School is canceled for a 12th day in East St. Louis Monday, as a teacher strike that began on Oct. 1 appears no closer to a resolution.
This leaves more than 6,000 students at loose ends. At New Life Community Church in East St. Louis Sunday, parents and students affected by the strike said they’re ready for school to be back in session.
“My main thing is to get them back and hope that they have a great rest of the school year,” said Alisha Winford of her four children. “We try to do things around the house to keep their minds fresh.”
“Hopefully, we will still remember the stuff that we learned in school because the longer we’re out, the more we forget basically,” said Winford’s 15-year-old daughter, Arkashia Brach, adding that she was just starting to learn algebra when the strike began.
“It’s so confusing,” said Brach. “At the time I was learning it, the strike came so I didn’t have time.”
With no school to attend, Brach and her younger brothers and sister go to tutoring at the Christian Activity Center.
“They tutor us, help us. But I still believe we should be in school, like, for some hours. They only tutor us for, like, 45 minutes,” Brach said. “They keep us out of trouble too when we’re in school.”
Parents at New Life Community Church said they were mostly relying on family to watch their children while they worked. Winford said she had help from a daughter in college.
William Campbell said he had the help of “two aunties who love” his second-grade son.
Campbell, who also has a daughter and several nieces, nephews and grandchildren in East St. Louis schools, said he wants teachers to be rewarded for their efforts because “they do an awesome job with the kids.”
“Whatever the problem is, whatever the issue is with them, I wish they would settle it and settle it quick because the kids really do need to be in school,” said Campbell, adding that this is the “first time I ever saw small kids want to be in school.”
Winford, however, said the school district and teachers' union should think about the quality of education offered in addition to money concerns.
“Some of the papers that (my children) bring home don’t show how to get the right answer. My sixth grader brings home textbooks from the third grade,” Winford said.
The school district and teacher union are at odds over how many years of experience staff need to reach the top of the pay scale.
Superintendent Arthur Culver has said the district’s offer of an average 2.3 percent raise and a 21-year pay scale is the most the district can afford.
The union’s 400 teachers and staff rejected that offer before starting the strike, saying moving from an 11-year pay scale to a 21-year pay scale amounts to a career-long pay cut.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.
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