Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

East St. Louis Teachers Vow to Continue Strike Even as Paychecks Are Threatened

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

East St. Louis Teachers Vow to Continue Strike Even as Paychecks Are Threatened

Article excerpt

As the East St. Louis teachers strike appears headed into its third week, teachers on the picket line Friday said they are not budging, and will not be headed back to their classrooms until they can agree on a pay package acceptable to them and district representatives.

Even as teachers pledged to stay strong, the realization set in that their counterparts, the so-called 12-month employees clerks, secretaries and other non-certified staff have received their last paycheck until the strike is resolved.

Teachers were last paid on Thursday. And depending on how long the strike lasts, they can expect to get a full paycheck on Oct. 30 and a partial paycheck on Nov. 15 before the payments stop.

"It's a gamble, but you have to stand up for what you believe in," said Alonzo Nelson, a math teacher at East St. Louis High School.

"The teachers have been transparent the whole time," he said. "Everyone knows where we stand. Negotiation is about compromise, and right now, the superintendent and his party have refused to move off of their initial contract offer."

"We've been patient for five years," his mother, Lisa Nelson, a math and physical science teacher at Mason/Clark Middle School, added.

"Our pay was frozen for five years and we accepted that each year, thinking the next year was going to be the one where the superintendent would negotiate," she said. "But here we are, still waiting."

As determined as teachers say they are not to blink first, the school district doesn't appear to be moving, either. A teachers union representative said Friday there were no further bargaining meetings scheduled between the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers and the district.

The two sides are at odds over a contract proposal that Superintendent Arthur Culver has said would save the school system at least $10 million over 10 years.

The proposal includes a $2,000 stipend and raises for teachers averaging 2.6 percent. But it would double the amount of years it currently takes to reach the top of the salary scale.

If adopted, it would take a new teacher 21 years to climb to the top of the pay scale, assuming no salary freezes happened during those years. …

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