Mendota Strike Update: Board refuses to meet with Mendota teachers, students could be out of school until next week

MENDOTA — Mendota Education Association (MEA) held a press conference this morning to urge community members to call on Mendota School District 289 Board of Education (BOE) to come back to the table as soon as possible. The BOE has said it’s unavailable to meet with MEA until this weekend. MEA remains available to bargain every day until a fair contract is reached. MEA Co-Vice President Brandon Scheppers made the following statement:

“Thank you all for being here.

We are here today to tell our community that we are ready to bargain. We are ready to bargain all day today, all day tomorrow and all day, every day, until we get the best contract for our students. Heck, we’ll even bargain right this very minute.

But we can’t bargain with ourselves. We can’t bargain when the other side refuses to come to the table until this weekend.

That’s right. The board is refusing to even meet with us until Saturday.

We want to be back in our classrooms as soon as possible. We never wanted to leave. We are willing to get this done.

The board, however, refuses. Refuses to meet us at the table. Refuses to put our students, our schools and our community first.

We are better than this. We are worth more than this.

This morning we are asking the board to do what they were elected to do. To come to the bargaining table and negotiate with our students’ best interests at heart. To negotiate with us like professionals. There is nothing more important to us than getting this settled.

We are working toward a three year contract that will help us plan for the future and provide our community with stability.

We are looking for competitive salaries so we can not only bring in talented new teachers, but retain our devoted, experienced teachers, as well. We’ve hired 82 NEW TEACHERS since 2012, including 12 this year. So in seven years, we hired more new teachers than we currently have on staff. That is an unbelievable amount of turnover. Our students deserve better.

We are simply trying to maintain our health insurance coverage and to preserve our plan time. The time that we use to prepare for individual students’ needs, communicate with parents and collaborate with other teachers.

Mendota teachers are struggling to provide for their families. They’re strapped with upward of $30,000 in student loan debt. They’re paying hundreds out of pocket for classroom supplies. What talented teachers are going to want to come here and struggle — when they can go to Peru, Ottawa and Oglesby and make more right out of the gate? It’s simple math and an easy decision.

The district has the money to meet our requests. They have the money to make us competitive. They have the money to end all of this right now. Our last offers were only $16,000 apart when it comes to salary. That’s not even a quarter of a percent of the district’s entire budget. But still they refuse.

They refuse to invest in our teachers and they refuse to invest in our students.

And now they’re refusing to even meet us at the table to bargain.

If you want this strike to end as soon as possible, call the board. Call them and tell them to get back to the table now. Tell them the teachers are available and ready to bargain every single day until we can get an agreement and get our kids back in school.”

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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.