Star Tuesday night.
The district’s first day of school is Wednesday.
Contract negotiations have been going on since April 2017. The union’s most recent contract expired in August 2017.
Final offers between the union and the district, along with the union’s formal notice of intent to strike, were submitted to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board last spring. The offers are posted on the board’s website.
According to the public postings, the district and union are in conflict over wages.
The district is offering a zero percent base salary increase with increases for an additional year on the job and educational advancement for the 2017-2018 school year and a 2 percent base salary increase with increases for longevity and education for the 2018-2019 school year.
The union is asking for a 1 percent base salary increase for the 2017-2018 school year and a 2 percent base salary increase for the 2018-2019 school year along with the other increases.
“Listen, we’ve done the math. The district has the money to meet our salary requests without raising taxes,” Meador said in the release. “We are simply asking the board to put students first. We’ve lost several quality teachers in the last month to neighboring districts like Stillman Valley, Byron and Harlem, where they can make more money because they are fairly compensated for their experience. It’s really sad. When talented staff members leave, our students lose.”
“The Board of Education has made several different proposals to the union providing district teachers with substantial salary increases that will cost taxpayers approximately $482,958,” Schwuchow said in his statement. “The proposals will cause the district to run a deficit in the upcoming fiscal year in the amount of $724,624. The board made these salary proposals in recognition of the great work district teachers do and to attract talented, young teachers to the district.”
According to the state’s report card, the average annual teacher salary in Winnebago is $52,479. The state average is $64,516.
Winnebago’s teachers union has more than 100 members including teachers, counselors, psychologists and a nurse. According to the Illinois Report Card, the district has 94 teachers at four schools that serve 1,386 students.
The last mediation session was Aug. 16. There are no further dates set at this time.
Corina Curry: 815-987-1371; email@example.com; @corinacurry
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