Angered by a newly proposed random drug testing policy, the teachers union in the Illini Bluffs School District in the central Illinois town of Glasford, located 15 miles south of Peoria, has been on strike since Aug. 17. The strike has delayed the start of the district's school year by eight days to date.
The district, in response, has begun to interview temporary replacements for the striking teachers with the hopes of finally open their district's schools' doors, according to the Peoria Journal Star. The district said they have received some 70 resumes for the positions thus far.
"We would like to get some part of the student body back in school with qualified temporary replacement teachers sometime next week, probably starting in kindergarten through eighth grade," Karl Meurlot told the Journal Star, while admitting that the high school teachers will be more difficult to replace because of their more specialized and advanced fields of instruction, such as foreign language.
At issue for the teachers union, the Illini Bluffs Federation of Teachers, is the random drug testing the board looked to institute district-wide. The union would prefer that teachers only be subject to the testing should the administration demonstrate probable cause.
State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) told the Pekin Daily Times he stood with the teachers and described the board's insistence on drug testing as a "power move" that "avoids the main issue."
"The issue of random testing is really a false sense of security, and to force teachers to do it when they themselves (the board members) think there’s no problem is -- it’s really part of a different strategy," Koehler told the Daily Times.
But the impasse may soon be coming to an end. The school board and teachers union are expected to meet Sunday afternoon to discuss the ongoing issue with a federal mediator, the Journal Star reported Friday.
UPDATE: The Peoria Journal Star reported Sunday that the Illini Bluffs teachers union has reached a tentative agreement with the school board, the details of which are not yet public. The district's school year is now set to begin Tuesday.
Photo by bjmcdonald via Flickr.