15 Sep 2014
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Progress Made In Contract Talks 'But More Work Needs To Be Done,' Hinsdale Teachers Say

Hinsdale high school teachers' contract expires, three more mediated bargaining sessions scheduled in July.

Progress Made In Contract Talks 'But More Work Needs To Be Done,' Hinsdale Teachers Say

The spokesman for the high school teachers association reported that some progress was made during a mediation session last week to negotiate a new teachers’ contract.

The Hinsdale High School Teachers Association, representing 377 teachers at Hinsdale South and Central, and the Dist. 86 school board met with their federal mediator for four-and-a-half hours on June 26, but did not reach an agreement on a new teachers contract.

The current four-year contract expired on Monday. Members of the teachers’ association have already authorized a strike in the fall should both sides fail to reach an agreement.

“We did make some progress in mediation but there is still a lot of work to be done,” said Mike Palmquist via email, an English teacher at Hinsdale Central and spokesman for the teachers’ association.  

At issue are teachers’ contributions to their health benefits and tying performance-based salary increases to the consumer price index or CPI. 

In addition, the school board wants to do away with salary schedule increases, where teachers and other instructional staff receive annual raises for years served, and additional increases based on level of education, professional development and advanced degrees.

The school board has also proposed that teachers with PPO health plans increase their current monthly contributions of 11 percent and 12 percent “to take some of the burden off of district taxpayers.” Teachers can remain with the PPO, or opt for an HMO or health savings plan, for which there are no monthly premiums.

Further, the board is proposing salary increases ranging from 1.7 percent for the highest paid teachers ($111,000) to 3.6 percent for its lowest-paid teachers ($53,000), based on CPI.

Dist. 86 board president, Dr. Richard Skoda, said he sent a letter to the district’s high school teachers on Friday, outlining what the school board is offering in terms of salary and health care options because “many times [union members] don’t know what’s going on.”

“Our proposal right now is that everybody, depending on where their salary is, will get a raise [based on CPI],” Skoda said by phone Monday. “In addition to satisfactory or excellent evaluations, [teachers] will get a bonus. [Health savings accounts] can be rolled over or invested. At age 65, it becomes their money."

In addition, teachers can earn extra money by sponsoring student clubs or chaperoning student events, Skoda said.

Palmquist took aim at the board’s latest proposal in his email.

“The reality is that [Dr.] Skoda’s proposal would reduce the take-home pay of 70 percent of teachers,” Palmquist said.  “It would put District 86 out of the norm by not offering a salary schedule for teachers. Salary schedules have been used for decades to create an affordable structure for districts to pay teachers.”

Palmquist said the board’s proposal “raises health insurance premiums by up to 400 percent for family coverage.”

“The teachers, in contrast, are offering a salary and benefits package that is both affordable for the district and in line with the standards in the industry,” Palmquist wrote. “The teachers’ proposal increases costs by less than 1 percent, far below the District’s CPI-based revenue increase of 1.7 percent. We are also proposing to continue to use a salary schedule, which we’ve used for decades, to maintain equity with every other competitive district in the area.”

In an earlier email response, Skoda emphasized that as a lone member of the Dist. 86 school board, he has no proposal on the table.

“The proposal on the table has the support of all seven board members, who reaffirmed that support at our last meeting on June 16,” Skoda said. “It is inaccurate and disingenuous to claim this is Dr. Skoda's proposal. The board negotiation team is directed by parameters from the whole board and does not operate in isolation.  Our negotiation team takes all offers back to our board.”

Skoda added that with the school board’s health plan options, teachers could save out-of-pocket expenses. He also called the current salary schedule “unsustainable in the long term” especially when considering the recent recession.

“Teachers received substantial increases well in excess of the pay cuts and freezes sustained by most Americans,” Skoda said.

Anything in excess of CPI, he continued, could only be sustained by increasing property taxes or deficit spending.

“Both are untenable solutions,” Skoda said. “We are simply asking teachers to regard their salary increases the way almost every American does. A 1.7-percent raise on a $100,000 salary is $1,700. The [teachers] association needs to adopt the math and logic that prevails in the rest of the world.”

The teachers’ association and school board bargaining teams are scheduled to meet again with their mediator on July 3. Additional meetings, if necessary, are also scheduled for July 15 and July 24.

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