Both the Macomb School District and the Macomb Education Association said they have issued their “best and final” contract offers.
The offers were required after the school district declared an impasse in the contract talks on Friday, November 22.
“This morning we delivered to the MEA union leadership our best and final offer,” said Board of Education President Matt Bierman, reading from a prepared statement during a news conference Monday afternoon, November 25, at the district’s Administrative Service Center.
“After careful consideration, the board has removed the elimination of the November $1,000 stipend from its final offer. In full transparency, we did add some cost sharing measures we hope will be more acceptable to the MEA and move us towards compromise.”
The stipend was negotiated into contracts more than a decade ago in lieu of a larger pay raise. MEA Co-President Julia Burns said teachers are pleased the district chose to pay the stipend. Teachers have been working under provisions of the contract that expired before the current school year and the stipend was part of that contract.
The district declined to provide further details of its best and final offer.
MEA Co-President Julia Burns said teachers believe they made their best and final contract offer on November 5, which is when the two sides last held a bargaining session.
“We feel that our last proposal is our best proposal. So that‘s what we will be presenting,” said Burns. She said the MEA hopes the two sides can meet with a federal mediator in December.
Superintendent Patrick Twomey said the “final and best” offers will be sent to the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which will then have seven days to post them and make them public
Both Twomey and Bierman feel the relationship between the two sides is good, despite the prolonged contract talks and the picketing by teachers.
Disagreement Over District's Financial Health
Bierman said the district is operating in a structural deficit. He said the district spent $500,000 more than it collected for the education fund during last school year.
“Should we do nothing, this number will continue to grow over the next several years,” Bierman said, add that the board will be asked to vote in April on a cost containment plan that could cut spending by $800,000.
“When 80% of our expenses are personnel, I and the other board members recognize that as a part of these reductions, we will reduce the number of employees.
“As some of us board members did last year, we will have to look across that board table at members of our community and tell them they no longer have jobs. We will have to look across the table and tell students and inform them and their parents that their favorite program or subject has been eliminated.”
He said the deficit is not about teacher quality or teacher value – it’s about economics and the need to eliminate the structural deficit. Bierman said the decisions made in settling the teacher contract are directly related to the decisions the board will make in April.
But teachers feel the district’s finances are not as bad as advertised.
“The district ended last school year with a lot of money and started this year with a lot of money as well,” Burns said.
“We just don’t think that it’s as horrible as what they’re saying it is.”
Burns also said Twomey, who was hired this year, was brought to Macomb on a platform of being able to raise revenue. She said he has not done that so far. She said all he’s talked about is making cuts.