CRYSTAL LAKE – Negotiations between District 155 and its teachers union have stalled over salaries, retirement benefits and teachers’ work loads, an analysis of both sides’ final offers show.
Both the District 155 school board and the teachers union posted their most recent offers on their respective websites, a step the entities had to take in the wake of both sides filing papers with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board declaring they had reached an impasse.
At least two more negotiation sessions between the Community High School District 155 Board of Education and the teachers union, the District 155 Education Association, will take place before the end of the year as both sides try to avoid a strike.
The board Thursday rejected a binding arbitration offer from the union that would require both parties to honor a contract drafted by an independent source.
Leaders from both sides said they would be willing to add more negotiation sessions to the two scheduled through December.
“We’re willing to negotiate anytime, anywhere. If we have to go around the clock, we’ll do it,” said Board President Ted Wagner. “The absolute last thing we want to see is any infringement on the kids’ education.”
While the two sides have not agreed on much, union president Justin Hubly agreed with the desire to avoid a strike.
Though the union overwhelmingly authorized the authority to strike if needed with more than 99 percent of the membership in support, Hubly said there has been no “drop-dead” date set to pressure negotiations.
Hubly said the union would continue to negotiate though it has been frustrating to receive only offers that include significant cuts from the previous contract. Negotiations have been going on since March 20 and the teachers’ contract expired July 1.
“We just haven’t seen an offer that doesn’t involve cuts,” Hubly said. “But we’re not looking at negotiations with a set deadline. We do not want to go on strike. We really want to avoid that.”
The union is looking for an increase to the base salary in year three of the proposed three-year contract while the district is instead offering lump sum increases to teachers at the top of the experience scale, according to documents posted to the two entities’ websites.
The board’s offer also shifts an increasing portion of employee contributions to the Teacher Retirement System to the employees, the documents said. (It also pays the employer contribution.)
By cutting the contribution, the district is in effect cutting teacher pay, the union argued on its website.
The union also proposed that teachers who are assigned a sixth class receive a $3,000 stipend each semester.
Wagner said he did not think having the offers go public would hurt future negotiations.
“I quite frankly think the public seeing it is a good thing,” Wagner said. “The public needs to know what the board is offering and once that’s known, I think it will be considered a fair and equitable offer.”
Hubly said he also looked forward to discussing the union’s offer publicly as there continues to be a discrepancy between the board and union in interpreting budget numbers and projections.
Regardless of the details of the final contract, it will have a significant effect on the district budget that has already been approved.
For every 1 percent potential increase in teacher salaries and benefits, the district must spend about $500,000, according to T. Ferrier, assistant superintendent of finance. The average teacher salary in District 155 is $94,866, but that number includes department chairs, which are not calculated in average teacher salaries for most districts. That reporting change will be made in District 155 next year.
Hubly said the union would continue its public outreach efforts with an informational picket Tuesday before the board meeting at Crystal Lake Central High School. It will take place from 6 to 7 p.m.
• Northwest Herald reporter Emily K. Coleman contributed to this article.
Salary and retirement differences
Year 1: Pay increases based off accrued years of experience and/or education and a $1,350 lump sum to teachers on the final two steps of the experience ladder.
Year 2: Same as year 1.
Year 3: Same as year 1.
Year 1: Pay increases based off accrued years of experience and/or education.
Year 2: Same as year 1.
Year 3: Pay increases based off accrued years of experience and/or education and increase the base salary by the rate of inflation, up to 2.5 percent.
Year 1: Board pays 74 percent of employee contribution.
Year 2: Board pays 53 percent of employee contribution.
Year 3: Board pays 32 percent of employee contribution.
Maintain current language under which the district pays 100 percent of the employee contribution.
Maintain current contract language.
Teachers who are assigned a sixth class receive a $3,000-per-semester stipend. On full-day institute days, teachers have at least four hours for grading and another professional matters. Teachers earn up to 8 hours of flex time for working after-school and weekend functions.
Read D-155’s final offer at ww2.d155.org/negotiations/default.aspx and the proposal made by the teachers’ union at d155teachers.org/negotiations.