To the Editor:
In your article regarding the District 156 school board’s decision to declare an impasse in the contract negotiations with the teachers’ union (after only two negotiations with a federal mediator), you mention that, “The district’s finances no longer are in such dire straits and the financial future is starting to looking positive.”
While I would claim this is an overly optimistic analysis of the district finances, it is true that the district has been able to operate with a balanced budget and has been able to make small investments in much-needed technology improvements.
I am sure the board would like to take credit for that, but actually we need to thank our teachers. It is really a simple formula: increasing revenues in the form of an annual increase in the tax levy allowable under PTELL, coupled with a reduction in expenses.
Any school district’s largest expense, by far, is personnel. For the past two years, the teachers agreed to a hard freeze of their salary, agreed to pay more of their insurance cost, and took a cut in extra-duty (stipend) pay. Therefore, the district’s single-largest expense has been reduced. Thank you, teachers!
So, the teachers have shown their good faith and commitment to the district during the tough times. They deserve to be treated with respect by the school board. They deserve more than two negotiation sessions with the mediator. Get back to the table and negotiate a contract that is fair to all parties.