District 112 Teachers Take First Step Towards Strike

Despite the help of a federal mediator, contract negotiations between teachers and the Highland Park elementary and middle school district are not going well.

The District 112 teachers' union declared an impasse in its contract negotiations with the school board last week, a decision that could lead to a teachers' strike by the middle of next month.

The teachers' current contract expired Aug. 21. Since then, the North Shore Education Association (NSEA) — the teachers' union — has been meeting with the district's school board to negotiate a new contract. Even with the assistance of a federal mediator, the talks have not gone far.

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Union position

"We went in with about half a million dollars a year in health insurance concessions," NSEA president Pamela Kramer said. "Even with that they still want to freeze our salaries."

Kramer said much of the union's frustration comes from the way the new contract cuts rewards to teachers for pursuing higher accreditation. Previously, the district gave teachers a 1.5 percent raise for 18 hours of graduate credits, according to Kramer. In the new contract, that raise has been replaced by a $250 stipend.

The stipend, combined with a salary freeze that would prevent raises except for cost of living increases, means it would take teachers 20 years to make back the thousands of dollars teachers spend from their own pockets on higher learning, according to Kramer.

"What that would do in this district is teachers would come, work in this district for a year or two and then leave to a district that pays better," Kramer said. An English and dual language teacher, Kramer has taught in Highland Park for 12 years. "You don't want teachers that come and hightail it to Lake Forest and Deerfield where they get better pay."

Kramer believes the district's reluctance to be more generous with its teachers stems from its unnecessarily gloomy outlook on its own financial state.

"The money is there … it just depends on how you look at the future," Kramer said. "Do you look at it as doom and gloom? The economy is getting better."

Board position

District 112 Community Relations Specialist Andi Rosen told Patch the district has a very clear idea of what its finances will look like and wants to make sure expenditures don't exceed revenue.

"We can project very accurately what the revenue will be like," Rosen said. She added that the teachers' union used Kramer's argument three years ago, and as a result the district gave out salary increases to teachers that ended up going "well above the revenues," $2.65 million from its 2013 budget earlier this year.

"It's not in the best interests of the teachers if the board is in a position where further cuts have to be made," Rosen said. "At some point it starts to affect class sizes."

Rosen declined to elaborate on Kramer's concerns, but said that the district's new proposed contract would be published online on Sept. 21. In the meantime, Rosen acknowledged that negotiations still had a long way to go.

"The board and the union came to the table hoping to talk to each other and reach a settlement," Rosen said, "but they are quite far apart."

What's next

The declaration of impasse came last Friday, days after the teachers voted to authorize the negotiations team to strike if bargaining sessions continued to be unproductive. The union and the board have until Sept. 21 to submit their most recent contract proposals to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, and then another seven days to post those proposals on the agency's website. The earliest the strike could legally begin is Oct. 12.

But that won't stop teachers from rallying before then. Kramer said that teachers will rally outside of the District 112 School Board meeting on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. at the District Administrative Officed, 1936 Green Bay Road.

District 112 teachers have also taken to the Internet to reach out to the community about its concerns. They have set up a Facebook page and are blogging about the negotiations on the union's website.

"It's a new school board," Kramer said. "I think they'll be surprised to find out that the community values its teachers."

The next mediation session between the board and the union will be held on Oct. 4. 

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Walter White September 20, 2012 at 11:56 AM
You mean other than their legally protected right to organize? Yeah, I suppose you're right. If you honestly think firing all the teachers and hiring new ones is in the best interest of any school district, you're even more clueless than you've shown up to this point. So say you do that and the ones you hire decide to organize....fire them too? You have absolutely no clue what you're talking about.
Walter White September 20, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Keep saying the same thing over and over again, Dave. Maybe at some point you will be correct.
Longtime HP Resident September 20, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Lila: I would be happy to live on $70k per year while only working 9 months out of the year and still have vacation days, sick days, and other benefits afforded to me.
Longtime HP Resident September 20, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Joe, very well said. Mark, yes, EVERY political party organizes. However, for an organization to promote communist reading makes me wary. I think Unions have run their course. In the course of my work I see union employees getting away with things I could never get away with in my job. I hear a union steward telling people how they can best file their claim to get the most out of it. In addition, I hear union stewards telling employees to lie so that they can best get what they want. The inmates are running the asylum.
David Greenberg September 20, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Walter, I haven't said anything that's incorrect. So I don't know what you're talking about.
David Greenberg September 20, 2012 at 04:46 PM
There's absolutely NO reason why public sector employees should have the right to unionize (and FDR would agree with me). In fact, it was against the law until some fools in NY came up with a sneaky way to allow them to do so. The reasons why Public Sector unionization is a bad idea is outside the scope of this discussion. But yes, any of them want to go on strike? Fine. That's their right. But it's also OUR right to have our kids in school. So rather than fooling around with teachers who are trying to use our kids as leverage against us in a contract negotiation, we'll just replace those individuals with persons who think our offerings are acceptable. If the ones that we hire as replacements want to organize - fine. But if they choose to strike, or ask for unreasonable things (raises in an economy where the majority don't get raises), or don't want to accept pay for performance? Fine - we'll replace them too. No problem.
Walter White September 20, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Once again, you are theoretically elegant, but in practice, relatively meaningless.
Mark Stein September 20, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Actually, Alinsky was a community organizer who organized community groups that advocated for better city services. He worked in the Back of the Yards neighborhood and in Woodlawn. He explicitly rejected the communist party. In fact, he rejected joining any political party. The NEA also recommends that everyone read "Getting to Yes," which espouses the principles of interest based problem solving. Everyone on this Board, including those who don't believe in compromise, might try reading that book.
David Greenberg September 20, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Sorry Walter, but I beg to differ that the thought of hiring replacements for strikers is relatively meaningless. In fact, quite the opposite. In years past, the Public had no real appetite for hiring replacements because the tax burden, albeit somewhat high, wasn't overly burdensome. Flash forward to the Present: Investments are down, people aren't making as much money, the Springfield Brain Trust raised taxes 67% and still hasn't solved the problems they promised to, pension responsibilities might get shifted to the local taxpayers, etc., etc. People all over are looking at what Teachers Unions are demanding and saying "Ummm, no." So there's a great appetite to dig in and do what's necessary to hold the line. If that means replacing strikers - it'll likely happen. And far from being meaningless - it should hold great meaning for the Unions. They're not going to get the Public to simply roll over and accept their demands or their threats. So they need to really take a step back and say "This would be nice, but it's never going to happen in this environment, and we need to wait it out like the rest of the Country. If they think the economy is coming back in a short period, let them negotiate a shorter term. But they better not come back at the end and pull a "Lake Forest" where they claim they need a bigger raise to make up for the previous concession.
Walter White September 20, 2012 at 06:39 PM
And somehow strikes in Chicago and Lake Forest were effective in getting deals done.
Longtime HP Resident September 20, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Mark, Compromise is great. It is what makes up every relationship. But when is enough enough. With some unions it has become about bullying and not compromise. Do they see our tax bills? I cannot afford much more. I was born and raised in this town and I am nostalgic for it, but it is becoming much too expensive.
David Greenberg September 20, 2012 at 07:05 PM
I don't really think you can draw the conclusion that the strikes were effective in getting deals done. Chicago:The Union and the City both knew that they were running up against the "grandma" patience time-the concept being that many of the families with kids not in school sent them to grandma's house, and grandma would only be able to deal with the zaniness for a week or so. With Chicago, you also have to factor in the National political stage-during an election year, they didn't want to irk what's traditionally a large voting bloc around the country, yet didn't want to irk the rest of the City. It remains to be seen how it's all going to be paid for-somehow, I think that a property tax increase will drive even more people out of the City, thereby exacerbating the issues they currently have. As for Lake Forest-so far as I know, the Public hasn't yet seen the deal, so we don't know what was negotiated. What I do know is that the 'burbs make more than their counterparts in CPS AND they don't get shot at, beaten up, or robbed (if at all, at least not as often) up here, so the entire "striking Lake Forest" teachers thing was looked upon as gluttons wanting ever more. Once again, we'll find out what happened there in due time. I've talked to a lot of people in HP, and they've all said "We've never had a strike because the Board's a bunch of wimps and gives the teachers everything they want. Enough is enough. It's gotta stop." So we'll see what happens in HP.
David Greenberg September 20, 2012 at 07:21 PM
"Getting To Yes" is a good book, and so is the counterpart "Getting Past No", I've read them both. Since negotiations are a two-way street - what's our "golden bridge" going to be from the Union? They want us to come to them, we want them to come to us. What do they have to offer during these trying economic times? And it better be worth the trip across the bridge - not some nonsense like "well, we'll accept a cut from what we want now, but in 2 years we want to be "made whole" and get it back plus add on more in a few years..." - for me, that's a faux gold bridge...
llwvrt September 21, 2012 at 07:54 PM
No forest, we don't have to pay higher salaries. Comparable would be nice.
Anonymous September 28, 2012 at 03:33 AM
To John Sullivan: Exactly where do you see money doubling every 7 years. Your comments and financial forecast for teachers at 50 and 60 is ignorant and disrespectful that i hope you have no children in District 112.
John Sullivan September 28, 2012 at 03:55 AM
My comment reads TEN years. 1.07 compounded for ten years is 1.9672. Sorry if you find simple math ignorant and disrespectful. Your comment lacks a question mark, a word, and a capitalization. Since you cannot read, write, or do arithmetic , I conclude that you are a victim of our public school system. My sympathy.
Anonymous September 28, 2012 at 04:12 AM
I'm a victim of a private school from many years ago, but i respect our teachers and all of the employees for their effort for District 112. What i find ignorant is you believing that teachers make an average of over $100K, and this will double. If you don't respect our teachers, our school system, or the people that educate your children than leave. Its a free country. Highland Park prides themselves in having the most skilled and educated teachers in the North Shore, and if you don't support or endorse this, LEAVE. Maybe you should home school your children if you could a better job. It's ignorance like this that our public servants are not taken care of. There should be no price or dollar amount on any teacher that educates your children and prepares them for the future. Again, if you believe you can do this your self go right ahead.... DISTRICT 112 DOES NOT NEED RESIDENTS SUCH AS YOUR SELF THAT DONT SUPPORT THEIR TEACHERS AND SCHOOL SYSTEM. SO PLEASE KEEP YOUR IGNORANT COMMENTS AND FEEDBACK TO YOURSELF. SINCERELY, ALL OF HIGHLAND PARK.
John Sullivan September 28, 2012 at 01:45 PM
At 7%, ANY number doubles in ten years. IF a 40-year-old teacher makes $100,000, that teacher will make $200,000 at age 50 and $400,000 at age 60. At that point the teacher will receive a $300,000 per year pension with a 3% raise every year, free health insurance until age 65, and subsidies thereafter. About two years of accumulated sick pay fall in here as well. Make adjustments from there. Most people, even in Highland Park, would consider this "not bad" for a part-time job.
Mark Stein September 28, 2012 at 02:39 PM
There isn't a single teacher in this state who makes $200,000 a year. There may be administrators who make this amount. The current District business manager made over $350,000 a year in another District and then retired with a TRS pension. He is now working under a different pension system (IMRF).
John Sullivan September 28, 2012 at 02:55 PM
We all understand that. A teacher who makes $100,000 now will make $200,000 in ten years if the 7% average increase in teacher salaries continues. This historical average includes "contract raises", "step raises", and "lane raises". For example, the Chicago teachers only received about a 11% raise over three years in contract raises, but their actual raises will total 25% over the three years and, of course, their pensions will increase by 75% of that. Without putting too fine a point on it, their actual raise in total compensation will be about 40%. Not bad, considering the average real wages in Chicago DROPPED over 8% in the past two years.
llwvrt September 28, 2012 at 03:09 PM
I guess you don't know how to read a salary schedule but you sure do know how to blow facts out of proportion. Teacher pensions are based on a percentage. You can be loud, why can't you get it right? I checked - you shout out all over the place on teachers. I don't trash your job. Go sub for a while and then come back. At least you will have a vague idea of what goes on in classroom.
John Sullivan September 28, 2012 at 04:20 PM
To llwvrt: Yes, the percentage is 75% of final salary or something akin to that. Usually teachers receive end-of-career bonuses to increase their pension, which is then dumped on state taxpayers. I disapprove of the process in which teachers get paid with taxpayer money, give a chunk of that to the union, the union gives the bulk of this to our politicians in exchange for legislation in favor of teachers that the taxpayers have to pay for. It seems that teachers use money from their own community to screw their own community and, on average, they take from those who make much less than they do and this difference is exploding. On a total compensation per full year basis, teachers make 3-6 times their counterparts in the private sector and have virtually no accountability. Gee! What's not to like?
John Sullivan September 28, 2012 at 04:43 PM
http://republicannewswatch.com/wp/?p=11875 The math is in the above. A teacher starting at age 22 at $40,000 actually receives $137,000 in total compensation on an annualized basis. Under current assumptions, he will receive over $8 million in salary over 38 years and almost $10 million is pension payments over 24 years. $47,000 must be paid every year for 38 years to fund the pension at a 5% rate of return. Teachers typically pay less than 5% of their pensions. The rest is on the taxpayers. Sorry about the numbers, but they don't lie. Unfortunately for the teachers, the TRS is scheduled to completely run out of money in 6-10 years and whatever taxpayers are left in the state probably won't care much.
David Greenberg September 28, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I'd have to go review the records before agreeing with you on your claim that no teacher makes $200K/yr. However, we have many in our area that approach that number. A recently retired Athletic Director in D113 made $160K/yr. Other PE teachers make over 6-figures as well. Yes, I realize it's not D112 - but the fact is that the salaries/benefits demanded are unsustainable in the long-term. The benefits being demanded are rarely, if ever, offered in the Private Sector. And given that the salaries in the Public Sector approach and often exceed those of the Private Sector - why should we offer better benefits in the Public Sector than the Private Sector? The social compact used to be that because a public employee traded earning power and took a lower salary for the position, we'd reward their lower salary and civil service with a pension to take care of them in their old age. Now that the salaries aren't lower, that compact has been broken and it's time for Public employees to fund their own retirements. Raises need to be brought to heel as well, and based upon PERFORMANCE metrics that are fair and achievable (yes, they'll vary by class level too) - and the employee is going to have to realize that they may not get a raise every year. They're also going to have to pay for more of their own health care - just like the rest of us are doing now.
John Sullivan September 28, 2012 at 05:17 PM
David: Unfortunately, as can be seen in the link above, a beginning teacher starting at $40,000 per year would have to contribute $47,000 per year for 38 years to fund the "promised pension". Their max current contribution is 9.4% of salary and about half of the teachers in Illinois have negotiated to have the school district (taxpayers) make their contribution FOR them. The deduction shows on their pay stub, but their gross is 9.4% higher than it should be. Now, no one actually makes this $47,000 contribution, which is why the TRS - using realistic assumptions - is only about 20% funded. The rest is left to our children and the next generation of politicians to deal with. How nuts is it that a teacher starting at $40,000 is "promised" a pension of $275,000/yr in 38 years growing to a pension payment of $542,000 at age 84? Maximum Social Security, by the way, would be estimated at $75,000 in 38 years and that is almost completely paid for by participants. The teacher with the $275,000 pension will have contributed less than the first year's payment over the course of his career. Why not make this available to the taxpayers who pay for it? Plop down $100,000 at age 60 and receive a $75,000 per year pension with a 3% raise every year and the same free health care benefits that teachers get! Cool!
David Greenberg September 28, 2012 at 05:22 PM
John, I agree it's totally insane. We need to move away from a Defined Benefit to a Defined Contribution - with two options: A) The teacher manages their own investments; B) The "Fund" manages the investments. Changes should be allowed once every 10 years. No guarantees as to value - may go up or down. May lose value. And as their salary goes up - the taxpayer's contribution should decrease accordingly. When they're making $100K/yr, the taxpayers should contribute ZERO. When they're making under $50K/yr, OK, I'll bite and say that the 'social compact' about making less than in the private sector applies so we ought to contribute something - not the whole 9.4%, but something substantial. TRS's assumptions of an 8% return are totally off-base as well. They need to be CONSERVATIVE, not aggressive with their predictions...
John Sullivan September 28, 2012 at 05:40 PM
They've only averaged 4% over the past ten years, and only 1% over the last fiscal year. The difference triples to quadruples the unfunded portion. Of course, no one in Illinois expects these large pots of public money to be "on the legit", as the Cellini trial illustrated. The teachers never had to care about corruption in their pension fund because the taxpayers had to make up the difference. However, now it is apparent that the Illinois economy will never be able to pay more than a fraction of it's obligations and they should care very much indeed. Oh, well, when the money runs out, the money runs out.....
Lou September 28, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Remember, families move to Highland Park because of our schools, that's what we are known for, not the rude and careless drivers (and bicyclists) who "own" the roads here. New Orleans has great food, Los Angeles the movie "stars" and Highland Park has the greatest schools and teachers, all my kids loved their elementary and middle schools in HP. One cannot say that about too many other schools in our once great nation. Let's support the teachers, they support us.
Me September 28, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I am from Lake Forest and I just have to laugh at the situation. We were just strong-armed into a ridiculous settlement because we were told that if we didn't agree to outlandish raises, then the best teachers would all hot foot it on down the road to........you guessed it, Highland Park. Now, the teachers are extorting the Highland Park taxpayers, telling them that all of the good ones will run up to Lake Forest if the raises are not given. Just wait until the teachers make a video on how passionate they are about teaching. It will bring a tear to your eye (sniff, sniff). Taxpayers, you may want to bite down on this strap because you will probably feel a bit of pressure.
John Sullivan September 28, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Sorry to say, after the election, our esteemed politicians are expected to start dumping pension payments on local school districts. Instead of pension reform, we will get another tax increase and more increases as far as the eye can see. Despite this, many teachers will have to be laid off and their salaries will increase from the 85% of the budget that they now hog. Class sizes will have to increase and student outcomes will continue to decline, but at a faster pace. But, what the heck! A drivers ed teacher SHOULD make $190,000/yr. District 15 just had a P.E. teacher retire with a salary of $203,000/yr and a pension of $150,000/yr. At a 5% cost of money, that pension has a lump sum value of $4 million dollars. Just like your 401k!


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