Aug 10 2014

Hinsdale 86 Negotiations: Quick Start Guide

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

Just the facts.  Only have time to read one article about Hinsdale 86 negotiations? Read this first.
Negotiations Timeline. A chronological explanation of all negotiation sessions to date.

FAQ:
The Strike Vote.
What is Causing the Tension?
Salary Schedule and Compensation.
Retirement Incentives.
Teacher Health Insurance.
District Instructional Costs.
The District’s Financial Future.
Zero Levy and Tax Rates.

The total teachers’ proposal  – salary and benefits combined – requires less than 1% additional to the salary and benefits budget.

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Aug 30 2014

How do you compromise with extremists?

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

You’ve probably heard this old joke:

First guy says “Can I burn down your house?”
Second guy says “No!”
First guy says, “Can I burn down your garage then?”
Second guy, “No!”
First guy, “Well can I just burn down your porch then?”
Second guy, “No!”
First guy, “You are unwilling to compromise!”

That’s the “compromise” the teachers are being asked to make during this negotiation. And compromising with the new board majority of Skoda, Corcoran, Manley and Casini is about as easy as compromising with a guy who wants to burn something to the ground.

Recently the Hinsdalean ran an article entitled “Deal on teachers contract remains illusive as classes in D86 resume.” Much of the article centered on the overwhelming supportive turn out of D86 community members at the last school board meeting, the vast majority of whom showed up with signs with the slogan “Eighty-six’ the majority. Keep excellence in our schools.” But in the article, there was this paragraph that shows just how distorted the new board majority has made the negotiations process:

“Other district residents, however, defended the board’s effort to reign in district spending, which has factored into considerable increases in property taxes over the last several years.”

This type of misinformation is why any hope of compromise with the new board majority seems an impossibility. District spending on instruction is at a four year low, and in line with what all other top high school districts spend. Property taxes in the district are the lowest of any surrounding community.

How do you compromise when the facts don’t matter?

At the all district faculty meeting to start the year Thursday, Dr. Law, the district’s superintendent, noted that last year the district saw more students excel than ever before. The district saw a record number of state championships and nationally recognized extra curricular clubs than ever before. By every objective measure the district is achieving at the elite level.

How do you compromise when such consistently high achievement doesn’t matter?

How do teachers find the motivation to continue to go well above and beyond when they will be rewarded by being told they are greedy union thugs who are easily replaceable, bear little praise for the achievement of the district, and should be compensated with a salary and benefits package well below other comparable districts?

How do you compromise with people who fundamentally display no respect for your profession?

How do you compromise with individuals who insist on imposing their extreme political agenda?

How do you compromise when one side proposes a fiscally responsible increase well below the cost of inflation of less than one-percent to the district budget for their total package.

Yet the other side responds with PR stunts and insisting on imposing their plans of slashing salary, destroying earnings potential, unrealistic and unwarranted  insurance increases, penalizing spouses, and the eliminating retirement incentives – all in one contract?

How far below other comparable districts is a reasonable compromise?

The total teachers’ proposal  – salary and benefits combined – requires less than 1% additional to the salary and benefits budget.

 

 

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Aug 26 2014

Three more Hinsdale teachers resign

Published by under Association News

At Monday night’s board meeting (8/18/14), another three teachers from Hinsdale Central are resigning (look on the agenda under “Certified Staff” on page two – PDF). After delaying hiring for months into the late spring, Mr. Skoda boasted of the “hundreds of applicants” the district has for every open position. Hiring throughout the summer has been difficult as candidates have been rejected by the board, or have chosen to take jobs in other districts.  Still, with school starting this week, teachers keep resigning and positions are still unfilled.

Three more teachers resign from Hinsdale Central.

Dianne Barret, a long time ally of Mr. Skoda, once said that 80% of the teachers in the district should be overhauled. That quote was discovered from closed session remarks after a FOIA request by a concerned parent several years ago. It seems the sentiment still runs strong with the new board majority of Skoda, Corcoran, Manley and Casini.

 

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Aug 21 2014

FAQ: Retirement Incentives

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

Why shouldn’t the district end the practice of “pension spiking”?

The practice of “pension spiking” is illegal and has been for many years. This is yet another example of the new board majority employing a misleading sensational phrase to advance their political agenda. Wild increases in salary prior to retirement led to concern by state lawmakers that rules for legitimate retirement incentives were needed. Mr. Skoda benefited from just such practice that raised lawmakers concern, accepting salary increases of 20% per year over four consecutive years, nearly doubling his salary in that short time. Today such activity is illegal pension spiking.

Illinois now has strict regulations in place for retirement incentives which prevent excessive and illegal “pension spiking”. These guidelines set the legal threshold for the teachers who qualify for retirement incentives to no more than four consecutive years and no more than six-percent per year. Hinsdale District 86, like all other Illinois school districts,  has followed these guidelines since they were implemented.

Additionally, the district saves money by encouraging teachers to retire sooner rather than later.  The typical replacement for a retiring teacher earns less money immediately, saving the district money right away and for years to come.

The new board majority of Skoda, Corcoran, Manley and Casini would like to conflate that which is illegal (yet makes for sensational headlines) with a practice that is completely legal, strictly regulated and financially beneficial to the district. They’d also like you to believe that such a practice is common place, and every teacher benefits from it. This is not true. Only a very small number of teachers are eligible for retirement incentives. To do so, they must meet three requirements:

  1. They must have taught for the district full time for at least 15 years.
  2. They must be of retirement age.
  3. They must submit an irrevocable letter of intent to retire.

The last point is the reason why the state created guidelines for legitimate incentives. The irrevocable letter of retirement is just that: irrevocable. By submitting this letter,  a teacher is essentially surrendering her ability to earn a living as a full time teacher. This is why Hinsdale Central had multiple interim principals. The restrictions placed upon a teachers’ teaching creditials once an irrevocable letter is submitted prevent full time employment in the very field of expertise a teacher spends their whole career developing. The laws are so restrictive that the two interim principals at Central had enough days to just barely cover a school year. Such an arrangement would not be feasible for a classroom teacher.

Imagine walking away from the ability to earn a full time living from the decades of experience, advanced education, and years of accumulated knowledge in one’s chosen profession. Imagine any other profession in which such a thing would be required. The only practice close to such might be a non-competition clause in an executive contract, but even those are not for life. Such clauses also have a bargained value in that professional’s contract.

The state realized this, and set appropriate guidelines for districts to follow when providing reasonable retirement incentives. To remain competitive, and fair to extraordinary teachers who give decades of service to the community, appropriate retirement incentives are part of a competitive salary and benefits package for all top school districts.

Even including legitimate retirement incentives, the total teachers’ proposal  – salary and benefits combined – requires less than 1% additional to the salary and benefits budget.

 

For a comprehensive bullet list regarding negotiations, please see: Just the Facts.

Quick Start Guide Home

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Aug 19 2014

“Based on a true story…”

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

When you see “Based on a true story…” in a Hollywood trailer do you believe the movie is going to be like the real thing? No way, right? “Based on a true story…” is a nice way of saying the events and characters have been sensationalized and highly crafted to look like the real thing.  But it’s not the real thing.

The new board majority of Skoda, Corcoran, Manley and Casini understand how this works. That’s why they are now touting their version of a “salary schedule” in their latest proposal. But just like those Hollywood movies based on a true story, Skoda and Corcoran’s version of a “salary schedule” sure doesn’t resemble the real thing any more than a Hollywood movie does.

Why would they do such a thing?

Because Skoda and Corcoran are not interested in negotiating in good faith. By saying they are “offering a salary schedule” they are trying to undermine the support the teachers have from the community for continued use of a competitive salary schedule. If they can say they are offering a “salary schedule,” they can claim their proposal isn’t as extreme.

But don’t be fooled.

While some of the details of their proposal look like a salary schedule at first glance, a close inspection reveals the drastic change they are proposing.  For example, a new hire with a MA and 10 years of experience would earn $10,000 less than that same teacher hired last year.

The comparison between Lyons Township and Hinsdale is equally clear: a teacher would earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less in her career at District 86 under the board’s offer than at neighboring LT.

Their “new” offer is just as uncompetitive as their previous offers.

A real salary schedule is used in every high school district in Illinois. District 86 has used a competitive salary schedule for decades and maintained the state’s highest possible financial rating.

Unfortunately, calling their latest offer a salary schedule is just another PR stunt by the board majority to create a distraction instead of make progress.

 

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Aug 10 2014

FAQ: Teacher Health Insurance

I heard that teachers pay nothing for their health insurance. How is that sustainable?

This is not true. It is a misleading statement spread by the new board majority and their supporters. Teachers pay premiums for both single and family coverage as well as co-pays for routine visits, deductibles, and prescription costs just like any other employer provided health plan. In fact, in the last contract negotiations the teachers made significant increases in co-pay and deductible amounts to keep district cost increases less than one-third that of the national average.

 

But aren’t healthcare costs for the district spiraling out of control just as they are in the private sector?

The new board majority complain about how health care costs are rising nationally, trying to conflate how private sector businesses purchase health care versus how the district does. What they are not telling you is that the district is self-insured, meaning the district controls its costs and health plan, not an outside insurance provider. Blue Cross is used as something known as a “third party provider” to do nothing more than process the district’s paperwork through their physician network. That means that Blue Cross doesn’t dictate the cost of the district’s plan, actual expenses do. What this does is keep the district’s costs much lower than typically found in the private sector.

According to the district’s own insurance report shared at the November 20, 2013 Insurance Committee meeting, the District medical plan cost increase averaged 3.1% per year over the last five years (2010-14) – less than one-third the national average of 10.8%. The plan actually saw a reduction in cost in one of those years.

During this time period, teachers made significant increases in out of pocket and deductible costs to ensure district cost increases remained much lower than almost all other plans. And once again, during current negotiations, the teachers’ proposal offers significant concessions in premium cost increases to ensure the district’s costs are offset.

 

But isn’t the BoE offering more options in their proposed healthcare package?

It is true that the BoE has offered more healthcare options, and teachers are not opposed to adding them – as options. Some teachers may find them appropriate for their situation or needs.

However, teachers are concerned that all of the “options” include significant spousal penalties averaging almost $200 per month. This makes these “options” more akin to imposing a certain choice than actual choices between health care packages. For example, spouses with access to any healthcare options at all from their employer will be barred from participation in the District’s health plan, even if the spousal penalty is paid. This again is not only unfair, but also extreme.

 

For a comprehensive bullet list regarding negotiations, please see: Just the Facts.

Quick Start Guide Home

 

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Aug 10 2014

Skoda, Corcoran & Hinsdale 86 Competitiveness Part 3

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

In Part 1 of this series on how the Skoda/Corcoran proposal damages the competitiveness of Hinsdale District 86, we looked at a top teaching candidate that had seven years experience and a masters degree. In Part 2, we looked at a teaching candidate with no experience and the significant negative effects upon the District’s competitiveness. But what about a new teacher with no experience for whom their first teaching position is in District 86?

How might a first-year teacher and the Tradition of Excellence be impacted by Skoda/Corcoran’s extreme proposal?
To reiterate, this example features a candidate with no professional experience in the classroom. How might a bottom-line driven hiring practice combined with the current board proposal negatively affect Hinsdale’s Tradition of Excellence?

First, teaching is a very demanding profession, especially in District 86 where excellence is expected. The first year of teaching is one of the most difficult periods of a teacher’s career. A teacher with no experience in the classroom, even with the support of her colleagues, would still struggle. It’s a normal part of becoming a teacher. Certainly they will have good days. But they will also have many more lessons that go poorly and classroom management issues than experienced teachers. Without experience, the chances are greater that such a candidate might not be rated highly or even retained.

But let’s say the support she receives from her colleagues helps and she is retained. Being a new teaching candidate, she may decide the stress of teaching might be more than she is willing to endure, and leave the profession just as nearly 50% of all new teachers do within the first five years of entering the classroom.

But should such a candidate make it through her first few years, she would still be in the early part of her career, earning entry-level salaries. In Hinsdale 86, her salary barely keeps pace with inflation, advancing much slower than her peers in surrounding districts. Teachers communicate with other teachers through their alumni networks, professional development trainings, County-wide institutes, and sporting events. As demonstrated in Part 2, she’ll learn that peers of hers earn $8,000 more per year than she does in just four years, and $13,000 more per year than she does if they earned an advanced degree.

As much as she may like her classroom and students at Hinsdale, she’ll want to buy a home and start a family in the area. She’ll quickly see that she could do that much more easily working for another school district. Because she’ll still be in the early stages of her career, she’ll be able to make such a move. And because she is now a teacher with experience in Hinsdale, she’ll be considered a top teaching candidate at any district she interviews with.

There is always a chance she will stay. But given the dynamics of a new teacher’s career and the financial aspects of an aspiring young adult, the odds are significantly increased that there will be greater turn over of district teaching staff. Research is clear upon the effects of turnover: the lack of stability diminishes student achievement and costs the district additional resources to hire, train and evaluate their replacements.

Hinsdale 86 has always been a district where educators come to stay. This has led to a stable environment in which the faculty, students and community build strong relationships and work together to achieve consistently outstanding results. Under the leadership of Skoda, Corcoran, Manley and Casini, this may no longer be the case, as Hinsdale District 86 runs the risk of turning into a revolving door where young educators gain experience and then go elsewhere to apply their experience.

The teachers’ total proposal – salary and benefits combined – adds less than 1% to the salary and benefits budget and would attract and retain top teaching candidates.

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