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DeKalb Teachers Working Without Contract File Intent To Strike

Photo by Spencer Tritt
DeKalb High School

Teachers with the DeKalb Classroom Teachers Association have been working without a contract since the start of the new school year. They just filed an intent to strike, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be one soon.

The union and DeKalb Board of Education have been negotiating since February. The most crucial issues for DeKalb teachers has been class sizes as well as the length of their contract.

T.J. Fontana has taught math at DeKalb High School for 20 years. He also serves as the union’s lead negotiator. He says in the past decade, class sizes at the high school level have ballooned up into the 30s and even 40s in some cases.

“It's something that we've brought up at every contract negotiation since that time. And the board keeps saying, you know, we'll take care of it. Well, they haven't taken care of it,” he said. “They've done next to nothing to address class size in all of that time.”

Fontana says the class size issue dovetails with concerns about the teacher shortage. He says it can be difficult to find and keep good teachers if they know they can go elsewhere and make more money with smaller classes.

Fontana says working without a contract like they’ve been doing is nearly unprecedented in DeKalb.

“It's a very weird feeling going back without a contract. Usually, we know very well the conditions we're working under, the rates of pay, all the types of things that normally get sorted out in the contract. And so to have all that as an unknown right now is just a little bit odd,” he said.

The two sides meet again to negotiate Tuesday. Fontana says despite the ongoing dispute, they’ve had good interactions with the board and are confident they’ll reach a deal.

But now they’ve filed their intent, they could strike as soon as early October if an agreement can’t be reached.