Teachers in Naperville Community Unit School District 203 in Chicago’s far-western suburbs say that a strike is possible if contract negotiations with the district fail to settle a few key issues by August 19, when school is scheduled to start for about 17,000 students in 23 schools, The Chicago Tribune reports.
The Central Times student newspaper at Naperville Central High School has been following the story during the course of the summer, including the paper’s coverage of a rally held by the teachers’ union Monday, which brought out close to 500 people, most of whom were wearing red as a sign of solidarity with the teachers.
Teachers are asking for raises that keep their earnings more closely aligned with inflation, and they would like to be able to use more accumulated sick days for family leave than the district is offering. A few other issues are also unresolved but are not expected to block a return to school.
“The (teachers’ union) absolutely does not want to go on strike. We believe that the board’s short-term interests are preventing them from seeing the long-term benefits to the community,” the Tribune quoted a post on the union’s website as saying.
“We’re a little mystified why we’re being fought so hard on the (Family and Medical Leave Act) issue,” the paper quoted Dan Iverson, the union president, as saying.
The FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks off to recover from illness or take care of a sick family member, and the Illinois School Code mandates that, for teachers, six of those weeks must be paid. Teachers in Naperville can take the additional six weeks if they need it but would have to take those days off as unpaid leave.
The union is asking for its members to be able to apply a certain number of accumulated (paid) sick days to the additional six weeks. The district has offered to increase the number of paid weeks under FMLA to seven, or to 12 weeks after the birth of a child, but wouldn’t allow any paid sick days to be used for the purpose of extending the FMLA leave to 12 weeks.
Additional disagreements concern the pay teachers would receive for working on the Multi-Tiered Support System, or MTSS. This system is designed to help students master required learning in every class subject. The union endorses the system as good for students but says the additional planning, teaching, and testing it mandates will have to be executed by teachers outside the normal school day. As such, additional compensation should be provided, the union argues.
The district is offering no additional compensation for teachers who will be required to use MTSS with their students and contends that additional staff hired specifically for the MTSS will ease the burden on current teachers.