BOURBONNAIS, Ill. - Teachers in Bourbonnais were walking the picket line Thursday as a strike shuts down the city’s elementary schools.
The teachers are demanding more money, but the school board says they cannot afford a big raise during the pandemic.
It was a noisy show of support for 170 striking teachers as they picketed all five Bourbonnais elementary schools.
"Unfortunately we have to be here because we’d much rather be in class today with our students," said teacher Dan Chamernik.
The strike means no school for about 2,400 students -- some of whom joined in the picket lines.
"I think it’s a little crazy, but at the same time I’m behind them too. I like our teachers and I think they should get paid more," said 8th grade student Jason Lewis.
The district is offering a 9.5% raise over three years, but teachers are demanding 8% over two, saying they are underpaid.
"We are looking to get competitive raises to keep up with our other neighboring districts," said union president Lauren Lundmark.
In a statement, the school board says they just do not have the money during a pandemic: "(We are) responsible for ensuring the financial stability of the district long beyond a single contract.... The thought of our students losing any more instructional time is extremely upsetting."
"In their reserve fund there’s at least $10 million. They are also getting quite a bit of money from the federal grants for COVID related stimulus packages," Lundmark said.
A federal mediator is now working with both sides, which hope to get back to the bargaining table by this weekend.