Concealing The Details Of A “Fair” Contract Raises Questions


Last week, both local papers reported on the new teacher contract approved by Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, under which the teachers will receive a 2.5% increase per year over the next 3 years.

Both newspaper articles similarly pointed out that the teachers will also get annual “step” increases, although only the Journal noted that those step increases will average approximately 2% – making the raises on average approximately 4.5% per year, or approximately 13.5% guaranteed over the three years of the contract.

What we find troubling about both accounts, however, is that there is no mention of exactly what that 2% – or 4.5% – translates to, either over the range of more than 360 individual teacher salaries or, more importantly, for the overall cost to the District. 

That’s not the best reporting by our two local newspapers, but we suspect that one reason for the absence of such information is that it wasn’t offered up by either the District or the Union.  And local governments around these parts know that not offering such information to overworked and underpaid suburban reporters pretty much ensures that it won’t show up in their stories.

So if you’re either Board president John Heyde or Union president Fred Klonsky, saying nothing about the total extra dollars this contract will cost the taxpayers means that they can get away with patting each other on the back while telling the stiffs who pay the bills that the contract was “fair.”  Who’s in a position to beef when they don’t have any hard numbers to beef about?

Even District 64’s own website posts only a press release [pdf] which, not surprisingly, is silent on these overall costs.  And if you go to the District’s website and look up its “Education Finance Fact Book,” you will find that the District’s teachers were paid $22.3 million…in 2006 [pdf], the last year the District has reported. 

In a world of truly transparent government, the District would keep such information up to date – which shouldn’t be that hard when it’s just a matter of website management.  So we have to wonder whether there’s a reason why subsequent years’ figures aren’t reported, especially because we have to assume the District and the Union had them to use during their 2.5% negotiations.

Could it be that lack of information beyond 2006 is a convenient way for the District to avoid reporting on salaries for 2007 and 2008, the years in which there was an influx of extra money coming from the most recent tax increase referendum?  You remember that referendum, don’t you…the one in which the District, the Union, and their respective supporters virtually swore on a stack of Bibles that those tax increases wouldn’t be going for higher teacher salaries?

Well, no matter how you spin it, a 4.5% (general and step) annual increase means over $1 million in extra salaries, even based on that outdated 2006 salary figure.   Which means that some of that referendum tax money is, indeed, going for higher teacher salaries.

So yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and “he” is all the taxpayers of District 64 who continue to fill the stockings of the District 64 teachers – and those well-paid administrators, whose salary increases have a “Compound Annual Growth Rate” that’s almost 2% higher than the teachers’ raises over that 2002-2006 period – without regard for the educational performance (e.g., standardized testing) of the District’s students. 

But for all you taxpayers who may have lost your private sector jobs, or have watched your private sector pay cut, or seen your private sector 401(k) turn into a 41(k), the District wants you to know that its “teachers will continue to contribute toward the cost of their own health insurance coverage.”

Just like private sector employees have been doing for decades, even without those guaranteed 4%+ salary increases.

7 comments so far

Can we put up another referendum that rolls back the property tax increase to something more manageable for we the people?

Silly Rorschach, taxes are for taxpayers. So they’re going to keep assessing them and we’re going to keep paying them.

Did you look at the proposed D-64 2009-10 budget? After jacking up the taxes by over $10 million in 2007-08 (from $41.4 million to $51.8 million) and another $6 million in 2008-09 (to $57.9 million), they are dialing them back by about $3 million this year to just under $55 million. That’s an almost 33% tax increase since 2006-07.

And employee costs (salaries and benefits) have gone up 22.6% over that same 3 year period, which is 7.5%/year, although I don’t know if that is with or without the new contract.

Time to roll back, then. More about your tax dollars at work:

The tentative 09-10 budget already had a 3.48% increase in salaries and 5.73% increase in benefits *without* the new contract. Also remember they added new staff positions this year, including two more assistant principals. And of course, every salary increase also adds on to the amount the district pays into the IMRF, so teachers can continue to be paid by the taxpayers well after their teaching days are over.

Public hearing on the budget will be held Sept. 28.

I am not defending the board or teachers union. The lack of review and transparency is flat out wrong. Having said that, when I look at these numbers I cannot help but see that they dovetail in with the entire health care screaming match. Health care goes into the benefit bucket. When you look at the 5.73% increase in benefits I do not believe that that means they are getting mnore benefits. It means that benefits are costing more.

How come Washington and Field Schools feel they need assistant principals?

Anon at 6:52 AM.

Of course health care is costing more, but the question is: Who should be paying it?

Health care costs at my private-sector job went up and guess what? My employer pushed a majority of those costs on us employees. Any chance that’s happening at District 64?

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