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Teacher Salaries Sticking Point in D181 Negotiations

The teachers' union president says a "vocal minority" is standing in the way of a deal, while the board president says he wants a "market-based" compensation package.

The lid came off what had been quiet negotiations between the District 181 Board of Education and the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Teachers’ Association (HCHTA) Monday night.

District teachers donning blue t-shirts filled the gym at in Burr Ridge during a regular business meeting of the board two days before the current contract between the district and teachers is set to expire. They cheered in support of HCHTA President Justin Horne when he read from a prepared statement during public comment and stood with hands raised when Horne asked if they supported the union’s offer.

The district and union had previously been mum on points of contention between the two parties during what has been, according to Board President Michael Nelson, more than 40 hours of negotiation over 12 sessions. But the two sides acknowledged Monday they have not seen eye to eye on teacher salaries going forward.

Both the board and the HCHTA want no base salary increase for teachers in the first year of a new contract. The union, however, wants to keep in place step increases, which are raises teachers get based on their longevity in the district. The board’s proposed salary freeze would not give step increases in the first year. Nelson said the average step increase is 2.8 percent.

Offers from the two sides continue to diverge in year two of a potential contract. The union wants a 1.75 percent base salary increase, plus step increases; the board offered step increases in the second year but still no base salary increase.

In year three of a potential contract, the board has offered a base salary increase equal to 50 percent of the CPI increase in year three (not to exceed 2.25 percent), plus step increases. The union handout listed no proposed offer for a third year.

Horne said the district's fund balances would increase with the union's proposed plan. Nelson said that statement is premature because the district is not sure of what revenue it will get from the state and federal governments in future years.

The current contract between the district and teachers expires Wednesday. District 181 director of communications Rita DuChateau said the district plans to start the school year Thursday, as planned, with or without a new contract.

“It would not be the first time a contract was not settled by the first day of school,” DuChateau said.

Horne said the union is “extremely concerned and disappointed” that a deal has not been reached. He said the teachers' union and past school boards have been able to successfully work through collective bargaining disagreements privately. According to Horne, a “vocal minority” seems to have it in for the teachers and is the reason for the stalemate.

"We have never encountered a board that seems so entrenched in a position that would have a negative impact on our teachers, even when fund balances are increasing,” Horne said. “It apparently isn't even about money." 

Nelson said after Monday’s meeting that the board is disappointed with the current impasse, as well.

“We truly value the teachers and the work they do with our students,” Nelson said. “We have an absolutely wonderful district and teachers are really the drivers of a solid education for our kids.”

He said the board supports a “market-based" compensation package that pays District 181 teachers competitively while also taking into consideration the troubled economy, which Nelson said likely isn't going to improve in the near future.

“We, in good conscience, can't keep jacking up taxes to increase pay in the district,” Nelson said.

Three of the four community members who spoke during public comment Monday echoed that sentiment and criticized the teachers for demanding raises.

Nelson was asked whether an agreement will come by Thursday.

“Ideally, yes,” he said. “But ultimately we’re going to get to the right agreement.” 

clarhillsmom August 23, 2011 at 11:45 AM
I think we can all guess who the vocal minority on the board is based on past history...
Suzy Kurtz August 23, 2011 at 12:56 PM
@clarhillsmom -- can you explain, for those of us who don't know the past history?
Randi Angelos August 23, 2011 at 02:26 PM
I'm certain the "vocal minority" on the board is union fiction.
kevin August 23, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Maybe I didn't get the education that my kids are getting but if I do the math the teachers are asking for a 4.55% raise(step 2.8 raise 1.75). In this economy thats crazy. Too bad there is only a minority against the Union. The teachers should be happy for a job!!!
Steve Woodward August 23, 2011 at 04:10 PM
The head union puppet actually did not cite a vocal minority "on the board". He was referring to all of us. Taxpayers. They think we aren't paying attention. They prey on the "vocal minority" constantly. But when this level of arrogance emerges, the sleeping giant of fiscal accountability is awakened, and then guess who becomes the "minority"?
Joe O'Donnell (Editor) August 23, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Steve is correct in saying that Justin's statement mentions a "vocal minority" but doesn't make clear whether that is a vocal minority on the board or in the community. I have made changes in the story to reflect that. Thanks.
clarhillsmom August 24, 2011 at 12:39 PM
Read the article again....both sides are not looking for raises this year...it is year 2 of the conteact that they are looking for raises that seem to be reasonable. They are lucky to have jobs, and we are lucky to have the teachers that we do.
clarhillsmom August 24, 2011 at 12:42 PM
Does it bother anyone that everything the board does is always behind closed doors..the public never knows the truth.
Ann Mueller August 24, 2011 at 02:36 PM
After living in D181 for 24 years, educating my children in D181 and serving on the D181 BOE, I need to respond to clarhillsmom's comments. First of all, the entire D181 community needs to thank the members of the D181 BOE for the enormous amount of time and the efforts they have VOLUNTEERED for the students in the district. Having sat at the table representing the D181BOE three times, I must indicate to the community that it is a challenging process and, when I was involved, the BOE had more flexibility as to what it could offer. In our current economic situation, where D181 was facing a $1.7 million deficit before trimming its budget (i.e. eliminating a Building and Grounds supervisory position, etc.), the Board's responsibility of negotiating a new teachers' contract is all the more difficult. All of us live in this community to educate our children and recognize the excellent quality of the teachers in our district. However, no taxpayer in D181 can/wants to pay higher taxes. Therefore, balancing all the variables involved in this negotiations is very tough. The way negotiations are conducted has always been to NOT negotiate in public, which has been agreed to by both parties. A NEW state law has allowed both sides to make their positions public after certain criteria has been met....two mediations completed. Clarhillsmom needs to get up to speed before making her comments! Also, I am a former teacher.
Joe O'Donnell (Editor) August 24, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Ann is correct about how, under new state law, if this impasse continues, eventually both sides will have to officially make their offers public. (They unofficially made them public Monday night.) See this Patch article for more details on new negotiating regulations in Illinois: http://patch.com/A-kn6y.
kevin August 25, 2011 at 04:27 AM
I did read the article. You do the math over the three year peroid. Tell me what the average is. My math has it at 3% on ave per year as a minimum. That's too much in this current economy. Some we are lucky to have, some we can do without, but they all get the raise. Teachers get too much of the credit around here. If they don't like it, they can leave. We'll see how easy it is to fill their job.
Ann Mueller August 26, 2011 at 05:30 AM
When a BOE presents a contract offer, it is the entire board's offer. I doubt if any D181 BOE member thinks they are above scrutiny. Before referring to a current lawsuit that D181 is experiencing as frivolous, be sure to know all the facts involved in it. I think we may be in agreement that no one wants taxpayer money spent defending lawsuits. However, to accuse board members of driving up district costs and wasting time may not be a fair examination of the situation. Also, we are all entitled to our own opinions, but when a district employee violates several district policies an investigation is required. When referencing the Sonntag situation, why you would specifically say that two BOE members "wasted thousands of dollars for the Sonntag legal proceedings" I do not understand. As mentioned, a personnel issue such as this required the BOE to investigate the matter, seek legal advice and make a decision. I believe that is what happened in this case. As I said before, community members are entitled to have their own opinions on situations but, hopefully, they will examine all sides of an issue using facts, not hearsay. Also, it is possible to respectfully agree to disagree. Finally, the D181 BOE can legally only discuss certain issues in executive session ("behind closed doors.") Please try to afford the D181 BOE members the same respect and courtesy that we all would hope to receive if serving in their positions.
Kerry Comstock September 05, 2011 at 06:07 PM
Joe - is there any follow up to this article? Seems like a long time has passed and we have not seen any updates. Thank you.
Joe O'Donnell (Editor) September 06, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Hi Kerry, Thanks for the message. Actually, D181 has given no updates on the negotiations since the last board meeting. When progress is made (or not made, I suppose), Patch will be there. Joe
Steve Woodward September 06, 2011 at 04:01 PM
We do not need a formal statement to know this is a complete standoff. Zero negotiating. Citizens reported seeing D181 teachers wearing their blue, "I'm a Teacher" t-shirts during school hours last Friday. This, despite 99% of comments posted at SalarySanity181.com advising teachers to knock it off and accept the Board's contract terms.
clarhillsmom September 07, 2011 at 09:06 AM
What are the boards contract terms? No salary increases for 2 years, but a step increase in year 2?
Joe O'Donnell (Editor) September 07, 2011 at 03:11 PM
That's correct, clarhillsmom.
Steve Woodward September 07, 2011 at 03:26 PM
And those step increases are not irrelevant. In year 2 the average pay increase is projected to be 2.8%, despite a base freeze. Repeat, average. In year 3 the average pay increases are projected in a range between 2.8% and 5.05%. Of course, the union is asking for a two-year deal, which is another sticking point.
Ann Mueller September 08, 2011 at 03:48 AM
A two year contract is like being elected to Congress (the election is over and you start running again!) No sooner is the ink dry on the contract when "language" in the next contract should start to be discussed. A three year contract is necessary to actually accomplish something in between contract negotiations!
clarhillsmom September 21, 2011 at 12:18 PM
So has the board formally announced their offer?
Joe O'Donnell (Editor) September 21, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Yes, clarhillsmom, the board has announced their offer. It is detailed in the fourth, fifth, and sixth paragraphs in the story above. The board has not said anything about the offer changing since this story was written.

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