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.

The Strike Vote.
What is Causing the Tension?
Salary Schedule and Compensation.
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 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.

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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.

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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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Aug 09 2014

FAQ: What’s Causing the Tension?

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

What is causing the tension between the Hinsdale 86 Board of Education and the teachers at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South?

The Board of Education (BoE) and the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association (Teachers) are in contract negotiations. The two parties are currently in federal mediation. During this time the teachers have been bargaining in good faith, following the mediator’s request to keep the details of negotiations out of public discourse.

In contrast, the BoE negotiators, Mr. Skoda and Mr. Corcoran, have ignored the mediator’s request to keep details within the mediation process and repeatedly made misleading public statements characterizing ongoing negotiations. For example:

We hope that the new board majority of Skoda, Corcoran, Manley and Casini will end their divisive tactics, begin to bargain in good faith and start to work collaboratively with us.


Why don’t teachers see the current Board offer as “fair”?

The teachers not only believe the BoE’s proposal is unfair, but also extreme. This is due to two fundamental differences between our proposals: continued use of a salary schedule and reasonable increases in existing health care premiums.

Hinsdale District 86 has traditionally offered a competitive salary and benefits package comparable to that of the top high school districts in the state.

The BoE’s latest offer is quite a departure not only from this tradition, but also that of every public high school in the state of Illinois. Under the new board majority’s proposal, Hinsdale District 86 would be the only high school district in the state not to utilize a salary schedule to compensate its teachers. This would result in the four-year earnings for a new teacher in District 86 being the lowest in the area—from Proviso to Downers Grove to Oak Park to the Glenbard High School District, and many more.

Additionally, the BoE proposal includes increases in current health insurance premiums of up to 229%. According to the district’s own November 20, 2013 Insurance Committee meeting report, over the past five years the national average annual health plan cost increases were 10.8% while the district’s were only 3.1% – or approximately 15% over the last five years. Yet despite this, the new board majority is insisting on imposing up to a 229% increase in existing premiums.

The teachers’ proposal, on the other hand, would continue the use of a salary schedule as is standard practice utilized in every other Illinois high school district. It would provide significant concessions in health care premium increases to ensure the district’s costs are offset and fiscal responsibility maintained. In all, the teachers’ total proposal would add less than one-percent (1%) to the district budget for salary and benefits. This total cost is well below CPI and well below other recently settled contracts from surrounding districts such as CCSD 181 and Maine Township.

Teachers believe keeping salary and benefits commensurate with top high school districts will maintain the tradition of excellence it has taken the district decades to build. Teachers believe both continued use of a salary schedule and reasonable premium increases are critical to maintaining the district’s competitive edge in the marketplace needed to attract and retain the highest quality teachers.

This is a chart that summarizes how the BoE’s proposal is out of the mainstream (click to enlarge):



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

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Aug 09 2014

FAQ: Salary Schedule and Compensation

Published by under Association News,Negotiations

What about the salary schedule? Aren’t salary schedules unsustainable?

Contrary to the purported beliefs of Mr. Skoda – who benefited from a salary schedule his whole career – salary schedules are sustainable and have been for decades. According to the 2013-14 Illinois Teacher Salary Study by the Illinois State Board of Education, all 91 public secondary school districts in Illinois use a salary schedule.

All districts in the state, including Hinsdale District 86, have used a schedule for decades to attract and retain teachers, ensure affordability, and make budget forecasts. Without a salary schedule, it would be incredibly difficult for the district to hire and keep the best teachers.

The following chart shows just how extreme the idea of eliminating a salary schedule would be when compared to other schools in the area (click to enlarge):



Board members say their offer is more than fair because it compensates based on performance. Why isn’t this fair?

The State of Illinois recently passed teacher evaluation laws that include student growth in a teacher’s evaluation rating. This law is going into effect over the next several years. However, no other district in Illinois is using such a state rating as a basis for compensation. In fact, according to ISBE 98% of all schools in Illinois do not use any type of merit pay based system to determine teacher salary increases.

The current evaluation system used in District 86 is modeled upon the work of Charlotte Danielson, and was produced collaboratively over several years by a large number of administrators and teachers. The district’s evaluation system was actually ahead of the state’s new evaluation law, which is also based in part upon Danielson’s work.

However, in 2008 certain board members, then in the minority, insisted that there was no way so many of the district’s teachers could be rated “Excellent” as was done so by district administrators. These board members used their influence over administration to change what should have been unbiased ratings made by directly supervising administrators. As a result, in 2008 all teachers in the district were rated “Satisfactory” regardless of their performance (such as this teacher who achieved National Board Certification or this teacher who was the Illinois Biology Teacher of the year). This is an example of board influence over district policy and teacher ratings that raises concerns over the board’s proposed “merit” system.

Without trust and collaboration, which currently do not exist with the new board majority, such a system would never be seen as objective or without undue influence of the board.

Finally, the system proposed by the BoE does not compensate teachers based upon performance, but instead provides one-time bonuses. There is no guarantee that such bonuses would continue in future years or be compounded from year to year, nor any belief that the BoE would not tightly control such bonuses in an arbitrary manner.


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

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