MURPHYSBORO, IL (KFVS) - Murphysboro Education Association (MEA) were in negotiations with Murphysboro Community Unit School District 186 Board of Education to prevent a strike.
On Oct. 1, a deal was reached between the two parties. The Union voted to accept the tentative agreement that came out of Monday night’s meeting. It now goes before the Board of Education who is scheduled to vote on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
School Board leaders and representatives from the MEA say talks of raising teachers wages came from a recent surplus due to the evidence-based funding system.
A meeting Wednesday, Sept. 26 started in the evening and lasted until 11 p.m.
Murphysboro Superintendent Chris Grode said “We have an offer on the table that the association will be voting on. I’ll try to let you know when I hear how the vote goes...”
There was an MEA meeting Friday, Sept. 29.
“Our membership overwhelmingly rejected the board’s latest proposal and authorized the bargaining team to call a strike," said Melinda Pierson with MEA. “They will meet again on Monday afternoon. A strike will depend on the outcome of that meeting.”
Melinda Pierson, is an instructor and the a spokesperson for the teachers union, Murphysboro Education Association...who voted to strike for that “fair contract”. She says, “None of our teachers want to strike…but we also really want to have the respect of our district, the respect of our administrators, and that is shown by having fair contract”
"What we've asked for is a very Modest pay increase,” Pierson says. “But then asked our district to help us make up some of that difference through and increase to some of our benefits package.... because that would help our teachers have more money in their pocket even though the districts hands are tied with salary increases."
She feels that if wages don’t increase, the quality of student’s education will go down.
“If we don’t change the way our district is hiring and what we can offer our teachers, then our students - who we care about - are going to get first year teachers, second year teachers, and people who move on from our district after a very short time.”
The District "hands are tied" because of the budget Governor Rauner signed this Summer capping raises for teachers at 3 percent instead of six.
Murphysboro Superintendent Chris Grode represents the School Board.
As far as how the school board wants to use money from the surplus, they want to invest the money in hiring more specialized teachers.
“More reading specialists, more math specialists - I should say specialist because we don’t have any right now,” he said, “More adults in the building to work with the students in the building to increase their scores.”
He says the problem lies in that 3% increase to teachers...if it's a higher percentage to teachers that retire in the next four years, the district would get penalized.
"If the legislature had not moved the 6% to the 3% I don’t think you'd be in my office interviewing me right now...i think we could have come to a much more understandable agreement. It's the 3% penalty i see as the stumbling block..."
Ultimately, Grode says it's a balancing act. "You can’t predict the future and so you try to be as conservative as you can because you want to be fiscally responsible …but on the same token you don't want to make your employee suffer by not giving them the raises that YOU believe that deserve."
Both parties say they hope they can finalize something in the meeting tonight. “My biggest worry if negotiations aren’t met, is that we may have to strike…none of the teachers want to have to do that but we really do want to have a contract we can work under....we have been working since beginning of year without a contract and it’s past time,” Pierson says.
Negotiations continued Monday, October 1 at 4:00 and a couple dozen teachers waited outside the school where school board members and teachers union representatives tried to reach an agreement.
As of 10:00 PM, a deal was reached and teachers rejoiced in the decision.