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An open response to the NSEA's response to the D112 Board of Education's Proposals

The North Shore Education Association (NSEA) has published a response to the D112 Board of Education's Offer... This is my review of their response and why I believe it is unreasonable.

I'd like to preface this article with the statement that I believe in a quality education but that we have to balance the needs of the District with the needs of the Taxpayers and Children.  I am not against teachers, but I am opposed to fiscal irresponsibility.

Several years ago, I made public comments before the D112 Board of Education regarding my thoughts on the salary/benefits contained in the NSEA contract.  I served on the D112 Citizen's Financial Advisory Committee, and in a few short years my own children will attend D112 Schools (just as I did) - but my fear is that if we don't act in a fiscally responsible manner now, the education that my children receive in D112 won't be as good (or better) than the one I received there.

For decades, the salary/benefits provided in the Private Sector have been undergoing changes; as the worldwide economic situation continues to be poor, our home values are dropping, tax revenues are constrained, persons have had pay freezes and benefit reductions, etc. - it's simply not feasible for the taxpayers to continue to fund automatic raises, pension spikes, and cadillac health plans for the NSEA members.


As many of us know, the North Shore Education Association (NSEA) representing the D112 Teachers has announced their intent to strike.  The NSEA has made proposals that the D112 Board of Education hasn't agreed with, and the NSEA has issued a response here:


http://district112teachers.org/informational-flyers/1011-response-to-district-112s-october-10th-newsletter/

I've read this response and come to the conclusion that the NSEA are a bunch of greedy individuals who don't deserve our support.  Here's why:

 

  • NSEA: "The school board continues to try to win the negotiations battle with misinformation and innuendo".

 

So what? So does the NSEA.  That the NSEA consider it a battle, with our children used as pawns is reprehensible.

 

  • NSEA: "...apparently now the board is also going to keep a timetable of events."

 

Good.  Why is this a big deal?  I'd expect the NSEA to do the same.  If everyone's being responsive, it won't be a problem.  If someone's not being responsive, it'll demonstrate that fact.

 

  • NSEA: "It has been apparent that [the board does] not consider the teachers their equals..."


Uh huh.  That's because the TEACHERS are EMPLOYEES of the Board.  They are not EQUALS of the employer.  They are hired to solve a problem that the employer happens to have at the present time - education of children.  They don't get to dictate the terms of their employment to the employer - if they don't like what the employer is offering, they can move to greener pastures - if indeed those pastures actually exist.

 

  • NSEA: "At no time during the bargaining session did the board request for the strike to be delayed....The board does NOT appear committed to avoiding a strike.  If they were, they would be negotiating a contract that would keep District 112 teachers on par with the contracts of surrounding districts.  The NSEA will not withdraw the planned strike."

 

It's not up to the Board to ask for the NSEA to withdraw or delay the strike - the NSEA has CHOSEN to strike, and if THEY were committed to avoiding a strike, THEY could simply unilaterally delay or withdraw it.


The Board/District does not have to negotiate a contract that keeps anyone on a so-called par with another District - especially if it's financially unsustainable - the Board is responsible to the taxpayers - not the teachers.  Ever-increasing salaries to 'remain on par' only engages us in an Educational Arms Race against other Districts with salaries that sprial ever-upward, and with no guarantee that the education of our children is any better as a result.  If the NSEA/Teachers don't believe the offer is fair - they can move to greener pastures  - if indeed those pastures actually exist.

 

  • NSEA: "The Highland Park community deserves better than a board of education bent on damaging the quality of District 112 schools...."

 

The Highland Park community has a Board that is bent on PRESERVING the quality of the District 112 schools - both educationally and financially.  What we deserve better of are TEACHERS - TEACHERS who won't weaponize our children in an effort to gain a financially unsustainable contract.  We deserve TEACHERS who treat the taxpayers respectfully.

 

  • NSEA: "Still open to discuss a multi-year contract."

 

Sorry, no deal.  Just like we won't be suckered anymore into signing a multi-year cell phone contract, we're not going to be suckered into a multi-year teacher contract.  In fact, we don't need a contact at all - it adds ZERO value to the taxpayers because it restricts our flexibility in making changes that may be necessary due to fiscal or other constraints.

 

  • NSEA: "Honor all previously approved lane changes"

 

This I actually believe they should get.  We made a deal with someone, we ought to honor it - be a mensch.  No more automatic lane changes though - if their performance supports it, we'll consider them for a raise, but no more guaranteed raises.  It's financially unsustainable.


  • NSEA: "Retirement.  Retain the salary enhancement plan of 4 years times 6%.  Reduce the lump sum post-retirement payment to $10,000. Grandfather previously approved retirement packages from previous contract."

 

We ought to grandfather in previously approved packages.  But we ought to ABSOLUTELY NOT retain any salary enhancement plans or post-retirement payments.


No more pension sweeteners - right now the State is stuck with the bill for that scam.  How much do you want to bet that the State sticks the local taxpayers with the bill, sooner than later.


And once you're done working for us - thanks, goodbye.  No more money for you other than your pension.  No more lump sum payments.  ZERO. NADA.  ZIP.

 

  • NSEA: "Salary. 2012-2013 3.25% inclusive of step... this percentage is less than teachers in ALL surrounding districts have received in recent contracts, less than the last NSEA offer, less than EVERY YEAR in the previous contract."

 

No guaranteed raises, no automatic step raises.  And certainly not a raise that's more than the CPI - recall that we're only able to levy the CPI or 5% - whichever is less (plus new construction, which isn't happening very much now).  I think CPI is about 1.5% - so these greedy teachers want more than we're going to take in via property taxes, which means that portions of their salaries will have to come out of reserves.  Reserves that we KNOW we need for infrastructure and programming needs.


I don't think we ought to worry about the percentage being less than surrounding districts, that it's less than the last offer, or less than every year in the previous contract.  We're talking about OUR District and the current offer on the table.

What they want is fiscally unsustainable - so ummm, NO you can't have a raise.  The rest of us have had to contend with pay freezes/cuts, so can they.



  • NSEA: Statement about reserves, and administrators.

 

We're not talking about administrators - yet.  Right now we're dealing with the biggest cost center we have - teachers salary/benefits.  Once we're done with that, we'll move on to Administrators, so stop trying to deflect and distract the argument.

  • NSEA: "...we must maintain a salary schedule that reflects the hard work and effort teachers have put into continuing education courses."

 

Ummm, no we don't.  If their performance based upon fair and achievable metrics targeted toward their individual grade level and course being taught is such, we'll consider them for a raise.  And if they have continuing education we'll give them additional weighting toward such consideration.

But no guarantees.  Further, all raises should come out of a fixed pool of money set aside for raises - so not everyone considered will get a raise.  If they want to take continuing education courses - that's their choice and they should have to do the ROI analysis to determine if it's worth it for them or not.

 

  • NSEA: ...we must Preserve Board contributions toward individual health insurance and provide contributions toward benefits for part time employees."

 

If memory serves, those contributions are currently 100% for individuals, 75% for families.  Let's talk about 20% for individuals, 10% for families.  Let's talk about higher deductibles, higher co-pays, and higher drug costs.

Let our contributions for part timers be contingent upon their level of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) from 50% on up.  So if they're 50% FTE - give them 50% of the FTE contribution.  If they're 75% FTE, give them 75% of the FTE contribution and so on...  Anyone under 50% FTE? No contribution.



Just as President Ronald Regan did with the striking air traffic controllers in the '80s: We really need to draw a hard deep line in the sand and just fire anyone who goes on strike.  This extortionism of the taxpayer through the weaponization of our children has to stop.

We need to consolidate and update our District's infrastructure, probably re-district along with such consolidation, and to do that we're going to need a flexible workforce.  We just don't get that with a restrictive NSEA contract that seeks to limit what we can do with the education of our children, while extracting as much money from the taxpayers for their members as possible.  Nor do we have such flexibility when the NSEA eyes our reserves as a piggy bank to be raided for fiscally unsustainable salaries.  If we spend down the reserves on salaries, we risk a credit rating that can cost us more money if we go out to borrow funds for infrastructure or consolidation needs.

We all want the best for our kids - we want them to do better than we have - we push them hard to do so.  In essence, we value performance.  Why should we expect any less from D112 teachers?  The Board should stand firm.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jack Straw October 15, 2012 at 03:02 AM
This is more than a little disconcerting you would take the word of a very small group of teachers and an outside union agitator Mark Stein, over long time community members. Mr. Hymen's and the entire board, are people that give more back to their community then they ever take. It is disrespectfully and cowards to paint them as greedy or liars. Mark Stein does this same thing community after community, they lie to the teachers they lie to the community. So sure go ahead and believe the guy that makes his living on the backs of teachers.
Jack Straw October 15, 2012 at 03:18 AM
True not David’s best writings, but his ideas and thinking patterns are more forward thinking than almost anyone else that posts here. Honestly it is your don’t stir the pot mentality that has the hole state in a financial crises.
Mark Stein October 15, 2012 at 03:30 AM
What the NSEA has consistently urged peole to do is to look at the facts for themselves. The District's Annual Financial Reports are availalbe on the District's web site. Don't take anyone's word, look at it for yourself. You will find exactly what we've said. The District has the state's highest financial ratings, a fund balance of over 23 million and over 12.3 million in working cash. The efforts to personalize this comes from the other side.
David Greenberg October 15, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Thanks for responding Jerry, I appreciate it. Before term "terrorism" was used in these threads, I used the phrase "weaponizing our children" - I believe it was another poster responding to my comment who claimed that I'd called the NSEA terrorists. So I then compared the definition of terrorist to what the NSEA was doing, and it met the definition - I posted that fact in one of the threads. To be certain, they're not killing anyone vis a vis a "traditional" terrorist, but the tactics employed (the threat of a strike) are designed to strike fear into the hearts of those they're demanding something from so that they can achieve their goals. I agree, this isn't my best writing, I apologize to the gentle readers, and will endeavor to do better in the future :-) My wife's a teacher - and she agrees with me. The casual observer would say "Yeah, well, she's your wife!", but those who know my wife and I well, know that if she disagrees with me, she's not going to be a wall-flower (nor would I want her to be) :-)
Jack Straw October 15, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Hi Mark!
Mark Stein October 15, 2012 at 03:53 AM
Why don't you review the District's numbers and give us your analysis? Tell us where the NSEA has misrepresented the rating that the state has given. Tell us where the numbers are wrong. Tell us how the NSEA has misquoted the amount in working cash. As Saul Alinsky wrote, "personalize and polarize." I'd rather stick to facts. ...
Jack Straw October 15, 2012 at 03:57 AM
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it,” that is the rule...
llwvrt October 15, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Joe, go move to Alabama and be happy.
llwvrt October 15, 2012 at 04:25 AM
The teachers have been negotiating for a one year contract; leaving both parties the opportunity to reassess. The board continues to demand a 3 year contract. And Joe, I know people in right to work states, people with factory jobs who sometimes work 7 days a week. They don't have much choice because they like to eat. Unions were developed to prevent predators from taking total advantage of workers.
Jack Straw October 15, 2012 at 04:43 AM
I to hear the shots ringing out from Haymarket and Pullman, United mine workers bring your guns I will stand by you. Who you think you are, who I think you are Jimmy Hoffa banging his hands on the table “I will shut this dam country down”. Just a point of view and 100 years.
Jack Straw October 15, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Yea I loved that stuff when I was 18; I also thought Ginsburg was a good poet, ahh youth.
Walter White October 15, 2012 at 12:00 PM
You want to quote Hoffa how about this one "Never let another man in your cab unless he is a friend of labor, because he's the only friend you've got." That is never clearer than today.
Jill October 15, 2012 at 12:58 PM
I have not thoroughly read through everything, but I do feel that our D112 Teachers are paid well, get great benefits, every holiday off....etc... The economy is horrible and many people that I know are unemployed and those that are working are not guaranteed raises, pensions, or a job for that matter. Should the teachers choose to strike, they are hurting our children. (I have one in D112) The whole educaiton system needs reform. D112 has been in constant communication with families and made alternative arrangements to help families. I am appreciative of their communication through email, phone and letters home. Hopefully, there will not be a strike tomorrow.
Jack Straw October 15, 2012 at 02:26 PM
lwvrt, thanks for the suggestion, I have heard Alabama is a great place to retire low tax’s great bass fishing and Crimson Tide football.
Lou October 15, 2012 at 02:33 PM
The School Board must keep the school open and must pay the teachers a living wage. None of the teachers will get rich from their salaries, they are not doctors making their livings off of primarily governments sponsored Medicare payments. They are not lawyers who use every trick in the book to prolong lawsuits for their own selfish desires. They are not option traders gambling on every tick hoping to score millions. They are merely hard working caring teachers, the ones we entrust with the futures of our children and our nation. The School Board should give them what they need, decent wages and decent health care coverage.
Jack Straw October 15, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I hope you realized you just stereotyped a lot of people!
Ed Brill October 15, 2012 at 04:30 PM
What money the district has in the bank isn't really directly relevant to the negotiation, is it? That's like a child saying "I deserve a bigger allowance because I can see you have another $20 in your wallet." The reserves are there for the other expenses of running schools that were almost all constructed 40+ years ago...physical plant, classroom equipment, etc. The district has explained that two such major expenditures are planned in this fiscal year.
Lou October 15, 2012 at 04:36 PM
And name calling teachers "greedy" is ok? All they want is fair pay for hard work. This community can well afford to pay teachers a living wage. Again, they are not getting rich from their salaries.
Jack Straw October 15, 2012 at 04:51 PM
First calling the teachers, as individuals greedy is simply wrong and childish. Is it your assumption we are all rich in Highland Park? We can afford it well that’s not even worth a response.
David Greenberg October 15, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Just what is a "living wage"? Is it the same for everyone or does it vary depending upon the expenses that a particular individual or family has? What should the taxpayers be expected to fund or not fund? If someone happens to have an event occur in their life, and their wages aren't enough to cover the costs of that event - are we then no longer paying them a 'living wage', and must we then pay them more? I take exception with your comparisons to other professions. Here's some other ways to look at your comparisons: * Teachers draw their salaries primarily from taxpayer funded public entities. Just as medicare makes some payments to Doctors. * Teachers Unions use various tactics to cause negotiations to go their way. Just like some lawyers in negotiations or the court room. * Teachers don't want to gamble on the risk of continuing education, so they're trying to shift that risk to the District (and by extension the taxpayers), just like options traders use Collars to reduce their exposure. They have very decent wages and even after the Board proposal - very decent health care (at least it's similar to that offered in the Private Sector) - given that we're ranked 3rd or 4th in salary levels - I'd say that's "pretty decent". They have an offer - they can take it or leave it. Their choice.
David Greenberg October 15, 2012 at 09:12 PM
They've been offered fair pay for work - given that there's really no performance ratings yet - we don't know if everyone's working at the same level as everyone else. What's greedy is asking for raises that exceed revenues, and expecting an entity to draw money out of their reserves to cover the additional parts that exceed revenues. Those reserves are needed for other purposes besides partially funding fiscally unsustainable pay raises. Asking the taxpayers to pay more because we live in a nice community is greedy.
David Greenberg October 15, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Illinois has a "one day rest in 7" law on the books. With very limited exceptions, an employee doesn't have to work 7 days straight. What "right to work" refers to is the right of an employee to not have to join a union or contribute so-called "fair share" payments to a union. I've asked several times - haven't seen a response yet - but just "what value does the Union bring to the taxpayers?" Yes, Unions were started to protect workers from abusive employers, but there's a couple of things to keep in mind: 1) The labor laws were different "back-in-the-day", some of what Unions were formed for is now covered by Federal/State laws. This diminishes the need for a Union. 2) I'd argue that Unions are doing to employers now what employers did to the employees so long ago. The pendulum needs to swing more toward the middle. We need to stop giving out raises en masse regardless of performance levels, we need to stop giving our raises just because someone took a class, we need to bring benefits more in line with what the Private Sector receives, we need to stop spiking pensions in the last few years of employment, and so on. We need to change, and we're going to have to start somewhere. There's no time like the present.
Rachel October 16, 2012 at 12:28 AM
For the Highly Qualified teachers that we have in our District, YES they would be forced to leave. Why would a Highly Qualified teacher stay in D112 with all of their health care benefits being cut, no help for professional growth, terrible retirement AND the 1% proposed salary increase? That is insulting for any well-educated professional. The teachers in our district are top-notch: this past year, over 10,000 applicants applied for teaching jobs in the district, where to only thirty-something actually got a teaching position. They want the best education and opportunities for the students; but then again need the best for their own families. With the Board's proposal, the surrounding districts might see our own teachers wanting to move there-- where they would be graciously taken in, and compensated for the hard work that they do. $250 for spending over $15,000? That is a sad joke. Might I add-- The board’s working cash fund increased from a balance of $9,961,125 in 2007 to $12,091,974 in 2011. If they were able to INCREASE their fund balance while paying those costs, why are they insisting that the union’s proposals of a modest salary increase (now 3.25%), limits to lane movement, no change to retirement benefits and HUGE insurance savings (which will cost teachers much more out-of-pocket) are unaffordable? Ponder that
Just a Parent October 16, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Thank all of you for your comments. I think we need to remember, the children are the ones harmed here. And as a full time working mother who commutes to the city every day, the strike is making our lives miserable. I have two children in 112. Yes, the children could go to one of the activity centers, but the times the centers are open and lack of busing is not helpful. The cost for a private sitter is a burden. To join the Park District Program, you had to be in line by 5:00am and the spaces filled quickly. But apparently, that’s my problem. Regarding teacher increases, many industries are freezing pay and requiring pay cuts (even for top performers). Many feel lucky to just have a job. Yes, I respect our teachers, and know they have been providing a quality education to my children. I also suspect many did not want to strike. However, I am sure there are many other talented teachers who would love the chance to work in Highland Park even with the current terms on the table. I hope if this strike lasts past Friday, the District is prepared to bring in substitute teachers and get the children back to school, which is where they belong.
Michael Wexler October 16, 2012 at 09:47 PM
The real M. Wexler has no comment about the teacher's strike and hopes both sides will reach a reasonable solution. M. Wexler
Michelle Wexler October 16, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I'm quite curious about the identity of the M Wexler who made this post. This M Wexler did NOT post the response to this article (or make any post to this site prior to this comment)- and is not interested in stating her political opinions in any public forum. Yet Another M Wexler
David Greenberg October 16, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Apparently the teachers were wearing "black" shirts, etc. in school in the days leading up to the Strike. Now as I drove past the Admin Bldg, I note picketers wearing white shirts w/blue lettering. Why the change? Psychological mind games perhaps?
Walter White October 16, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Oh yes, your conspiracy theory instincts are well honed, my friend.
David Greenberg October 17, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Walter: I asked WHY and posited one possibility. I never claimed a "conspiracy". However, there is a great body of knowledge regarding color and how it affects persons who view it. Casinos use that knowledge to their advantage every day.
David Greenberg October 17, 2012 at 03:59 AM
It seems as if unified colored t-shirts are a common tactic by Unions... See here: http://geneva.patch.com/articles/geneva-teachers-stage-walk-in-at-high-school-middle-schools What do you think about the theory that: * The shirts are a common color and verbiage to indicate a "unified" front by the employees. * That all the employees wearing a common color before the strike is designed to send a particular message. Black typically means something 'dark', 'deadly', or 'bad'. * That all employees wearing a particular combination of colors after the strike is intended to send yet another message. White + Blue? "It'll be blue skys and fluffy clouds if you give us what we want!". Or maybe they just picked white and blue because those are some traditional colors used here in HP? Still doesn't explain the all-black before the strike though...

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