Murphysboro High School file

Students are shown in 2015 at the end of the school day at Murphysboro High School.

MURPHYSBORO — Murphysboro School District 186 released a statement Friday clarifying what it described as “misleading” statements made by the Murphysboro Education Association in its news release announcing the vote earlier this week to authorize an intent to strike.

Earlier this week, the MEA announced that the vote had taken place because the district and the union and not successfully agreed to contract terms — Murphysboro district teachers have started the school year without a contract.

However, the district contends that some of what was released did not tell the whole story.

Melinda Pierson, the MEA vice president, told The Southern that the proposed contract by the union was about $762,000; however, the release from the district contends that the union’s combined proposed contract would come closer to a $1.2 million increase for a one-year contract.

“The district simply cannot afford the MEA’s request and has offered as much as it is able without incurring detrimental penalties or making staff or program reductions,” the release said.

The release said while MEA proposed a 3 percent overall salary increase as well as “step increases” yearly, the district countered with a 1.3 percent increase with step increases yearly.

The news release also takes issue with the MEA statement that teachers have taken four separate salary freezes, noting that teachers have routinely been given 2.9 percent pay increases each of the last 10 years.

The release from the district also states that the union's assertion that the district has the funds to meet their requests is questionable. The release admitted that there has been added revenue from the new state funding formula, but said that the funds had to be distributed across several areas of the district’s budget, not just for salaries.

“We do not want to see a strike and have done nothing to encourage or cause one,” superintendent Chris Grode wrote in the release.

He said that a strike would be detrimental the district “community.” He wrote that the district believes the MEA teachers are all quality educators and deserve pay raises, and that the district is “attempting to do exactly that.”

“It is the district’s sincere desire to reach a reasonable new agreement,” Grode wrote in the release, adding that it must not jeopardize the district financially.

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Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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