Bourbonnais teachers take initial steps toward strike after contract negotiations stall

BOURBONNAIS – The Bourbonnais Education Association (BEA) submitted the organization’s last contractual offer to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) for public posting. Once the IELRB posts the last offer from BEA and the Bourbonnais Elementary School District 53 (BESD 53) Board of Education (BOE) on the IELRB website, BEA can choose to go on strike in 14 days. The decision by BEA 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,” BEA President Lauren Lundmark said. “We have made financial concessions in the past, including taking salary freezes and having our benefits cut, in order to put our students first. The district is now standing on financially solid ground, and we’re asking them to make us whole again.”

Major sticking points for the BEA include:

  • Common planning time:
    • The union is fighting for common planning time for all educators. Data has shown that students benefit most when teachers are given adequate time to collaborate with colleagues, within and across grade levels, to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students.
  • Fair and competitive compensation for teachers:
    • BESD 53 is one of the lowest paid districts in the county. BEA is requesting fair and comparable salaries with surrounding districts in order to attract and maintain high-quality educators.
  • Maintaining health and retirement incentives:
    • The BOE is proposing a reduction in the health care coverage offered by the district for new teachers, which means new teachers would actually be making less money under the board’s offer. Low district insurance contributions also will make it hard to find and keep new, quality teachers.
    • The district’s proposed cuts to retirement benefits also means many teachers would take home less money in their paychecks.
  • Returning to step-and-lane salary structure:
    • Step and lane salary structures are based on a teacher’s experience and education and are key to bringing talented young educators to the district and keeping them in BESD 53 for the duration of their careers. Every neighboring district uses a step-and-lane salary structure.

“We have to do better. We are afraid of losing good quality educators to neighboring districts like Bradley, Bradley-Bourbonnais High School and Manteno due to their higher wages,” said Lundmark. “We need to value and invest in our staff so we can invest in our students and our community.”

BEA represents 167 teachers, speech pathologists, psychologists and social workers who serve more than 2400 students.

The district and BEA began contract negotiations in March. BEA is currently working without a contract and has been since the beginning of the school year. BEA and District 53’s next bargaining session is Wed., Jan. 27 at 5:30 p.m.


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.

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