Westlake teachers reject 'last best offer'

Westlake teachers reject 'last best offer'
Westlake City Schools has a budget of $50 million. (Source: WOIO)
Westlake City Schools has a budget of $50 million. (Source: WOIO)

WESTLAKE, OH (WOIO) - Westlake teachers could be one step closer to walking off the job.

An overwhelming majority -- 247 to 12 -- rejected the school board's "last, best offer" on Friday.

Now the issue is in the board of education's hands.

Teachers have not voted to strike yet.

They're hoping the board of education will sign a pledge that would bring them back to the bargaining table.

"We have taken two concessionary contracts. Teachers cannot afford to take another contract that forces them to lose money," said Loretta Tindall with Westlake Teachers Association.

The main problem centers on money. Teachers are working without contracts and they say they need a raise.

On average, Westlake teachers make $74,000 a year. According to Westlake City Schools, they rank as the 12th highest paid teachers in the state.

The union says you get what you pay for.

"If you look at starting salaries and ending salaries, Westlake is no longer competitive with neighboring districts. Starting salaries have been frozen. So teachers who have the opportunity, once they graduate college are not looking at Westlake as a place to go," Tindall said.

On Monday, teachers held up signs before a school board meeting, showing how much money they've given up in the last few years.

The meeting ended abruptly after parents and teachers in the audience got angry the public comment period was not extended past 15 minutes to address their concerns.

Board of education members walked off the stage.

On Friday, Westlake City Schools provided more information on the teacher negotiations.

The budget for Westlake City Schools is $50 million. Officials say 80 percent of it goes to salaries and benefits. The school district employs about 275 teachers.

In a statement, Westlake City Schools says "if we increase teacher salaries and benefits to what their last request was, we would not be able to balance the budget."

The school district says it would have to make cuts like reducing teaching positions, technology and other resources.

It says three failed levy attempts have shown that the community does not want to increase the budget.

The Westlake Teachers Association wants the board of education to sign a pledge. It states that if the board rescinds their offer, the teachers union will not strike and they can continue negotiations.

"The pledge can present a strike, the pledge is best for the students of Westlake," Tindall said.

"We sincerely hope they come back to the table."

The Westlake Schools Board of Education will discuss this pledge on May 23rd, which is two and a half weeks before school ends.

So could a strike happen before then?

The teachers union says it's up to the school board and what they decide to do.

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