WINNEBAGO – The Winnebago Education Association (WEA) voted nearly this morning to authorize a strike. Unless the Winnebago Board of Education and WEA can agree to a tentative agreement before then, teachers will be on strike starting Sept. 10.
“A strike is the last thing any of us wants. We’d much rather be in our classrooms working with the students we know and love,” WEA President Sarah Meador said. “It’s unfortunate negotiations with the district have come to this. We’re still hopeful we can reach an agreement and not go on strike.”
The WEA represents more than 100 teachers, counselors, psychologists and a nurse in Winnebago Community Unit School District 323 (CUSD 323). The WEA serves 1,386 students within CUSD 323.
Negotiations between the CUSD 323 Board of Education and the WEA started in April of 2017 and have continued for the past year and half. WEA members have been working without a contract since August of 2017.
Nearly one third of the WEA’s members are not being fairly compensated for their work. When the district was financially struggling in 2004, several members made salary sacrifices to help support the district in its time of need. Now that the district is fiscally healthy, WEA is looking to be made whole again. However, during negotiations, the board has continually refused to pay those teachers the salaries they’ve earned.
“Listen, we’ve done the math. The district has the money to meet our salary requests without raising taxes,” Meador said. “We are simply asking the board of education to put students first. We’ve lost several quality teachers in the last month to neighboring districts like Stillman-Valley, Byron and Harlem, where they can make more money because they are fairly compensated for their experience. It’s really sad – when talented staff members leave, our students lose.”
The WEA is working to help parents find childcare in the event of a strike. When details have been finalized, the information will be posted on the WEA Facebook page. The last mediation session between CUSD 323 and WEA was on Thurs., Aug. 16. At this time, there are no upcoming bargaining dates scheduled.
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.