The District Educators’ Council (DEC), commonly known as the teachers union, has instituted a “public posting” action that could result in a strike by teachers before the end of November, according to officials of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65.
In a letter distributed Friday to the district’s “staff, families, and community,” Board President Candance Chow and Superintendent Paul Goren declared that by initiating the public posting process under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, “the threat of a strike becomes more likely.”
They said there are still a number of legal requirements and timeframes that must be met, but “given these timelines, by our estimates, the earliest a strike could occur is at the end of November.”
DEC President Paula Zelinski confirmed that the union had activated the timeline for a strike at the end of a negotiating session with a federal mediator two days ago, after reaching agreement with the Board’s negotiating team on only one issue after five mediation sessions.
That issue was not disclosed, but both parties said it was in addition to an offer from the administration to grant one additional day a week with planning time—from four to five—in the fourth year of the agreement.
The Board’s negotiators have insisted that worsening financial conditions, aggravated by a tax cap on property taxes, its main source of revenue, has tied its hands on making substantive concessions with the teachers.
Among the issues still remaining, according to the letter from Zelinski, are teacher evaluations, classroom safety, substitute shortage, working conditions, foreign language at Grade 6, and fair compensation.
Chow and Goren, however, insist that “despite our grim financial outlook, we continue to make offers and compromises in good faith and to respond to the needs DEC has expressed.”
In the meantime, they said they are making contingency plans in the event that a strike becomes necessary.
“It is our sincere hope that there will be no disruption to our students’ learning,” they wrote.
“We are exploring ways in which children and families could be supported if a strike occurs. In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to provide updates on the status of this situation. “
Nevertheless, Chow and Goren promised to continue negotiating with the union in good faith, with the next session scheduled for Nov. 3.
“The Board’s bargaining team continues to be fully engaged in these important discussions,” they said, “and will spend however long it takes to reach common ground and a fair agreement. Our students and educators deserve nothing less.”
Zelinski also ended her letter to the teachers with this note of optimism:
“There are additional dates scheduled with the mediator for Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2016, and Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. Your team remains united in supporting our teachers and returning to you with a fair contract.”