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CARBONDALE — Both the Carbondale Elementary School District No. 95 Board of Education and its teachers' union are still at a disagreement after months of negotiations came to a head Monday.

District 95 includes Parrish, Thomas and Lewis elementary schools, as well as Carbondale Middle School.

In a news release sent this past Thursday, the Illinois Education Association announced it had posted its last best offers for contracts.

According to the news release, the union can choose to strike 14 days after the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board posts the last best offer.

The teachers' union, Carbondale Education Association, has asked for a standardized list of classroom furniture to be provided, as well as $350 of requisition funds for each classroom to be used on items specific to curriculum and instruction. It has also asked for pay increases annually over the three-year contract.

The CEA’s overview of its last best offer also said that administrators recently negotiated for raises with the board, and that the board also approved the hiring of three new administrative and director positions for the district’s central office, which indicate to the union that the district has the funds to meet its proposals.

After an executive meeting Tuesday, the District 95 school board released a statement condemning the CEA for not bargaining in good faith.

In one of two documents shared with The Southern late Tuesday, school board President John Major said the board and CEA have been “mired in disagreements” regarding the union’s request for pay increases. Major said the union had initially asked for a 10% annual pay increase, but later changed their request to 7%.

Further in the document, Major wrote that that on Sept. 9, the board had proposed a 4% annual increase for the three-year contract. This was calculated by adding 1% to the normal 3% step given annually to each pay level. Major wrote that the board got no response to this request.

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Melissa Norman, CEA president, said that the offer made by the board would not provide a 4% raise annually to about one third of CEA’s members. Some members have plateaued in their pay schedule, she said, and will not receive a step increase for many more years, meaning they would receive just a 1% increase.

She also pointed out that in the last best offer provided to The Southern last week, the union asked not for 7%, but for 4% across the board. She said that would apply to teachers receiving a pay step and teachers who have plateaued.

Major wrote that the union mischaracterizes the reserve funds the district keeps on hand. In the release, he wrote that “the Board, however, maintains this reserve fund to protect untenured faculty from job insecurity and to protect the school district from borrowing funds at an increased interest rate to cover monthly expenses. In spite of what the CEA bargaining team says, this will lead to an increase in property taxes.”

“The community is entitled to expect that fair compensation for its teachers does not result in an irresponsible and unsustainable budget for the District,” Major said in Tuesday’s release.

Norman said she believed that statement to be a scare tactic.

“We feel as if what they are doing is trying to scare taxpayers into thinking their taxes are going up,” Norman said. She said in order to have job security, they work out good contracts and have a strong union — she said all that having large stores of cash in the bank does for the district is to allow it to collect interest.

The board's news release also said the union and the board disagree about "suggested contractual language that would not require teachers to supervise students on the playground, in spite of their claim that student safety is a key issue."

However, the last best offer from the union did not characterize the request that way. It said "administrator(s) and supervisory aides will monitor the playground to provide consistent supervision and expectations." 

The union's news release said its rationale for this proposal was because "consistent supervisory staff on the playground are key for setting expectations and addressing behavior concerns. Consistency will lead to decreased negative behaviors on the playground. Currently, we have different supervisors on the playground every day."

Norman said while the union has taken the first steps toward a strike, this is the last thing she and her fellow members want. She said teachers should be in the classroom. She said the CEA has asked for more bargaining dates from the board, and is waiting for a response.

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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