The Evergreen Park teachers’ union bargaining team walked out of Central Junior High School after one last attempt to negotiate a new contract with the D124 school board just before the TV news trucks drove away after the 10 o’clock news.
Watch the video of the union's strike announcement.
Looking grim-faced, the teachers union announced there would be no classes today for the district’s 1,800 elementary school students after Monday night’s bargaining session failed to produce a new contract.
The Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers and school board have been trying to work out a new teachers’ contract since April. No ne contract talks have been scheduled, although the union’s bargaining team has said members would sit down any time to negotiate with the school board.
“It’s safe to say [the bargaining team] have gone through a very gut wrenching and one of the most difficult decisions they’ve made in their lives,” said Dave Comerford, spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Announcing that teachers and paraprofessionals from Evergreen Park’s five public elementary schools had decided to go on strike Tuesday, Comerford accused the school board of engaging in intimidation tactics and trying to wear union members down.
“The board of education’s last proposal to teachers threatened that students would not make up any day that teachers were out on strike,” Comerford said. “We find it unconscionable that the board of education would not want students in class every day possible.”
Comerford explained that the board’s latest contract offer on Monday night contained legalese denying teachers and paraprofessionals additional pay or benefits for any strike makeup days.
“The level of intimidation tactics has reached a new high,” he said. “It was offered as a threat about what [union] members would lose. It wasn’t about the district’s financial situation or the kids.”
While the board offered to reduce the monthly contributions that certified staff paid to healthcare benefits, the district’s paraprofessionals and teachers’ aides still weren’t being offered a living wage.
“When all is said and done members say they take home $219 a week,” Comerford said.
Both sides made proposals Monday evening. Comerford said the union made concessions on retirement benefits that would have saved the school district $180,000.
The union also balked at a proposed academic program, tying student growth to salary that union barganing team memebrs allege was never discussed at the bargaining table but added at the last second.
“There is no solid evidence to show merit pay helps kids to achieve,” Comerford added.
The school district is also offering a health savings account plan designed to help employees save on insurance premiums by putting money into an account similar to an IRA, which "doesn't exist yet and is untested."
What teachers are asking for wouldn't make a dent in the $16 million fund balance that the district is currently carrying, Comerford said, which is three times more than what the state requires school districts to maintain to be fiscally responsible.
A call placed to D124 Superintendent Dr. Robert Machak on Monday night was not immediately returned.
Teachers will walk the picket line at Central Junior High School beginning at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, with picket lines forming in front of Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest elementary schools at 8:15 a.m.
Read Past Coverage of the Contract Negotiations:
- Last Chance for EP Teachers and D124 to Avoid Strike
- Scenes of a Protest: EP Teachers Stage Noisy Rally on 95th Street
- Threat of EP Teachers Strike Looms
- EP Teachers Set Oct. 2 Strike Date
- No Agreement In D124 Contract Talks