What the Teachers Get

In friendlier employment environments, employees want to do good things for their employer because they are glad to have the job. The employer values that behavior and rewards it.

This is the essential nature of Capitalism – relationships are voluntary and mutually self-beneficial. The corollary is that unreasonable employers cannot attract good workers and misbehaving employees cannot find a job.

And the corollary to the corollary is that the coercive influence of government interference in such relationships can shield unreasonableness and perpetuate misbehavior.

The School Code is a set of Illinois statutes that govern publically-funded schools in Illinois. As guided by the federal Taft-Hartley Law, that includes the teachers’ unions and, more broadly, teachers in “contractual continued service”.

The contract between the taxpayers of District 115 and the teachers is a document of seventeen articles. It is written in English and anyone who understands written English can understand those seventeen articles. They are these:

1..The taxpayers, as represented by the school board, recognize the Lake Forest Education Association (the local union) and the Illinois Education Association and the National Education Association (the state and national umbrella organizations, creatures of the Illinois School Code and the Taft-Hartley Law) as the representatives of the LFHS teachers.

2..While acknowledging that the “Board, Administration and Teachers have the responsibility for providing quality education” Article Two asserts “The Board reserves its right as the final authority on all policies within its jurisdiction”.

Like the Second Amendment, its brevity belies a myriad of exceptions.

3..A vapid Article, this simply asserts that the union should have access to public documents. It is perhaps a holdover clause from a time before the Freedom of Information Act.

4..When an impasse is declared, a mediator is brought in with the related expense shared equally between the school board and the teachers union.

The article is silent on how an impasse is declared, but I believe that either party can unilaterally do so by simply telling the other. The practice of the IEA affiliates is typically to drag out negotiations until the school year starts and then promptly declare an impasse.

That prepares the ground for an orderly but painful strike. Since strikes are initiated by the union, it is essential that the strike be presented to the public as condoned by the mediator or necessitated by the board. The purpose it to shift blame away from the union so that the taxpayers do not harden their position in opposition.

5..The mutually voluntary relationship that is characteristic of Capitalism is suspended when it lies in the shadow of a union. Every union contract therefore includes a provision for formal grievance resolution.

In the coal mine of LFHS, a teacher may put a complaint in writing and have a meeting with the principal resulting in a written decision from the principal.

If that is not satisfactory to the teacher, the matter may be appealed to the superintendent for a hearing with witnesses and counselors. The superintendent must then provide a written decision.

If that is still does not satisfy the teacher, everyone meets with the school board which then writes its decision.

If the teacher wishes to press even further, binding arbitration is provided. If that takes too long, a “panel” can compel a final decision.

The board and the union must each pay for their own witnesses and counsel but the administrative costs are shared equally between the school board and the teachers union.

And that is how they decide if they will have a Lay-Z-Boy chair in the teachers’ lounge.

6..Complaints about teachers, either by the school administrations or by parents of students, are addressed in Sections A and B. Sections C, D and E acknowledge administrivia.

Sections F and G establish management procedures for the teachers’ personnel files. Sections H, I, J and K provide resources within LFHS so that the teachers’ union will not need a separate union hall.

Section L states, “Teachers on extended leave or who are physically or mentally incapacitated shall not be required to create lesson plans or grade papers.” Good to know.

7..This is where it gets ugly. Illinois is NOT a “right to work state”.

If a person in Illinois had the “right to work” and he found an employer willing to put him to work, that would be sufficient. But people in Illinois do not have that right.

If a person in Illinois finds an employer willing to hire him, but the employer is unionized, the prospect must join the union to get the job. Moreover, the Illinois School Code provides that the employer must withhold the union dues from the employee’s paycheck.

So this is how the graft works: The LFEA receives money directly from the taxpayers’ school and pays it to political agents in Springfield who write a school code that ties the hands of the school board.

That way, the teachers can get more pay and pay more dues.

Of course if you ask the LFEA, they will proudly claim that anyone who objects to this scheme may opt out. That fig leaf is provided in Section F which says that union dues are not collected from teachers who “on the basis of a bonafide religious tenet or teaching of a church or religious body of which such Employee is a member or a belief sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views, objects to the payment of a fair share”. (“Fair share” is union-speak for dues.)

Such hypothetical teacher makes a double sacrifice: He sacrifices any benefit from union participation but he still must also sacrifice a fee equal to what the dues would have been. And then, after “proper substantiation and collection of the entire fee, the Association will make payment on behalf of the bargaining unit member to a mutually agreeable non-religious charitable organization”.

The only allowed objection to union dues payment is religious, but a teacher who makes a such a claim must still pay the union dues. The only consequence of his objection is that his dues will be forwarded to a non-religious (!) charity approved by the union. I wonder if any teacher in the entire history of LFHS has ever so objected.

8..This is where the graft really pays off for the teachers. In a free market for teaching talent, the school board could fire teachers. That is the ultimate sanction for underperformance. The 93 percent of the labor force that is not unionized understands and accepts that.

The cycle of graft requires that the school board be stripped of that power. The Illinois School Code does that. Even in the absence of a governing contract, the individual teacher’s status in “contractual continued service” affords him a statutory entitlement to work at District 115 even in the absence of a union contract. Our school board cannot fire striking teachers.

The Illinois Performance Evaluation Reform Act became law two years ago. It requires districts to design and implement performance evaluation systems that assess teachers’ and principals’ professional skills as well as incorporate measures of student growth. Those systems must be in place for the 2016/2017 school year. The current contract ends the summer of 2016. Appendix A creates a committee that “shall have no authority other than to issue a report” by January 1, 2016. This matter will be a fundamental issue in the next contract negotiation.

9..Article Nine speaks of the parameters that go into the school calendar and says that the actual calendar is appended to the contract. It was not, to my copy. It is, however, posted on the school’s website.

10..Work rules. This is where grievances come from.

11..Substitute teachers.

12..Salary. Section A of this article simply refers to the table in Appendix A.

The table establishes a base annual (9 months, actually) pay rate from two teacher attributes: Seniority (“steps”) and formal education received (“lanes”). The table comprehends 24 steps and 8 lanes.

Appendix A also provides a formula for inflating the entire table according to the annual Consumer Price Index that is calculated each January. Appendices B (a b c d) and C to the contract provide compensation for “extra responsibilities” such as coaching.

Section B is all about lanes. Sections C, D and E are about the timing of paydays.

13..This article creates a committee to recommend “projects” that individual faculty members might undertake in the name of “professional growth”. For example, if I were a teacher and the committee recommended it and the school board approved it, I would be earning my regular pay rate for creating this website.

14..Health insurance. Sections A and B: The taxpayers of District 115 offer the teachers health insurance in addition to their paychecks. The taxpayers contribute either 85 or 90 or 95 or 100 percent of the premium cost depending on the plan the teacher selects. Teachers are given $2,500 if they decline all insurance plans.

Section C: Insurance, post-retirement. 6 percent annual raises in as many as 4 of the final working years if notice is given, with a lump-sum “service recognition award” compensating for any of those 4 years not noticed. 9.75 percent of teacher pay deducted and forwarded to retirement system.

Section D: Mileage and meals reimbursements when traveling.

Section E: Teachers get $250 per semester hour for work toward a Masters Degree.

15..Section A: 13 sick days per year, cumulative. Exempt if “a Teacher is assaulted by a student or any outsider on school property or at a school related function”.

Section B: Excused absences, salary continued. Section C: 4 personal days per year, non-cumulative. Section D: Jury duty. Section E: Leave permission, salary suspended.

Section F: Statutory leave, salary suspended.

Section G: “A female teacher unable to work for pregnancy-related reasons is entitled to sick leave benefits on the same basis as employees unable to work for other medical reasons.”

Section H: Exchange programs for teachers.

Section I: Sabbatical Leave, paid at least half-salary, “for the purpose of: (1) study and scholarly pursuits, (2) travel as approved, or (3) such other purposes as may be adjudged proper by the Department Chair/Instructional Director, the Principal, the Superintendent, and the Board.”

Section J: $25,000 provided to facilitate “local, state, and national conferences and conventions for the purpose of professional growth and mutual benefit to the employee and the school.”

Section K: 10 paid days granted to the teachers’ union for its own use.

Section L: “Job sharing as defined in this section is a voluntary program providing two tenured teachers the opportunity to share one full-time position…Each application for a job sharing program shall be granted or denied within the sole discretion of the Board and all such actions shall be non-precedential.”

16..Summer School.

17..Fine print.


And footnotes.


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