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Legislators urge Medford district and teachers to avoid strike

Three state legislators have issued a joint plea to the Medford School District and the Medford Education Association to return to negotiations and avoid a strike.

In a letter released today, State Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, and Reps. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, and Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, asked the two sides to return to negotiations Friday.

"We have a track record of being able to reach principled compromise, and we are united in our view that a strike will not benefit our students, our teachers, the Medford School District, our community and our region," the letter reads.

With contract negotiations at a standstill, the teachers union has notified the district that it intends to strike on Thursday, Feb. 6, unless an agreement can be reached before then.

The letter from the legislators notes that Bates has previously served on a school board and that Esquivel and Buckley have been participants in contract negotiations.

The legislators did not single out one side or the other for blame, noting that there are conflicting goals in the issue that deserve attention.

"The legislative intent behind our work to increase funding for K-12 education in the 2013-15 budget was to turn around our disinvestment in education caused by the recession, and to begin to build again," the letter reads. "Our goal was and is to add back teachers, add back days and add back programs — but also to give full respect and fair compensation to the teachers who are the backbone of our K-12 schools, and who have personally sacrificed over the past several years.

"It is a hard balance to achieve. ... Our overriding goal was principled compromise in order to do everything we could to give our kids the educational opportunities they deserve."

The legislators asked in their letter that both sides renew efforts to find compromise.

"We ask that the district and the teachers' association step back from any hard line positions and return to negotiations with a willingness to find workable solutions to the remaining issues to be settled."