By Elizabeth Owens-Schiele
Special to the Tribune
5:34 PM CST, January 31, 2014
Teachers in Mount Prospect School District 57 voted last night to strike, according to school district and union officials.
Ninety-seven percent of the 150 members of the Mount Prospect Education Association who met off-site last night said they would authorize the union to go on strike, according to Michelle Walsh, president of the District 57 Mount Prospect Education Association and a librarian at Lincoln Middle School.
"We have every intention to continue negotiations," Walsh said. "But our membership said they would go on strike if, when we go back to the negotiation table, there is no movement or no progress."
Teachers have not set a date for walking out, according to Walsh.
In a statement released by District 57, board of education President Karen Nejdl said that the next step was for the union to file a "notice of intent to strike" with bodies including the board of education and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. Nejdl also said teachers may not go on strike until at least 10 days after that notice has been filed.
"At the last bargaining session, the parties were making progress towards an agreement and thus the board is disappointed at the MPEA’s approval of the intent-to-strike notice," Nejdl said in the release.
The district serves 2,000 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in Mount Prospect at Westbrook, Fairview and Lions Park Elementary Schools and Lincoln Middle School and has 160 teachers.
Walsh said salary increases, teacher evaluations, health insurance contributions and professional development have been the key factors guiding union leaders during contract negotiations, which officially began in March. The last two-year contract ended in June, she said.
The union and the district have a negotiation session planned for Feb. 5, according to Walsh.
Superintendent Elaine Aumiller was unavailable for comment.
Walsh said negotiating a base 2 percent salary increase, a 3 percent step increase and a 3 percent raise for last year are top of the list for the union.
“Prospect High School was just ranked No. 9 as the best high school in Illinois by U.S. News and World Report,” Walsh said. “We feed directly into Prospect High School, but we are paid what teachers are paid in Cicero.”
Nejdl said in the release that the board is currently offering salary increases of 4 percent a year for 4 years, with an additional 2 percent bump in the first year, as well as an increase in the contribution for health insurance premiums.
"As board members, our obligations lie with all of the stakeholders in the District 57 community," Nejdl said in the release. "We continue to strive towards a contract that will support teachers to meet the increased academic needs of our students while operating within the financial landscape of the District 57 community and taxpayer."
Walsh said she and her team have discovered teachers at Arlington Heights Elementary School District 25, which also feeds into Prospect High School are paid "$20,000 annually more per teacher" than District 57 teachers. Although she acknowledges the district will never be able to make up that gap, she said union members would like to narrow it.
According to Walsh, there has never before been a strike in the district.
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