The teachers union of Plainfield School District 202 threatened to go on strike earlier this month concerning pay increases, as well as their lower wages compared to the state average.
Teachers in District 202 are paid $7,000 less than the state average, according to a study by Northern Illinois University. The district also has a 94 percent graduation rate, compared to 86 percent in the rest of Illinois, and 53 percent of students scored over a 21 on the ACT, also the state average.
One of the main concerns Plainfield teachers have is that without a master’s degree, their pay rate is frozen after 15 years. Without any further degrees, there is no way for the teachers to earn a greater salary.
At a school board meeting on Monday, Oct. 23, Ellen Bailey, a teacher from Eagle Pointe Elementary School, gave a public speech highlighting the teachers’ side.
“Your latest proposal offers me a five percent raise in year one…year two, 0.5 percent, year three, zero percent no CPI,” said Bailey. “My interpretation of this is that once you plateau in any bachelor’s lane, you no longer have value.”
The raise might seem attractive to new teachers to the district, as well as those who have not seen a pay increase in years, but the way the deal is set up averages out the wages to one percent over five years.
“I think that becomes a major topic of discussion in terms of how much money that’s collected in that pot goes to teachers’ salaries within that pot,” said Dr. Christopher Palmi, assistant professor of secondary education. “They just need to be treated fairly and equitably, and people need to be doing their homework and finding out how is their pay in relation to other local areas that look demographically similar.”
A main concern from the school board was about the possibility of a strike, was the impact it would have on students. When a teachers union goes on strike, class is cancelled until the issue is resolved. Those days must then be made up over the summer.
“I think that teachers should be aware that strikes really are the last way of a group being able to get their point across,” Palmi said.
Palmi also commented on what Lewis teaches its students in the College of Education regarding strikes. “The infrequency in which strikes happen between teachers should never be a deterrent for teachers,” Palmi said. “The benefits of being a teacher far outweigh the fear that a school district may go on strike.”
The District 202 school board announced on Friday, Oct. 27 on their website that they had reached a tentative agreement with the teachers union. The details of the agreement will be released by the board at a later date. For the time being, the teachers will not go on strike.