Updated Oct. 5, 8:45 p.m. negotiations stall.
There’s no end in sight for the teacher strike in East St. Louis. On Monday, representatives for both the district and teacher union met with a federal mediator, but those talks stalled.
“I have no good news to report,” said Superintendent Arthur Culver. “We are still miles apart.”
The major sticking point is how long it would take teachers to max out their pay. The union wants a schedule that, barring a salary freeze, would allow a new teacher to reach the top of the pay scale in 11 years. But Culver said that’s not sustainable and wants a scale the stretches out across 21 years.
The district’s proposal would give teachers a $2,000 stipend and a raise that averages 2.6 percent per teacher. But Illinois Federation of Teachers spokesman Dave Comerford said moving to the longer schedule could drive new teachers away.
“This would basically equate to a career-long pay cut," Comerford said. "Many of the younger members said if that goes through, I can’t say here. I mean that’s a significant impact on someone’s future and one that we don’t believe is necessary.”
Union representatives say the school system could afford the 11-year schedule and Comerford pointed to what he said was more than $30 million in the district’s reserve fund. Culver said that money came from restructured debt, closing facilities, staff reductions and state money that he wasn’t sure would be there in the future. The money gives the district a roughly four month cushion in operating expenses, which Culver said is a fiscal best practice.
As of Monday night, no further talks were scheduled. More than 6,000 students attend schools in the East St. Louis school district.
“Updated 4:45 p.m. Oct. 2 with news from union- School administrators and union leaders in East St. Louis are making plans to renew contract negotiations after two days of teacher strikes in East St. Louis.
Dave Comerford of the Illinois Federation of Teachers told St. Louis Public Radio a session with a federal mediator is scheduled for Monday. Comerferd said that means teachers will continue to strike at least through Monday.