BELVIDERE – More than 100 Belvidere Education Support Team (BEST) members, teachers, community members and parents plan to hold a sit-in prior to the Belvidere Community Unit School District 100 Board of Education (BOE) meeting Monday. The sit-in comes after months of intense contract negotiations between BEST and the board.
“This is a women’s rights issue. Ninety-five percent of our members are women. Our members make poverty level wages. Many of our members work two and three jobs just to make ends meet,” said BEST President Shirley Benson. “The board is literally nickel and diming us. They’re proposing a raise of about 50 cents an hour for our members. That’s insulting to us and to our students.”
BEST is made up of 148 education support staff members who are para-educators, librarians, hall monitors and computer technicians. They serve 8,070 students at 10 schools within the Belvidere school district.
“We are not asking for the moon. We know the district has the money to meet our requests without raising taxes,” Benson said. “Administrator salaries have been going up for years, while our salaries are shrinking. This is unacceptable. We need to put our students first and we do that by attracting and valuing those who are on the front lines with our students every day.”
The starting salary for our members is $11 an hour. BEST has been negotiating with board members in an attempt to reach a fair contract since April. BEST members’ current contract expired on June 30.
Those attending the sit-in on Monday, Oct. 15, plan to wear black. The sit-in will start at 5:30 p.m. outside the Board of Education Room (lower level) at 1201 5th Ave., Belvidere. The board meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the same location. BEST President Benson will be reading a letter to the board during the meeting, requesting immediate action to come to a fair agreement for all parties involved.
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.