Recall rights are final sticking point in strike negotiations

Strike negotiations have ground to a halt in Galesburg, Illinois, and it could be next week before both sides are back at the table.

After nearly six hours of negotiations Wednesday, talks between the Board of Education and the Galesburg Education Association stalled once again around 3:30 p.m. Luan Statham, chief negotiator for the GEA, said only one sticking point remains between the two sides.

“Right now we are down to one issue, and that is the recall rights. It is an issue that is not a money issue; it’s a language issue. It does not cost the district any money,” said Statham.

Recall rights determine who is called back to work if there is a layoff and in what order. GEA spokesperson Tami Qualls said that the teachers’ union wants to combine educators who score in the top two state evaluation categories — ‘distinguished’ and ‘proficient’ — and then rank them by years of service.

“If you were laid off, then they’d have to use that seniority list of those top two categories to call them back,” said Qualls. “The reason why this is so important to us right now is that in a time of difficult financial situations, we know that sometimes it costs maybe $25,000 or $30,000 less to have a new teacher in the classroom than it does to have an older teacher.”

“We just want a guarantee that we are all treated fairly in that, rather than maybe, if [the district] needed to and they needed the finances, that they could cut somebody who’s dedicated their whole life to education,” said Qualls.

Wednesday night, the GEA also hosted a meeting for parents to ask questions about the ongoing strike. While some expressed frustration with the situation, many pledged their support to the teachers.

“We just need to get our kids back in the classroom. We need to get the teachers what they’re asking for… they’re not asking for much,” said Tom Diaz, a parent of three.

The wait, though, will likely stretch into next week.

Wednesday night, Qualls said further negotiations weren’t scheduled until Tuesday, August 26, 2014, at 2 p.m.

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