MAHOMET, Ill. (WCIA) – It was an emotional night for the teachers and staff who packed the Mahomet-Seymour Board of Education meeting Monday. They’ve spent months negotiating, but the teachers’ union is still fighting for a better contract.

Last week, the Mahomet-Seymour Education Association (MSEA) voted to authorize a strike if a fair contract isn’t reached.

“I think it was very difficult for the teachers to even say the word strike. They do not want to strike. They just want to be fairly compensated,” parent Linda Boller said.

If there’s one thing everyone in the board room agreed on Monday night, it’s that teachers and support staff deserve to be paid more. But they disagree over whether that can happen.

Board President Max McComb said they’re dealing with some “harsh fiscal realities.” They sent a letter to parents saying their current offer is “fair and competitive,” including the largest raise the staff has seen since 2005. But, teachers who spoke at the meeting say that’s not enough, and that the offer isn’t keeping up with inflation. They’re worried about losing staff to other districts who pay more.

“Our goal is for our teachers and our staff to be adequately compensated with other area schools and with the average Illinois teachers. We believe that we provide a lot of love and support for our kids and we’re asking for the same type of respect and love from our community,” Mahomet-Seymour High School teacher and MSEA spokesperson Cameron Zindars said.

Zindars said the MSEA has received a lot of support throughout negotiations. That showed during the board meeting – as the room was so full, some people watched from the hallway or outside through the window.

Both parties hope to avoid a strike. If the MSEA does move forward with a strike, no date has been picked yet. They’re meeting with the board again Tuesday to continue the discussion.

In their letter to parents, the school board said they’re offering a 4.25% raise each year for the next four years. The union wants 5%, and the board said that’s the only issue they haven’t solved yet. They wrote that it could cause them to reduce staff or programs. Their offer also includes things like more sick and personal days, and retirement incentives for teachers.