Teacher strike has kept 6000 East St. Louis students out of school for month

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Students in East Saint Louis missing nearly a month of school siSelf-described computer geek Edgar Williams has a clear vision of his future: study electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or perhaps Caltech. Louis High School, he has to be content with the tutoring and other help he can get for three hours a day at an Upward Bound center thanks to an ongoing teachers strike in his southern Illinois community.

She has her own thoughts on the ongoing strike. “Our current offer includes 15 steps and 18 steps next school year and 21 steps the following school year. It would have given each teacher a one-time payment of $2,000 and modest raises, but also would have nearly doubled the amount of time before a teacher would qualify for a top-scale salary, to 21 years. Ultimately it is a 21 step salary schedule but we are willing to get to that gradually instead of right away,” says Communications director, Kelli Hawkins.

The district, which has been under state control since 2011 because of its poor performance, says it needs to save $10 million over the next 10 years. The sides were meeting Tuesday to discuss a district offer that would reduce that top-scale wait, but there are no signs that they are close to a deal. Hawkins says all this is to get the students back in school. “The district will meet as long as it takes, but the length of the negotiations isn’t as important as the action taken during the session to come to a tentative agreement to get our students back in school,” she says.

That’s bad news for a city where only 5 percent of high school ACT takers are considered ready for college and less than 20 percent of the district’s more than 6,000 students — all of whom qualify for reduced-price or free lunches — meets expectations on statewide standardized tests. “I feel unappreciated,” said LaTonya Sain, 33, a five-year employee who teaches ninth and 10th-grade English at East St. We’re ready to get back to school, but we want to be treated fair.” “Although we have bargained in good faith, we can only offer a contract that the district can financially sustain,” he said. Barbara Sams, who has been helping oversee Upward Bound’s school-day curriculum during the teacher strike, said her center, which is one of several groups offering programs for displaced East St. For every student like Williams and classmate Montez Holton, who wants to be a pediatric surgeon, many more have been left to hang out with their friends, care for younger siblings or play video games at home.

Louis, where 98 percent of residents are black, nearly half of residents live below the federal poverty line and the average household income is just over $19,000 per year. The city faces a budget shortfall of almost $6 million, primarily due to declining revenue from a riverfront casino, a top employer, and the city manager has proposed laying off two dozen police officers and firefighters. Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks, who opposes that plan, recently pleaded with the teachers “to put the needs of our children first by seeking a reasonable compromise so that our children suffer no longer.” The East St. Louis High Flyers’ football team — a seven-time state champion and one of the city’s few sources of community pride — had to forfeit its final four games because of the strike, ending its 15-year streak of state playoff appearances.

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