As classes end this week for Consolidated School District 46 students, so concludes an entire school year where the 74 Prairie Grove Elementary teachers worked without a renewed contract.
For the past 17 months, the Prairie Grove Teachers Association and Consolidated School District 46 Board of Education have been negotiating terms for a new contract to no avail. The district, based at 3223 Route 176 in Crystal Lake, serves approximately 900 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
In January, the PGTA sought assistance from a federal mediator, and still no resolution was reached. On May 3, the PGTA declared an impasse.
"Right now, the board has made its last and final offer," District 46 Superintendent Lynette Zimmer said.
Negotiating teams for the PGTA and the school board are set to hold another session with the mediator at 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, the PGTA team said.
The two sides are stuck on the issues of salary, insurance, retirement and extra duty payments.
The school board has proposed freezing teachers’ salaries at the 2010-2011 step pay schedule for the 2011-2012. The district would eliminate the step salary schedule and use a formula to generate a raise of .56 percent for 2012-2013.
Teachers are seeking a 1.6 percent increase in salaries. The pay hike is inclusive of the teachers' step pay schedule - the traditional salary schedule which gives automatic raises to workers for every year of employment.
Members of the PGTA negotiation team said their proposal is tied to district revenues and D-46 has ample funds to place in reserves and maintain a high financial rating.
"We're doing the right thing for the community," said Paulina Levy, a member of the negotiating team, co-president of the PGTA and Prairie Grove junior high teacher.
"We're not just looking out for the teachers, we're looking out for the students and the community."
The topic of retirement is a non-issue, Zimmer said, explaining the school board decided two months ago to eliminate at-retirement benefits.
However, the PGTA representatives said that issue is alive as far as they are concerned. The teachers union would like the district to offer a monetary incentive for early retirees. The incentive would not hike pension payments, the teachers said.
Insurance and Extra Duty Payments
Other sticking points include insurance premium payments and the assignment of extra duties - such as coaching - and who gets paid for what.
The teachers union also would like the school board to reinstate independent committees for finance, building and grounds, curriculum and discipline. The district once had such committees, which were comprised of teachers, board members and residents, the union members said.
Instead, the board now holds a committee of the whole meeting, comprised of the school board members, to tackle all the topics.
"It's about checks and balances," Todd said. "A finance committee is critical because it would give recommendations to the board. Right now, the board is essentially giving recommendations to the board, and I don't necessarily know that's a good thing."
Zimmer said it is not up to the PGTA to determine committees and their make-up. In fact, Zimmer said the PGTA is trying to set salaries for the district's non-union members as well.
"Unfortunately, their proposals have gone beyond the scope of what a labor contract can have," Zimmer said.
The teachers say they are not trying to tell the board what to do; rather, they said they suggested everyone in the district follow the same pay increase formula.
Administrators in District 46 had an average salary of $114,292, above the state average of $109,759, based on the district's 2011 state report card. The district had one administrator per 162.5 pupils. The state average is one administrator per 211 pupils.
The average teacher salary in District 46 was $62,011, below the state average of $64,978.
The district wants to freeze teachers’ salaries at the 2010-2011 step pay schedule for the 2011-2012 year. Since the teachers’ contract expired Aug. 26, 2011, instructors would not receive retroactive raises under the district’s offer.
From there, the administrative bargaining team offered slight pay raises based on a formula that multiplies .25 by a CPI averaged by the two years impacting the school's fiscal year. That formula would be applied equally to all teachers, and the step pay schedule would be eliminated.
The board of education's formula gives teachers about a .56 percent pay increase based on a 2.25 percent CPI for 2012-2013, according to the district website.
Essentially, the PGTA is seeking salary increases based on .67 multiplied by CPI, which equates to about a 1.6 percent salary increase, PGTA members said.
PGTA representatives said District 46 produces the top test scores in McHenry County. Todd said District 46 has $9 million - nearly nine months worth - of reserve funds, well above the four months needed to maintain a good financial status, he said.
Zimmer said just because the district is financially sound doesn’t mean the teachers should get more pay.
“Schools don’t operate under a profit-sharing plan,” Zimmer said. “If a school district does have a fund balance that doesn’t mean it should go to salaries.”