There is a lot of talk in the contract stalemate between the Macomb School District and teachers. However, none of it’s happening at the bargaining table.
Superintendent Patrick Twomey and Board of Education President Matt Bierman held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to explain the district’s stance.
Twomey said three issues need to be addressed:
- He said the district pays 100% of the contribution to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) package. Twomey said there must be some level of cost sharing.
- He said nearly 100% of the Individual Health Insurance is paid by the district, and 50% of the Family Coverage is paid by the district. Twomey said there must be a greater level of cost sharing.
- He said something needs to be done about the “November Stipend” of $1,000 that’s paid to teachers. Twomey said it could be viewed as a Christmas bonus and he questioned whether a school district should be paying such a bonus.
“With the current economic condition of the state of Illinois and its impact on school financing, we must take a critical look at the level of compensation we are currently offering,” Twomey said.
Twomey said teachers are asking for pay raises that would end up costing the district a total of $134,000 at a time when it’s looking for places to cut spending. He also said teachers have not budged from the contract proposal made during negotiations on September 4.
The two sides were scheduled to meet with a federal mediator in October, but that session was pushed back to November 5 because of the partial shutdown of the federal government in early October.
“A federal mediator was unable to help us get to a place where we could have resolution,” said Twomey.
Macomb Education Association spokesperson Doug Mattsey is uncertain why more meetings are not being held with the mediator.
Although each side has made just one formal contract proposal, Mattsey said the MEA offered several alternatives during mediation in attempt to find some middle ground.
“And they were all rejected by the district, and there were no alternatives presented in return,” Mattsey said. “It seems like they want us to present all the alternatives and they don’t wish to come our direction.”
He said the $1,000 stipend that Twomey cited during the news conference dates back to 2001. He said teachers accepted a smaller pay raise in exchange for the stipend, which he said could have been paid any time of the year. He said it was not intended to be a Christmas bonus and the size of the stipend has not increased.
And in a written statement, the MEA said, “Because teachers are paid on a salary schedule, $1,000 paid on the base compounds in value each year a teacher advances. A simple, annual stipend is constant. It does not compound. This difference has resulted in a savings to the district in excess of $300,000 since 2001.
Mattsey was surprised to learn of the district’s concerns over TRS and insurance payments.
“This is the first time we’ve ever heard of the board wanting to discuss this,” Mattsey said. “We’ve never even seen a proposal from the board asking for a discussion about the TRS retirement package nor the individual health insurance.”
Superintendent Twomey said teachers have until Thursday (November 21) to make another contract proposal. If they don’t, he could declare an impasse – the Board of Education this week gave him authority to do that.
Both sides would then have seven days to present their final and best offer. Neither side is sure what happens after those offers are made. Mattsey described this as “uncharted water” in Macomb.
Teachers held informational picketing at several locations in Macomb on Monday, and Mattsey said more picketing will be done Thursday morning and again in the afternoon.