By Ben Velderman
EVERGREEN PARK, Ill. – The teachers strike in Illinois’ Evergreen Park School District 124 is entering its second week, and there’s no resolution in sight.
One of the sticking points between the Evergreen Park Federation of Teachers (the local teachers union) and the school board is whether or not striking teachers will be in the classroom when students make up the missed school days (due to EPFT’s strike) at the end of the year, reports WBEZ.
Before teachers decided to walk out on their students last week, school officials warned them they would not be allowed to work the extended school year, which will be necessary to help students meet the state’s mandatory 176 days of instruction.
Evergreen Park Superintendent Robert Machak speculated that substitutes would be brought in to do the job.
That means that every day the EPFT strikes (beyond the five emergency days that were built into the school calendar), union members will lose a day’s wages.
“You are paid to be in school in the classroom. If you voluntarily choose to walk out from that responsibility, why would you be paid for that?” Machak said last week.
Machak’s commonsensical reasoning is lost on the arrogant EPFT members who feel entitled to a full year’s salary despite disrupting their students’ education and inconveniencing the entire community.
“That is not right,” said teacher and EPFT co-president Mariellen Newquist. “It’s not right for our students, first and foremost. They deserve quality educators for the entire school year.”
We agree. So what’s preventing EPFT members from giving students the quality educational experience they deserve?
Money – specifically, the $16 million that’s sitting in the district’s savings account.
Teacher union members are jealous of that money and feel entitled to most of it, in the form of hefty annual pay raises and almost-free health insurance.
District officials say most of the $16 million is needed to repair creaky school buildings, but are still offering pay raises based on the Consumer Price Index. That’s certainly a reasonable proposition, considering that Illinois is in danger of having the bottom of its economy fall out.
But the union refuses to settle until it drains the coffers dry.
“We believe we’re seeing places that are financially stable but yet are still trying to take advantage of the economic atmosphere,” said Illinois Federation of Teachers spokesperson Dave Comerford, according to WBEZ. “And trying to push this idea, ‘Just be happy you have a job and do what we tell you to do.’”
Comerford’s got to admit Evergreen Park teachers should be a little bit grateful they have a job – one that’s offering them a pay raise, no less. Illinois’ unemployment rate is still around 9 percent, which means there are a lot of folks hungry for work.
Evergreen Park taxpayers must think it’s odd that they’re expected to insulate EPFT members from the harsh economy. What makes the union so special?
We hope Evergreen Park taxpayers appreciate the strong leadership of their school officials. A lot of districts would have caved in to their local teachers union by now, draining their savings account and hitting up taxpayers for the money needed to make building repairs.
Evergreen Park officials are standing their ground. Given that EPFT members are losing more of their salary with every day they strike, it’ll be interesting to see how much longer the union stands its ground.