Editorial: Palatine District 15 fails transparency test on teacher contract
Six weeks after the school board voted to ratify a historic 10-year contract with teachers in Palatine Township Elementary District 15, officials in the district finally made the 75-page contract available to the public.
The reason for such an unconscionable delay?
School officials say that it took that long to draft the final details of the contract.
What then did the school board, and for that matter the teachers, ratify if there wasn't a final contract to review?
School board members say that they cast their unanimous vote based on a three-page summary of the terms.
Such due diligence -- or lack of it -- on a commitment of millions of dollars in future payroll spending is "customary," Board President Peggy Babcock told our reporters.
So much to say. So little space to say it in. So we'll have to get to some of it in future editorials.
But for now, let's at least point out the obvious.
This is no way to approach what is the most significant financial responsibility board members have.
And it's no way to meet the school board's obligation to the public to conduct its business with transparency.
We believe that the school board violated the state's transparency mandates by the way that it conducted its business on this matter.
But if there is no law that stops District 15 officials from behaving this way, then there should be one.
By approving the concept of an agreement rather than the agreement itself, the board hasn't really approved a contract.
How is the public to know that the contract that was finally released is the same thing as the concept that the school board announced?
How is anyone to know whether the teachers thought the contract was going to be one thing and the school board members thought it was going to be another and the public thought it was going to be another?
Seems like there's a lot of room there for misinterpretation, for confusion, for subterfuge.
And this is the case on a contract, as we said, that is historic in its length and valued at hundreds of millions of dollars before it's all paid out.
Why, we wonder, would anyone operate this way?
If, in fact, the school board is approving a concept and not a contract, why wouldn't it cast a vote on the concept and then follow it up after the contract's drawn with another vote on the contract itself?
Wouldn't that be more logical? Wouldn't that be more responsible?