Zion-Benton Teachers Strike to Likely Continue Monday

Contract impasse affects 2,800 high school students

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Representatives for a teachers union and the Zion-Benton Township High School District 126 in the far northern suburbs both say they're close to a deal, but couldn't come to an agreement Thursday. (Published Thursday, Jan 5, 2012)

    A teachers strike in the far northern suburbs will likely continue for a third day Monday, keeping roughly 2,800 students out of classes, extra-curricular activities and athletics.

    Talks between the Zion-Benton Federation of Teachers and the Zion-Benton Township High School District 126 continued until about 3 a.m. Saturday without resolution.

    The union, which represents the districts teachers and support staff, stopped working Thursday after it and the school board failed to reach a contract agreement. The staff has been working without a contract since last July.

    Classes, activities, parents meetings and athletics were canceled Thursday and Friday at
    New Tech High and Zion-Benton Township High School.

    The chief sticking point appears to be what's causing angst in many Illinois school districts: scrambling to balance budgets in a bad economy in a state that can't pay its bills on time. And it's not what the pay raises should be, but rather a plan to change the schedule so they're doled out slower.

    "I think a lot of our young people will have to look elsewhere because not only will they not make the income but it'll also affect their pension," said veteran history teacher Andrew Gomez. "We don't this to be a revolving door."

    That issue, NBC Chicago is told, is close to being settled, but a battle over insurance benefits has entered into mediation. No talks with the mediator are scheduled for the weekend.

    There had been hope the strike would last only one day.

    "There was some progress made," the district's lawyer and chief negotiator, Tony Ficarelli, said Thursday after 13 hours of talks with the union. "We're not that far apart."

    The district has laid out its position on its website.