Springfield teachers are headed back to the bargaining table after their union, the Springfield Education Association, voted last night to reject the latest proposal from School District 186. Although the district made an offer that included raises, only 300 union members voted to accept the contract, while 448 voted against.
Larry Hale, a member of SEA’s bargaining team, said they're asking the school board for more than just money.
"I was in there counting votes. The number one issue is safety and security. We've had several talks with them, but there's no teeth to what they tell us that they're going to do and all they are are talks," he said.
In one example of a security concern, teachers learned that a 19-year-old man had dressed in a school sweatshirt, boarded a school bus and entered a Springfield middle school earlier in the day.
Before voting, union members assembled in the auditorium of Springfield Southeast High School to briefly discuss the offer. The media was not allowed into the room.
Union members were given a packet of spreadsheets showing how the district's financial offer would play out over the next two years. Anyone comparing the entry level salaries for teachers could calculate that it amounts to a 14 percent increase (from $35,869 to $40,776), but that's inspired in part to a new state law requiring a minimum salary of $40,000 for teachers by 2023. An official with Illinois Education Association says that 14 percent increase would apply to only 17 individuals, all of whom are in their first or second year of teaching. More than half of SEA's 1,154 teachers would have received a 3 percent increase each year under the district's offer.
Unlike the situation in nearby Decatur, where teaching assistants (but not teachers) have been on strike, the Springfield union also represents hourly employees known as educational support personnel, or ESPs, in addition to classroom teachers.
"What our teachers have done, they have banded with our ESPs, which is a phenomenal thing, and I just have to appreciate what they've done to raise our percentages and wages," Hale said.
Teachers have been working without a contract since mid-August. They're scheduled to meet with district leaders and a federal mediator on Thursday.