Teachers in Illinois End 21-Day Strike, Get 6.5% Pay Hike

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Teachers in Illinois's second-largest school district returned to work last week, ending a 21-day-old strike. The 29,000-student Elgin district is the largest to be closed by a strike this school year.

Under a mediated settlement, the 1,700-member teachers' union will receive a one-year pay increase of 6.5 percent.

Robert Gilliam, the district's assistant superintendent for personnel and labor, said days lost to the strike would be made up by shortening the Christmas and spring breaks, adding 10 days at the end of the school year, and holding professional-development and parent-teacher conferences on Saturdays.

Typically, the district and teachers' union negotiate multi-year contracts. But the district offered a single-year contract because a state-mandated cap on tax rates in counties surrounding Chicago, which takes effect next year, injects too much uncertainty into the process, Mr. Gilliam said.

Bob Jensen, executive director of the union, said the district also wanted to separate contract negotiations from school-beard elections, which have been held in the same year.

The strike marked the seventh time in 20 years that Elgin teachers had walked out, a relatively common practice among the larger districts in Illinois.

This year's strike, however, was by far the lengthiest. As a result, some parents said they planned to ask the legislature to limit strikes or to subject collective bargaining to binding arbitration.

Elsewhere, more than half the teachers in Fairfax County, Va., schools staged a work-to-the-rule job action last week to protest a salary freeze.

Some 5,000 teachers left school immediately after classes ended one day and refused to participate in many after-school activities. They will continue to restrict their workday to the required 7.5 hours every second Wednesday of the month, according to Rick Willis, executive director of the Fairfax Education Association.

Describing the action as a symbolic gesture, Mr. Willis said, "We are retaining the option of escalating the action after the first of the year."

He said a decision will be made based on state and community funding levels. --K.D.

Vol. 11, Issue 07, Page 8

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