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Grayslake teachers give go-ahead for strike
Walkout could come as early as Nov. 6
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/28/2008 12:03 AM | Updated: 10/28/2008 11:50 AM

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The Grayslake Elementary District 46 teachers union voted Monday at a closed membership meeting to strike.

Though a strike date has not been set, the district's roughly 330 teachers serving seven schools and 4,317 students could walk out unless an agreement is reached before Thursday, Nov. 6.

"Once the notice is served to the labor board, teachers must wait a minimum of 10 calendar days before they walk a picket line," said Arnavaz Mistry-Mujthaba, field service director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, an umbrella group for local teachers unions.

The Grayslake Federation of Teachers is negotiating an agreement to replace the 2005-08 teachers contract that expired June 30. District 46 teachers have worked without a pact since then.

The union and District 46 officials have been bargaining for 10 months and in mediation since Aug. 1. Talks broke down Wednesday over the district's inability to provide accurately calculated salary schedules, Mistry-Mujthaba said.

A union statement read: "The district chose to ignore the federal mediator's warning that it was not abiding to 'generally accepted bargaining principles' regarding the calculation of its salary schedules."

District 46 school board President Michael Linder chose not to respond to that accusation Monday.

The school board was expected to discuss the union's vote to strike during the closed portion of Monday night's meeting.

A negotiating session with a federal mediator is planned for Saturday, Nov. 1, between union representatives and District 46 school board members.

"We hope we can come to an agreement (then)," Linder said.

Mistry-Mujthaba said the teachers also will wait to see how that meeting goes before making any further decisions.

Another major collective bargaining issue on the table is the length of the agreement, she said.

The union contends the district has more than enough money in its education fund to grant the teachers pay increases. Since June 2005, the education fund balance has grown from $6.3 million to $10.5 million in June 2008, a union statement read.

"The raise these teachers are asking for is very fair and will not erode the surplus in the educational fund," Mistry-Mujthaba said.

Linder confirmed the district has a $10.5 million education fund balance, which is 27 percent of the district's projected education fund expenses for this school year.

"We do have a positive balance," he said. "It's a normal balance. We do not feel like there's any extra money in it."

The total budget for this school year amounts to roughly $40 million. Most districts maintain that cushion in case the state is late with its funding.

"You need that to be able to get through the year," Linder said. "It's not free money. We're taking (the strike) very seriously. We are going to go through all the numbers again and see what we can find."