The Rockford Education Association (REA) filed its official notice of intent to strike with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board March 12. The move paves the way for a legal strike to occur at any time after a 10-day waiting period. No strike date has been announced.
Karen Bieschke, REA’s president, said in a release: “We are very disappointed and frustrated at having to take this step. But we’re being forced into this by a school board that simply will not compromise or try to reach a fair agreement. The board is entrenched in unreasonable positions. It has voted to impose its last offer on teachers on April 1. At some point, we have to say ‘stop.’”
The REA contends it has already offered many proposals in negotiations designed to protect educational programs for students, save money for the school district and avert a strike.
“Our goal has not changed,” Bieschke said. “We want a reasonable agreement that rightly protects the quality of education in Rockford and is fair to all stakeholders, including teachers. Teachers in Rockford have been the only stability in the school district for many years, and despite the current contract disagreements, we’ve continued to devote our full efforts to teaching the children without distraction. But we can’t accept the board’s offer of a contract that unfairly punishes teachers, costs teachers thousands of dollars out of their paychecks, and jeopardizes health care for them and their families. That’s just not fair.”
Negotiations with the school district began last April and have been conducted with the assistance of a federal mediator over the last seven months. A bargaining meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 21.
From the March 14-20, 2012, issue