Waukegan teachers continue striking for a fair contract

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More than 1,000 teachers in Waukegan, Ill., who have been on strike since Oct. 2, are continuing to demand that the board of education return to the bargaining table and work with the union on a fair contract.

Waukegan strike solidarityThe Waukegan Teachers' Council, which is part of the Lake County Federation of Teachers, has been without a contract since June. This is the fourth year in a row that teachers and other certified professionals have started the school year without a fair contract. Last year, an agreement wasn't reached until April.

"Students suffer most when quality, experienced educators leave Waukegan seeking more stable, respectful working environments," says Kathy Schwarz, president of the Waukegan Teachers' Council. "We want our schools to be able to attract and retain the best teachers, and a greater sense of urgency and professional respect from the board of education would go a long way toward helping that happen."

The striking teachers are seeking a salary increase that would make their pay comparable to educators in neighboring districts, improved healthcare benefits, clear anti-bullying procedures, improved language on teacher evaluations and additional pay for extending the school day.

Lake County Federation of Teachers President Mike McGue outlined the union's position in an interview with the Lake County News-Sun. He says the union is "honored and humbled" by the tremendous support the community has shown for the teachers.

An Illinois Federation of Teachers petition demanding that the Waukegan Board of Education work with the union to hammer out a deal that is fair for teachers, students, parents and the community has garnered more than 1,600 signatures.

[Waukegan Teachers' Council, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Dan Gursky]