Cary Grade School Board Imposes “Last Best” Offer Terms on School Teachers, Strike a Possibility

A press release from Cary Elementary School District 26:

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.

Will Cary Grade School District 26 soon follow the example of these Huntley High School teachers?

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.

In a skillful YouTube production, someone calling himself Drew Madigan takes on District 26 School Board member Chris Jenner in particular and the Cary School Board in general, accusing the Board of refusing to negotiate.

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.

On the day before the Cary Grade School Board announced that it would impose its last best offer on teachers, Drew Madigan again attacks Board member Chris Jenner in a Youtube post. He apologizes to other board members for anyone who may have thought they were Tea Party members. Since it would take four board members to impose the last best offer, one might wonder if Jenner's views have become mainstream.

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.


Cary Grade School Board Imposes “Last Best” Offer Terms on School Teachers, Strike a Possibility — 6 Comments

  1. You can bet they will follow Huntley.Their big decision will be what color tee shirts. Huntley had pink and the next time green. Who knows what color huntley will use next when their contract is up. Foreclosed homes and unemployed taxpayers. Teachers need not and will not care about those people. Remember the famous last words, IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN !

  2. Gee – this is coming down to the wire re school starting.

    Just think – it’s been done exactly this way before – elsewhere. Standard Operating Procedure.

    Now we get the parents and kids shaking in their shoes. “My senior has to do this that and the other thing, settle the strike, give them what they want.”

    I have to say that whoever negotiated the last contract and signed off on all the goodies – should be called before the public and asked to pay out of their own pocket. Selling out the Taxpayers and the Piggybank crowd was a really awful choice.

  3. Seems to me the BOE has been fairly daring the teachers to go out on strike. I remember seeing articles going back to last winter quoting board members as saying things could be heading towards a strike. Would not surprise me if the teachers walk out in response to the board unilaterally implementing their last best final. Question is, does the board have a Plan B up their sleeve? Can’t imagine the board would provoke a teachers strike if they did not have a contingency plan in place.

  4. I know a lot of people, teachers included, that would love to fill their positions. Let them strike, get rid of them, and hire the new teachers at a fraction of the salary/benefits package!

  5. Easier said than done, legally and practically. If replacing striking teachers were so simple, every school district that had a teachers strike would do it.

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