DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — In a move that puts them closer to a potential strike, the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants released their current bargaining positions Friday.
It’s a step required by the Illinois Education Relations Act, which requires both district officials and union leaders to post their stances before the union can strike.
Among the biggest differences between the two groups: health insurance.
In 2018, DPS switched insurance plans while bargaining with other unions in the district. The move saved the district money, but DFTA wasn’t involved in those bargaining sessions.
“DFTA chose to wait until the contract was up to bargain any chances to health insurance,” a union press release said. “…the issue of contention is what that should cost DFTA.”
A proposal available on the DPS website shows a district plan to gradually increase the insurance premium for DFTA members over time from 15-29 percent, depending on the plan.
DFTA president Paula Busboom said the school board “appears to be wanting to eliminate health insurance as a benefit.”
“…the board wants to shift the cost of health insurance to the employees,” Busboom said in a release. “ If the union were to accept this, many members would not be able to afford health insurance. Many of these people have families, and they would be forced to leave their kids without health care or look to the state for assistance.”
Other sticking points between the two groups include working conditions, whether the district should be able to rely on TA’s as substitute teachers, and whether TA’s should be allowed to visit a building before transferring.
“Using DFTA members as substitute teachers has become an ongoing issue with the district,” the union release read. “DFTA proposed limiting the number of days the district could pull a teaching assistant from his/her job duties to three days. The district said no to this.”
The two groups have been bargaining since April and have met 13 times.
Two meetings have included a federal mediator, which DFTA requested, on August 27 and September 23.
DFTA represents approximately 275 employees, including TAs, licensed practical nurses, and hearing/vision technicians.