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Murphysboro teachers negotiate pay before planning a strike

MURPHYSBORO (WSIL) — If contract negotiations fall through, teachers at a second school district in Jackson County plan to strike.

Teachers from Murphysboro CUSD #186 said they’re trying to negotiate fair wages in order to keep educators in the area.

"We are hoping to reach an agreement that will attract and retain good quality teachers to Murphysboro," said Catlin Langellier, the lead negotiator for the Murphysboro Education Association. "Because that’s what we think is best for our students. We’ve lost a lot of teachers in the last few years to neighboring districts."

This week, the MEA filed its "intent to strike" notice with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board. Langellier, a middle school teacher, said a strike will cut into class time. She said it’s the last thing they want to see.

District Superintendent Chris Grode said he’s all for paying educators more money but that his hands are tied because of a limited budget.

"I think that is a concern for a lot of our teachers. We would love to come to an agreement without having to strike," Grode said. "We have great teachers, I’m going to say that over and over. A lot of people get confused because they feel I don’t value them or the board doesn’t value them. We’ve just got to look at the budget and you know it’s not a surplus it’s a fund balance."

Teachers could walk as early as October 1 but they first have to vote to strike. Grode wishes he could pay teachers what they’re worth but said he has to think long-term.

"We’ve got a $3.5 million fund balance which is just money that’s sitting there in our savings account. With over a million dollars in payroll every month, if the state stopped giving us money, we could only go for three months before we’d have to close the doors and that was a real issue four or five years ago," Grode said.

The next round of negotiations is expected to happen Monday at the General John A. Logan Attendance Center where members of the MEA and the school board district will meet, along with federal mediators.

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