Board Imposes Last Best Offer for the Start of School
The Cary District 26 School Board regrets to announce that it has been unable to reach a negotiated agreement with the Cary Education Association (CEA) and will impose its last best contract offer at the start of the school year.
This will mean teachers will start the new school year working under the terms of the school board’s last-best contract offer.
While the CEA has repeatedly said they has no intention of striking, this is still a possibility.
By law, before striking the CEA must provide ten day’s written notice to the District.
The Board will work diligently to ensure school starts on time this year. Classes are expected to start on time on August 24.
The Board will keep the community posted on any developments.
The Board and CEA have been in negotiations for six months for a successor labor agreement to the 2008-11 labor contract with is set to expire on August 23, 2011, the day before school starts.
After seventeen negotiating sessions—six with a federal mediator—and 8 formal offers, the Board declared an impasse on June 22m 2011.
The main unresolved issues are salary, retirement, insurance benefits and the length of the teachers’ work day.
As most people in the community know, because of a dramatic and severe financial crisis, in addition to the other cost saving measures that don’t directly affect students, in the spring of 2010, the Board was compelled to lay off 75 teachers, comprising one-third of the staff 2010-11 school year.
That move drastically increased class sizes and severely cuts special programs such as art and music.
The Board also closed a school that year and reduced administrative staff to further cut costs.
At that time the Board asked the CEA to open the teacher contract to re-negotiate salary and benefits to save teachers’ jobs and to keep class sizes at a more manageable level.
The CEA refused to consider reducing pay or to consider putting off scheduled pay raises and the Board had no choice to lay off a third of the staff.
Faced with uncertain staffing costs due to the unresolved CEA contract for the 2011/11 school year, the Board closed yet another school and made yet more administrative and teacher staffing reductions.
In these negotiations, the Board proposed a new compensation to maintain an adequate level of educational programs while balancing its budget.
From 2002 through 2010 the District consistently ran budget deficits which totally depleted it fund balances and maxed out its short-term borrowing capacity.
During this time, increases in teacher pay far exceeded that of all other employee groups, and now significantly exceeds neighboring elementary districts of comparable size, even after factoring in education and experience.
A recent study put their pay in the 94th percentile in Illinois.
While beginning salaries are are comparable to surrounding districts, salary schedule steps (built-in annual increases) are generally much larger, resulting in higher salaries for the same educational credentials for more experienced teachers.
Cary’s teachers average 15 years experience.
While the community has done its part by passing a $15 million referendum to eliminate the short-term borrowing and avoid a state takeover, the Board has focused its efforts on cost cutting.
In the last two years, it has cut costs by almost 1/3 by closing two schools, laying off administrators, teachers and support personnel, cutting special programs such as art and music, outsourcing its janitorial services, and other measures.
Having raised class sizes as high as they can reasonably go and trimming programs to the essentials, it is clear that the teachers’ salaries and benefit structure must change,
This is especially true given the decreasing state funding.
With this in mind, the Board’s last offer is for two years, and calls for:
- Salary: There is an overall salary decrease of 1.7%. This does not mean all teachers will receive a 1.7% pay cut next year. Because a very rich retirement program was in the 2008-2010 contract, eligible teachers who have worked for the district for as few as 15 years will get 6% increases in their salaries for the last four years before retirement. This benefit is grandfathered in under the terms of the 2008-11 contract. As a result 52 teachers, a full third of the teaching staff [emphasis in the original]– will get 6% salary increases next year. Because these built-in retiree pay raises eat up so much money, the remaining staff would take pay cuts of 7.5% under the Board’s proposal.
- Retirement: Under the 2008-11 contract, eligible teachers not only receive up to four consecutive years of 6% increases in salary, they also receive $20,000 immediately after they retire and the Board is obligated to pay $10 for each day of sick leave the teacher had not used up. These benefits are expected to cot the District approximately $1.2 million over the next four years. The District has proposed eliminating these benefits for future retirees since they are exceedingly expensive for a District in as poor financial condition as is ours.
- Insurance: Under the 2008-11 contract, the Board paid 100% of the premium for single health and dental coverages for teachers and between 20% and 50% of premiums for family health and dental coverage that is in excess of of the cost of the single benefit. Each teacher also receives $50,000 in life insurance and long-term disability coverage. This benefit program has proven to be extremely costly. To help balance its budget, the District Iis offering in 2011-12 to contribute up to $7,000 toward whatever coverage the teacher elects, and in the 2012-13 school year up to $3,000 toward whatever coverage the teacher elects.
- Teachers’ Share of Pension Contributions: Teachers are obligated by law to pay 9.4% of their current salary to the Teachers Retirement System. In the past, the Board has agreed to pay 4.7% , or about half of that obligation. The Board also has its own TRS obligation for each teacher. Since the pension payment is essentially an obligation of the teacher stemming from the need to fund his or her own retirement, the Board is proposed to have each teacher pay this 4.7% beginning 2011-12.
- Length of School Day: The School Board has proposed that the work day increase from 7 to 7½ hours in order to restore student learning time to six hours. Last year student learning time was decreased to the state minimum of five hours to keep the overall teacher workday with the limits of the teacher contract then in place.
he Cary District 26 School Board sincerely appreciates the support it has received from the community, and will work diligently to keep the schools open.
The Board will also do everything it can to maintain the quality of education while living within its means.
The state of Illinois is still monitoring the District to insure we don’t slip back into a pattern of deficit spending.
We agree that balanced budgets must be maintained not only for prudent financial management, but also to help restore District programs and infrastructure once we transition through the last few years of an unsustainable cost structure.
Anyone who questions or concerns is encouraged to attend anyone of the Board’s meetings, though committee meetings are more informal in structure allowing more interaction with community members.
The meeting schedule as well as a more detailed explanation og the Board’s offer, can be referenced from the District’s web site.
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The school board will meet tonight at 6 at Cary Middle School.