Editorial: KEA, district do the right thing

By on April 16, 2010

In a classic case of “better late than never,” the Kaneland Education Association (KEA) agreed to defer raises slated for the 2010-11 school year by one year.

This delay in the 5.6 percent raises for union members will eliminate $1.1 million in next year’s budget deficit, allowing the Kaneland School District to reinstate the 30 positions that were previously slated to be cut, as well as all of the sports, clubs and activities that had been on the chopping block.

Kudos to everyone involved in this latest round of negotiations and its outcome.

While we share the happiness of those involved that the cuts have been averted, we continue to wonder what led to the KEA’s change of heart.

Previously, the KEA had declined an invitation to re-open the negotiations.

Was it the reality of seeing 100 of its members receiving pink slips and a verbal commitment that approximately 70 of them would be offered a position for the following year?

Was it the additional uncertainty caused by the state’s budget mess, and its impact on Kaneland School District funding?

Was it simply that as time went on, the depth of the budgetary problems became better understood?

Or, did something else happen—some other piece of information that was revealed, some other communication that occurred?

While right now is the time to be thankful that both sides came together to help protect next year’s quality of education, the programs and the staff that would have been cut, it will be important to learn the answers to these questions before the next time the contract is up and the finances look grim.

The economy is still struggling and the state’s finances are still a shambles. The district’s finances are neither strong nor stable, and there is no clear indication what the state will do long-term with its school district funding obligations.

With that in mind, the $1.1 million in raises will occur prior to the 2011-12 school year, and the KEA contract will be up prior to the 2012-13 school year.

It is hoped that the answers to these questions will be revealed early enough to both learn and apply the lessons necessary to prevent the district from getting to this point again.

It does no one any good to believe they will not have a job next year while still trying to educate students this year. It does no one any good for students to temporarily believe that certain programs and clubs will no longer exist. It does no one any good to believe that the district’s cuts will have to be so severe that educational quality will be hampered.

We hope both sides learn from what led to this recent resolution and apply it to the future before education is placed at risk and district morale is damaged across the board.