Teachers demand contract but won't strike

Published 09/10 2012 10:35PM

Updated 09/11 2012 09:18AM

CHAMPAIGN -- Teachers haven't had a contract since June. But unlike their colleagues in Chicago, they're still working.

The union is asking to be treated fairly. Within that statement includes better salaries, working conditions and more. But despite those disagreements, the union isn't going to stop its most important task. And that's serving the Unit 4 School District.

You can't hear the difference, but the students and their families can definitely feel it. 25,000 Chicago public school teachers started striking Monday after failing to reach a new contract. Champaign teachers hit the pavement too. But leaving their students behind wasn't an option.

"We are professionals and our work is with kids. And that is something we take very seriously," said Cathy Mannen, Champaign Federation of Teachers President.

"I'm glad we're not in the situation that they are in Chicago because really the people that lose in that situation are the children," added School Board President Sue Grey.

Kids in the Windy City aren't learning a thing in their classrooms right now. Instead, they're being supervised for a few hours then given the afternoon off.

"I'm thankful that our teachers understand that it's far more important to keep our kids in the classroom and to keep up with their education than to stop what they're doing," said Grey.

"I think we really have a sense of community. It's a much tighter knit thing here," said Michael Cahill, 2nd grade teacher at Robeson Elementary.

That trait might also be the reason negotiations are headed in a positive direction.

"Every time we go in and sit down at the table we are making progress. We go in every time with an attitude of working hard to get the job done," said Mannen.

"Unfortunately it's taken longer than both sides have wanted but I do see us coming to a resolution real soon," added Grey.

Negotiations will resume Wednesday afternoon. Grey said the best case scenario would be both sides making a tentative agreement.

Mannen said she just wants both sides to continue taking positive steps forward. She said the union hasn't talked at all about striking.

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