Quick Hits – Anatomy of a Teachers Strike – Part One

Having lived in Geneva for 21 long years, I’ve been more that a bit baffled by the current animosity between the D304 teacher’s union and the School Board. It wasn’t that long ago that the board basically rubber stamped anything the teachers asked for, and suddenly we’re facing a second potential strike in a scant 10 years?

GEA

Though you couldn’t have convinced me of this a month ago, as it stands right now, I firmly believe there’s a 50 percent chance our teachers will walk out. And I’m basing that prediction on a lengthy conversation with an insider who expertly explained exactly why we are where we are right now.

I promise I will endeavor to simplify a rather complex situation:

1. Why D304 starting salaries are lower

The last teacher’s contract (2015 – 2018) included an automatic 2.65 percent annual raise for EXISTING teachers. Previous contracts contained similar provisions. So, what this dynamic did was create an expanding chasm between new and current teacher salaries, because starting pay remained virtually unchanged by default.

So, the news reports that made it appear as if the Board made a conscious decision to offer a lower introductory rate were dead wrong.

2. The Board wanted to address the starting salary issue once and for all

Seeing that growing salary schism, and with Springfield constantly mucking up the works, the School Board added a 2015 contract provision that called for the creation of a committee tasked with revamping the remuneration model once and for all. And the teacher’s union agreed to that stipulation.

3. The task force couldn’t come to a consensus

Despite 18 long months of negotiations, the committee, consisting of Geneva Education members (teachers), School Board members, and district administrators, could not come to terms. That meant, per the 2015 contract, the salary structure conundrum was automatically tossed into the new contract negotiations.

So, not only are the board and teacher’s union discussing pay increases, but an entirely new way of doing business. That may well be the definition of a Herculean task.

4. Many D304 teachers want to go back to the old salary/step and lane system

I understand, but that’s not going to happen, because a deal is a deal. When every school district was renegotiating teacher contracts during the Great Recession, the citizens of Geneva and the School Board kept their end of the bargain. And if the teachers are upset with the current reality, they need to take it up with their union reps and not the school board.

5. They’ve been negotiating a new contract since February

If you add 18 months to 9 more, that’s more than two years of salary structure futility, which doesn’t bode well for the future. My 50 percent walkout prediction is derived from combing that impasse with the fact that no teacher really wants to strike.

6. Then Springfield made it much more difficult

In the middle of all of this, the General Assembly changed the rules. That never happens, right? Though, in this particular case, I think they were dead on.

Tired of rampant pension spiking, they passed a statute mandating that, for every dollar a retiring teacher is paid above a 3 percent annual increase, the district would have to send $17 back to the state! It’s not unlike Major League Baseball’s luxury tax which kicks in whenever a team goes over a certain salary level.

For the uninitiated, “pension spiking” is the practice by which a school district might provide as much as a 20 percent salary increase in a teacher’s final year. It was a negotiating ploy that artificially bumped their pension and put the financial burden on the state, and not local taxpayers.

And that three percent baseline includes everything; even stipends for running after school clubs. As you might image, the School Board does not want to pay a “luxury tax” under any circumstances, which further complicates the negotiating process.

 

Since your brain probably hurts just as much as mine does right now, we’ll continue this conversation tomorrow or Thursday when I’ll explain why the Geneva Education Association is directing their energy and anger at the wrong targets.

23 thoughts on “Quick Hits – Anatomy of a Teachers Strike – Part One

  1. You’ve got a few typos that make this a little tricky to understand.
    Also, it is wholly inaccurate to claim that the GEA ever agreed to getting rid of the step and lane salary schedule. That is a deliberate misinterpretation of the wording in that contract.
    I’d agree that it’s not been fault-free on either side, but it’s not an evenly balanced power relationship either.

    • I fixed the typos. AND I NEVER SAID THE GEA AGREED TO GET RID OF STEP AND LANE! I said they agreed to discuss an entirely new system WHICH THE TEACHER’S UNION AGREED TO IN THE LAST CONTRACT.

      I can actually read a contract.

      And if you and they really think that didn’t mean meaningful changes, then every Geneva teacher should resign right now.

      The Geneva teachers are completely at fault here which I will explain further tomorrow or Thursday.

    • And if you thing I’m biased in any way, my wife is a teacher in the East Aurora school district where Geneva teachers wouldn’t last a week!

  2. Don’t worry. Your property taxes will rise and everything will be ok.

  3. It all boils down to greed. Pre-2011 hires have taken advantage of taxpayers, and now they are taking advantage of post 2011 hires, It;s all explained here: https://www.trsil.org/sites/default/files/documents/EZguide.pdf The state actually tried to bring common sense to the table with the Tier II pay system, primarily the mandatory 67yo age requirement to collect full benefits. This would eliminate the 55yo teacher with 32 years in, retiring to Florida and avoiding any IL tax, collecting a pension for 30+ years. This is what the battle is about. The post-2011 hires are subsidizing the greedy, and the Tier I ingrates realize they need to increase the Tier II base or it all crumbles. Tier I should also be changed to a 67yo full benefit retirement age to save IL from bankruptcy.

  4. Ok my brain does hurt although that is not unusual. My bias is for teachers. Not superintendents or principals
    My serious question to you is who are parties to last agreement? Teachers and board I get but who are district administrators and where did they come from and who hired or appointed them

    • Jim,

      When it comes to teacher contract negotiations, it’s always between the school board and the union, and no one else.

      Meanwhile, district administrators are hired by the superintendent and/or other administrators and they are not unionized.

      Jeff

  5. Why was your post taken down from the What’s Happening in Geneva Page? The suppression of fact by the other side is down right scary. You simply stated fact. As a Geneva taxpayer who took our kids out of the district because of the appallingly lack luster curriculum, we are hit twice in the pocketbook.
    This is greed; pure and simple. If you don’t like, don’t let the door hit you. I’m sick of being shaken down by “public servants” and their bully tactics. Collective bargaining where gym teachers and librarians retire with 6 figure pensions on the backs of taxpayers is insane.

    • Dear Annoyed,

      The moderators of the Geneva page did not take it down because I got their OK first. But that doesn’t mean that Facebook won’t take it down if enough people complain about it.

      I’ve already asked for it to be re-posted.

      And to be fair, a teacher has to last 30 years in the system to get one of those large pensions. And if you manage to endure that long, I think they should get something out of it.

      Jeff

      • Teachers deserve a pension, no one is arguing that. But the disparity between what a teacher can get in retirement, and what the average Geneva taxpayer will get in SS can be HUGE. 30 years? The average working stiff has to work 45+ years to get a pre-determined amount that has no relevance compared to last salary. The simple fact that teachers are again threatening to hold kids hostage to get their way is repulsive. And enough about the “quality” 304 education. It’s average at best when compared to similar communities on a per student investment. Enough. Went to that well to many times, and it’s run dry.

      • Yes, something comparable to social security, but certainly not the sweetheart deals which leave taxpayers on the hook in perpetuity. Let’s remember this is a chosen profession, and not volunteer work. We will agree to disagree on this one, but I certainly appreciate reading a blog with actual fact and not just emotion on this matter. Thank you.

  6. Judge One Eye Moran, agree 100 percent!

    • Universities and School Districts.

      These are not gym, history, science and math teachers and janitors.

      • Actually, ALL of their unstastainable pensions are the problem. The politicians promised favors in exchange for votes. The unions vote for whoever promises them the greatest benefit. The problem is the taxpayers are then the ones flipping the bill. Yes, teachers do put in 10 percent, but they get that back tenfold in retirement with tax payer dollars. Meanwhile us private sector folks are having 6 percent taken out of our paychecks PLUS another chunk to fund our own retirements (if we can afford to do so) to get a fraction of what a state pension gives its retirees. We also have to work at least 10 more years before we can even think of retirement. So, no-teachers, janitors, etc., aren’t the only ones, or the highest paid in retirement, but they are sure as heck part of the pension problem. It all adds up, and John Q Public is sick of making up the difference. It’s time teachers get what they put in back, and let them invest in a private retirement fund like everyone else. The current pension system is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme with the new teachers and tax payers on the bottom.

      • As a whole, you are correct.

        Just these top tiered individuals, it’s like you won the lottery and no financial issues the rest of your life..

        6 figures every year and most likely that persons house is paid off while just about finished with their vacation home.

    • Excellent post, dead on. Keep in mind that the teachers contract obligates them to only pay 2% of the 9% contribution, with taxpayers picking up the difference PLUS the 9% match. The union did this as an underhanded way to bump salaries 3 years ago. All Ponzi schemes end badly, it’s about time taxpayers end this one for good.

  7. Can you post the exact language in the contract that states the teachers are prohibited from making proposals that match the current step and lane? Or that they agreed the salary structure can no longer include step and lane? I couldn’t find it.

    • Oh my lord! That’s not what I said. What I said was the teacher’s union agreed to a complete remodel of the current D304 salary system. It doesn’t preclude going back to step and lane, but when you agree to change, by definition, that means it probably won’t remain the same.

      Meanwhile, I’m sure you’re quite capable of finding that working yourself. The best evidence I have is they discussed a complete revamp for 18 months, and they’re discussing it now!

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