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Jacquelyn Schlabach, Editor
1:45 pm CDT October 4, 2019

The Bremen High School District 228 Joint Faculty Association voted “overwhelmingly” on Thursday, Oct. 3, to authorize a strike, according to a press release issued by the Illinois Education Association.

As previously reported by The Junction, the teachers union and administration teams have been negotiating contracts since December 2018, and have been without a contract since July 31. The district reportedly has a balanced budget, but according to the district, it would be deficient spending approximately $7 million a year by 2023 based on the salary portion of the Joint Faculty Association’s proposal.

According to the Illinois Education Association, the key issues at the bargaining table are competitive compensation and health insurance.

District 228 Superintendent Bill Kendall said that the union has not made an official notification to the district about them voting to authorize a strike. Kendall said that authorizing a “yes” vote to strike means that they could eventually strike, but there is a 28-day process before teachers could formally do so.

“They have to declare their intent to strike, then for seven days both parties have to create their last ‘best and final offer,’” Kendall said. “Then both parties for seven days get to study each other’s offer, and then they both have to publish that offer to the public and it has to sit for 14 days.”

Kendall added that even though the union has voted to authorize a strike, “it doesn’t change the numbers.”

“We’re still trying to be creative, make the numbers work and give our teachers something that’s fair that supports them and is sustainable for our taxpayers over time,” he said. “I understand their point, but it just doesn’t solve the problem that we’re trying to solve.

“And again, it has nothing to do with not wanting to honor our teachers or respect our teachers. Our goal is to respect our teachers over long periods of time and not cut programs and things like that.”

Both parties are to have their fourth mediation scheduled for Oct. 9. According to the press release, there will be a rally before mediation starting at 3:30 p.m.

“This is about our students,” said D228-JFA President Greg Fitch in the press release. “I think parents would be alarmed to know that recently course sections have been cut and class sizes have been increased, severely harming the students we serve. Meanwhile, D228 has the most administrators per student population in the region. It’s clear the Board is not focusing on what’s best for long-term student learning, and we’re willing to fight to change the focus.”

A representative with the Illinois Education Association did not immediately return a call for comment.

This story is developing. Stay tuned to TinleyJunction.com.