Teachers in southern Illinois walk out in salary dispute

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MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) — Teachers in the southern Illinois city of Murphysboro continue to walk the picket line in a wage impasse with the city's school district.

Members of the Murphysboro Education Association, which represents 152 teachers, counselors, nurses and social workers, walked off the job Thursday after failing to reach a contract agreement with Murphysboro School District No. 186. The strike is the district's first since 1979 and affects 2,144 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

District Superintendent Chris Grode says the two sides are about $1.5 million apart on a salary agreement. The union has requested annual salary increases for all employees across the three-year contract, with raises averaging 3.7% each year. Grode says the board countered by offering yearly raises of about 2.28 percent.

The teachers claim the district has the money, pointing to a $3.5 million surplus. Grode said Friday tapping those reserves would jeopardize the district's stability.

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