District 47, teachers' union agree to new contract

Details online before final vote

CRYSTAL LAKE – In a rarely seen practice, leaders from Crystal Lake School District 47 and its teachers’ union released terms of a new deal before it is voted on for final approval at Monday’s board meeting.

After one year of negotiations, the sides agreed on a three-year contract that would see teachers receive salary increases in each year but also take on a greater share of insurance costs.

Under the terms, teachers would receive a 1.7 percent salary increase retroactive to the beginning of this school year. A 2.3 percent increase would kick in for the coming school year, and a 2.4 percent increase would be implemented in the 2015-16 school year.

The increases come after the teachers’ union locked into a previous contract that helped bring instruction expenses down from $47.1 million in 2011 to $44.6 million in 2013, according to Illinois Report Card and state board of education records.

Residents can view contract details at shawurl.com/149f. Those interested should view the Monday agenda and select the CLETA contract approval agenda item.

The most recent salary schedule showed ranges from $41,984 to $86,991, depending on advanced degrees and time served in the district. Teachers would need to earn a B instead of C for horizontal movement on the salary schedule in the new agreement.

An average teacher salary in the district is about $54,000.

While salaries would increase in the three years, teachers will pick up insurance costs. Once a premium increase exceeds 3 percent, teachers will begin to pick up the difference. Insurance benefits also end when teachers become Medicaid eligible instead of the previous policy of ending it at 65 years old.

Jeff Mason, District 47 board president, said negotiations took longer than expected but the process never became contentious and the ultimate agreement works well for the district and employees.

“It allowed for in-depth discussions about present conditions in the district and how we can collectively work to improve our school system,” Mason said. “We all found the discussions so valuable ... that we actually added language to the contract committing each side to continue regular discussions.”

Releasing details of a contract before board approval is a rare practice in Illinois and one that should be commended, said Diana Rickert, spokeswoman for the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative watchdog group.

Rickert, who could not recall a government body doing something similar, said it is a “low blow” to taxpayers when those in authority hide where money will be spent until a vote takes place to avoid potential criticism and backlash from the public.

She said hopefully other governments will look to District 47 as an example of how the process can work when it is transparent.

“Openness is always a better route short term and long term,” Rickert said. “They should be commended for putting it out there. It fosters a better relationship with community members and hopefully it starts a trend with other school districts.”

The board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at Canterbury Elementary, 820 Darlington Lane, to vote on the contract.

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