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Decatur Teaching Assistants demand mediation in bargaining talks with District 61

Their contract expired June 30.

Decatur, IL – The union representing more than 300 teaching assistants in Decatur Public Schools District 61 has requested a federal mediator to ensure progress at the bargaining table with the District 61 Board of Education. The union - the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants (DFTA, IFT Local 4324) – has been in negotiations with the board since April, and their previous contract expired over the summer. Another session with little movement August 10 prompted this formal request for mediation.

DFTA President Michelle Mitchell, a 28-year veteran teaching assistant, commented on the lack of progress to date: “We’ve been meeting with the board since March, and little progress has been made. We need them to understand that our working conditions directly impact our students’ learning conditions – and to best support them, we need support, too.”

Union members are asking for a fair wage increase, which will help with recruiting new teaching assistants, as the district is facing an extreme shortage, with at least a dozen unfilled positions in high need areas. Other issues include the right to enroll their own children at their workplace, and a year-round pay schedule. Currently teaching assistants don’t receive a paycheck during the summer, which makes it challenging to finance big-ticket items.

“Teaching assistants are essential employees, and our work is crucial to support student learning, especially for our highest-need kids,” continued Mitchell. “We assist so that teachers can teach. And we think it’s time the board recognizes the work we do to support students in this district and beyond.”

Decatur Teaching Assistants serve students in Decatur Public Schools and the entire Macon-Piatt Special Education District.

The next bargaining session will be scheduled once a mediator has been assigned.

The Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants (DFTA), IFT Local 4324, represents more than 300 teaching assistants, LPNs, hearing interpreters, and hearing/vision technicians. They also work one-on-one with the students in the Macon-Piatt Special Education District. DFTA is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) represents 103,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in PreK-12 school districts throughout Illinois, faculty and staff at Illinois’ community colleges and universities, public employees under every statewide elected constitutional officer, and retirees.


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