Hours after giving their last and final offer to a federal mediator Thursday, representatives of the and moved closer to an agreement at the negotiating table.
One thing that is certain is the final offers that will soon be released to the public have been modified by additional compromise, according to union President Dennis Jensen and District 109 School Board member Steve Schwartz. They are part of the negotiating teams.
The other thing that is certain is DEA and District representatives will meet one more time April 2 based on timing strictures of Illinois law.
Once the Union declared an impasse March 8, both sides were required to submit their last and final offer by 4 p.m. Thursday. The mediation session began shortly after that and more concessions were made by both teams.
For the first time, Schwartz revealed the District wants to reduce automatic increases in teacher compensation from the percentages in the expired contract while the union wants an increase in base pay.
Under the expired contract, teachers get automatic pay increases for years of experience and additional education.
“We want to change the schedule because it is not sustainable,” Schwartz said. “We are not suggesting a change for increased education. Some of the increases (in the expired contract) could be as high as six percent.”
Despite more progress on non financial issues than on compensation, Jensen stressed they are all important. He believes the teachers have earned a raise.
“We work very hard at what we do,” Jensen said. “The Board would like people to think it is about money. They have put away $5 million last year and this year there will be more.” Jensen thinks some of that money should be used for an increase in base pay.
Jensen stressed compensation was only one of the major issues remaining on the table. “This is about all the issues; special education, evaluations and benefits, not just money. Evaluations are very important,” he said.
Both sides came closer on special education and teacher evaluations. Special education, which has been one of the major issues, appears closer to resolution, particularly in the middle schools, according to Schwartz.
Jensen believes the sides will be closer if some of union's most recent suggestions are accepted by the District.
“We made compromises (in the latest counter proposal) on special education based on the improvements in the middle schools,” Jensen said of referring to an .
Schwartz agreed with Jensen’s assessment. “We’re very close on special education,” he said. “We have to review the proposal before us,” he added referring to the latest modification from the union.
The mediator must release the final offer of both sides by Thursday. Both the District and the union posted their final offers on their websites today. Here is the District's proposal and here is the union's offer.
With at least one more mediation session before a possible strike, Thursday’s movement has sparked some optimism. “I hope this is a good sign,” Jensen said.
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