District 115 should hold firm on impasse
Updated: August 22, 2012 1:34PM
In the interim between now and when expressing my thoughts about contract negotiation between the LFEU (Lake Forest Education Union) and the District 115 Board of Education in a Letter to the Editor on July 31, “Hard times demand tough stance in LFHS negotiations,” there have been further important developments for consideration.
On Aug. 11 the LFHS teachers declared an impasse, indicating that they hoped negotiations would be speeded up with the Board now that a work stoppage could occur as early as Sept 10.
In my Lake Forester Letter to the Editor published on July 29, “Fiscal discipline called for at Lake Forest High School,” I related how the cost of educating each student at LFHS is a staggering $43,061. Although teachers’ salaries are just a part of that cost, they are a large part, and the cutting needs to start there.
The most recent data issues by the Illinois State Board of Education website (ISBE) indicates that Lake Forest High School teachers are already the highest paid on the North Shore edging out Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools by $421 a year. The average annual teacher salary at LFHS is $106,457, while educators at Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools earn an average of $106.036 per year.
An impasse has been reached because the Board refuses to meet the demands of a proposal presented by the union on July 19, which calls for a 3-year contract with an average annual increase in compensation (salary and benefits) of 6.7 percent, that’s 18-plus percent over 3 years! The board has offered a compensation package of 3.6 percent, which is generous particularly given the not-so-stellar economy, further requesting that teachers pay some of their family health care premiums.
Whatever happened to what now seems like an old fashioned idea for those choosing the teaching profession: That teaching is a noble profession, that salaries would never be on the same par as those earned in business, but that the desire to impart knowledge to those who will become future leaders and responsible citizens mattered most.
At LFHFS it seems that teachers have voted to convey the idea that money gained through the threat of a strike is more important than staying on the job and doing what they were hired to do.
Salaries have gotten to be over generous at LFHS with pensions now reaching the level of a teacher’s ending salary ten years after retirement. Competition now seems to rule in salary negotiation within a game-like atmosphere.
Just as schools compete with each other to have winning sports teams, so schools are now competing to offer the top salaries through teacher union negotiations. Unions strongly suggest that a teacher will go elsewhere if their pay is not equal or better than that of another school district. Nevertheless, there are many worthy teachers who would be willing to take the pay offered to teach at LFHS. The average pay in the Chicago area for high school teachers amounts to $72,210, which is about $20,000 less than what 83 percent of LFHS teachers earn ($90,000 to $184,000).
As I ended my Lake Forester July 31 letter, from the vantage point of this taxpayer, “enough is enough.” It is not that teachers aren’t valued for all they do, but as public employees paid for by taxpayers, they must surely realize that they are asking for higher salaries and benefits than some local residents earn.
Individuals who earn over $90,000 a year are rated in the top 20 percent of all U.S. wage earners. Even residents of affluent Lake Forest and Lake Bluff are facing tough times and can ill afford an increase of their already astronomical property taxes where many residents already pay $40,000 a year or above.
Nancy J. Thorner, Lake Bluff