D-302 asks teachers to return to table

By on November 13, 2009

[quote]School officials say multi-million dollar deficit requires strong action
by Susan O’Neill
KANELAND—The Kaneland School District, faced with a $3 million projected deficit in next year’s budget, asked Kaneland teachers to renegotiate their contract ratified last year.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone,” School District Superintendent Charlie McCormick said. “It’s in line with what municipalities are doing with their employees.”

The contract negotiated between the teacher’s union and the district last year included salary increases for Kaneland teachers over a period of three years: 4.86 percent for last year, 6.21 percent for this year, and 5.6 percent for fiscal year 2010-11.

According to McCormick, next year’s increase for the teachers accounts for $1.2 million of the district’s budget. Adding in the same percentage increases for non-covered school employees brings the total to $1.5 million.

Associate Superintendent of Schools Jeff Schuler said that in order to put the financial information in perspective, people should understand that one teaching position equals approximately $50,000 in funding.

McCormick said that in the time since the tentative budget for next year was created in June and when it was finalized in October, the reduction in projected property tax income due to lack of growth and cuts in state funding created an additional $1 million deficit.

Given the magnitude of the deficit, school officials said at the Oct. 13 board meeting that nothing was off the table, in terms of where to cut. In a budget message to Kaneland staff last week, Schuler said the “easy cuts” had already been made, referring to when the district cut $750,000 from the 2009-10 budget.

McCormick said the district sent a letter to the Kaneland Education Association last week to request the reopening of the negotiations.

When the School Board voted in October 2008 to approve the contract, the vote was split 4-3, with Elmer Gramley, Jonathan Berg, Deborah Grant and Lisa Wiet in favor of the contract, and Cheryl Krauspe, Bob Meyers and Diane Piazza opposed.

“The cost difference of this agreement is likely to be felt in the quality of our educational programs, in larger class sizes, and in the decrease or loss of services or positions intended to directly benefit students … It’s hard for me to accept,” Krauspe said at the time.

After Monday’s School Board meeting, Piazza said that her vote against the contract last October had been difficult, and that in a different economy, she would not have voted that way.

“Now, I am glad I did,” she said. “That was the right decision.”

Piazza said that the board is now faced with losing good teachers, increases in class sizes and cuts in programs.

“We spent lots of time and money to get the great teachers and paraprofessionals we have,” she said. “It will be very upsetting if we have to let teachers go.”

The teacher’s union is under no legal obligation to renegotiate its contract.

KEA President Linda Kulkowski said that she and the other members of the KEA negotiating team are in the initial information-gathering stage. She said they have been in contact with the district regarding the status of the budget.

Kulkowski said they are also talking with the Illinois Education Association to obtain advice as to what their options are, as well as what the risks and benefits would be in opening up negotiations again.

At this time, there is no meeting set at which they would ask the teachers for a vote.

“In my 25 years at Kaneland, this has never happened before,” she said.

By the numbers
• $3 million deficit for 2010-11 operating budget

• Teachers’ salary increases for next year equal $1.2 of the budget

• Teachers’ contract set teachers’ salary increases over a period of three years:
4.86 percent for 2008-09
6.21 percent for 2009-10
5.6 percent for 2010-11