DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Teaching assistants have announced they will head back to work Friday without a contract.
The union representing the assistants says they will suspend the strike and return to classrooms so that Decatur students can get the education they deserve.
“We assist 537 special needs students, and we just can’t let this go on without considering their needs,” said DFTA President Paula Busboom. “We appreciate the support we’ve been given by those students, their parents, Decatur teachers, and the community. But it’s clear that the Board of Education is operating without a conscience and needs to reassess its priorities. I’d call them childish, but that’s an insult to children. They’ve escalated their tactics to the point that they are playing with people’s lives. It’s unfair and wrong. Our members work to provide quality education assistance to our students. We simply want to negotiate a fair and reasonable contract that allows us to meet our own basic needs. We stand ready to bargain.”
The union has requested additional bargaining dates from the Board of Education through their mediator. Those impacted are currently waiting on a response. The biggest topic during negotiations has been health insurance.
The DFTA has been negotiating with the Board for several months, including four times with a mediator. The main issue left on the table is access to affordable health insurance options. The last offer from the Board will require teaching assistants with family plans to pay 247% more for their insurance, and those with single plans will have to pay 64% more. Those increases are unaffordable. The Board has since refused to come back to the table.
The district has responded to the news saying, “District #61 received notification that members of the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants will return to work on Friday, November 1, 2019. All DPS programs that had been suspended will resume normal operations and schedules on Friday, November 1.
The State Board of Education responded to all of this, saying:
ISBE has been monitoring the Decatur School District 61’s response to the work stoppage by the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants and has been communicating with the district. The failure to serve children with disabilities during the work stoppage was not in compliance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. ISBE is following up with the district regarding remedies and the potential consequences of further noncompliance.State Board of Education