Teachers strike in small Illinois town

MOUNT OLIVE, Ill. (KSDK) - The energy in the small town gym is almost explosive.

The Mount Olive Wildcats waited for this night for weeks. They've come to run the court, run up to the hoops and score in their first game this season.

"We love our sports," Bobby Krug said. He's 15. He's here to record the players' best shots for the school's film program.The best shots could be the last shots for a while. Krug and 499 students here at Mount Olive, Illinois School District won't be at school on Monday.

"We've decided to go on strike because we wanted to be treated fairly, " said Martha Schulte, a kindergarten teacher and the union representative for the district's 39 teachers.

They couldn't agree to a new deal with the school board. Both sides are at an impasse over three big issues: Salary increases, health insurance and retirement funds for teachers in the last four years of their careers. The teachers say they haven't had a raise since 2009. They want retiring teachers to get 6 percent of their salary to prepare them to retire.

Schulte said the plan actually saves the district money and helps teachers. She said the district saves the salary of a retiring teacher who is most often at the top of the pay scale. Districts often hire new teachers at the bottom of the pay scale.Superintendent Patrick Murphy said the district can only afford to give the teachers two percent of their retirement money in those last four years.

He said the district is getting 20 percent less money from the state and 10 percent of its students in the last few years moved away or aren't coming to the district anymore.He says the district is willing to give teachers a raise and contribute 2 percent instead of the 6 percent to the retiring teachers last four years. The impasse means parents cannot send children to school on Monday. The district will give them free daycare instead.

"The students are giving up a lot too, I mean it's our education," Krug said.

If the strike goes on, it could affect his finals in two weeks. Murphy invited the teachers to the bargaining table to keep negotiating on Monday night at 7 p.m.


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