While the Galesburg Education Association has ratified a four-year contract with the District 205 Board of Education, it is not without a significant amount of frustration and disappointment that we have to move forward into a new school year.
While many provisions of the contract itself are acceptable to the majority of the membership, the punitive and vindictive nature of the return-to-work agreement are beyond insulting. Due to parameters available for a vote in these circumstances, the GEA could not legally separate the contract and the return-to-work agreement into individual votes.
The community must be made aware that the School Board and administration – which claim to make decisions in the best interests of students – have significantly and unnecessarily shortened the number of days students will be in school, also forfeiting state aid attached to student attendance days. However, the motivation that prompted the Board’s decision seems clear: by docking pay for teachers for their constitutional right to strike, District 205 stands to profit an estimated $400,000 to $500,000 in spite of the lost state aid.
In addition, the Board and Central Office Administration have financially crippled retirees for the rest of their lives. The amount of salary lost in this upcoming year, combined with the lost amount of salary compounded in the remaining years before retirement is outrageous.
Furthermore, brand new teachers of our district, whether they performed duties on the picket line or not, have received the same overwhelming number of docked days and lost wages when they hadn’t even been given a contract to sign.
Unethical tactics, misinformation, and outright lies have been continuously fed to the parents, students, and community from the administration prior to and throughout the negotiation process. It continued through late Wednesday night with Mr. Arthur giving a thumbs-up to football players gathered outside his window, knowing full well nothing could be official until after the GEA voted on the proposal. The administration’s actions continued to speak volumes with the misguided hope provided by the announcements that prematurely and irresponsibly notified the community that school would resume on Friday even before the GEA had voted.
There are just too many examples of unscrupulous practices, and the return-to-work proposal to the GEA falls directly in line with the administration’s established routine.
The GEA accepted the contract proposal by a slight majority of just 52.3%, which indicates that despite weighty reservations, the needs of the students in our community were clearly a higher priority for the majority despite these sacrifices that teachers had to make. The School Board and the administration, on the other hand, have sacrificed nothing of their own … only the integrity of our students’ education.
The School Board president said at the August 18th Board meeting that both sides are to blame for the lengthy negotiations. If that is the case, why is it that students and teachers are the only ones unnecessarily suffering?