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Lengthy Teachers' Strike in Waukegan, Ill., Nears Resolution

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After nearly a month, a teachers' strike in the Waukegan, Ill., school district appeared to have come to a close late last week.

The 17,000-student district and the union reached a tentative agreement late on Oct. 29. Classes were expected to resume this week. Teachers overwhelmingly approved the pact Oct. 30; the board must now sign off on it.

"We are grateful to the entire Waukegan community that struggled with us through these difficult times," Waukegan Teachers' Council President Kathy Schwartz, said in a joint statement with the district.

"Both the board of education and I have witnessed firsthand a great passion for education from parents, students, and community members," added Superintendent Donaldo Batiste.

Teachers walked off the job Oct. 2 after labor and management could not agree to new contract terms. Major sticking points included salary increases, contract length, and health benefits. The strike roiled the district, which serves a predominately low-income student body, and relations remained tense throughout last week. A packed school board meeting Oct. 28 ended in chaos after a board member began shouting at parents. A day later, Gov. Pat Quinn directed the chairman of the state school board to intervene.

Most details of the tentative agreement were not available at press time. A union spokesman did say the contract would last three years; the district had originally sought a two-year contract.

It was not clear whether the finalized contract would require teachers to pick up some health-care costs, as the district had proposed.

A complicated subtext to the negotiations concerned fallout from a budget deficit that led to the freezing of teachers' salaries in 2010.

Last year, teachers in Evergreen Park, Ill., went on strike for two weeks, but strikes lasting a month in the state are rare.

Vol. 34, Issue 11, Page 4

Published in Print: November 5, 2014, as Lengthy Teachers' Strike in Waukegan, Ill., Nears Resolution
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