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URBANCE: Streator teachers deserve fair raises

To the community of Streator Elementary School District:

The Board of Education recently sent emails to parents of students in the district. Some of the key points are bulleted below.  

The Streator Elementary Association would like to clear up some inaccurate statements the board made with some facts.

The board stated:

• “We have used the services of a federal mediator."

The mediator’s talents to help both parties come to a compromise have not been utilized by the district. There are significant issues still on the table that directly impact the safety and well-being of all individuals in the school setting the board will not address. The board refused to meet to bargain from October 2017 to March 2018. At the March 5 meeting, the mediator walked in and explained that the board changed their proposal to a one-year contract.

• “The board values our staff and we want to provide them with competitive wages and benefits.”

The vote taken by the board to cut hours and benefits from the support staff does not show an attempt to provide competitive wages and benefits. Teachers' base pay has not increased for five years which makes our district less competitive with others in the area.

• “We also want to keep all of our programs and opportunities for students”.

The board has for years cut programs, which were necessary for student success, that saved the district little to no money in the end…i.e. the behavior disorder program, the music program, art program, computer science program, and the home economics program. 

• “We are operating under a state mandated deficit reduction plan.”

We have been cleared this year and next year to have a balanced budget. The borrowing would not need to happen if the district did not keep a million dollars in the TORT fund. There isn’t a need to keep such a large amount in this fund. 

• “We have made some improvements to our deficit, and we are hopeful that by the end of this school year, we may actually have a balanced budget for this year.”

Dr. Parker, our current superintendent, already held a special board meeting and announced we will be balanced this year and next year.

• “This will help us avoid more cuts to staff and programs that we might otherwise be forced to make.”

Mr. Holcomb was unable to give even an estimate of the amount of money saved thus far. A true analysis of financial gain due to the cuts compared to educational loss to students and staff has never been done. The reactiveness of the board to just cut programs has proven to be ineffective.

• “We have every intention to reach an agreement with our staff, but we cannot negotiate one that puts the district back on the path of giving raises only to make additional cuts to cover those raises.”

The board, along with their lawyer, stated at the bargaining table that they didn’t care if they were handed a million dollars, they still wouldn’t offer the staff an increase this year, their minds have been made up for a long time. Mr. Connor, a bargaining team member for the board, announced, at a public establishment, he doesn’t care if we go on strike for a month. Statements such as this contradict what the board president implies in his letter.

• “While balancing the budget for one year is good, that does not mean we can go on a spending spree.”

If the board was committed to a settlement, they wouldn’t have handed the association the same proposal they entered negotiations with in May 2017. As stated previously, Mr. Connor announced over a month ago he didn’t care if we went on strike.

The Streator Elementary Association has done everything possible to help ease the financial burden within the district. We opened our contract and asked to rebid the insurance, saving the district $1.5 million. We took a pay freeze last contract in hopes of helping the district. We’ve done everything the board has asked of us and more. Now that the budget is balanced we are asking for a fair raise and for support staff to receive insurance again. Please follow the FACTS on Facebook at Streator Elementary Association so you are up to date.

Jan Urbance is the Streator Elementary Association co-president.
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