The District 65 School Board and the District Educators Council (DEC, the teachers union) have still not reached a collective bargaining agreement after participating in negotiating sessions between March and June.

District 65 and DEC have both said in prepared statements that agreements or tentative agreements have been reached on some issues, but there are some open issues remaining. The current collective bargaining agreement with DEC expires before the 2012-13 school year.

In June, District 65 and DEC agreed to use a federal mediator to assist them reach an agreement.  “A mediator is an impartial third party who can help guide the negotiations process to resolution on issues presented,” said District 65.

  DEC said two dates were scheduled in July to work with the mediator, but the mediator was not available on those dates. “DEC decided to postpone the bargaining sessions until all three parties are able to be present,” said DEC.

Two meetings are currently scheduled for August.

District 65 said, “Out of respect to the negotiations process, we will not go into the details about what has been tentatively agreed, discussed, or what remains as part of our ongoing conversations. What we can say is that we are having constructive discussions about some of the very challenging issues faced in these difficult economic times.

“We are committed to working toward completing negotiations for opening the 2012-13 school year,” said District 65. “District 65 appreciates the excellent work our teachers perform.”

School Board President Katie Bailey added, “The Board of Education is willing to negotiate with DEC and is committed to work with DEC during August to provide a fair contract that is both fiscally responsible and delivers a high quality education for all our students.”

DEC said, “The discussions are stalled around a series of proposed changes for the next school year that the administration announced publicly in spring.  These proposed changes include reduction of fine arts for some children, additional class sections for teachers, reduction of teachers’ professional planning time, splitting more teachers over two buildings and scheduling issues.  DEC believes these changes will have a significantly negative effect on the quality of education in District 65 and impair the District’s ability to recruit and retain excellent teachers.

 “Even though the DEC membership has already given the initial authorization for a strike,” added DEC, “it is our greatest hope to reach an agreement that continues the tradition of high quality instruction in District 65.”

On May 22, at DEC’s last meeting before summer vacation, DEC leadership was authorized, by a unanimous vote, to take the steps necessary for a potential strike.

The negotiations are taking place against a backdrop of substantial budget cuts.

Last fall, District administrators were projecting that the District would operate at a deficit of $3.3 million in the 2012-13 school year and that deficits would grow to $8.7 million by the 2015-16 school year. Administrators and the School Board have held numerous meeting during the last six months to discuss budget reduction strategies to achieve balanced budgets for the next three years.

To achieve that three-year goal, the administration has proposed strategies to reduce operating expenses by about $4.4 million in the 2012-13 school year.

Among other things, administrators have proposed reducing 36.5 staff positions (including administrators, teachers, teacher aides, instructional coaches, custodians and other staff). The District has also offered early retirement incentives to teachers and staff and is replacing 51 retired teachers and staff members with persons at lower salary levels. The District is also projecting to reduce non-personnel expenditures by a total of $1.5 million in 2012-13.