Teachers’ Union Files for Mediation
Wednesday, August, 19, 2020
The Kewanee Education Association has filed for mediation regarding its ongoing contract negotiations with School District 229. The union claims it has reached an impasse and requires assistance from a neutral third party to move discussions forward.
The existing contract expired on August 15th. The request for mediation came the same day the school board was scheduled to make a final decision regarding student attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
According to union president Ruth Kapcinskas, the district’s negotiating team was unwilling to negotiate issues like health insurance and salary. Said Kapcinkas, “I do not feel like we are going to do that without a mediator. The frustrating thing is, we know what we need to get down to, we just do not feel like they are listening to what we are saying.”
She explained that the main sticking point is a carryover from the last round of contract negotiations. That agreement resulted in a 2.7 percent raise for teachers and a phased-in hourly increase for support staff. Both were paid retroactively. Union members did not like the deal and also have a problem with the district’s step system, calling it stagnant.
The state’s minimum wage was also recently raised and union members want to make more in light of minimum wage workers earning more. According to Kapcinkas, her district is nowhere near the state’s efforts to pay teachers a minimum of $40,000. She pointed out higher salaries are needed to attract good teachers and point out that the district has been forced to rely on long-term substitutes because certified teachers do not want to teach unless they are getting paid more money.