JACKSON COUNTY (WSIL) — A pair of school districts, just eight miles apart, could go without teachers as soon as next week.
Unions for the Murphysboro and the Carbondale elementary school districts have filed intents to strike as contract negotiations continue.
The Carbondale Education Association filed its notice Tuesday.
"Going on strike is the last thing we want to do," CEA president Melissa Norman said. "We actually have another bargaining sessions scheduled for October 3 with the (Carbondale Elementary District #95) Board of Education so our hope is to be able to bargain and come to an agreement at that time."
The Murphysboro Education Association filed its intent to strike notice last week after trying to negotiate a new contract with the Murphysboro Community Unit School District #186 school board.
Murphysboro schools superintendent Chris Grode said there’s a big gap to close when it comes to a new contract with the teacher’s union and he’s worried a strike could happen.
"Given the last mediation sessions, I think there’s a good chance of it, I’m sad to say," Grode said.
The union’s final offer to the board included 4 percent raises the first two years and a 3.4 percent raise the third year.
Comparing salaries from the two offers, it comes out to a difference of $614,000.
Spokeswoman Catlin Langellier said the raises would help struggling teachers make ends meet.
It also helps recruit the best teachers.
"It can be kind of complicated to look at those numbers but the issue is actually quite simple: We are doing what we think is necessary to attract and retain teachers to our district," Langellier said.
The Murphysboro school board met Tuesday with dozens of teachers wearing red to support education as part of the "Red For Ed" campaign.
Teachers shared stories of hardship as well.
"Just from my personal experience this last year, my son went the first several months of his life without insurance, simply because there was no way me and my husband could afford the district’s plan and still have a roof over our heads," one teacher told the school board.
Carbondale elementary district teachers are in a similar situation with the Carbondale Elementary School District #95 board, but their issue also includes safety.
Union president Melissa Norman said the union wants more support to help with student disciplinary matters.
"We have to have systems in place consistently so that we can help the students and address those safety concerns," Norman said.
The leaders of both unions say the last thing they want, though, is to walk out of the classroom.
The Murphysboro officials are meeting with a mediator on Thursday to negotiate a deal.
Carbondale’s meeting with a mediator is Oct. 3.
Carbondale teachers can strike as early as October 4 and Murphysboro teachers can walk out as early as October 1.
A majority of union members have to approve it in both cases.