Two incumbents seeking re-election to the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 school board are backing a plan to ask the teachers union to renegotiate the remainder of its current three-year contract.
Board President Gerald Chapman and board member James Ekeberg both said Saturday during a candidates forum that they concur with a proposal to ask the teachers to help reduce the cost of the contract.
The two are among six candidates running for three, 4-year terms on the board.
All six attended Saturday's forum in Palatine, hosted by the township Republicans.
The other candidates are board member David Seiffert, Manjula Sriram, Scott Herr and Gerard Iannuzzelli.
The issue came up when a parent asked what can be done about raises promised to teachers when people in the private sector are not getting salary boosts.
Meg Schneider, who has two children in the district, said she is "anti-teachers union" even though her sister, aunt and grandmother are all teachers.
"We are spending money on increases (in teachers' salaries), but I have had no raises and no bonuses two years in a row," Schneider said. "What can you do with the teachers union?"
Chapman and Ekeberg mentioned the proposal to ask the union to renegotiate, but pointed out that the school board would have to first vote on the matter, and the union has the right to refuse to engage in discussions because the contract is already in place.
The contract, set to expire June 30, 2012, set a 0.75 percent raise for teachers last year, 1.19 percent this year, and 1.39 percent next year.
But the district faces financial difficulties, with expenses outpacing revenue.
The district is projected to spend down its fund balance from the current $55.5 million to $22.2 million by 2015-16. A $5.4 million budget hole is projected for next year.
Sriram, a management professional and PTA member, said she is in favor of renegotiating the teachers contract. She questioned teachers' raises when she said that corporate workers got on average only a combined 2 percent raise over the last five years.
Sriram, Herr and Iannuzzelli are running as a slate they named "Vote 1-3-5 for District 15." The numbers refer to their position on the election ballot.
At the forum, Iannuzzelli, a technology director involved with the Palatine Jaycees and the Palatine Men's Civic Club, said he is "totally against giving raises to teachers unless there is some accountability."
Herr said there is an "imbalance" when raises are not tied to cost of living adjustments. He is the founder of the District 15 Parents Involved in Education.
Seiffert, who was appointed to the board in late January and is seeking election to a 4-year term, said he supports approaching the teachers union to renegotiate.
"This is the right step to take," Seiffert said, former president of the District 15 Educational Foundation.
The idea to ask the union to reopen the contract was sparked by board member Richard Bokor, who is not up for re-election. He said that on Friday he e-mailed board members and the district superintendent asking for the item to be placed on the agenda for a meeting on March 2.
Bokor said the proposal has nothing to do with the election.
"This is not a political move," he said. "I just put out an offer out that we could get organized and have a talk on the contract."
The board next meets at 7 p.m. March 2 at Sundling Junior High School, 1100 N. Smith St., Palatine.
Debate: Parent says teachers raises should be in line with private sector