Our View: Don't strike in District 155

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 5:47 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 5:48 p.m. CDT

We urge District 155 teachers to stay on the job and not strike as they continue to negotiate a new contract with the school board.

We also ask teachers to take a second look at the district’s final offer, which increases teachers’ net compensation by more than 5 percent over three years. Given the average salary of a District 155 teacher is $94,866 and property taxpayers are beyond stretched, the offer is fair to teachers.

The school board’s offer keeps annual step increases – salary hikes that are tied to years of teaching experience. It also keeps lane increases – salary hikes that are linked to a teacher’s continuing education. These step and lane increases result in teachers getting raises in excess of 3 percent each year.

But the school board also asks that teachers start picking up a portion of their own pension contributions. That sounds reasonable.

State law requires that 9.4 percent of Illinois teachers’ salaries go to the Teacher Retirement System, the pension system that pays teachers after they retire. School districts also are required to pay 0.58 percent of their teachers’ salaries into TRS.

In District 155 and many other districts, however, the district – i.e., taxpayers – pays for the teachers’ full share of the retirement contribution.

In year one of the board’s contract offer, the district will continue to pay 74 percent of their teachers’ pension contribution. In year two, the district will pay 53 percent, and in year three, 32 percent.

Teachers, essentially, are being asked to pay for a portion of their own retirement.

Teachers are calling this a pay cut. It’s not. Over the course of the three years of the proposed new contract, teachers’ collective compensation increases by more than 5 percent. That’s not a pay cut.

Most taxpayers who have struggled through these tough economic times would love to see their compensation increase by 5 percent over the same period of time.

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