Editorial: Teachers should consider reality and renegotiate

By on February 5, 2010

With the Kaneland School District facing an approximate $2.6 million deficit for the 2010-11 school year, the list of potential cuts do not appear to be gathering much in the way of consensus.

The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) met last week and expressed concern with much of the impacts of the proposed cuts—ranging from increased class sizes to reduced athletic and academic activities.

All the concerns we have seen are legitimate reasons to worry, but are also referring to legitimate potential cuts.

The reason all possible cuts should remain on the table for now? The $2.6 million deficit is not going to go away by merely cutting a few non-teaching positions, instituting occasional unpaid days off for staff or increasing parent/student fees.

Currently, the district is contractually obligated to pay salary increases to the Kaneland teachers union, the Kaneland Education Association (KEA). That increase represents $1.2 million of the total deficit. Add in currently slated increases to non-KEA school employees, the figure represents $1.5 million of the $2.6 million deficit.

The KEA will vote on Friday on whether or not to renegotiate the salary increases. These are the same salary increases the KEA nearly went to strike over in October 2008.

Given the fact that the general economy is struggling, unemployment is above 10 percent, and the scheduled raises account for more than half of the budget deficit; we hope the KEA makes the right decision on Friday.

This is not suggesting that teachers have their salaries cut; this is saying that foregoing a raise for teachers and non-union staff will eliminate more than half of the budget deficit.

Then, the district should look at the salaries of all administrators and every single additional staff person, and see what can be subtracted from the deficit.

At that point, the scale of the deficit will be much smaller, and some of the potential cuts causing legitimate concerns can begin to be taken off the table.

It is understandable that the KEA would be hesitant to renegotiate a salary increase they are contractually guaranteed to receive. However, we urge the KEA membership to consider that if they went to the vast majority of private sector employees and asked how they would feel about being guaranteed to make the same salary next year as this year, we are certain the response would be an emphatic sense of relief.

In the context of the economy and the budget challenges facing virtually every home, every business and every unit of government, we do not see how the KEA can fail to agree that it is in the best interests of everyone that they help to do their part in eliminating more than half of the district’s budget deficit next year.

Before the items that will impact students’ educational opportunities come into play, every Kaneland School District employee—unionized or otherwise—needs to look at their employment situation in relation to the situations faced by the families of those they educate. With that adjustment in perspective, we would like to believe that every possible cut that avoids damaging the educational opportunities extended to students will be made.