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Teachers in a southwestern Illinois school district authorized a strike Tuesday night and rejected the school board's latest contract offer after hours of negotiations.

Highland School District teachers are set to begin striking Thursday. Members of the local teachers union voted 139-15 to decline the district's offer of a one-year contract without a raise but with a $500 stipend.

All school buildings except the main office are expected to be closed starting Thursday, Superintendent Mike Sutton said. No school-sponsored activities will take place.

It will be the district's first strike, the union president said.

The two sides met for about six hours on Monday night. Teachers are demanding wage and benefit increases of 6 percent. The district doesn't have the money to meet their requests, Sutton said.

There are no more meetings scheduled between the teachers and administrators. Sutton said both sides have expressed a "willingness to come together at the discretion of the federal mediator."

The teachers' last three-year contract expired at the end of August.

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