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Geneva teachers union website seeks public support

Published: Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 7:22 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 11:00 p.m. CDT

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GENEVA – The Geneva teachers union website is detailing some of the issues in its contract talks with Geneva School District 304 and urging public support that a new contract be settled.

The site, Geneva Education Association, at www.gea4students.org, asserts that though negotiations have gone on since February and teachers currently do not have a new contract, nothing has negatively affected student education.

An email sent to the site seeking comment about the status of contract talks was not answered.

The site urges the public to contact the school board and push for a settlement. It urges supporters to write letters or emails to school board members and local newspapers, to attend a school board meeting wearing Viking blue to show support for teachers, to speak at board meetings. For the last several school board meetings, Geneva teachers have worn matching green T-shirts in a show of solidarity.

The website also urges supporters to put an “I Love Geneva Teachers” sign in the front yard or to host an informational coffee for neighbors by calling union president Carol Young at 630-232-4324.

The agenda for the next school board meeting, which takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday – a day later than usual because of Monday’s Columbus Day holiday – indicates a closed session for collective bargaining. The meeting is at Coultrap, 1113 Peyton St.

District 304 Superintendent Kent Mutchler said he could not say whether a settlement would follow, but as of the weekend, it was not expected. Mutchler said he had heard of the union’s website, but had not seen it.

As to a strike, the website states that teachers have not taken a vote to strike. They would take a strike vote only if the school board or teachers declared an impasse – which means they believe no further progress can be made in negotiations.

Mutchler said he did not believe there would be a strike.

“This is Geneva,” Mutchler said. “Many schools have settled, and we are Geneva and we have a record of working together to get through issues. And that is the way we are approaching this, with a lot of cooperative problem-solving.”

The site states that teachers want “a fair contract settlement that allows their pay and benefits to be closer in line with surrounding teacher compensation, for instance Batavia and St. Charles. Our proposal would not result in a tax increase and would maintain fund balances.”

Additionally, the site states that the teachers union “wants every teacher who has earned graduate hours for salary advancement to be paid the increase that was promised to them when they started taking their coursework. … They also want to receive credit for the additional years of on-the-job experience worked since the last contract.”

The site explains the salary schedule, which applies a formula of step and lane increases. Teachers are paid according to a structured formula that considers their level of professional preparation – degrees and hours of graduate credit earned – as well as their years of experience on the job.

“Teachers do not want to be penalized for the economic downturn every year for the rest of their careers,” the website states. “If teachers agree to a contract proposal that denies them a step increase, they know that they will all be one year behind where they would have been, and they will stay one year behind for the rest of their career in the district. Teachers feel that this type of proposal means that they are penalized for their entire career because of the economic downturn, in effect a permanent penalty for a temporary problem.”

As to why teachers should get a raise when others in the community have not, the idea is to follow the national trend in private industry of giving performance raises and bonuses, according to the website.

Geneva students, according to the website, score above national and state averages, and District 304 schools are highly ranked, with district students getting into top universities.

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