DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA)– For weeks the Board of Education says they have remained quiet to respect the process of negotiations but now they’re speaking up. “We can no longer stand by and let the DFTA union leadership lie to and manipulate their members,” said Beth Nolan, President of the Board of Education. One of the top concerns during these negotiations has been health insurance. Union leaders say the board’s last official offer will increase the cost of insurance for some members by 247 percent, and TA’s are being asked to pay 900 dollars a month on family health insurance which union leaders say is not affordable. Board members say those numbers aren’t quite accurate. “This comment distorts the truth. They pay for insurance 9 months of the year and are provided 3 months of free coverage, ” said Regan Lewis, DPS 61 school board member.
On top of that the board says the district has offered to help by paying 74 to 85 percent of teaching assistant’s health insurance plan. “Ms. Busboom and DFTA leadership have known the specific of our health insurance plan since July. Their claims that they just saw the plans last week are absolutely false,” said Lewis. Union leaders say they can’t live on the money they are being offered. Teaching assistants say they make 20 thousand dollars a year. “The fact is we have made 3 offers increasing wages by 16 percent over 4 years they have rejected all of our offers,” said Lewis.
The Board of Education says the district’s starting wage for teaching assistants is higher than all large districts in Central Illinois by three to four dollars per hour. Despite disagreements, the board says they’re still willing to negotiate. “The board administration and parents hope the teaching assistants do not choose to walk off the job,” said Nolan.
The school board says claims they have not been willing to negotiate are not true. They say they asked the union to set up a negotiation session Sunday, but the union rejected that offer because there wasn’t a board meeting scheduled before they planned to strike.