District 211 teachers union states case to community
A town hall meeting on the stalled contract negotiations between Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 teachers and the board of education Thursday night proved both quicker and quieter than anticipated.
Though all members of the community were invited by the union to come and ask questions after hearing a 25-minute presentation, the only question that was in any way critical expressed skepticism that the list of other school districts to which the teachers were comparing their pay had been agreed to by both sides as comparable.
After a presentation of slides that showed District 211 in 18th place for annual base pay increases in recent years, and 14th for both yearly step increases and starting salaries, union President John Braglia said the district usually compares itself to other high school districts in socioeconomically similar communities.
But the woman who'd asked the question pointed out that some unit districts - combining elementary and high schools - were on some of the lists, including Barrington Unit District 220 and Lake Zurich Unit District 95.
Braglia replied that high school teachers in the region typically are paid more than elementary teachers. So the fact that unit districts like 220 and 95 would rank higher on the comparison of base pay increases than a purely high school district like 211 isn't what one would expect, he said.
However, both those unit districts were below District 211 on starting pay, while District 95 did not appear on the comparison of yearly step increases at all.
The town hall meeting at Palatine High School - at which the board of education was not represented - gave the union's version of the past year's negotiations. But both sides had updated information on their most recent contract offers and positions on their respective websites Thursday - the board's at adc.d211.org and the union's at local1211.org.
The union is asking for a 2 percent increase the first year and the yet-to-be-determined rate of inflation for each of the three remaining years. As has been the case through many previous contracts, this would be in addition to annual step increases as members move up another year in experience. District officials say step increases for the current school year averaged 3.7 percent for all teachers.
The district's latest offer was a 2 percent increase on the base for the first year of the contract and 75 percent of the rolling average of the rate of inflation for the previous 10 years during the following three years.
For those off the salary schedule after 25 years of experience, the annual increase during the latter three years would be 100 percent of the same 10-year average of the inflation rate.
Braglia, who has led the union for 28 years, said never before in District 211 have both sides shared their contract offers directly with the community before approval.
He accused the board of changing the parameters of the negotiations and of releasing incorrect information about its own offer on its website earlier this week that was later removed.
The board asked that both sides focus on the total cost difference between their proposals, Braglia said, adding that the union's concessions gradually reduced it from $11 million to $2 million.
Over the course of a four-year contract, that would be only $500,000 per year - about $400 per union member - and easily covered by the district's annual surpluses without further burdening taxpayers, he argued.
The union has not announced any plans to strike but has sought legal permission to strike, which could be an option as early as Dec. 13, Braglia said.
He added that his intention is to complete the negotiations for a new contract before the holidays.