Quick Hits – (Almost) Everything you need to know about the Geneva teachers’ strike

I have to say it’s been more than a wee bit eerie walking the dogs around that Fisher Farms FAA beacon the last two mornings. Nobody’s heading to the high school and the onslaught of Heartland Elementary School students is conspicuously absent.

Teachers Strike 2

Normally, I crave peace and quiet, but not in this case. Nobody wins when teachers go on strike.

Meanwhile, a number of readers have posed some excellent public and private questions about what the strike means for a number of possibilities going forward. So, I spoke with the D304 in this regard and here are those answers:

1. Do teachers get paid during the strike?

No. Not by the district and not by the PTO as one reader stipulated. The Geneva Education Association (the teacher’s union) may have accumulated some sort of strike fund, and nothing prohibits an ordinary citizen from holding a fundraiser, but when you’re talking about 450 Geneva teachers, those efforts won’t come close to matching their salaries.

2. Do support staff get paid during a strike?

Yes! If they show up for work, they will be reassigned to other duties and they will be paid.

Crossing guards, who are hired by the Geneva Police Department, will not be paid, because their salary is contingent on school being in session. And though I haven’t been able to get a specific answer on school bus drivers, I suspect the same goes for them.

3. Do teachers get insurance during the strike?

Yes! But the district is only obligated to maintain it only for the first month of the strike. Those premiums are generally paid on the first of the month, and since the teachers walked out the 4th, they will be insured through December 31.

That’s why most public sector strikes tend to start early in the given month.

But if the strike goes beyond December, as will likely be the case, the School Board can, and will likely, stop paying those premiums on January 1st.

As the Teamsters did on behalf of the striking Kane County probation workers last summer, the union can step in and pay the freight themselves, but that only happens when a union with deep pockets is particularly aggravated with “management.” It’s very unlikely to occur in this strike.

4. What about makeup days?

If the strike is a short one, D304 will simply make up the missed classes just as they would with snow days – at the end of the second semester. They could also cancel spring break as well. But if the strike lingers for more than two weeks, they’ll have to either tack all those days on at the end of the school year, or ask Illinois lawmakers for a waiver, but that’s a very unlikely possibility.

5. Sports and extracurricular activities

They are and will be cancelled for the duration of the strike, and any scheduled games will be forfeited. The various teams can get together and practice on their own, but that’s about it.

I’m sure I’m not nearly the only Genevan saddened at the prospect of not being able to follow the Geneva High School boys and girls basketball teams during the strike. Both were off to a very good start.

6. Can I keep track of the Board’s and Union’s latest offers?

Kind of! You can find the School Boards website and their latest proposal here, but the Union has balked at posting their counteroffers.

7. Is the average Geneva teacher’s salary really $124,000 a year?

No! The artificial online newspaper, “The Kane County Reporter,” that printed that bilge is run by none other than Dan Proft, the former radio show host and rightwingnut that’s done more to damage the Illinois conservative cause than all the local GOP combined. They purposefully skewed the numbers by adding administrator’s salaries into the mix.

The truth is, the average Geneva educator’s salary is $69,684.

8. How long will this strike last?

Despite my strange semi-autistic brain’s capacity to process a large set of variables in background mode, this is a really tough one. Predicting contested election outcomes is hard enough.

According to a March, 2018 Education Weekly article, there are 3 to 13 teachers’ strike in the U.S. every year, and they generally last from one day to six weeks, with Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California leading the pack. But I could find no reliable strike length average.

So, I turned to some of my favorite former newspaper managing editors, but they were completely split on the prospect. The plurality said 10 days, but others vehemently disagreed with that statistic. So, I turned to some savvy non-D304 folks as well, and their theory was at least two weeks.

But I think it’s going to be at least a month and here’s why:

  • If 28 months of salary structure negotiations bore no fruit, two weeks won’t either. Talks are scheduled for this weekend, but it’s going to take more than one round to resolve this dispute.
  • I have reason to believe Monday evening’s final negotiating session ended somewhat acrimoniously, and that’s never a good sign.
  • With Christmas break rapidly approaching, the students would be out of school anyway.
  • It will take at least a month for the teachers to finally realize that public sentiment is not behind them.
  • The Board and GEA are “trying” to get together to talk, but the Board wants a new union proposal on the table first, the Union says the strike is their latest proposal, and they won’t provide a new one until the scheduled Sunday negotiation. And it you can’t come to terms on talks…
  • And I have good reason to believe the Board is united in this regard, so they will likely stand their ground.

But I have to say I’m not nearly as comfortable with this strike duration forecast as I was when I predicted the walkout, and the evidence can rapidly change in these very complicated cases.

Please also understand that I provide this journalistic service at no charge, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be happy to attempt to answer any strike questions you might have going forward. Meanwhile, I certainly hope the strike ends sooner than later, and this column helps Geneva parents plan for the near and summer future.

45 thoughts on “Quick Hits – (Almost) Everything you need to know about the Geneva teachers’ strike

  1. I think you have a typo here: “or ask Illinois lawmakers for waiver, which is an very unlikely possibility.”
    I’m interested by this… What did you intend to write?

    • I always appreciate all of my editors. I will make the change!

      • Interesting…. It’s unlikely that the IL lawmakers would give a waiver on making up the days?
        I’m surprised to hear that. So you’re saying my kids can count on making up each and every day lost?

        I wonder how they will handle high school seniors?

      • M. L.

        Sadly I got into a huge argument with an Illinois legislator’s staffer this afternoon, and he won. The vast odds are, every single day will have to be made up if it goes into July!

        Jeff

  2. Also, this: “Kind of! You can find the GEA’s website and their latest proposal here, but the Union has not been posting their counteroffers.”

    It does not link to the BoE proposal, it links to the GEA website.

    (Sorry for the proofreading, but your article is valuable and the links are important.)

    Also, could you explain a little more about the “they’re making us get rid of step and lane” rumors? The attachment to the BoE proposal sure looks like step and lane to me.

  3. The strike is for the children… 🙂

    These guys and gals need to give this up. (There was a photo of some of the teachers drinking Starbucks) The community is strapped and there is no one out there that needs to add another dime in property taxes the the issue. Working 8 months out the year is great but not by getting paid like that on the backs of taxpayers. We work year round and do not get paid your amount.

    Live within your means.

    • John,

      To be fair, a slew of the parents (who don’t necessarily support the teachers, but want to stay in their good graces) are bringing the picketers coffee, cookies, and donuts.

      • Yes, this is true. (Although I can’t speak to whether the parents support the teachers or not.) It was a very organized effort. A “Sign Up Genius” went out and nearly every slot was filled for each strike location to bring pizza, hot cocoa, etc. Very “PTO Teacher Appreciation” type sign up.

      • Excellent point Jeff but parents do not make up the whole community. I believe that there are many more people (homeowners) that are not being represented that are unwilling to add more to school budgets or salaries.

  4. why don’t we consolidate the tri-city schools into one school district? What are the benefits of three different school districts? Also, $69,000 salary isn’t a bad salary what is their bitch?

  5. A partial correction. Dan Profit is not a former radio guy still on in mornings. He is however still a right wing nut. And as an old line Republican thank you Dan for the last election

    • If you don’t like Dan Proft that is certainly your right but to blame him for the results of the last election is a bridge too far. He’s one of the few people who predicted what would happen. Rauner was a bad governor and an awful liar during the primary. JB will be another bad governor who will do the bidding of Mike Madigan and his supermajority. Nothing will improve in our state and the probability is taxes will go up and more people will flee our state—even if they have to pay JB’s planned “exit tax.” Odds are the tax base will shrink, retirees will be taxed, your house values will decline. Voters in Illinois have a history of picking bad politicians who tell them what they want to hear. When people like Dan Proft tell the truth it offends the delicate ears of those people who who would rather be bs’d and lied to. And by the way, I’d still rather be a right wing nut (thanks Jeff) than someone who “can’t handle the truth.” But let’s debate “the truth.”

      • Angela,

        I’m not blaming Proft for any election, but I am blaming him for making it much more difficult to get good Republicans elected.

        And that “newspaper” article is a blatant lie.

    • Jim,

      I will make the correction. I thought he gave up radio.

  6. Angela the purists have led the Republican Party to the brink. I like Dan Proft met him a few times. But politics is the art of inclusion not exclusion. If you want to have the holey your than you party meet in a phone booth.
    I actually walked precincts for years in Addison Township in DuPage in that township was Pate Philip Henry Hyde Jim Ryan Lee Daniels and a host of DuPage officials so I take my Republican heritage seriously and take it over Proft money talks crap. Republicans went down when opted for millionaires over professionals. Give me George Ryan a million times over Rauner
    And for Jeff I sort of resent the idea Teacher’s would retaliate against kids. Obviously your wife teaches and my late wife did in Addison and went through a strike and she never would have taken I out on any child as I am sure your wife would not

    • I agree about the Republican Party has been destroyed by the elites. The local GOP has been descimated by people who refused to recognize “the error of their ways.” I’ve been involved with the GOP for over 50 years and honestly, I’m done.

    • Jim you need to run for office. You are exactly right about the party being on the brink. Proft would dry up and die if Dick Uline quit funding him. He’s not independently wealthy and he’s not sharing his money. Follow the flow it’s Uline, who resides in Wisc. running the Dan Proft show.

  7. Angela that is the problem you are done and I don’t care. People like us were the back nine but the party got arrogant thought an R behind the name was good enoug
    Surprise look at the results. Funny in a way since party always said work hard and be successful. They proved it they didn’t work and lost

  8. So the average salary is 69k. What about insurance, pensions, benefits and other costs the tax payers are on the hook for? I think Dan Profts number is high, but not that far off. Look at the average teacher (not administrators) total compensation number, what is that?

    • Dave,

      C’mon! We both know what Proft was doing. The headline clearly said “salary” when it could’ve said “salary and benefits.” He lied!

    • Exactly!!! Why do so few people trying to write credible articles ignore the 75% pension for life benefit? The employers I know may match a 401K up to 6%, but nothing like teachers get.

  9. I have lived in Geneva for eight years and moved here from the south used to be a Democrat, my wife was a strong liberal. After living here and seeing the government and union incompetence, corruption and greed we have flipped, she to a strong conservative. I commute almost three hours a day like many of my peers to make a good salary then work about a sixty hour work week on average. Many of my early years I worked we both worked two jobs each 80-100 hours because we wanted a good standard of living. At the end of the day these are choices we have made and we are self made, no trust funds or inheritance. I say all of this because we are respectful of hard working individuals and the opportunities a free market economy provides if you want to put the work in. So we work to get ahead and others want to put their hands in your pockets because the are entitled and want what you have. Well what have they done work wise to deserve it? What is wrong with working a side hustle or second job when you are a teacher. This is shameful and a setup for many more entitlement to come. What makes our school district great is the parents not the teachers hence common core. Everyone teaches preset designated lesson plans and I am not impressed with the quality of our schools and the excuses of teachers over the years who have 25 kids in a class we had 40 and were in poor facilities but always made the best of it. This combined with the last amendments on the last ballots needs to be a rally cry enough is enough. I have lost all respect I had for the teachers and union and it’s buliding daily others who are getting enraged and feel as I do. These are people who are changing their liberal ways same as we did. Enough is enough and wrong is wrong!

  10. Jeff,

    Can you shed any light on the tier structure the union referred to when comparing salaries to communities in the same tier. Geneva is supposedly a Tier 4 community, which seems to mean that we have more resources, i.e., income to devote to taxes. Is this rating structure part of some official standard? If it is what I think it is, it’s a horrible basis for deciding what you think you can demand from the community in taxes.

    • Terry,

      You actually hit me with a question to which I have absolutely no idea how to answer. But I’m sure I’ll be talking with plenty of D304 folks going forward and I’ll get an answer then!

      Jeff

  11. Jeff, should have had you finding information during our strike. After a month we still had no idea what was happening with our insurance!

    • That’s really odd! I can’t tell you to whom I spoke because the the superintendent – my neighbor – won’t allow anyone in the district to speak to me, but my source on the insurance issue is impeccable and I checked with them twice.

      • Won’t allow anyone to speak with you…. Will this not be public information later?

        If it will be, it does not matter what is being told or else they are afraid of the public knowing before hand.

      • John,

        I’m giving the spokesperson one more shot. If it doesn’t work, I have some 911 tapes involved the Superintendent that won’t reflect very well on him.

  12. Jeff, I contacted you via Twitter. Please DM me there, there are some wild inaccuracies regarding the Remind system. I’m an IT person, I can explain to you how it works.

    • I do not have a Facebook account so I can’t post there, but I can see all the public posts.
      No one hacked into the Remind system. It’s a standalone system where you can receive messages via an app or your cell number. It’s not owned or operated by Geneva 304.
      Anyone can set up a Remind “classroom” or “group”. Many teachers have. Then they give the students the Remind classroom id and they subscribe to the Remind Alerts, if they want.
      So, at the beginning of the year, the counselors (at a PLC meeting) told the students to subscribe to counseling alerts at @XXXXXX. (I know what it is but I don’t want to post it publicly. There’s one for each grade.) Anyone could be given access to send messages via that “classroom”, but I would assume it’s probably just the counselors for the “counseling office alerts”.
      The counselors are part of the union, so that narrows down for you who sent the alert.

      Both of my GHS students received it. If yours did not, it’s probably because they didn’t sign up for the alerts.
      It’s not an “emergency” system. It’s just a notification system to send things like “don’t forget to come to plc”, “don’t forget to look into Naviance”, “college application deadlines are coming up”. That kind of stuff.

      However, completely inappropriate to send “sign this petition.” Personally, I’m pretty irritated any of the counselors would do this. Pointless to “apologize”, as I guess they have, it’s not like you can un-ring that bell.

      • Lisa,

        The union is suddenly trying to say it was a mistake, but it clearly wasn’t. A mistake is leaving the toilet seat up. The union was clearly behind this stupidity, and when it blew up in their faces, now they’re trying to disavow themselves of it.

        And, trust me, I won’t be letting that go anytime soon!

        Jeff

  13. Oh, I agree. But I just wanted to clear up some of the falsehoods I’m reading. Nothing was “hacked”. It was a simple case of one of the counselors decided to use the Remind system (which they can easily access from their phone at any time) to send the petition out to a good bulk of the student body.
    It could only be 1 of 7 people. (Unless it was an administrative assistant, then that adds a person or two.)
    Tom Rogers likely knows exactly who it is.

    • I’m sure it went down something like this:

      GEA: It’s so unfair the BoE gets to email the entire school population.

      GHS Counselor: Hey, we have a good number of the GHS students signed up for our counseling alerts. I could message almost the entire GHS student body and I wouldn’t have to use a Geneva 304 system at all to do it. The T&C for Remind states exactly that… that it’s not affiliated with the school district in any way.

      GEA: Seems legit to me, do it!

      • Lisa,

        I agree. I was simply offering possibilities before I understood the whole story. But the union has just been hoist by their own petard.

  14. I just logged into my kids’ Remind account directly on Remind.com… and you can see who sent the message about the petition. It has a name that matches to the first name of one of the counselors, but it might be that they all have access to the one account… even though they don’t really need to (or should) use it that way.

  15. Jeff… also, on FB just 12 minutes ago, you posted “Yes! But they did have to be an administrator. ..”

    No, that’s not how Remind works. It did not have to be “an administrator”. Anyone who has access to that Remind Classroom (any of them under the Counseling Office umbrella: Class of 2022, Class of 2021, Class of 2020, Class of 2019, Class of 2018, etc), would be able to send a message to ALL of the students/parents signed up for counseling office alerts.

    It is likely that either one counselor sends all of the Remind counseling office messages or they each have the log in to it and can send messages whenever they want.

    • Lisa,

      What I meant by “administrator” is someone tagged as an administrator in the Remind app – not a D304 administrator. I was actually talking in computer-ese, but I didn’t make that clear.

  16. Jeff, Before the WHIG page on FB started deleting strike posts this morning, a parent had posted screen shots of a text her child allegedly received directly from a current teacher seeking support for the petition. The teacher’s name was redacted of course. The student, again allegedly, responded back to the teacher with “please leave me out of this”. This conflict of interest is mind boggling to me. Clearly the GEA members were asked to spread the word at all costs. Two questions…are you or any of your contacts diving deeper into this story? And, do you feel this issue will affect the negotiation? I know for a fact that parents immediately contacted the BOE with their disgust. Thank you.

    • Mike!

      Oh! I’m on this one and will likely be writing about it today before the negotiations commence this evening.

      In fact, in 12 years of writing columns, I’ve never had so many folks come to me from all angles with a story, and I do have the story. The GEA is trying to say this was a mistake, but the only mistake they made was being stupid enough to do something like this.

      And suddenly the teachers realize they have far less support than they thought they did.

      Much more to come!

      Jeff

  17. Unions are bankrupting our Nation!!!!

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