Walkouts End in Illinois and Massachusetts; Four Strikes Continue
Undated (AP) _ Teachers in East St. Louis, Ill., and Tewksbury, Mass., ratified new contracts and returned to work Tuesday, but walkouts continued in four other Illinois school districts.
In East St. Louis, a city just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, the 1,300-member Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 1220 approved a one- year contract, ending a one-day strike in the 18,000-student system, said Robert Yandle, field director for the teachers union.
″The teachers are back in school, and school is in session,″ he said.
Yandle said the pact differed from a tentative agreement last week - later rejected by the district, triggering the strike - in provisions for the payment of union dues by non-union members.
Both sides tentatively agreed that dues would be deducted from all paychecks but would be held in an escrow account until pending litigation on the matter is resolved, Yandle said.
The contract also included a 6.5 percent across-the-board pay raise with improved medical benefits and a dental plan, said union spokeswoman Saundra Rule.
Pay scales under the old agreement were not available Tuesday.
Elsewhere in Illinois, an estimated 5,500 students in four districts remained home because of strikes by 350 teachers.
In the northeastern Massachusetts town of Tewksbury, teachers ended a three-day strike that had shut down classes for 4,000 students after voting to accept a new contract. The 273 teachers had walked off the job in a dispute over pay hikes in the agreement’s first year.
Tewksbury teachers currently start at $13,572 a year and can earn up to $28,000 annually at top scale.
″We’re very pleased. The teachers are back and the students are back. Everything is in place,″ said Edward Farley, acting superintendent of the school system.
Richard Mousseau, president of the Tewksbury Teachers Association, said the agreement, which was reached at 5 a.m. Tuesday after a 10-hour long negotiating session, was easily ratified and classes began after a delay of two hours.
Teachers had been without a contract since Aug. 31.
Details of the contract were not immediately released, but School Committee President Carol Wareing said the administration’s final offer called for first-year pay raises of $1,600 across the board and an increase to $18,000 a teacher’s minimum salary.
The first-year pay hikes, however, are contingent on town voters approving a referendum Nov. 16 that will allow the town to float bonds for several projects, she said.
If the referendum fails, the district is threatened with a budget cut of $1.6 million, which would be equivalent to closing one elementary school and dismissing the entire staff, she said.