Friday, November 18, 2005

District 86 ponders $1.1 million in staff cuts

Another school board does the right thing. After a survey only 40% of voters said they were willing to pay an increase in taxes. This school board did the right thing and is not going to run a referendum in March 2006. This article appeared in the November 17th edition of The Doings What a great story.

District 15 McHenry, District 50 Harvard and District 300 Carpentersville/Algonquin in past elections have heard the voters and they said No. Will these boards continue to divide their communities or will they reject the idea of running referenda next spring?

District 86 ponders $1.1 million in staff cuts

Nine teachers could be eliminated as part of the cuts to head off a $1.1 million deficit projected in 2006-07 for Hinsdale High School District 86.

District 86 finance committee Chairman Mark Emmons said Friday that the cuts include several support staff positions, four coaching jobs and the sponsorship of several clubs and activities. District administrators are suggesting the cuts, but no specific positions have been identified, he added.

"The potential cuts could be fairly significant," Emmons said. "It's never easy."

Superintendent Nicholas Wahl said Monday that he also plans to outline other ways to decrease spending. That report is scheduled to be presented at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, at Hinsdale Central High School, 55th and Grant streets.

To balance next year's budget, board members agreed in October to trim programs rather than pursue a March referendum to generate more tax revenue. A September survey reported only 40 percent of voters were willing to pay more in taxes to offset increased operating expenses.

The board had been prepared to reduce spending by $2 million -- one estimate of next year's budget deficit. But a revised forecast decreased the estimated shortfall to $1.1 million, Wahl said.

Budget deficits are projected to continue. Officials are expecting a $4.1 million deficit in 2007-08 and a $4.5 million deficit in 2008-09. By 2008-09, the district's fund balances won't be able to offset the deficit and the district will be $377,000 in the hole, according to projections.

Emmons said board members will consider how budget cuts will affect class sizes, especially classes with low enrollments, such as advanced placement mathematics and foreign language.

"If we eliminate or target classes with low enrollment, then only Spanish would be offered at Hinsdale South, for example," Emmons said. "No, that's not acceptable."

Currently, French, German, Spanish and Latin are offered at Hinsdale Central and South high schools.

Emmons said the board's budgeting process takes four months, and several factors complicate the process.

In December, the federal government will release the consumer price index, an essential piece for calculating district revenue next year. Tax cap laws limit the increase in the district's tax levy to 5 percent, or the previous year's CPI, whichever is lower, plus an amount for new growth. The 2004 CPI is 3.3 percent.

Another factor will be the new contract to be negotiated with district teachers, Emmons said. In March, negotiations are expected to begin to replace the current three-year contract, which expires at the end of the school year.

Ethics drive board to cut taxes, risk losses

Another school district took in more than they told the voters during a past referendum. This school board did the right thing and cut taxes. The below article appeared in the November 17th edition of The Doings.

Ethics drive board to cut taxes, risk losses


Fighting back tears, school board president Louise Hillegass urged the board to weigh all options before taking the final 4-3 vote that could result in cutting district programs.

Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 Monday discussed for nearly 3 1/2 hours the benefits and disadvantages of slashing the tax rate from the equivalent of 60 cents to 31 cents. Because of a temporarily lifted tax cap, a reallocation of funds and the use of a phase-in method to increase tax rates, the district has received more than twice what was requested in a 2002 referendum. A group of citizens caught the error.

"I do not believe we have acted unethically," Hillegass said, adding she believes the board never intended to overtax residents.

But with schools' programs on the line, she said the board faces another ethical problem -- whether to risk educational quality to appease overtaxed residents.

"I want to be quite sure we're doing the right thing for the district," she said. "There's a lot of gray out there. I want to be careful about not oversimplifying this issue."

Along with Hillegass, Superintendent Mary Curley recommended postponing cutting the rate until a committee of citizens could be formed and more residents' views could be heard. Business manager Pat Seigel warned that returning to the 31-cent rate and abating the $5 million would likely result in the district needing to pass another referendum by 2008.

"Think seriously about not giving back the $5 million tonight," Curley told the board. "It's not imperative that we make that decision tonight. Nobody's paying for the time, and you can still end up in the same place."

During public comment, residents voiced concerns that they were being stolen from, even having their "wallets lifted" by the board. One resident presented a visual, the "district mascot" -- an oinking piggy bank that grunts "more money, more money."

Still others, some calling themselves the quiet majority, said they would rather be overtaxed than see children lose programs and homes lose property value.

"I'm concerned that the opinions of a few are being interpreted as the feelings of the majority," one resident said. "They call themselves anti-tax, but I think they're anti-education."

Despite pleas from Hillegass, Curley and other board members, taking additional time to sort out the issue wouldn't have changed four board members' minds.

"The bottom line is at the end of this, it's my ethics. If I think it's wrong now, I'm still going to think it's wrong in March," board member Lisa Armonda said about the board keeping any additional money. "I can't come up with any other scenario than this. I'm sorry."

Armonda, along with Kitty Delaney, Mary Beth Tamm and Kevin Hanrahan, approved returning to the 31-cent increase and abating the additional $5 million. Hillegass, Bill Mouka and Daniel Rizzardini opposed the motion.

Before the 4-3 vote, Curley warned the decision could result in lost programs.

She presented a list of more than 20 items that could be reduced or slashed.

"To even mention a lot of these cuts is difficult," Curley said as she unveiled the option of consolidating special education classes and reducing special education staff.

Despite the possible cuts, Hanrahan said he would vote for what he thinks is right.

"I have to set an example for my children about what's right and what's wrong," he said. "I can't justify using money without a formal public mandate."

During closing public comment, residents expressed gratitude for the board members' efforts.

"I don't know how I would have voted," one resident said. "Every one of you made an ethical vote. I'm personally very proud to have every one of you as a board member."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

D-2 teachers set to strike

D-2 does not have the money to pay teachers more than the teachers have demanded. Their employers (the taxpayers) told D-2 teachers they do not want to give them more money. Now the teachers like spoiled two year olds stomp their feet and go on strike to demand more money. All this with no regard to their fellow teachers who will lose their jobs if the board caves to salaries they cannot afford. This is about money not about the children. They are already paid well and even with the proposed changes in benefits have better benefits than most taxpayers who support them.

It is time for the taxpayers and parents to fight back and fight back big. Encourage your board not to cave. Hold the teachers off until Christmas, give them a taste of what it is like not to afford Christmas presents. Go on strike. Families who have a stay at home Mom or Dad should support their neighbors with two income families and agree to watch their children. Homeschool parents should agree to take in their neighbors’ children. Call your school board and offer them support. Call you student's teacher and ask them to get back to work. In general terms do your best to teach your children about budgets, economics and why this is important not to cave to the union. Now is a good time to teach children you can not always have everything you want this is should be a good lesson in patience and working for what you believe is best for your children. Explain how the teachers can retire at 55 with pensions larger than many people’s salaries that have to work to age 67 and beyond.

For more information go to Citizens Against Unrestrained Spending in Education (CAUSE)- 4 Kids

The below article appeared in the November 16, 2005 issue of The Northwest Herald.

D-2 teachers set to strike

RICHMOND – Nippersink District 2 board members walked silently past a gantlet of 50 teachers and support staff outside the middle school Tuesday night while the crowd chanted, "Settle, settle, settle" under dripping umbrellas.

Three hours later, Richmond-Spring Grove Education Association representatives left negotiations and announced that its members would go on strike starting Thursday.

"Our members will be picketing during regular working hours," said Laura Biloz, co-president of the union. "The board of education of Nippersink District 2 has provoked this strike. The association is in agreement with the district on a contract for this year that would have kept our children in school. The association made significant concessions in salary, benefits, insurance and working conditions to make that agreement possible. However, the district demanded even further concessions for next year before the parties had a chance to look at a clear financial picture at that time."

Superintendent Paul Hain said the district had offered teachers a two-year contract with a 0.5 percent increase the first year and a 1.5 percent the second year. Each year also would include a 1.4 percent step increase for the additional year of teaching experience.

Hain said the teachers came back with a counterproposal for a 5.4 percent increase the second year, which would include the step increase.

"They're not negotiating here," Hain said. "It is an ultimatum."

The three-school district has 1,600 students. The union represents 103 teachers and eight support staff members.

Nippersink Middle School teacher Lorie Comstock said she still remembered the informational picketing that occurred three years ago, when the two sides fought over a contract.

The difference this time, Comstock said, is that the teachers are not fighting for larger increases but for fewer cuts in their benefits.

"I refuse to take home less pay, and that is what it is going to be," Comstock said. "We're not in this for the money, but I don't want to be taken advantage of either."

Teachers voted against a two-year contract Nov. 9. The proposed contract would have cut $450 per teacher that the district pays into a medical flexible spending account and would have split contributions to teachers pensions for any increase more than the current 11.38 percent. In addition, insurance deductibles for employees would have increased to $300 from $250, and the district would have covered 80 percent of medical costs instead of the current 90 percent.

Hain said the school board was willing to extend the benefits until the end of the school year, which would have cost the district between $34,000 and $37,000.

"The board is committed not to ask the taxpayers for more money," Hain said. "If we go beyond this point in year one, we will be increasing deficit spending."

Thursday's strike will be the first time teachers have walked off the job since Cary Community Consolidated School District 26 and Harvard Community Unit District 50 teachers went on strike in September and October 2002.

Biloz said the union wanted to give parents one day to prepare for the strike, but there was still time for the board to reach a settlement.

"They could agree to the one year, or they could come back with a new offer," Biloz said. "They need to realize we can't give up any more."

Hain said the school board did not call off negotiations and was prepared to go back to a federal mediator.

"We will run school right up until they are not here," Hain said. "At that point, we will shut down. We will await the results. We know we will have to go back and bargain at some point in time."


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Teachers say 'Y' not us?

Teachers' unions continue to bully others into salaries they cannot afford. Read their threats for yourself. The average parent and taxpayer must speak up to school board and legislatures. The Teachers' unions are becoming an uncontrollable political monster that does not want to take responsibility for educating our children.

The below article appeared at on November 15th, 2005.

Teachers say 'Y' not us?
UTLA equates support for measure with pay demand
By Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer

The head of the Los Angeles teachers union has sent Los Angeles Unified officials a clear message: We supported your $4 billion Measure Y construction bond initiative, now it's your turn to meet our pay demands - or face the consequences.
The threat from United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy comes amid district negotiations with the union for salary increases in the third and final year of its contract.

The district's last offer was a 1.5 percent pay hike, contingent on the bond measure passing - but Duffy wants twice that and wants a deal by January.

"If they play games with me on that 3 percent, then we will not be able to come to an agreement and we will continue to build our capacity to take action, and come this spring, they're going to be very surprised at the kinds of activities that we're going to start initiating," Duffy said Monday.

A separate round of negotiations for a brand new contract will begin in the spring, when Duffy plans to ask for even bigger salary increases. He said the district could come up with the money by cutting down on its bureaucracy.

Measure Y passed with an overwhelming 66 percent of the vote when it only needed 55 percent and Duffy argues it could not have succeeded without the union's grass-roots efforts.

But district officials say there's not enough money in the budget to meet union demands and reject any connection between union support of the bond measure and salary talks.

"The reality is that the teachers union that helped pass the bond gets direct benefits from it, and I'm not sure if and how we're supposed to take that somewhere beyond what we're already looking at in increasing compensation," board member Mike Lansing said.

"We're already trying to get to a fair and equitable position on (the salary hikes) as much as we can given our limitations."

Promising more militant action, Duffy was elected to lead the union in March in a huge upset. He ousted John Perez, who was seen by many teachers as not being tough enough with the district in fighting for teachers.

"This time around, let's face it, without our money and our folks on the phone and precinct-walking, (Measure) Y would have died," Duffy said.

"We put time and effort and money and convinced the California Teachers Association to put money into it, and I will certainly not lose any opportunity to let the district know that we are partners, and that at the very least I expect to be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner."

Duffy said his union supported the bond initiative because it was good for teachers and students since it would allow the district to complete its ambitious $20 billion construction and renovation program. The program includes 160 new schools, renovating hundreds of others and putting all students on a traditional, nine-month calendar.

UTLA donated $75,000 to the campaign, and urged the California Teachers Association to do the same. It also put 700 members on the streets and on phones to spread the message, Duffy said.

The passage of the bond measure prevented the district from having to find an additional $40 million for the general fund to pay for operating expenses such as teacher salaries, classroom materials and routine maintenance.

But the district's current offer is about as high as it can realistically go given its finances, board member Jon Lauritzen said.

"Obviously, the fact that Measure Y passed bodes well for making a reasonable settlement with the unions," he said.

"It is getting really expensive to live in Los Angeles and most of our employees are way below market value. But at this point, I think the unions are realistic that we just don't have a lot of money sitting around right now."

The idea that unions now have a strong bargaining chip is true, but it doesn't mean that the district will give in to demands during negotiations, said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, political analyst at University of Southern California.

"The teachers union has long been a power in LAUSD affairs and will continue to be a power in LAUSD affairs. The unions are smart enough to use it as a bargaining chip, but the district has to come back with an offer and the union has to accept or not accept what they come back with," Jeffe said. "The ultimate bargaining chip is the threat of a strike."

Duffy called the election cycle a "blessing in disguise," because it helped the union organize more than 200 school sites and start building its capacity to reach out to school sites and community groups.

"We're building our capacity to take action in the spring. In the meantime, if they don't deal with me fairly, then they're losing an opportunity to be a partner. They can decide which way they want it," he said.

Duffy, who has made a show of a united front with district officials since he took office this summer, said the district should also be mindful of his support and maintaining a partnership as they face a takeover challenge by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

"There's another issue here they need to pay attention to - the mayor is still talking about taking over the school district, so I think it would be to the benefit of the school board members, who are elected officials, to go with the district and make sure they deal with UTLA in a fair manner," Duffy said.

Naush Boghossian, (818) 713-3722

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dist. 211 Sets Pact Deadline

Gee, what a surprise. D-211, the same district that just approved a huge tax increase is facing a strike threat. But then why not, they're only making an average of $82,447 for nine months work. How can they scrape by on such a pittance?

(Of course, teacher unions don't always wait for referendum passage. Sometimes they threaten strikes after defeats, just ask D-2).

Dist. 211 sets pact deadline

Although they didn't know it, High School District 211 teachers overwhelming voted down the administration's last, best offer Thursday.

During a special School Board meeting Monday, High School District 211 administrators stood firm and gave teachers something to think hard about -- a Dec. 2 deadline to approve the same three-year tentative agreement rejected last week.

In addressing the School Board, Superintendent Roger Thornton said the contract -- which significantly reins in personnel costs -- reflects a pledge made by the district to voters who supported its controversial tax increase referendum in April.

"I believe everyone, including teachers, made a commitment during the referendum as to how this money would be used. Voters told us, 'If we vote for this, you better keep your word,'" he said. "When you work with kids, you better be a person who keeps their word."

Taking the initiative away from the teachers' union in an unusual -- but orchestrated -- move, the School Board unanimously approved the tentative contract following Thornton's presentation.

Thornton said the district's governing body was simply exercising its right.

"Just as the union has the right to vote on the contract, so does the board. We are accountable to the public and they have been most patient with us," he said. "It's within the rights of the board to say, 'We believe strongly in this contract and we want it to go forward.' I wasn't sure of how this vote would turn out, but I was proud to see it decided unanimously."

Come Dec. 2, the offer on the table will be pulled, Thornton said.

The contract between the state's largest school district and its 1,000-plus member union, Northwest Suburban Teachers Union Local 1211, includes salary hikes of about 2 percent and shifts significant financial burdens once shouldered by the district -- including retirement contribution and health insurance payments -- to teachers.

Northwest Suburban Teachers Union Local 1211 President John Braglia puts the annual cost of the benefit concessions at $13,000 to $19,000.

However, in light of today's economic climate, teachers are willing to accept those costs, Braglia said. He said growing class sizes, not salaries, are at the heart of the stalemate (see related story).

"We were really willing to push this through if it meant there were going to be gains for the kids, which is something the School Board promised to do during the referendum process," he said. "But the School Board is not interested in limiting class sizes."

Thornton doubts that issue caused the "no" vote.

"When something is repeated enough, it can become the truth," he said.

The tentative agreement keeps in place subject-specific class size restrictions approved in the 1998 teachers' contract.

So what's the next step? Braglia said the union will survey its members tomorrow and return to negotiations with the goal of finishing the contract before Thanksgiving. At this point, he isn't concerned that talks could break down and result in the first strike in the history of the district.

"My job is to keep communication open and I know we're close," Braglia said.

Thornton said both sides will continue to work in good faith, but there isn't much room for negotiating.

"Our team is obligated to consider their requests," he said. "But there's nothing new that we have to offer."

With an average salary of $82,447, District 211 teachers are the fifth highest paid in the Chicago area, behind districts in Highland Park, Northfield, Lyons Township and Winnetka.

The proposed contract can be viewed at the district's Web site,

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Teachers refusing accountability for the education of our children.

The below piece is an all too common problem across the United States. Teachers refusing to be accountable for educating our children. This is one of the many reasons why unions do not belong in public schools. The undereducation of American children is ruining their lives, their education potential and their income potential and the teachers' unions do not care. We are all forced to pay for the damage that teachers' union causes in the form of higher taxes due to remedial education, medicaid and the costs of the penial system just to name a few.

No Child law irks teachers' unions
Federal statute prompted strike in Oregon town
By Julia Silverman, Associated Press | November 13, 2005

SANDY, Ore. -- The homecoming game had been canceled, and parents were running out of ways to keep cranky children entertained, because of a teachers' strike in which a major sticking point was more than just a local issue: It was the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

In school districts around the country, the Bush administration's centerpiece law on primary and secondary education is beginning to emerge as an issue at the bargaining table.

In Sandy's 4,200-student Oregon Trail District, where the strike is in its third week, teachers are afraid they will be replaced, transferred, or otherwise penalized if they, their students, or their schools fail to measure up under the law, which sets stringent new standards for performance.

While salary and benefits are also stumbling blocks in the dispute, the teachers and the school board in this city of 5,400, about 40 miles southeast of Portland, are wrangling over contract language related to No Child Left Behind. Several bargaining sessions have stretched into the wee hours.

''No Child Left Behind is creating issues we didn't expect four or five years ago," said Larry Wolf, who heads the Oregon Education Association, the state teachers' union.

''The law's approaching deadlines raise flags for both sides," Wolf added.

Under No Child Left Behind, schools must bring increasing percentages of children from all backgrounds up to scratch on reading, math, and writing tests. Schools that repeatedly fail to make enough progress face a series of sanctions, the most serious of which include school closure and takeover by a private company.

The law also says that by the end of this school year, teachers must be ''highly qualified" in the subject they teach. That definition varies from state to state, but it generally means that teachers must have majored in the subject they teach, must be certified by the state, and must pass an exam.

In some places, teachers are pushing for contract language to protect themselves.

In Oregon, for instance, unions are asking for the right to take part in developing new curriculums required under No Child Left Behind, and they want assurances that staff members will not be replaced or transferred if a school's students do not progress according to the standards set by the federal law.

Teachers also want to make sure that student performance on tests is not the basis for negative action against an employee. And they say that school systems should not be able to take into account whether a teacher has been deemed ''highly qualified" during layoffs or recalls.

School board officials say that laws like No Child Left Behind affect what can and cannot go into the contract.

''We can't incorporate things that would violate or conflict with those laws," said an Oregon Trail school board member, Wayne Kuechler.

In Philadelphia, where the public school system is now run by the state, the teachers' union conceded some seniority hiring rights in the latest round of contract talks, to give the district more options in hiring teachers to staff schools that are marked as low performers under the federal law.

''At every turn in the contract negotiations, the press and demands of No Child Left Behind were always present," said a union spokeswoman, Barbara Goodman. ''The bottom line is, there were a lot of changes made in seniority."

In Warwick, R.I., teachers and the district have been negotiating a contract for three years without success, in part because of No Child Left Behind.

''Any time you add additional duties, teachers expect to be paid, which is reasonable," said John Thompson, chairman of the Warwick School Committee. ''But with pension and healthcare costs going through the roof, we can't afford things like higher pay for more work."