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Our View: Contracts see light of day

Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

We recently used this space to criticize local school districts for voting on new teachers’ contracts before allowing taxpayers to see the details on how their money is being spent.

It is unacceptable to keep the public in the dark about how its money is being spent until it’s too late. Too many school districts believe it is acceptable to spend large sums of taxpayer dollars without telling the public how those dollars are being allocated.

In the past week, however, two taxing bodies decided to buck that trend – one of them after it originally said it wouldn’t provide details of its contract with faculty until after trustees voted on the deal.

Crystal Lake-based School District 47 and McHenry County College posted contract details on their websites in the days leading up to the final vote on the contract.

District 47 approved its contract with teachers Monday night. MCC is poised to vote on its contract with faculty Thursday night. MCC originally refused to share the details of its deal with faculty.

Regardless of the timing, both entities should be applauded for letting taxpayers see how their money is being spent before it’s spent.

For example, taxpayers in District 47 were able to see that the district agreed to continuing the disturbing practice of giving retiring teachers a large raise in the final years of employment so that the teachers can pad their pension. Taxpayers pay for the raise and the pension.

In District 47, retiring teachers will get a 6 percent raise in each of their final three years.

House Bill 4268 continues to sit in state Rep. Jack Franks’ State Government Administration Committee. The bill would require all newly negotiated contracts between unions and public-sector employers (school districts, cities, counties, the state, etc.) to be posted for at least 14 days on the public body’s website. It also would require the public entity to convene an open meeting and receive public comments before a vote is taken.

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton. Local state Reps. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills; Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake; and Barb Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake are co-sponsors.

Franks wants to broaden its scope to all contracts.

We continue to support House Bill 4268. In the meantime, we applaud District 47 and MCC for showing taxpayers the contract before spending the money.

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