Geneva teachers: Salary schedule freeze major issue
By Denise Linke For The Beacon-News October 18, 2012 6:42PM
Updated: October 18, 2012 9:54PM
GENEVA — Rumors that Geneva teachers will go on strike Nov. 9 are just that — rumors, Geneva Education Association President Carol Young said Thursday.
“Nov. 9 is the earliest date that we legally could strike, but we have not yet set a strike date,” Young said. “We’re still very hopeful that we and the board will settle and we won’t have to strike.”
At the same time the School Board was approving its final contract offer to teachers Wednesday evening, the teachers union was voting to authorize a strike.
State law allows teachers unions to set a strike date two weeks after declaring that contract negotiations have reached an impasse, which the GEA did Oct. 12. If the GEA does announce a strike date on Oct. 26, it must set that date at least 10 school days into the future, Young said. That makes Friday, Nov. 9, the first day teachers could walk off the job.
The issue that’s most likely to push teachers into striking is the board’s proposal to freeze their advancement on the salary schedule, Young said. Teachers earn pay raises in two ways — by staying in their jobs for multiple years, and by taking graduate-level professional enrichment courses, including getting master’s or doctoral degrees.
Not letting teachers advance to higher positions on the salary schedule would depress their salaries for years into the future, Young said.
“If you don’t get your step advancement, every year after that you’re behind on what you should be earning, compounded each year until you reach the last step,” she said.
Teachers also need the merit raises they earn to pay for the advanced coursework they completed, Young said.
“These courses cost thousands of dollars, especially if the teacher is working on a master’s degree,” Young said.
“Now they’re faced with the chance that they’ll finish the coursework they paid for without getting the salary increase they need to pay back education loans.”
Young also said that the GEA feels that the school board’s recent spending decisions do not support fears of impending financial disaster.
“If the district were in financial hardship, to the point where the board was canceling programs and laying off staff, we would take a pay freeze without question,” she said. “But the district is spending money. They put in the new playing surface (at Burgess Field), approved a $500,000 technology plan and a major capital improvement plan.”
Young declined to say what percentage pay increase the GEA is proposing.
Parents and community members who are active in the school district are seeking more information about the developing standoff, said Music Boosters treasurer Donna Opsahl.
“Obviously, it’s being talked about a great deal,” she said. “We’re all interested in reading what the School Board is proposing (in its final offer). The rumors about what the board is offering are not good.”
Both sides have stated that they will post details about their final offers on their respective websites, www.geneva304.org and www.gea4students.org, shortly after submitting those offers to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board.