I have to say it’s been more than a wee bit eerie walking the dogs around that Fisher Farms FAA beacon the last two mornings. Nobody’s heading to the high school and the onslaught of Heartland Elementary School students is conspicuously absent.
Normally, I crave peace and quiet, but not in this case. Nobody wins when teachers go on strike.
Meanwhile, a number of readers have posed some excellent public and private questions about what the strike means for a number of possibilities going forward. So, I spoke with the D304 in this regard and here are those answers:
1. Do teachers get paid during the strike?
No. Not by the district and not by the PTO as one reader stipulated. The Geneva Education Association (the teacher’s union) may have accumulated some sort of strike fund, and nothing prohibits an ordinary citizen from holding a fundraiser, but when you’re talking about 450 Geneva teachers, those efforts won’t come close to matching their salaries.
2. Do support staff get paid during a strike?
Yes! If they show up for work, they will be reassigned to other duties and they will be paid.
Crossing guards, who are hired by the Geneva Police Department, will not be paid, because their salary is contingent on school being in session. And though I haven’t been able to get a specific answer on school bus drivers, I suspect the same goes for them.
3. Do teachers get insurance during the strike?
Yes! But the district is only obligated to maintain it only for the first month of the strike. Those premiums are generally paid on the first of the month, and since the teachers walked out the 4th, they will be insured through December 31.
That’s why most public sector strikes tend to start early in the given month.
But if the strike goes beyond December, as will likely be the case, the School Board can, and will likely, stop paying those premiums on January 1st.
As the Teamsters did on behalf of the striking Kane County probation workers last summer, the union can step in and pay the freight themselves, but that only happens when a union with deep pockets is particularly aggravated with “management.” It’s very unlikely to occur in this strike.
4. What about makeup days?
If the strike is a short one, D304 will simply make up the missed classes just as they would with snow days – at the end of the second semester. They could also cancel spring break as well. But if the strike lingers for more than two weeks, they’ll have to either tack all those days on at the end of the school year, or ask Illinois lawmakers for a waiver, but that’s a very unlikely possibility.
5. Sports and extracurricular activities
They are and will be cancelled for the duration of the strike, and any scheduled games will be forfeited. The various teams can get together and practice on their own, but that’s about it.
I’m sure I’m not nearly the only Genevan saddened at the prospect of not being able to follow the Geneva High School boys and girls basketball teams during the strike. Both were off to a very good start.
6. Can I keep track of the Board’s and Union’s latest offers?
Kind of! You can find the School Boards website and their latest proposal here, but the Union has balked at posting their counteroffers.
7. Is the average Geneva teacher’s salary really $124,000 a year?
No! The artificial online newspaper, “The Kane County Reporter,” that printed that bilge is run by none other than Dan Proft, the former radio show host and rightwingnut that’s done more to damage the Illinois conservative cause than all the local GOP combined. They purposefully skewed the numbers by adding administrator’s salaries into the mix.
The truth is, the average Geneva educator’s salary is $69,684.
8. How long will this strike last?
Despite my strange semi-autistic brain’s capacity to process a large set of variables in background mode, this is a really tough one. Predicting contested election outcomes is hard enough.
According to a March, 2018 Education Weekly article, there are 3 to 13 teachers’ strike in the U.S. every year, and they generally last from one day to six weeks, with Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California leading the pack. But I could find no reliable strike length average.
So, I turned to some of my favorite former newspaper managing editors, but they were completely split on the prospect. The plurality said 10 days, but others vehemently disagreed with that statistic. So, I turned to some savvy non-D304 folks as well, and their theory was at least two weeks.
But I think it’s going to be at least a month and here’s why:
- If 28 months of salary structure negotiations bore no fruit, two weeks won’t either. Talks are scheduled for this weekend, but it’s going to take more than one round to resolve this dispute.
- I have reason to believe Monday evening’s final negotiating session ended somewhat acrimoniously, and that’s never a good sign.
- With Christmas break rapidly approaching, the students would be out of school anyway.
- It will take at least a month for the teachers to finally realize that public sentiment is not behind them.
- The Board and GEA are “trying” to get together to talk, but the Board wants a new union proposal on the table first, the Union says the strike is their latest proposal, and they won’t provide a new one until the scheduled Sunday negotiation. And it you can’t come to terms on talks…
- And I have good reason to believe the Board is united in this regard, so they will likely stand their ground.
But I have to say I’m not nearly as comfortable with this strike duration forecast as I was when I predicted the walkout, and the evidence can rapidly change in these very complicated cases.
Please also understand that I provide this journalistic service at no charge, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be happy to attempt to answer any strike questions you might have going forward. Meanwhile, I certainly hope the strike ends sooner than later, and this column helps Geneva parents plan for the near and summer future.