Teacher aides set strike vote in Grundy Co. special ed co-op
By Erin Gallagher Correspondent September 20, 2013 9:34PM
Updated: October 23, 2013 6:37AM
Teacher aides at the Grundy County Special Education Cooperative are planning a strike vote for Oct. 2.
Negotiations between Special Education Employees of Grundy County Local 1531 and the co-op are at an impasse, with pay the main issue, according to Pat Hendrix, union negotiation team chairwoman.
The co-op includes 12 school districts. The aides, who work with special-education students in each district, are seeking a 3.5 percent raise, which equates to 35 cents more per hour, Hendrix said.
“Our starting rate is $9.91 (an hour) so we’re not here for the money, we are here for the kids,” she said. “Technically, we are at poverty-level wages.”
Coal City Unit District 1 Supt. Kent Bugg, president of the co-op governing board, said school superintendents cannot give the co-op aides larger raises than those for aides who work directly for individual districts.
Cooperative Director Neil Sanburg said the aides have requested about 50 changes in the contract language, most of which the co-op board has agreed to. Also, the aides will be able to keep their “platinum insurance” with a $400 deductible, Sanburg said.
Hendrix said co-op officials feel children “are not important nor are people who take care of them. We feel these are the most vulnerable (children) out there, and wouldn’t you want the best people to take care of these kids?”
Minooka School District 201 Supt. Al Gegenheimer said his district lost more than $6 million last year on tax revenue. In similar circumstances, private industry employers would cut salaries, he said.
“This isn’t a cut in pay for the teacher aides, this is actually an increase that is greater than inflation,” Gegenheimer said. “Special ed is the biggest unfunded mandate in Illinois.”
“I’m still very confident that we’ll be able to get to an agreement,” Bugg said.
The other school districts in the cooperative are Mazon-Verona-Kinsaman District 2C, Nettle Creek District 24, Morris District 54, Saratoga District 60C, Gardner District 72C, Gardner/South Wilmington District 73, South Wilmington District 74, Morris High School District 101 and Minooka High School District 111.