The words used by School Board President Mark Grosso to describe Tuesday's meeting between the Geneva Education Association and the board's negotiating team sounded positive. The two sides had a six-hour session that Grosso described as "constructive."
The two sides are scheduled to meet again Friday, and if a settlement is reached, there likely will be cheers throughout the community.
If a settlement isn't reached, however, the timeline to a possible teachers strike looks like this, according to the School District 304 "neogitations webpage."
• Oct. 26—School District 304's final offers is made public.
The GEA's final offer already has been posted on gea4students.org.
State rules require that each party's final offer be made public seven days after receipt of those final offers, assuming no settlement has been reached. The Illinois Educational Relations Board will make the final offers public, including the cost summaries, by posting them on its website.
• Nov. 9—The first possible day teachers could engage in a strike.
Once final offers are posted on the IELRB website, at least 14 days must have elapsed before the GEA/IEA-NEA may engage in a strike. Although the GEA voted Oct. 17 to authorize a strike, that does not mean teachers are required to strike if a settlement isn't reached.
Additionally, if the GEA does intend to engage in a strike, it would have to give the district at least 10 days' written notice of its intent to strike, the School District page says.
Geneva Education Association President Carol Young says in a YouTube video posted on the GEA website that "we are not making progress" to finalize a new teachers contract." However, that post has a date stamp of Sunday, Oct. 21—two days prior to Tuesday's six-hour meeting.
"The last thing we need and want in this community is a teachers strike," she says in the video. "But that is where we are headed right now."
The previous teachers contract expired Aug. 15.
Young reiterates in the video that one of the key issues is that the "board drew a line in the sand, saying they would make no further movement unless we accepted the terms" of a hard freeze.
Teachers have been working under the conditions of the previous three-year contract.
Grosso explained at Monday's School Board meeting that each teacher receives a 2.65 percent step increase each year. Teachers also receive a 2.65 percent increase for every eight hours of advanced-degree coursework they complete. A teacher receives more than a 5 percent increase for each lane beyond a master's degree under the previous contract.
As an example, a teacher who completes one lane of coursework in the 2013-14 school year would earn a 6.3 percent pay increase in 2014 under the terms of the "final offer" posted by the GEA.
Young says in the video that steps and lanes are needed because teachers—unlike other professionals—don't have opportunities for advancement.
"The step increases have been maligned of late as an increase for just 'hanging around' another year," she said. "In actuality, this increase is what allows teaching to be a career for most of us. Teachers can't move up the corporate ladder as most professions do. We don't get promotions with their accompanying pay raises. We teach our whole career. So we need a way to compensate experienced teachers for staying in the district."
The concern is that the step increases compound over time, and teachers can't "get back to where they should have been."
"One lost step can cost a teacher $20,000 over the course of their career," Young says in the video. "So now you know why a freeze is not something the GEA is willing to consider."
While the School Board has yet to publish its final offer, Young says. "There is nothing in their proposal that is truly beneficial to teachers."
She says the GEA understands how hard the economy has been on some residents within the District 304 boundaries.
"If us taking a freeze would actually help those people, we would be happy to accept this, but that is not the case," she says in the video.
"There's a lot of rhetoric being batted around right now. It is difficult to know what to believe, but the bottom line is we need to get this contract settled now."
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- UPDATE: Geneva Teachers Union Posts Its 'Final Offer'
- District 304: GEA's 'Final Offer' Calls for 18% Salary Hike in Final 3 Years Before Retirement