CARBONDALE – Today, the Carbondale Education Association (CEA) and the Carbondale Educational Support Professional Association (CESPA) individually submitted the organizations’ last best contractual offers to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) for public posting. Once the IELRB posts the last best offers from CEA, CESPA and the Carbondale School District 95 Board of Education (BOE) on the IELRB website, CEA and CESPA can choose to go on strike in 14 days. The decision by CEA and CESPA comes after a lack of progress during negotiations.
“The last thing we want to do is go on strike, but we are willing to do whatever it takes to put our students first,” CEA President Melissa Norman said. “We want to be in our classrooms with our students, not out on the picket line. We have been negotiating with the board for months, and it appears they are not interested in reaching a fair agreement as soon as possible. We continually offer to meet them half way during negotiations, but the board repeatedly takes steps backward instead of forward. The board has the money to meet our requests without raising taxes. But instead of coming to a fair agreement, their tactics at the table are drawing out negotiations and costing the district money.”
CEA includes 136 teachers, social workers and other licensed professionals. The association requested to begin bargaining for a fair contract in March, but the board did not meet with them until June. CEA’s current contract expired on Aug. 11. District 95 serves 1,536 students.
“We are fighting for our students’ safety. For the fifth time, we are asking the board to add language that will protect our students, educators and school staff members,” Norman said. “The time to act is now. There have already been multiple violent incidents in our schools since the start of the new year.”
CESPA has 111 members that are classroom aides, cooks, secretaries, maintenance workers, couriers, birth to three educators, behavior specialists and paraprofessionals. This is CESPA’s first contract negotiation with the district. CESPA has been bargaining with the board since August 2018.
“We are already some of the lowest paid support staff in the area. Now the board is trying to cut our wages and take away a week, or more, of our sick leave,” CESPA President Tricia Lueker said. “We take care of the district’s most vulnerable students, but are among the lowest paid. We need to be paid a living wage. The worst part is, we know the district has the money to meet our requests without raising taxes. We’re talking about less than a dollar more an hour in some cases. The district is literally nickel and diming us, and it’s incredibly disheartening.”
CEA’s next mediation session with the BOE is set for Monday, Sept. 9. CEA members plan to rally before negotiations in a show of solidarity for their bargaining team members. CEA members will begin gathering at Carbondale Middle School (1150 E. Grand Ave.) on Sept. 9 at 3:30 p.m.
CESPA has requested new mediation dates from the federal mediator and the BOE.
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.