Teaching assistants “Pack the Board” ahead of negotiation meeting

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DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Tensions are still running high after nearly a year of failed contract negotiations between the school board and the teaching assistant union.

Tuesday night, teaching assistants packed the school board meeting to make their frustrations known to the board members. Wednesday afternoon, there will be another mediated bargaining session between the school board and Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants (DFTA). They’ve been negotiating since April.

Their fight for better wages, affordable health insurance, and job security for teaching assistants continues.

DFTA President Paula Busboom says, “This is very hard on the other 275 teaching assistants. They don’t know day-to-day what’s happening or what will happen next year. Morale overall within our bargaining unit is awful.”

Teaching assistants have been working without a contract for seven months. They went on a three day strike in October but the board wouldn’t settle on their terms. There have been several mediated bargaining sessions, all ending with no progress towards compromise or a final deal.

Busboom says, “We want a contract but we want it to be fair and reasonable and we want to have some respect by the board and right now that respect is not there.”

Some parents say it’s having an effect on their kids’ education. One of them spoke up during Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

“Our students deserve to have staff that are appreciated and supported by the Board of Education. Your malicious treatment of the DFTA is not supported by this community.”

A representative with Decatur Public Schools said, “We do not have a statement ahead of tomorrow’s continuing contract negotiations.”

Amidst the uncertainty, DFTA says it’s looking forward to a successful bargaining session.

Busboom says, “Our hope would be that the board comes to the table tomorrow, they come ready to actually bargain, and give us something other than the word no.”

The mediation session is Wednesday at 4 pm. The federation will rally outside the district building at 3 pm.

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