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Our view: Strike about money, not students

District 300 teachers turned their backs on their students this week by walking off the job during a contract dispute with the district's school board.

Don’t for a second believe teachers’ union officials when they say the one-day strike, which came to an end late Tuesday night after a settlement was reached, was about “fighting for the children.” Or that, “This is something we feel we have to do to get the district to focus on the education of our children.”

Those comments, by LEAD 300 President Kolleen Hanetho, were a ruse to distract attention from the real issue – money.

In its last offer before the strike, the District 300 school board offered to hire 60 new teachers to lower class sizes districtwide. It also offered salary increases of 3 percent in 2013, 2 percent in 2014, and 3 percent in 2015. The total salary increases would cost the district an additional $15.5 million over three years. Details of Tuesday night's settlement have not been released, and the deal could be even more costly to taxpayers.

If District 300 teachers really were concerned about the education of the district’s more than 20,000 students, they would have been in class Tuesday, teaching as negotiations continued. They would not have walked off the job.

The school board’s last offer before the strike – to hire 60 new teachers and grant salary increases each of the next three years – would have put the district in a deficit spending situation.

It was more than generous, and we even would say that it went too far.

With the state’s ongoing fiscal issues, and the possibility that a pension reform deal in Springfield will push responsibility for teacher pensions back to districts, D-300's financial reserves could disappear quickly. Do taxpayers really want to have to continue to dig deeper?

Not knowing the details of the settlement, we just hope the school board didn't cave because of the inconvenience of the strike.

It's why we support legislation that would prohibit teachers from striking. That certainly would even the playing field for taxpayers.

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