In Chicagoland, it's strike season

October 2, 2012

(Becky Vevea/WBEZ)

School has been in session for just about a month and teachers in three districts across the Chicago area have gone on strike. Two more may be on the way.

Teachers in both Chicago and Lake Forest school districts went on strike last month but are back in school now. Members of the Chicago Teachers Union are currently voting on a tentative contract deal and the results of that will be made public Thursday.

Contract talks between the Evergreen Park school board and the teachers union ended late Monday and the two sides remain stuck on issues of health insurance and wages.

School speech pathologist Tony Demma said the concessions the board is asking for don’t make sense because the district has “over $16 million in fund balance.”

But on the district website, the fund balance is listed as $6.6 million—about 30 percent of the district’s almost $22 million operating budget.

Evergreen Park Superintendent Robert Machak said maintaining the reserve fund is important right now becuase the district is concerned about pension reform that could shift the cost to local districts. House speaker Michael Madigan has advocated for the shift, but it's unpopular among most Illinois lawmakers.

Machak also said the district would like to renovate a number of it's buildings to relieve overcrowding and upgrade the district's technology.

A similar situation is playing out on the North Shore, where teachers in Highland Park, Highwood and Fort Sheridan could walk out late next week.

Pamela Kramer, the president of the North Shore Education Association  said District 112 officials want concessions on the salary structure and health care, but are sitting on significant cash reserves.

Kramer said the district could lose highly qualified teachers to other districts nearby if they don’t keep salaries competitive. She also said the board in Highland Park and others in the Chicago area are taking advantage of the larger economic environment to push for changes.

“It’s really, it’s an anti-teacher, anti-public servant sentiment. And that’s what’s going on,” Kramer said.

The two sides meet again on Thursday, but if talks fail, teachers set a strike date for late next week.

Teachers in suburban Crystal Lake’s Prairie Grove School District have also authorized a strike, but haven’t set a date.

Talks there will start up again next Thursday.