Final offer on the table, D-300 says

CARPENTERSVILLE – The District 300 board submitted a final contract offer to teachers Wednesday in negotiations hung up mainly on class sizes.

The “disappointed” board forwarded the offer to the union two days after the district’s teachers union, LEAD 300, officially declared an impasse in monthslong negotiations, said board member Joe Stevens, who is a lead district negotiator.

The offer would span three years and include salary increases, smaller class sizes, and cuts to retirement benefits and overload pay. Stevens estimated that ultimately its final offer would cost the district $6 million.

“I do believe no one wants to strike,” Stevens said.

“We think we’ve put a fair offer on the table. The ball is in their court,” Stevens continued.

But a deal is not likely imminent.

LEAD 300 President Kolleen Hanetho told the Northwest Herald that the board’s final offer made little movement from an October offer that was resoundingly rejected by teachers before they gave the union the authority to call a strike.

“I want to come to a fair and equitable agreement that our members can ratify,” Hanetho said. “We are expected to give concessions again and again to the point where we are losing quality teachers to other districts.”

The union, representing 1,300 district teachers, can strike 28 days after it declared an impasse. Both sides must submit final contract offers within the next seven days to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. That agency can display the offers to the public.

Stevens said the board was disappointed in the union’s decision to declare an impasse, and said both sides have made significant progress lately in bargaining sessions.

But Hanetho said the board has been stalling in negotiations, including canceling scheduled bargaining sessions Monday and Wednesday this week. The cancellations came after a bargaining session last week in which the district board refused to negotiate a union counteroffer, Hanetho said.

“We needed to do something to get them to understand that they need to bargain with us. The only way to do that was to declare an impasse,” Hanetho said. “None of us want to go on strike. None of us want to go there.”

Since negotiations started last spring, the two sides have been hung up on how to reduce class sizes and adequately pay for it.

The board’s final offer would cap class sizes at 28 students from kindergarten through second grade and at 31 students from third through fifth grade. Stevens said the proposal comes close to meeting the union’s target.

It also would institute an actual class size cap, which Hanetho said was a main union demand.

But the class size issue now has shifted to how many additional teachers are needed to get elementary class sizes, which average between 33 to 37 students, within the cap.

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