Referendum Talk: The Truth About D86 Teacher Contracts – Part 2

In opposition to the much needed referendum, you’ve probably heard how overpaid teachers in District 86 are. Yet this falsehood is often spread by the very people who have an anti-teacher, anti-student, anti-public school agenda, and who stand against improving our school facilities.

In Part 1 of this series, facts show that teachers have continually negotiated in good faith, working within the district’s financial priorities to achieve contracts that had meaningful and significant concessions in benefits, repeated salary freezes, and the lowest average increase of our peer districts in the area.

But the truth hasn’t stopped this small group of individuals, including people who don’t even live in the community, opposed to any meaningful facility improvement our students desperately need from repeatedly foisting another falsehood: that teachers in D86 are overpaid.

To address this claim, an “apples to apples” comparison is necessary with other similar high school districts. This means a comparison group made up of open-enrollment public high schools (non-magnet or college prep academies), high school districts (non community unit districts that include multiple schools from elementary through high school) and with similarly highly rated performance to D86. The following comparison uses the most recent available data from the Illinois State Board of Education on 2018 teacher salaries in Illinois.

When discussing teacher pay, the first place to begin is starting salary. This is the base salary for all new teachers with no experience; this often sets the benchmark for how competitive the district will be in attracting new teaching talent. When comparing District 86 to ten peer high school districts, D86 starting teacher salary is below the majority of peer districts and below the average of peer districts:

2018 Starting Salary:

$57,905 Northfield Township 225

$57,431 Maine Township 207

$56,844 Oak Park River Forest 200

$56,700 Lyons Township 204

$55,603 New Trier 203

$55,000 Riverside-Brookfield 208

$54,922 Hersey 214

$53,949 Stevenson 125

$53,897 Hinsdale Township 86

$51,925 Downers Grove 99

$51,565 Niles Township 219

$55,067 Average Starting Salary

At the other end of the salary schedule, a district’s top salary is what retains teaching talent in the district over the long term, and something those opposed to the referendum point to as out of line. However, using the same comparison group shows that the top salary paid to D86 teachers is again lower than the average of peer districts and below the majority of other peer districts:

Top Salary:

$141,825 Oak Park River Forest 200

$141,071 Riverside-Brookfield 208

$136,804 Maine Township 207

$135,391 New Trier 203

$134,802 Northfield Township 225

$134,064 Niles Township 219

$132,680 Lyons Township 204

$132,018 Hinsdale Township 86

$130,837 Hersey 214

$126,726 Stevenson 125

$123,670 Downers Grove 99

$133,626 Average Highest Salary

The truth is, teacher salaries in D86 are below the average for peer districts in both starting salary and highest salaries paid. But those opposed to the referendum don’t want this truth out there. They’d rather make teacher salaries the scapegoat despite the fact that the law prohibits funds from the referendum to be used for anything other than  “the projects identified in the proposition. […] The District cannot use the money to add staff or to increase salaries or benefits.

Despite this, they are intent on spreading falsehoods and dividing the community to advance their anti-teacher, anti-public school agenda because they don’t have a plan for much needed facilities improvements at our two schools. This small vocal minority was not able to manipulate a Master Facilities process that included dozens of public meetings and hundreds of community members participating in shaping the facility needs of the district. So, they want to use their wealth, raised in secret and often from those outside the district, to derail the much needed referendum and undermine our schools.

Teacher salaries are neither the issue nor the cause of our facilities shortcomings. As teachers, we believe our school facilities should represent the district’s tradition of excellence. As coaches and club sponsors we see surrounding communities investing in their schools, passing repeated referendum to improve their schools. We believe our school facilities should be equitable with that of peer districts. It’s time our students have facilities that match our district’s reputation and support our tradition of excellence. We believe passing the April 2nd referendum is the way to achieve the facilities our students deserve.