Champaign school district avoids strike

By Vasanth Sridharan

The Champaign Federation of Teachers ratified the proposed agreement between the Champaign Unit 4 School District and the teachers’ union Tuesday afternoon during a closed meeting.

The two sides reached a tentative agreement last week, which the union approved, canceling the impending strike date. The three-year agreement will increase the salary schedule for the teachers by 3.5 percent in the first year and 4.5 percent in the second and third years, said Beth Shepperd, Champaign Unit 4 district assistant superintendent for human resources and community relations. The actual salaries of the individual teachers are determined by a separate agreement between the district and the union. There will also be an increase in the district’s health insurance premiums for teachers.

Prior to the agreement, the district would give up to a 20 percent bonus to a teacher who was in his or her last year, allowing the teacher to receive a larger pension from the state. Because Illinois House Bill 27, which was passed this summer, penalizes districts that give out those bonuses, that provision was removed from the new contract, Shepperd said.

The “agreement fell within acceptable parameters” for both sides, Shepperd said, but she could not go into the specifics of the negotiation.

“I believe we have a contract that will benefit our teachers and that is fiscally responsible to our taxpayers,” said Superintendent Arthur Culver in a press release published by the district. “We have reversed a 10-year trend of overspending the budget in the education fund, and we hope to accelerate the board’s timeline for balancing the budget.”

Shepperd said the district is happy the issue was resolved.

“We feel that this will remove a high level of concern from our teachers,” she said. “We can all focus on what is most important to the school and that is student achievement.”

The previous contract expired on July 1. The Champaign Federation of Teachers announced they would strike if a new contract had not been agreed upon by Oct. 31. The last strike in the district was in 1986.