In an overwhelming vote Wednesday night, Rockford teachers authorize their negotiating team to call a strike as early as Tuesday if they can't reach an agreement soon.
School starts Monday for more than $28,000 students in Rockford. But they're down one superintendent and could soon be without the district's roughly 2,000 teachers.
Negotiations start up again Thursday morning at 9:00. Both teachers and school officials say they're confident they can reach an agreement on time. If they don't, Tuesday is the first day teachers are allowed to strike, based on the amount of time that's passed since they filed their intent to strike. Many teachers view walking out as a last resort they're willing to take.
"I'm in full support of my union and we have a great team and I'm in full support of teachers too. So if our union team believes that's the right thing to do, then I'm behind them," says Rockford teacher Aaron Harned.
The main issues right now are salary increases and health insurance premiums as well as contract length. One difficulty in Rockford negotiaions is they don't expect to have access to a federal mediator until some time next week, though both sides hope talks won't go on that long. Rockford teachers have not gone on strike since 1984.
The teachers' most recent contract ended June 30th. Negotiations with the bus drivers' union are also underway. Talks for the district's 82 maintenance workers have not yet begun.