Teachers in Galesburg, Illinois, began picketing before 7 a.m. on Wednesday, August 13, 2014.
Tuesday afternoon, contract negotiations between the District 205 Board of Education and the Galesburg Education Association ended without an agreement being reached. That night, hundreds of GEA teachers met at First Lutheran Church for more than three hours before leaving with picket signs.
GEA spokesperson Tami Qualls said the teachers' union did not even vote on the latest proposal offered by the Board of Education.
"It was not an offer that we felt was worthwhile to vote on," said Qualls.
In a statement, the GEA said it did not accept the Board's offer because the proposal does not adequately address safe working conditions, just cause for dismissal, or the number of days and hours employed. The union says these contract concerns are not related to finances, though superintendent Bart Arthur has said the district is facing a $2.7 million deficit.
"For the past decade, the District 205 Board of Education has waited until the last minute to resolve contract issues. Blaming the state of Illinois for our problems with finances is an old standby. None of our issues deal with state finances. Our issues deal with respect and concern for what is best for our students and our community. Until we, the GEA, stand against this last-minute policy, it will continue," said Qualls.
"We want the best for our school district, for our community and our students. Our working environment becomes our students', your childrens', learning environment. We are heartbroken to be forced into this strike, but we're committed to stand for what is right."
Qualls said she feels the teachers have the community's support in the decision to strike.
"I believe that we do. I hope that we do. We are doing what we think is best for our students and our community," said Qualls.
Teachers received strike assignments Tuesday night, and Qualls said most will report to their respective schools for a full day of picketing.
The GEA will also be reaching out to the District superintendent to schedule further negotiations.
Teachers had been scheduled to report to work Wednesday morning, with classes supposed to begin on Thursday.