Hard times demand tough stance in LFHS negotiations
Updated: August 9, 2012 3:07PM
For most residents of Lake Forest/Lake Bluff, checking the Lake Forest Community High School District 115 Board of Education website is not a priority. There have, however, been a couple edifying postings as of late concerning contract negotiations with the union representing the LFHS teachers.
Two sessions were held on June 17 and July 19 and involved a federal mediator engaged to assist the negotiations with the Lake Forest Education Union (LFEU) and the District 115 Board in reaching an agreement on a new contract for the 2012-2013 school year.
The proposal presented by the union at the July 19 meeting called for a three-year contract with an average annual increase in compensation (salary and benefits) of 6.7 percent.
The Board of Education’s proposal included a competitive average annual increase in compensation of 3.6 percent which is generous, particularly given our faltering economy. The Board of Education is additionally seeking an economic concession of minimal contributions from teachers enrolled in the HMO family plan. Currently the district pays 100 percent of their insurance coverage. The Board also wants to transition away from offering health care plans to new hires that would result in hefty taxes to the district due to the Affordable Health Care Act.
If the District 115 Board of Education and the LFEU, with the assistance of the outside mediator, cannot produce a mutually acceptable agreement before the new school year starts on Aug. 27, the Board should take a hard stance against the union if necessary to keep teachers’ salaries and benefits at a reasonable level considering these hard economic times.
1. Why should LFHS teachers as public employees have the total cost of their healthcare paid by Lake Forest and Lake Bluff taxpayers when private sector workers increasing are required to pay some of the cost for their health insurance premiums?
2. 132 out of 159 teachers employed in District 115 - 83 percent of its teachers - make at least $90,000, and this includes just salaries, not other perks.
3. A LFHS teacher retiring at age 55 at a $100,000 salary level has every chance of receiving a pension of $100,000 per year by the time he/she reaches what is considered retirement age for many individuals at age 65.
Insofar as teachers are public sector, taxpayer-paid employees, it would not seem too draconian should the District 115 Board insist on maintaining a wage and benefits freeze. It seems that the union’s balking at the 3.6 percent increase offered by the Board is looking the proverbial gift horse in the mouth and unconcerned about the taxpayers.
Teachers obviously play a very important role in Lake Forest District 115 and in our society in general; they most certainly deserve fair compensation. But just as the private sector has been forced to make difficult adjustments in compensation (especially in medical and pension benefits) to reflect the harsh economic times, our School Board must similarly make adjustment in fairness to the taxpayers of Lake Bluff and Lake Forest.
From the vantage point of this taxpayer and many others, it seems that “enough is enough.”
Nancy J. Thorner, Lake Bluff