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EP Teachers' Union Authorizes Strike

Evergreen Park K-8 teachers vote overwhelmingly to authorize union bargaining team to call a strike. Teachers could walk as early as September 21 if agreement cannot be made with D124 over new contract.

Evergreen Park elementary school teachers overwhelming authorized their union's bargaining team to call a strike if a deal for a new three-year contract cannot be struck before the end of the month.

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About 160 members of Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers, Local 943, filed into on Wednesday afternoon.

Illinois Federation of Teachers spokesman Dave Comerford said that teachers rejected the latest D124 proposal on the bargaining table, and all but two voted to authorize a strike.

“Teachers see this as a last resort,” Comerford said on the front lawn of Central after the vote. “They’ve been very frustrated. This is the sixth time they have started school without a contract. It’s not a good trend or pattern, and doesn’t show a good level of collaboration when they simply can’t come to an agreement.”

Comerford said teachers aren’t asking for anything the district can’t afford, but could not site salary increases or other details because both sides were still working on their “final and best offers”

Calls to the school district office were not returned, but a statement on district's website regarding the last negotiating session indicated that both sides were still wide apart on salaray compensation, benefits and retirement pensions.

Both offers are expected to be posted to the Illinois Labor Education Board's website in accordance with state law within the next few days.

“Salary increases are minimal,” Comerford said. “Nobody is looking for a big raise here. We’re really not talking much more than a cost of living.”

Contract negotiations have been underway between the D124 school board and teachers’ union since April.

Audited annual yearly revenue statements for 2012 available on the D124 website show a $16 million amounting to about 75 percent of the district’s $23.8 million operating budget for five public schools.

Comerford blamed “overly conservative” budgeting which predicted shortfalls that never happened, causing the district to instead come out ahead at the end of the past five school years.

The Illinois State Board of Education requires districts to keep a minimum 25- percent fund balance of their annual operating budgets or face being placed on financial warning.

“This is an abnormally high surplus,” Comerford said. “The last five years have been some of the toughest economic times and yet they keep building the surplus. The district is still putting more money in the bank. The focus is not on maintaining quality jobs for teachers or quality education for students.”

There is a two-week cooling off period after the district and teachers’ final offers have been made. Teachers could walk out as early as Sept. 21.

“We’re willing to go to the table and bargain to get the deal done,” Tony Demma said, a speech language pathologist at Southeast Elementary School and member of the union local’s bargaining team. “Taking the strike vote is just our way of saying let’s get this done.”

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EP Lover September 05, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I have very mixed feelings about this development. On the one hand, I am active at my children's school and believe that the teachers do an excellent job. In normal circumstances, I'd fully support their demands for increased compensation and benefits. On the other, these are very challenging economic times and given the sad state of Illinois state finances, district administration may be very wise to maintain a healthy surplus as a rainy day fund. This vote to strike leaves me with a very bad taste in my mouth as I feel like the teachers compensation is not the only issue that should be considered here. I can't help but feel that the teachers are being somewhat short sighted in their vote to strike and that this chain of events could easily have negative repercussions for EP and our children for years to come.
teach September 05, 2012 at 07:01 PM
You should know that the board’s negotiating team admitted they can afford the union’s proposal. Teachers aren’t asking for big increases, they are just trying to hold on to what they have. The union has already agreed to some concessions, but the board wants harmful cuts to teachers pay and insurance. The district’s surplus went up even in the worst financial years that are now behind us. The state board of education recommends a 25% fund balance for school districts. E.P. has a 78% fund balance. That’s unheard of. The union isn’t asking them to start spending a significant chunk of that either. They are saying that the cuts the board wants aren’t necessary and that those cuts would have negative consequences for the district. Eroding salaries and benefits will make it tougher to attract and retain quality teachers. These cuts would also harm the morale of current teachers and tell them their work isn’t valued. I’d encourage you to get more information. The union can be contacted at EPFT124@gmail.com.
EP Lover September 05, 2012 at 07:31 PM
With all due respect, I am A. skeptical about believing the statements of a source that is obviously pro-union and anti- admin and B. know many non-teachers who have been forced to accept wage cuts or wage increases that have not covered Cost of Living increases. To my knowledge, none of these individuals walked off their jobs in protest. Economic conditions are and will continue to be tight - especially where funding from the State of Il is concerned. I am not convinced that the teachers and union position is justified.
Jennifer Valdez September 05, 2012 at 07:53 PM
EP Lover - would you sign or want a contract that is giving you less take home pay and shittier benefits for you and your family? Its more than just an increase in pay if you look at the summary of the negotiating meetings that are on the d124 website. CBS news reported that the major issue were demands in increases in compensation for aides (who don't make a whole lot any way) who feed and toilet children with disabilities and changes to "just-cause" discipline which allows teachers to dispute disciplinary action against them. I urge you as well as any other community member to dig a little deeper and do YOUR homework and you will see this is NOT a union of greedy teachers who just want more $$$
EP Lover September 05, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I have kept abreast of the meeting summaries posted on the d124 website and recognize that there are many issues at stake. If I recall correctly, that site has indicated that recent discussions have focused on compensation, insurance and retirement benefits. I will read the info that the union plans to disseminate tomorrow and will also read any info on the negotiations released by the IELRB (should that be necessary). Until I am confident that I've read info from both sides, I am not planning to support the teachers or side with board/administration. However, I will continue to critically examine whatever info is available for public knowledge. Based on the info (or lack thereof) available regarding the negotiations, I don't see how anyone can be fully convinced that the teachers are justified in their actions or determine if the district's position is appropriate. I refuse to get sucked into the mind set of "our teachers are saints" and "district admin is evil" which has abounded in EP in recent times. I am hoping for a peaceful resolution in the best interest of the students.
EP Lover September 05, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Just for clarification, I think EP's teachers are wonderful and I'm extremely grateful for their work with my children and the entire student population. Without any other considerations, I would wholly support compensation increases and generous benefits for them. However, in the present economic climate, I don't know what level of compensation and benefits is appropriate or what the district can reasonably absorb. I look forward to seeing more info from both sides.
Chrisybridg September 05, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Wow EP Lover... and not a good Wow... you nonchalantly make alot of things clear about your views. Do you have children that go to public school or that did go to public school? If I had to guess I would bet you do NOT.
Chrisybridg September 05, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Thats more like it.
EP Lover September 05, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Chrisybridg, I am taken aback by your first post. I am not anti- teacher but am merely unsure if their requests are able to be reasonably satisfied at this point in time. I think we all need to think critically about the situation and be open to learning more about the situation.
Chrisybridg September 05, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Well I'm not trying to be rude my comment stems from your comment right here: "I am A. skeptical about believing the statements of a source that is obviously pro-union and anti- admin" ... That comment says alot about you.
EP Lover September 05, 2012 at 09:51 PM
I should have inserted "solely" before pro-union. There are multiple sides to this issue and I refuse to be swayed by one source when I don't have info from all sides. Again, I hope for a solution that's amenable to all.
thorn1 September 06, 2012 at 01:07 AM
This is why goverment unions should be disbanded and once again made illegal. The country is 16 trillion dollars in debt and the teachers union is asking for more salary and benefits. People who aren't in a union (public or private) work just as hard as those who are in a union. Non-union workers as a whole not had any cost of living or pay raises, for that matter, in years. That's if they still have a job. The unemployment rate is at a reported 8.3% with the real rate closer to 15%. There is no sympathy for anyone who draws their salary from taxpayers who are demanding more money in times like these. The vote to strike was unfortunate, its shows a lack of understanding of the situation everyone is in. I urge the board to stand firm, you're duty is to the students and taxpayers.
EP4Life September 06, 2012 at 02:18 AM
I do think our teachers need to realize that quite a few members of the community have not received wage increases in the past several years, have lost jobs, and those of us not fortunate to have a guaranteed pension have lost plenty our retirement accounts. Please don't mention the fact that you don't receive Social Security. I supply 6.2% in addition to my employer's matching 6.2%. My full benefits kick in at age 67; 51 years after I began working - current projected income - about $1,012 per month. Your job is important, but so are many others. Finally, there are quite a few career changers (having realized the great hours and generous time off and pretty darn good compensation, offered in the educational setting) graduating with education degrees and the extra benefit of a professional backgroud. These people will be happy to take your place. Remember, too, you can find another job if your working conditions are unacceptable - good luck with that! Google Illinois Teacher Salaries and take a look at local teacher salaries and then look at your property tax bill and your paycheck.
Maureen Kempton September 06, 2012 at 04:32 AM
This is to EP4Life I do not believe a person goes into teaching because of the great hours and generous time off. I am sure my Daughter did not take all the student loans she has for her dual certificate in Special Ed because of the great hours She does not work 8 to 3. She does not also work a part time job because she makes such great money teaching. Yes we all pay taxes and next time you get your tax bill ask the Administration at the District why your tax bill is so high. Everyone goes after the teachers but NO One confronts the District Administration about their benefits. Ask about their sign on bonuses ask them about their personal days and vacation days. Walk in my Daughters shoes before you judge her. Sit in on one of her classes were you are dealing with kids that have been push through the system and everyone blames the teacher not the parents. Ask her how much of her own money she spends on school supplies for her kids. I know why she went into teaching because she has compassion for special needs kids. NOT FOR THE GREAT HOURS. From a former EP Resident
Angus Macgyver September 06, 2012 at 08:29 AM
EP Lover: thank you for a voice of clarity and reason. My 2011, SD 124 tax rate increased 16%. Why this discussion about drawing down the SD surplus to the teachers? Why not draw down the tax rate and can keep our families’ money in our families' pockets. The union argues they are entitled to the surplus; Hey a surplus exists, let’s spend it on us! EP taxpayers are the owners of the surplus and infrastructure, not a union. Compensate the teachers consistent with the non-union marketplace and decrease the SD 124 tax rate. Not to get off topic, but this conversation should also include Mayor Sexton’s near and long-term economic plans for the Village, which is part of this discussion… nothing another strip mall or Culver’s can’t fix. The EP tax rate increased 16% in 2011. Maybe SD 124 could get the Sisters of Mercy-less to negotiate the contract. I hear the retirees are looking for something to do…
EP4Life September 06, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Not juding anyone -not blaming educators for student outcome - that is a completely different issue. Just a comment that times are tough and education is not immune to these issues. Everyone who is expending a great deal of time and money to enter a particulary career has given a great deal of thought to the upside and downside of their chosen field. Your daughter had observation hours and student teaching experience before entering the workforce. I am sure she saw both sides of the job and made her decision. The point is, every job has ups and downs or it would not be a "job." None of us is irreplaceable. Many of us love our jobs, but had to move on either by choice or force. Also, admin. salaries are listed online and should be reviewed by the public, too.
EducatedEP Resident September 29, 2012 at 12:39 AM
We all have a right to our opinions. So let me ask you... When the district has a one million dollar budget for technology, why are they pulling the students from classroom instruction and asking families for more money? Why are all the iPads that the district purchased still in a closet yet administrators and the tech dept. are walking around with them? Why did the district purchase the lunch ordering program that stinks and the parents hate? There are so many "why's" that the district has snuck past the community since no on attends board meetings. Start adding all these numbers up. Really... If the teachers are greedy, then the majority of the community is ignorant of the actions of the board over the past two years. P.S. Worth Township is offering help to all those in Cook County who want their properties reassessed. News Flash.... EP is in Cook Co.
EP Lover September 29, 2012 at 01:05 AM
In response to "Educated's" remarks: 1. At my children's school, the lunch program is very well received. I think it's not accurate to say that 'everyone hates it'. 2. The foundation (for technology) is trying to raise money so that they can apply for matching grants. While $1M seems like a lot of money, it doesn't go that far when you think about making 5 aging structures fully "wired". Tecnology doesn't just include 3 quaters per year of a computer class. It entails routine use of technology by and for students in the classroom. 3. Worth Township does offer residents assistance with the process of appealing their property assessment (which in turn, drives their property tax burden). However, there is no guarantee that the assessed value or the property taxes levied will be adjusted for any individual taxpayer.
EducatedEP Resident September 29, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Ep Lover... Since I have volunteered in all 5 buildings, I know what goes on with technology. Have you? Do you know how poorly the "new" computers run? Teachers are waiting for the iPads. Where are they? Students don't get to use the classroom computers as much as the teachers would like because they crash. Many teachers are waiting for computers that were promised to them in May. You are right, 1 million is not a lot. But I sure as heck would like to see people as dedicated as you are regarding teachers' salary to be holding the district accountable for its spending of technology. A million dollars is worth nothing when it doesn't work properly.

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