Executive Director of Taxpayers United of America, Rae Ann Mcneilly, was quoted by Chicago Tribune about Palatine-area elementary schoolteachers new contract.
Palatine-area elementary schoolteachers have locked in a virtually unheard of 10-year contract that provides average raises of 4 percent in each of its last six years.
Negotiated in part by a district personnel chief who until last year was the teachers union president, the deal also provides average raises of 2.5 percent in its first four years for the 900 teachers in Community Consolidated School District 15.
The length of the contract is unprecedented in the elementary school district and possibly statewide. Superintendent Scott Thompson said the goal was to provide what’s best for students and teachers without placing undue financial burden on the community.
Because of early retirement incentives that are also offered to teachers — and the savings to the district by replacing retiring teachers with new ones at half the salary — district officials anticipate that the total salary costs will increase less than 1 percent annually over the life of the contract.
“This contract not only fairly compensates our staff,” Thompson said in a statement, “but … it also allows the district to continue to implement the programs and practices that best serve our students while maintaining long-term financial stability.”
The early retirement incentives offer raises of 6 percent for the last four years of work, which also increases the employees’ pensions paid by the state. Teachers must take the incentives the first year they reach eligibility. The cost savings assume all eligible teachers will retire, which Thompson said they almost always do.
It remains to be seen, though, if the new contract will prompt some teachers to stay longer than they otherwise might.
The average district salary last year was about $75,000, while the district’s current salary schedule ranges from about $40,000 to $108,000, according to state and district records.
The new deal comes at a time of financial uncertainty for Illinois’ school systems as the state is embroiled in a long budget impasse, and as labor strife grows in the state’s largest district, Chicago Public Schools.
Scott Woldman, president of the Classroom Teachers’ Council of District 15, said in a statement that the state’s budget woes prompted the union and district to approach negotiations as partners rather than adversaries.
One person who might have helped bridge the gap was Lisa Nuss. She was the union president until last year, when she joined the administrative staff as executive director of personnel and human services. Nuss could not be reached for comment Friday. Thompson said he led the negotiations, and Nuss did not unduly influence them.
The length and cost of the deal led to objections from a nonprofit taxpayer watchdog group.
Rae Ann McNeilly, executive director of Taxpayers United of America, called the deal “excessive” in the current economy, when many private-sector workers are getting little or no raises.
Illinois residents pay the second-highest property taxes in the nation, according to the personal financial website Wallet Hub.
“Every time we pay government employees more money,” McNeilly said, “they’re asking taxpayers to take a pay cut.”
Angela Minnici, director of the Education Policy Center at the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., said she has never heard of a contract lasting 10 years, particularly with no provisions to renegotiate any of its terms. Most teacher contracts, she said, run two to four years.
The stability of the contract could help recruit good teachers but it’s hard to predict what health care costs will be in 10 years, which is a major factor in renegotiating contracts, Minnici said.
The salary increases will cost an estimated $6.3 million over 10 years, on top of the district’s annual $160 million budget, but by itself will not raise property taxes, Thompson said.
Ben Schwarm, deputy executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards, agreed that the deal could help by replacing more highly paid teachers.
“There could be a cost savings,” he said. “I think there’s value in it.”
The school board voted 7-0 in favor of the pact Wednesday, though the contract has not been completed, and both parties agreed not to make it public until they make sure it’s written accurately. Thompson said the board members did know the major components of the pact.
Peggy Babcock, president of the District 15 school board, said the deal allows the district to “keep the focus where it should be — producing world-class learners by building a connected-learning community.”
Serving all or parts of Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, South Barrington, Arlington Heights and Schaumburg, District 15 is the third-largest grade-school district in the state.
In the next-longest contract known to union officials in the area, Community Consolidated School District 59 in Arlington Heights is operating under a six-year contract with its teachers. State union officials said the deals buck the recent trend toward shorter contracts during this time of uncertainty over state school funding.
In 2014, New York City public school teachers reportedly signed a nine-year contract with pay increases of 1 percent to 3 percent, though two years were retroactive.