Contract talks between the CHSD 218 Board of Education and the teachers’ union have gone into deadlock and are now being handled by a federal mediator.
D218 teachers’ four-year contract is set to expire on the first day of school on August 20. The union, which represents teachers at , and Eisenhower High Schools, and the Delta Learning Center, rejected the district school board’s first offer in May.
“The contract went to mediation,” Bradley Wright said, president of IEA Local 218 and a science teacher at Eisenhower. “The district just decided they wanted to go to mediation and decided that they were at their last and best offer.”
Both the school board and teachers union have had three sessions with the federal mediator. At the last session on July 9, board members declared they were an impasse.
“We’re trying to settle,” D218 Superintendent John Byrne said. “Usually everything comes down to two factors, salaries and health and welfare.”
Since the last session with the mediator, D218 has submitted its “last and best offer” to the teachers’ union. By law, both sides have seven days to respond.
The teachers’ union has submitted its own offer, but it isn’t the teachers’ “last and best.” Both are posted on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board website.
Wright said the union rejected the district’s May offer outright, and since then, the bargaining team has been trying to meet D218 board legal counsel Burt Odelson’s desires to take the district’s last and best offer to the union membership.
“In the summer it’s hard to meet with people and [Odelson’s] not happy with that,” Wright said.
Read the pdfs of the offer and counteroffer.
Sticking points in the negotiations are increases to teachers’ monthly contributions to health insurance. The district also wants to double and quadruple teachers’ co-pays for network doctors and specialists.
“The take-home pay to some of our staff is going to be less than it was,” Wright said. “What we’re asking for is well within the district’s budget and still allows them to maintain huge surpluses that the district has been running up for years.”
The district and teachers are stalemated on base salary increases over the next four years. D218 has proposed base salary increases of 2.32%, 2.33%. 2.30% and 2.36% through the 2015-16 school year. Teachers are asking for 3.54%, 3.58%, 3.82% and 3.67% increases.
According to the latest information provided by the district to the state, the average salary for a D218 teacher with 10.1 years of experience is $80,496.
Byrne said the total operating budget for all four of the district schools is $100 million. D218 is required by state code to maintain a reserve of 2/3 of its annual operating budget, and that D218 has been deficit spending.
“The district has not offered or shown reasoning or proof that they are hurting financially,” Wright said. “With him using that as an excuse is a surprise to me.”
The district superintendent added that the teachers’ union has not contacted the board about setting up another meeting with mediator. Wright said that his union has contacted the district with some potential meeting dates.
“I sent an email to the federal mediator and copied the entire bargaining team for teachers and the district. We offered three dates from August 1 and the district is not happy with that,” Wright said. “For them to tell you they haven’t heard from us is an out and out lie.”
Wright added that the union’s bargaining team has received several emails from Odelson chastising the union for not acting sooner.
“We’re waiting to meet with members and get their input,” Wright said. “We have to give them the opportunity to have input through the negotiating team. We have offered the district dates for next week. The mediator responded yesterday he is available for two dates. The district hasn’t agreed yet.”
The teachers’ union has a tentative meeting date set for next week. Wright said it is the union’s desire to meet with the district’s bargaining team immediately after. Conceivably, teachers can continue to work under the old contract when school starts next month until a new agreement is hammered out.
So far, nobody is using the “S” word – strike – but Wright said the D218 board is forcing the union to look at other options.
“A strike is the last thing that anybody would want,” he said. “We’re not even talking about that yet. We are willing to get this done at the bargaining table. We want to get it done at the bargaining table. Our proposal is well within the budget that won’t cause the district to have to raise taxes.”