Day 7 of District 144 teachers strike

December 11, 2009 (MARKHAM, Ill.) Teachers in Prairie Hills School District 144 are on the seventh day of the strike. One sticking point: a proposed increase in their health care costs.

About 3,000 of students in four southern suburbs are enrolled in schools under District 144. Their parents are trying to keep them busy while they wait for school to be back in session.

In Hazelcrest, Tiffany Alexander tries to engage the five kids in her care in academic exercises. On Friday she had them write about being out of school.

"I made packets for them to do. They do the packets, do their chores then we do an activity," said Tiffany Alexander.

Alexander said the kids started to get antsy Tuesday, which was day four of the strike

"They want to go back to school so they're jumping around," said Alexander. "They're out of their routine."

While teachers said they don't like keeping the kids out of school, this strike boils down to more than just money.

"With the insurance package, we need a 6% to make the same amount we made last year, to break even," said Michele Gallagher, Prairie Hills teachers spokesperson.

Elementary and middle school teachers in District 144 said they are paid much less than their counterparts in neighboring Homewood-Flossmoor. Reading specialist Randy Goodwin, a nine-year veteran with a masters degree in education makes $40,000 per year.

"Every year we'll have three or four teachers that leave and have to be replaced," said Goodwin, Highlands Elementary teacher. He said that's hard on the school. "It is a big deal."

It's a fight at least one parent caught in the middle said is worth it. But how long can Alexander handle the five kids in her house?

"As a parent? None," said Alexander. "But as a fighter for the teachers of my kids-- as many days as it takes."

The board of education did not return calls from ABC7.

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