Champaign Teachers Union Plans To Take Strike Authorization Vote
The Champaign Federation of Teachers announced in an email to union membership Monday night that they plan to take a strike authorization vote later this week. The announcement came after roughly 200 teachers, as well as children and union supporters rallied outside the Champaign Unit 4 administration building on Monday afternoon.
The members of the Champaign Federation of Teachers called upon the school district to provide the union with a fair contract. The rally was held just before and during the first bargaining session with a federal mediator.
CFT leadership wrote in an email that the two sides met for three hours Monday evening without making any substantive movement toward an agreement. “We are essentially in the exact same position we were six weeks ago when we bargained last,” the union’s bargaining team wrote.
The strike authorization vote is scheduled for Thursday afternoon at Jefferson Middle School. The CFT called for a federal mediator after negotiations with the district stalled late this summer.
During yesterday’s rally, union president Jennifer White said the outstanding issues revolve around compensation, health insurance costs, class size limits, and a structure to incentivize teachers to visit families in their homes.
Unit 4 administrators did not respond to several requests for comment.
Robeson Elementary School kindergarten teacher Wendy Maxson carried a sign at demonstration on Monday that read “30 is a speed limit for Prospect Avenue, not a Kindergarten class size.” Maxson said class sizes are the number one issue she’s concerned about.
“I’ve got colleagues sitting at 27 (students in a class) now, and that’s a lot of kindergartners, especially our five and six year olds trying to adjust to school… it makes it very difficult for them,” she said.
She said she hopes the district will agree to limit class sizes.
Lynn Kilber said she has similar concerns. Kilber is a member of the CFT’s bargaining team and a biology teacher at Centennial High School. She said the increasing class sizes at the lower grade levels is a concern for all of the district’s teachers.
“These kids are just learning how to function as human beings, so having almost 30 of them in a classroom is just impossible,” she said. “I teach at the high school and by the time they get to me, they’re behind because they didn’t have those developmental one on one times.”
A math teacher at Centennial High School, Kara Miller walked around the rally holding a sign that read, “Ask me about the obstacles I face on a daily basis.”
Miller said many of her students come to school with unmet social-emotional needs. She said she lacks the training and support to meet those needs. That’s a problem, Miller said, because students struggling with social and emotional problems are often unable to succeed academically.
She said she hopes the district understands that the union is bargaining on behalf of concerns of teachers like her.
“Those at the bargaining table are bringing our issues to the table, and it’s not for no reason. That they are valid sticking points and really want them to consider those sticking points,” Miller said.
White, the CFT president, said the union’s position “puts students first and it shows teachers they are valued and respected by this district.”
The union's last contract with Unit 4 expired June 30.
Follow Lee Gaines on Twitter: @LeeVGaines.