No deal: Burlington teachers on strike

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Burlington teachers say the strike is on. The news has thousands of families making plans for what to do with their kids Thursday morning.

Ten months of negotiations and the Queen City's school board and teachers union couldn't come to an agreement on teachers contracts. Classes are canceled Thursday at the district's nine schools.

Right now, no one knows when the district's 3,900 students will be back in class.

"At this point, we're on strike," said Fran Brock, Burlington Education Association.

The Burlington teachers strike begins Thursday at 8 a.m. at the school's central office.

Superintendent Yaw Obeng says the district is now talking with child care providers to help families get coverage for their kids. Meals will be served at all schools from 11 a.m. to noon, and Obeng is working on getting students transportation.

"I would encourage parents to go on our website," Obeng said. "We will be communicating with parents on a daily basis with next steps and other opportunities for our students."

The school board and the union were negotiating for more than eight hours Wednesday but didn't reach an agreement on contracts.

"I'm very disappointed we don't have an agreement. Hopefully, the ongoing dispute will not last long," said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

The Burlington Education Association says it wants better working conditions in the elementary schools. Teachers say they backed down on that issue last year, and it made staff members leave the district.

"It's about the teacher having the time to prep, to do the work that's needed for the individual child. So we're afraid that if we don't pull this plug now, we're going to continue to have an exodus of staff," said Bob Church, the chief negotiator for the BEA.

The school board disagrees. Chair Mark Porter says they would have talked more about the elementary school. They thought the main problem was operations at the high school and said those were solved. Porter tells us it all came down to money.

"The board and the community offered the teachers 8 percent over three years, it would have come out to $6,000 over three years, and it was just soundly rejected," said Porter.

Neither side had immediate plans to get back to the negotiating table. The superintendent said the ball is in the union's court since the teachers are striking. The union said it will have to regroup and decide how to move forward.