The news late Wednesday was cause for optimism in Streator.
The Streator Elementary teachers union and the school board had agreed to a three-year contract after months of stalled negotiations, and the threat of a strike.
The thought of a strike, and the damage it can bring to a community, is enough to breath a sigh of relief for all players in the school district.
Now, the question will be what did they agree on?
Unfortunately, if Streator Elementary follows common practice of school districts across the state, the public may not get word until the details are finalized by the board’s vote.
Collective bargaining is permitted to occur behind closed doors, according to state law.
The union is voting on ratification Wednesday, April 11, then the board is expected to take its vote Tuesday, April 17.
It’s understandable to keep details quiet until the union ratifies, because if it doesn’t, the agreement will go back to the drawing board.
By the time the agreement comes to the board for finalization, the public should get its chance to weigh in. Teacher salaries make up the greatest percentage of the district’s budget, mainly because teachers make up most of the staff.
It’s fair to say the terms of the contract are the biggest financial decision the board will make, and one that could affect the financial outlook of the district.
Public schools are a community concern, not just parents and teachers. Whether we have good schools (or whether we have unaffordable taxes) affects everyone’s property values, which is important even when you’re not buying/selling.
While there may be a reasonable fear months of talks could get lost to public pressure, it’s appropriate for taxpayers to serve as a check and balance on the school board, before the contract goes into play.
That’s why we’re encouraging the school district to share the terms of the three-year agreement prior to its final vote. We hope officials will post it to their website for review, then allow the public to comment on it during a meeting.
This editorial is not meant to impede on the work done by both sides. We applaud them for making it work, especially given the difficult financial situation the district has been in. We also don’t believe this is an issue limited to Streator Elementary’s district. As we said before, it’s common practice not to share details until the contract is finalized.
What we are calling for is transparency. And letting voters have a voice in the matter.