East St. Louis Teachers' Strike Ends After a Month Without School
Guest post by Ross Brenneman
One of the longest teachers' strikes of 2015 has come to an end, with students in East St. Louis, Ill., finally returning school on Monday.
Teachers in East St. Louis went on strike Oct. 1, protesting a district plan that would have doubled how long it takes teachers to hit the top of the salary schedule.
The district's original plan, rejected by the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers, had offered a $2,000 bonus and increased the salary schedule to 21 steps, up from 11.
Under the terms of the new agreement, as reported by the Associated Press, all but first-year teachers will receive a $3,000 bonus now, and all teachers (including new ones) will receive two more bonus payments that total $3,000 toward the end of the school year. Those bonuses are in lieu of a raise this year.
But the district also managed to secure agreement around lengthening the salary schedule; it will now take teachers an additional eight years to reach the top of the scale, rather than the proposed 10 years.
The contract is scheduled to last four years.
According to a press release from Superintendent Arthur R. Culver, teachers will see "an average salary increase of $12,834 over the life of the contract."
Students will have to make up the lost instructional days, too. District spokesperson Kelli Hawkins told the Belleville News-Democrat that holiday breaks may be shortened, and classes would likely extend into summer. Some of the more than 6,000 students transferred to other districts as the strike dragged on.
East St. Louis lies just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. The district has been under a state-imposed improvement plan for the past several years, a result of poor academic performance, among other factors. The district has repeatedly faced charges of failing to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
The East St. Louis teachers' strike is the 14th such strike this year.
Image: Striking East St. Louis teachers, from left, Jeff Schneider, Josh Cummins and Paul Thies, continue to walk the picket line in front of East St. Louis Senior High School on Oct. 27, East St. Louis, Ill. —Steve Nagy/Belleville News-Democrat/AP
More on union activity in Illinois:
- Is Another Teachers' Union Strike Brewing in Chicago?
- Understanding Teachers' Strikes: Where They Happen and How Often
- Ill. Threatens to Dissolve District Over Special Ed. Failures