By Victor Skinner
CAHOKIA, Ill. – School officials in Illinois’ Cahokia School District are delaying the start of school over concerns its local teachers union will strike to settle current contract negotiations.
Classes were scheduled to start Wednesday, but were delayed two weeks after the Cahokia Federation of Teachers rejected the school district’s latest contract offer. District officials sent a phone message to residents moving the start of school to Sept. 6, stltoday.com reports.
The problem is, both the district and teachers union refuse to explain what’s holding up the contract negotiations. Students, parents and taxpayers deserve better.
Union spokesman Dave Comerford told stltoday.com that “the disagreements extend to ‘a range of issues’ which include salary increases.
“The length of the contract also is part of the ongoing negotiation. The current one-year contract is set to expire this month,” the news site reports.
Cahokia Superintendent Art Ryan told KSDK.com the district is “committed to the education of our children and will not allow a work stoppage to hamper student learning.”
But it seems that is exactly what the school district is allowing to happen by postponing school at the mere possibility of a strike. Comerford told the media that “no one has declared an impasse” and both sides are continuing to work to settle a contract.
It’s concerning that school and union officials couldn’t set their differences aside to ensure that students receive the education local residents already paid for. And perhaps even more alarming is the fact that neither side will explain to taxpayers what, specifically, the squabble is about.
We don’t believe that labor disputes ever justify an interruption in scheduled student instruction, and it appears that the delay in Cahokia is more about political jockeying to secure favorable contract conditions than what’s really best for students.
The district is facing a roughly half-million dollar decrease in tax revenue, cuts in state aid and increases in health insurance costs this year. All of those things are putting pressure on school officials to make the most of the money they have. If that means taking a hard line with the local union, that’s one thing.
But when student learning is cast aside to concentrate on employment issues, it raises a more fundamental question of whether the adults in the school system – both district and union officials – really have their priorities straight.