MENDOTA – This morning, the Mendota Education Association (MEA) declared a strike after negotiations stalled with the Mendota School District 289 Board of Education (D289 BOE) late last night.
“We did absolutely everything we could to prevent this from happening. We made several concessions at the table last night, and still the board refused to give an inch,” MEA Co-Vice President Brandon Scheppers said. “Our offers are only about $16,000 apart when it comes to salary. That’s a drop in the bucket. It’s clear, for the board, this isn’t about money. This is about power for them. That’s what makes this so heartbreaking and incredibly disappointing.”
MEA is made up of 76 elementary members and 39 high school teachers from School District 280. Only the elementary teachers from District 289 are on strike. Their contract expired on Aug. 14, and they’ve been negotiating with the D289 BOE since March. District 289 serves 1,170 students and has three schools that are all closed today.
Some of the main issues that still need to be resolved at the bargaining table are as follows:
- Salary: The latest offers from the BOE and the MEA are only about $16,000 apart when it comes to salary. That’s less than a quarter of a percent of the D289 BOE overall budget.
- Health insurance: The BOE also wants to raise the cost of family health insurance. This would offset the cost of any salary increase afforded to MEA members.
- Plan time: MEA is asking the BOE to guarantee elementary teacher plan time. Our teachers are already working unpaid hours, and using their own personal time to plan. If MEA doesn’t preserve plan time, educators will have less time to prepare for individual students’ needs, less time to communicate with parents, less time to collaborate with other teachers and less time to prepare materials.
“We are just asking for the status quo. The money is there. We have teachers with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Teachers who are living with their parents because they can’t afford to move out on their own. Teachers who are unsure about how they are going to provide for their families. These same teachers are also spending hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets on supplies for their classrooms. This is a crisis,” Scheppers said. “We deeply care about our students, but if the district isn’t willing to fairly compensate us, we will continue to lose high-quality educators to our surrounding districts that pay more, like Peru, Ottawa and Oglesby.”
Currently, there are no negotiation sessions scheduled between the MEA and the D289 BOE.
“The MEA remains ready, willing and able to bargain and is hopeful the board will agree to meet at the table soon. It’s disheartening there are no scheduled dates. We’re available. The ball is in their court. The time is now to put our students and their education first,” Scheppers said.
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.