Murphysboro teachers declare strike after negotiations break dow - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Murphysboro teachers declare strike after negotiations break down

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MURPHYSBORO (WSIL) -- Wednesday evening, the Murphysboro Education Association (MEA) declared a strike, which means teachers will not report to school starting Thursday, October 3. This means all Murphysboro schools and extracurricular activities are canceled.

The strike was declared shortly after tonight’s failed negotiation session with the Murphysboro School District 186 Board of Education (BOE). 

MEA Spokeswoman Lisa Shields said:

This is so unfortunate. Our hearts are with our students and their families, but we had to go on strike so we can continue to fight for what’s best for our community. The board showed us this evening they have no interest in finding common ground. For us, this about providing the best education possible for our students, but unfortunately, for the district this is about power. It’s certainly not about money, despite what the board says, they have the money to do this.

The MEA released a statement explaining why the two sides could not reach an agreement:

The last major issue that needs to be resolved at the bargaining table is the salary increase requested by MEA. Here are facts about the districts’ finances:

  • The district has the money to meet MEA’s requests without raising taxes.
  • District 186 has an educational fund surplus of $3.5 million.
  • MEA is asking for, on average, a salary increase of 3.7% each year for the life of the three-year contract.
  • During the past three years, because of Illinois’ new evidenced based funding model, the General Assembly has added nearly $1 billion dollars in additional funding for K-12 school districts, including Murphysboro.

Here are the additional funds District 186 has received during the past three years (please note this is on top of the regular levels of funding provided by the state):

  • 2017-2018: $844,576
  • 2018-2019: $615,999
  • 2019-2020: $532,224
  • Total: $1.99 million

Murphysboro District 186 is classified as a Tier 1 school by the Illinois State Board of Education, which means District 186 will be a priority district for future state funding.

“Superintendent Grode continually says he’s worried the state will stop providing funding to Murphysboro, which is absolutely ridiculous. It’s a scare tactic and it has no basis in reality,” Shields said. “And while Grode is focused on asserting control over the bargaining table, he’s lost sight of what’s important here, our students. We are losing teachers. Illinois is in the middle of a teacher shortage that’s reaching crisis levels, and we if we don’t make our salaries competitive with our neighboring districts, we will continue to lose good, quality teachers. That means our students will suffer, our schools will suffer and so will our community.”

MEA and the BOE have been negotiating since March 2019. MEA’s current contract expired on Aug. 12, which means members are currently working without a contract. MEA includes 152 teachers, counselors, nurses and social workers in District 186. District 186 serves 2,047 students. 

The CUSD 186 Board also released a statement:

The Board team met with the Teacher Team this evening.  The Board listened to the desires expressed by the Teacher Team and modified its Final offer to reflect the Teachers demand for the salary increases to be distributed “on the Cell” instead of “on the Base.”  The Board’s final offer provided all teachers with a salary increase of at least $2,005.  By agreeing to distribute its increase “on the cell”, under the Board’s new offer the teachers’ salaries increases would now range from a low of $1,764 to a high of $2,521???.  Unfortunately, the Teacher Team did not accept this Board’s last-ditch modification to its final offer, and instead informed the Board team that it would not even take the Board’s offer back to their union membership for a vote.  
  
The Board of Education is frustrated by this turn of events.  In our view, the teachers are walking away from a respectable offer which provides an average 4% increase to the teachers’ salaries.  The Board of Education views these 4% salary increases as a strong and sufficient offer, especially with 100% of teacher insurance and 100% of teacher retirement is paid by the District.  Indeed, even this offer would put the district into deficit spending.  However, the Teacher Team was demanding the District “deficit spend” more than what would be fiscally responsible.  
  
Because of this, they have chosen to go on strike. Accordingly, there will be no school tomorrow, and all the extra-curricular, co-curricular, and school sponsored events are cancelled until further notice.

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