Teachers in Community Unit District 300 reached a deal with the school board late Tuesday to end a one-day walkout and reopen classes Wednesday in the large, far northwest suburban school district.
Talks had broken down late Monday, prompting the district's more than 1,200 teachers to go on strike Tuesday and leaving more than 20,000 students out of class.
School board member Joe Stevens announced after 9 p.m. Tuesday that, after talks that resumed at 2 p.m., the two sides have struck a three-year deal. No other details were immediately provided, but a union official called the agreement "fair to the teachers and responsible to the taxpayers."
Stevens said no further details would be released until the deal is ratified by the union and the school board. A board vote isn't expected until Dec. 18 at the earlier.
Just hours earlier, a union official had reported little progress at the resumed talks.
District 300, based in Carpentersville, is the latest among at least six Chicago-area school systems — including Chicago Public Schools — whose teachers have gone on strike this school year. Many of the same issues — class size, pay and benefits, equity of compensation compared with similar districts — have been repeated, as school boards seek new ways to control spending amid new mandates from Springfield and more modest tax receipts than before the economic downturn.
On Tuesday, much of the public back-and-forth between the union and district officials was over class size. Currently, elementary classes are capped at 33 to 37 students, according to district figures, but some high school classes top 40 students, teachers said.
"You can't teach equitably that way," Tom Domenz, an art teacher at Jacobs High in Algonquin, said from the picket line Tuesday. "Classes are all over the board. It's not fair to the kids. Parents are paying the same taxes, and (students) are not getting the same attention."
Steve Pittner, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Algonquin Middle School, said there has been "tremendous support" from parents and teachers. Students also were seen joining the picket line.
"They got to do something about the class size," Pittner said while picketing at Algonquin Road and Main Street. "(Big classes) are not creating a culture of learning that's conducive for our students. This is the worst I've seen it."
But district officials said they offered a deal to teachers on Monday in which class sizes would be capped next year at 27 students in kindergarten through second grade and 30 students in grades three to five. The plan would also add 60 new teachers districtwide.
Union spokesman Michael Williamson, however, said those class sizes aren't low enough to satisfy teachers.
The district counters that the union returned with new salary demands after the school board made its offer to lower class sizes. The district says it has offered teachers raises of 3 percent this year, 2 percent next year and 3 percent in the following — figures that include both base pay and "step increase," additional raises that teachers in most Chicago-area districts receive each year for adding another year of seniority.
Union officials have also argued that teachers are underpaid compared with other suburban districts, according to a statement on the teachers union website.
Of the teachers strikes that have occurred so far this year in the Chicago area, Evergreen Park District 124's was the longest, lasting 10 days. Chicago Public Schools teachers were off the job for seven days, and Lake Forest High School teachers for five days. Strikes in Crystal Lake-based Prairie Grove District 46 and Highland Park-based North Shore District 112 each lasted one day.