by Roland Glembine, firstname.lastname@example.org
Classes in Dixon have been called off until further notice. Teachers in district 170 are now on strike. They have been working without a contract since last August. With little to no progress in negotiations they thought striking was their best option.
"There has to be compromise, there has been no compromise from this board of education for the last ten months," said Dixon Education Association spokesman Dolph Ricks. So Dixon teachers turned in their keys Wednesday afternoon and grabbed a picket sign.
"We are advocating for smaller class sizes, more faculty and we have special education issues and needs that should be met," explained Ricks.
Teachers also want a 3.75% pay hike while keeping their built in raises. The board offered a 1% increase and wants teachers to pay more for health care.
"Both sides feel pretty strongly where they are'', said Dixon Superintendent Michael Juenger. Adding the district faces a decrease in property taxes along with less state funds. "Almost $500,000 less in general state aid than what we received in the past. We have less revenue to work with."
The district is deficit spending this year. yet has built up a so called rainy day fund of over 14 million dollars. More than 4 million surplus in the education fund with another 10.2 million dollar surplus in its operating funds.
"I think there is a willingness to dip into the rainy day fund. I think the issue right now is how much to dip in and how quickly to dip in", said Juenger.
"If it is a rainy day and you are talking about Noah's Ark coming they still wouldn't spend money", quipped Ricks.
Parents are sitting back hoping the strike doesn't last long and wondering who to blame. "wish it wouldn't happen, kind of upset. I think the kids need to go to school, I put the blame on both sides", said Jim Shuck who has kids at both Reagan Middle School and Dixon H.S.
"I think it's too bad the kids have to be out of school, but I understand both sides", said parent Beverly Ballard.
The two sides plan on meeting Thursday night. The D.E.A. says they are willing to work through the weekend to get something done. Yet as of Thursday morning the next meetings (after Thursday night) scheduled are next Monday and Tuesday.