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Evergreen Park District 124 Strike Talks Get Heated, Fail To Produce A Deal, While Another Strike Looms In Highland Park

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The school board and teachers union in Evergreen Park School District 124 met Wednesday night in an effort to negotiate an end to a strike that began Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

According to NBC Chicago, teachers left the session after midnight, claiming they felt disrespected by the district and were being treated poorly. A statement from the group said the school board rejected the union’s most recent proposal despite progress made on the health care front.

Illinois Federation of Teachers spokesman Dave Comerford says there was an outburst from the district’s attorneys during Wednesday night’s talks, and that teachers will no longer be sitting down with the board face-to-face. The union instead wants a mediator to oversee negotiations by communicating with both sides in separate rooms, NBC Chicago reports.

Earlier on Wednesday, District 124 Superintendent Robert Machak met with about 100 parents at Central Junior High School to discuss the strike.

"One parent asked to talk to him and word got out. It got kind of heated because parents are frustrated. The kids are suffering," parent Shelly Murphy told the Sun-Times.

The major sticking points between the two parties are health insurance and compensation.

The school board has proposed that teachers fund a Health Savings Account, which would be used to cover their health care costs, according to Deneen Pajeau, a field representative for the union. Currently, teachers pay 25 percent of their medical insurance premium, while the district is responsible for the remaining 75 percent. For union members with individual coverage, the breakdown is 10-90, the Sun-Times reports.

The board is also in favor of basing raises on the Consumer Price Index, with bonuses determined by student test scores. The teachers are seeking raises of at least 3 percent annually and are against score-based bonuses.

Negotiations are scheduled to resume Thursday, according to NBC Chicago.

As the Evergreen Park strike marches on, another looms in North Shore District 112, which encompasses Highland Park.

Teachers filed a 10-day notice of intent to strike with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board Sept. 28, but cannot legally strike until Friday, Oct. 12 -- 28 days after the North Shore Education Association formally declared that negotiations had reached an impasse, reports the Lake County News-Sun.

Teachers are planning to rally Thursday afternoon outside district headquarters at 1936 Green Bay Road, Highland Park.

The News-Sun reports the contract dispute hinges entirely on economic issues, including base salary, pay increases tied to education and health insurance premiums.

The strikes follow those in Chicago and Lake Forest — both of which ended Sept. 18. The former, which emphasized teacher evaluations and a principal’s role in selecting teachers, endured for a week-and-a-half, while the latter lasted seven days. Lake Forest educators were largely fighting for benefits and an agreeable pay structure, and the strike represented the first in the district’s history, as in Evergreen Park.

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