Winnebago Board of Education hosts forum to discuss teacher contracts

WINNEBAGO, Ill. (WIFR) -- Teachers in Winnebago have been without a contract for a year despite more than 30 meetings with the board of education. Time is running out to come up with a fair deal before school starts. Teachers want to see a fair deal presented and say a strike could be on their radar.

"We are not going to be able to retain and attract quality teachers if we don't make this right,” said Winnebago Education Association President Sarah Meador.

In Winnebago teachers receive what's called a "step" for every year of service. Thirteen years ago a contract was signed that kept teachers first four years in one step. Now 33 veteran teachers haven't received as much compensation if they hadn't been compressed.

“I have been in this district for 14 years; I’m only on step nine. We're asking that the board meet us half way,” said Meador.

The board has proposed a contract that would provide a total salary increase of more than $482,000 over the two year contract period.

“What we've offered them is a good contract, if you look around the area people aren't getting a 3 percent and 4.74 percent average increases,” said school board president Christopher Schoeneweiss.

The WEA says they've worked to compromise with board. The difference between their offer and the board’s is about $60,000. Meador says she believes the board should reallocate reserve funds in the budget.

“We have to be financially responsible and that's part of the oath we take as a board member,” said Schoeneweiss.

“When their plan is to buy brand new buses every three years at the cost of millions, we're not sure that is being fiscally responsible,” said Meador.

The board hopes to come to a solution before school starts, but the WEA says a strike isn't off the table if the board isn't willing to compromise.

“We do appreciate our teachers and we're trying to pay them what we can afford,” said Schoeneweiss.

“We’re here and go above and beyond every day for our students, we want to retain the teachers that have the passion to be teachers,” said Meador.

The Winnebago school board is working to set up a time to meet next week. The WEA and the board say they want to continue to work towards a resolution before schools starts on August 22nd.

If teachers go back to class without a contract they will receive the same pay as their 2016-2017 school year salary.