Negotiations that have stretched for a year could spiral out of control between the Springfield Board of Education and its teachers' union, which has passed a strike authorization measure.
Members of the Springfield Education Association unanimously voted Monday to allow negotiators to serve the school board with a 10-day strike notice. That notice could come as soon as Friday, union President Marty Perlaky said, if district negotiators don't give the union a counterproposal.
"They keep on wanting to take something a step further, a step further, a step further," Mr. Perlaky said, "and at some point you have to draw a line in the sand, and that time has come."
Springfield teachers have worked without a contract since June 30 and said federal mediation has been unsuccessful in resolving the dispute. Teachers ratified April 20 an arbitrator's fact-finding report, which included a two-year salary freeze that also would freeze automatic longevity pay raises in the second year.
Teachers' share of health-care premiums would have increased to 12.5 percent from 10 percent, according to the statement by the union, which represents 233 teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, psychologists, and other district employees.
The board of education rejected the report in April by a 4-0 vote.
"Springfield teachers made it clear at Monday's meeting that they believed they had no choice other than to consider a strike as an option after the board of education rejected a fact-finder's recommendation for settlement on April 18, 2012," a union statement said.
The strike authorization doesn't guarantee that teachers will walk out, and Springfield superintendent Kathryn Hott said she remained optimistic that negotiations would continue.
"We are disappointed with that decision," she said. "It has been, and continues to be, our intent to remain at the negotiation table and reach a settlement that is both fair and fiscally responsible."
Although Ms. Hott said the board of education's rejection of the fact-finding report doesn't necessarily mean the board rejected all its findings, she declined to describe the district's negotiation offers or what board members didn't support in the report. She cited ongoing negotiations for her silence.
She declined to comment on the union's claim that district negotiators pushed for larger concessions in recent negotiation sessions.
"We hope to reach an agreement that the teachers feel is fair and in the same way is fiscally responsible for the taxpayers in the community," she said.
Mr. Perlaky said teachers were open to continued negotiations and had already agreed to what he called a "100 percent concessionary" fact-finder's report, but rejected what he characterized as the district's continued requests for more concessions.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6086.
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