School back in session: Murphysboro teacher strike is over

Teacher strike ends in Murphysboro, Ill.

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (KFVS) - The strike is over. Students at Murphysboro School District 186 will go back to class on Thursday, October 10.

The school district alerted parents late on Wednesday night.

Thursday morning one parent told KFVS the reunion between students and teachers at General John A Logan Attendance Center was touching.

“Most of the teachers in the Murphysboro School District probably got 4-5(maybe) hours of sleep last night,” Devan Hines. “And now they have to be in the classroom with the kids all day. BUT they were up with smiles on their faces this morning lined up outside of the school as a Welcome Committee welcoming the kids back to school!”

Students went back to school on Thursday, Oct .10. (Source: Devan Hines)
Students went back to school on Thursday, Oct .10. (Source: Devan Hines) (Source: Devan Hines)

The Murphysboro Education Association posted the news on Facebook, with the Illinois Education Association sharing it. They said they had reached a tentative agreement with the school board.

We are ecstatic to know we will be back in our classrooms with our students tomorrow. Our students will always be our...

Posted by Murphysboro Teachers on Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The ongoing teacher strike put pressure on parents who had to juggle work with taking care of their kids.

On Wednesday, Oct. 9, 135,000 members of the Illinois Education Association encouraged people to participate in #RedforEd day to support teachers in Murphysboro.

To participate, IEA members said to wear red and share photos on social media using the hashtag #ISupportMurphyTeachers. Red ribbons were also tied around trees in downtown Murphysboro.

Members said this was a statewide effort.

The IEA also released a statement from President Kathi Griffin in support of MEA:

“We want to turn Illinois #RedForEd on Wednesday for our sisters and brothers in Murphysboro. To the Murphysboro Education Association: We’re with you. You have the strength of the IEA behind you. In Murphysboro, our educators are fighting for strong public schools for all students. We support our members using their collective voice to advocate for their students’ right to a quality public education.”

In the district, classes have been canceled for at least five days after negotiators could not come to an agreement during the latest meeting between the Illinois Education Association and the Murphysboro Board of Education on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Superintendent Chris Grode said the school district made three offers to the teacher’s team Tuesday and all three were rejected.

The teachers union said they were writing a proposal and the school board walked away from the table.

Murphysboro CUSD 186 provided details from the meeting on social media saying:

“The Board Team met with the Teacher Team and provided another generous offer. They refused. The Board Team then suggested to resolve the strike tonight by bringing in an independent fact finder or engage in interest arbitration per the administrative code (Ill Admin 1130.50). The Board and Teachers would agree to accept whatever amount is recommended by the independent arbitrator. Again the Teacher Team refused. Finally, the Board Team suggested a one year contract at 3.2% on the cell, which was also declined by the teacher team. 3.2% is meeting exactly in the middle from the last two offers exchanged. Each proposal presented by the Board tonight would have brought students back to school tomorrow. All three options are still on the table should teachers change their minds.”

For the full list of offers from the Oct. 8 meeting click here.

Crystal Cross grew up in Murphysboro and is now raising her own family in town.

Cross supports the strike and said she is willing to go through some hardships in order to fight for what she believes is right.

“It is very stressful as a mom especially a single mom trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my kids during the day,” Cross said.

With limited daycare options close by Cross said she’s had to rely on family and friends to look after her four kids who’ve missed school days because of the teachers strike in Murphysboro.

She said other families have reached out on social media to offer babysitting to those who need it.

“The park district from what I understand is also offering free programs to help keep some of the kids entertained," Cross said. "It’s a small community but everyone is trying to have each other’s back in this situation.”

Cross, who is a teacher’s aide, picked up extra shifts at her two other jobs to help make ends meet.

Cross was offered a position to look after younger students inside Murphysboro schools during the strike but she turned it down to support the teachers.

“I was torn because on one hand, I need that money. I need to provide for my children, but on the other hand, I didn’t feel it was right because the teacher had promises made to them that haven’t been fulfilled yet," Cross said. "They’ve had my back through different things that have happened and I want to have their back. I think if we’re trying to teach our children to negotiate with each other and overcome obstacles then we all need to work together and keep working together until we get an answer.”

Contract negotiations between teachers and the school board resumed on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 5 p.m.

Teachers also held a prayer vigil for the students and schools at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Some events were coordinated by Murphysboro teachers and local entities for students during the strike. Events included reading day in the park, a planetarium road trip, family movie day and a college help day.

Murphysboro Board of Education offered the IEA three things including letting an arbiter negotiate the turns. The Murphsboro IEA has rejected all previous offers, citing that arbitration is a means for silencing the voices of the teachers.

The two sides cannot meet on an agreed upon percentage of increase in teachers’ salary.

Bridget Shanahan, media relations director for the Illinois Education Association-NEA, said they remain hopeful and will continue to be available to bargain every day at 5 p.m. “until they can reach a fair agreement that truly puts our students and schools first.”

MEA members include 152 teachers, counselors, nurses and social workers in District 186.

District 186 serves 2,047 students.

Negotiation timeline:

The Murphysboro Education Association’s most recent contract expired on Aug. 12. This means members were working without a contract.

MEA notified the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board of its intent to strike on Thurs., Sept. 19.

The strike-authorization vote came after MEA and the Board of Education entered mediation.

An offer proposed by the Murphysboro Board of Education was rejected on Monday, Sept. 30.

The Murphysboro Board of Education released a statement of disappointment on the offer’s rejection.

The Board of Education of Murphysboro CUSD 186 was disappointed that the Teachers Union has reportedly voted down the Board’s last, best, and final offer. At this point the parties appear to be at an impasse. The Teachers Union has not informed the district when a strike will occur. School will be closed during the teachers union strike. As previously announced, all classes, athletic contests & practices, as well as any school-sponsored activities and events will be canceled until the teachers strike is over.
Board of Education of Murphysboro CUSD 186

Negotiation teams from both sides met again on Tuesday night, Oct. 1.

At this meeting, MEA said it gave the school board’s team an offer and both sides had a long discussion.

Another meeting between the MEA and the Murphysboro Board of Education took place on Wednesday, Oct. 2.

Teachers declared a strike after the meeting.

Murphysboro Teachers posted this on Facebook on Wednesday evening, Oct. 2:

“At the last night’s bargaining session, the MEA negotiation team thoroughly explained the needs of our members to the Board. Tonight, we received the Board’s revised “last, best, and final” offer. Unfortunately, this offer is simply a rearrangement of their previous “last, best and final” offer and remains unacceptable. This means that teachers will not be reporting to school tomorrow. As always, we remain ready and willing to negotiate at any time so that our students do not miss out on their education.”
Murphysboro Teachers - Facebook

The Murphysboro CUSD 186 Board issued this release on Wednesday evening, Oct. 2:

“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 percent 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 percent 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.”
Murphysboro CUSD 186 Board

School board officials stated they were offering teachers about a four percent pay raise in each of the next three years, as well as paying 100 percent of insurance premiums and payments to the pension system.

According to a MEA Facebook post, the Board of Education expected to give teachers a new offer at a meeting on Oct. 2.

The Murphysboro CUSD 186 posted about the meeting on Facebook.

The post said the meeting was at 5:30 p.m. with the federal mediator. If no agreement was reached, the teachers would go on strike on Thursday, Oct. 3.

MEA announced it was prepared to go on strike on Oct. 3.

“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.”
MEA Spokeswoman Lisa Shields

The strike:

"Walk with Teachers” posted on Facebook that the public was welcome to join the teachers on the picket line on Thursday, Oct. 3 near all CUSD 186 buildings.

Murphysboro High School students Olivia Herring and Kevin Brinkner were protesting on Thursday with the teachers.

Herring said she understands what teachers go through, because her mom teaches the fourth grade. Brinkner said he doesn’t like that the teachers aren’t getting paid for all their hard work.

"Compared to schools around us, I feel Murphysboro teachers need higher pay or right pay,” he said.

Farice Campbell has three kids in the Murphysboro School District. He said situations like this can split up a close-knit community.

"I’ve built relationships with a lot of families here and I would hate to see this ruin those and people become a little divisive and separated when it all said and done,” he said.

The teacher’s union hosted a rally on Monday night, Oct. 7, at a Union Hall on South 9th Street.

One day earlier, MEA members used an informational leaflet and handed out flyers to the Murphysboro community at Kroger on Sunday, Oct. 6.

(Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS) (Source: KFVS)

The flyer handed out is a FAQ about District 186 finances.

It states:

  • The MEA and the BOE offers are currently $385,692 apart.
  • Some have claimed that the most recent offers are $1.5 million apart, but simple math disproves this.
  • In fact, using the districts actual proposal and numbers that were given to the MEA negotiating team it is easy to figure out that our proposals are actually $385,692 apart.
  • We know the district has the money to cover these costs without raising taxes.
  • District 186 currently has a surplus of more than $3.5 million.
  • Board Proposal Year 1: 2019-2020 Cost: $342,580 Year 2: 2020-2021 Cost: $351,682 Year 3: 2021-2022 Cost: $356,110 TOTAL: $1,050,372

Will the teacher’s offer truly put us in deficit spending?

  • The truth is neither the MEA offer nor the District’s latest offer will put the district into deficit spending.
  • Still, the district has repeatedly claimed that its own offer will put the district into deficit spending, but the district has a history of falsely predicting deficit spending.
  • Keep in mind a budget is a plan, not a reality. The same goes for deficit spending it’s a forecast for the future NOT what actually happens.
  • As you can see from the history of budgeted funds versus surplus, District 186 continually forecasts deficit spending that never becomes reality year, after year, after year.
  • Again, the district has surplus that continues to grow each year. Right now it is at $3.5 million.
  • Also, during the past three years, because of Illinois’ new evidenced based funding model, the General Assembly has added $1.99 million dollars in additional funds to District 186.
  • District 186 is likely to continue to see additional funds from lawmakers every year because of its designation as a Tier 1 school.
  • The Murphysboro school board posted on social media Friday that striking teachers should take the deal on the table and end the strike.
  • MEA Proposal Year 1: 2019-2020 Cost: $486,183 Year 2: 2020-2021 Cost: $464,715 Year 3: 2021-2022 Cost: $485,166 TOTAL: $1,436,064
(Source: Brittany Jacob, KFVS)
(Source: Brittany Jacob, KFVS) (Source: Brittany Jacob, KFVS)

Teachers posted on Facebook that after sending a counter proposal to the board, the MEA negotiations team received a message from Superintendent Chris Groade.

That statement said that the board would like to meet on Monday, Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. with a new proposal.

The last major issue that needs to be resolved at the bargaining table is the salary increase requested by MEA.

Community impact:

The school district posted there will be no school, athletic events or practices, as well as no school-sponsored activities during the strike.

There will also be no daycare provided due to the lack of response. They said they will reassess the situation should the strike continue into next week.

According to the Facebook post, the district would provide breakfast and lunch at the middle school and Carruthers School through the “summer food program.”

If you would like your student to have breakfast or lunch, they can go to the schools during the assigned times. Breakfast is served at 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and lunch is served at 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Murphysboro Principal Cody Ellermer said on Thursday, that their scheduled football game was forfeited against West Frankfort on Oct. 4.

The teachers posted that they were prepared to stay all night on Thursday to negotiate.

The teachers hosted a family movie day on Friday evening to thank the community for their support.

The school district posted on Facebook giving more details about the financial situation.

“Districts must make difficult choices. The financial well-being and viability of the District is important to our community. There have been several comments regarding our finances and the Board would like these facts known.”

Currently, there are no mediation sessions scheduled for the BOE and MEA.

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