Teacher strikes: Waukegan still out, Hinsdale soon

As the school year moves towards Halloween, teacher strikes in the Chicago area are ongoing or looming. Waukegan teachers are out. Hinsdale High School teachers are about to go out. In both cases, school boards that are doing well are claiming they have to do even more well -- following a carefully scripted attack on teachers and teacher unions.

Striking Waukegan teachers. Photo from the Lake County Federation of Teachers website.The Lake County Federation of Teachers has been out on strike since the first week of October. From the looks of it, the school board is Waukegan is following a script that has become worn out long ago. Teacher union leaders have noted that the Board, after claiming it wants to simplify talks, then produced a 76-page proposal that could have been written by ALEC or the Koch brothers. Despite the fact that the district is showing a large surplus in its budget, district officials are talking like austerity is the only answer.

According to one news report: "Mike McGue, president of Lake County Federation of Teachers Local 504, said the school district has gone from a $2.7 million deficit four years ago to a $37 million surplus today. He declined to say how much of a pay increase teachers were seeking, saying he didnt want to negotiate in the media..."

The strike is scheduled to continue on Monday, October 6.

Meanwhile, in Hinsdale, the teachers are facing a right wing school board that sounds like a Fox News fantasy.

The teachers union, a local of the Illinois Education Association (IEA), has filed its notice of intent to strike because of the intransigence of the school board. One of the lessons of the Hinsdale strike is that an elected school board has to be carefully elected. Many didn't vote and as a result a slate of reactionary union busters now has a majority on a school board that for years has been willing to work with the teachers to create one of the best high schools systems in the state. For the past six months, school board members in Hinsdale have sounded like they are taking their talking points from Michelle Rhee or others of that ilk.

The striking Waukegan teachers are asking for both picket line and financial assistance.

"Please come and support the Waukegan Teachers Council. If you wish to join us on the picket lines, we will be picketing from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm each day. The central location for the strike is at the Waukegan High School Campus, 1101 Washington Street, Waukegan, IL 60085," said a notice on the Lake County Federation of Teachers Website on October 6, 2014. "The Waukegan Teachers are also picketing at Lincoln Center, 1201 N. Sheridan Road from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Donations may be sent to the LCFT Union Hall at 248 Ambrogio Drive, Gurnee, IL 60031."



About 17,000 students have no classes today in Waukegan School District 60 after teachers went on strike this morning.

Negotiations broke down overnight and are at a standstill over issues of salary, health benefits and employee working conditions, Superintendent Donaldo Batiste said.

Mike McGue, president of Lake County Federation of Teachers Local 504, said the school district has gone from a $2.7 million deficit four years ago to a $37 million surplus today. He declined to say how much of a pay increase teachers were seeking, saying he didnt want to negotiate in the media.

"We don't want a lot -- we want equitable pay-- the money is there," said Howard Glass, a teacher at the high school for 10 years.

In a letter posted online today, Batiste said the board is "committed to collaboratively reaching a resolution that benefits both parties, while still maintaining long-term financial stability for the educational programs of the district. We value the tremendous work our teachers do, and firmly believe they deserve a fair contract."

He said the teachers salary request is too high and that the board's offer is competitive with teachers in comparable districts. The district is asking that teachers share some of the escalating health costs.

As for employment conditions, "The union is seeking to reduce the number of report cards sent home, the amount of time spent in the classroom, participation in after-school activities, and the amount of professional development time required. We believe these proposals would be detrimental not only to the quality of the education our students receive, but to the communication between teachers and parents, which is so critical to the learning process," the letter said.

Teachers this morning walked the picket line outside Waukegan High School.

The hard part is I don't really believe in striking, but its been too long since there was a reasonable contract, " said Debbie Rakestraw, a special education teacher for 10 years at the school. What they are proposing is embarrassing and insulting.

McGue said the teachers are eager to go back to the bargaining table, although no talks are scheduled.

"We would rather be negotiating than walking the picket line," he said.

Waukegan teachers strike will extend to third day (Associated Press - Saturday, October 4, 2014)

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) - Waukegans approximately 17,000 students will not be returning to the classroom on Monday as the school district and the teachers union remain apart in contract talks.

The two sides have agreed to meet early Monday in an effort to resolve their differences over salary, health care benefits and employee conditions.

Teachers went on strike Thursday morning after the district and the Lake County Federation of Teachers failed to come to terms. Lake County Federation of Teachers president Mike McGue says the unions negotiations team was at the federations quarters on Friday reviewing contract proposals.

District 60 officials on Friday criticized the unions stance in the talks, contending its focus on more money for less work would be detrimental to the quality of education in the district.


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