By Nancy J. Thorner -
District #115 board members are deserving of praise for holding the line against intense pressure from parents who wanted Lake Forest High School to stay open for their own children.
Having attended the District 115 board meeting last night (Sept. 11), it quickly became evident that most of the public comments offered were from individuals who, as taxpayers, wanted board members to show some spine in their dealings with the Lake Forest Education Association.
In one way the strike by LF District 115 teachers can be linked to the makeup of the District 115 Board over the years in having given in to the demands of the local teacher union, the LFEA, which, in a large part, takes its marching orders from the Illinois Education Association, of which teachers are members.
The salaries of teachers in LF District 115 can be easily found at http://www.familytaxpayers.org/salary.php Most of the teachers at LFHS earn in excess of $100,000. This is their base salary and does not include other perks such as family health insurance, annuities, pension contribution payment, etc.
The 25 highest paid teachers at LFHS range from $168,740 for a Physical Education teacher, Anthony Filippo, down to $129,965 for Mary Beth Nawor who teaches Environmental Science.
According to an article published in the Chicago Tribune today (Sept. 12) by Lisa Black and John Keilman, the average base salary of the teacher at LFHS is $106,500, compared with a statewide average of about $65,000 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-teachers-strike-suburbs-20120912,0,3276944.story
District 115 Board is proposing a 2.6% increase in FY2013, while the LFEA is asking for 5.6%. For the following two years: FY 2014, Board (3.4%) - LFEA (6.5%); FY 2015, Board (3.4%) - LFEA (5.6%). As can be observed, the LFEA proposal is more than double the CPI.
The percentage of increase proposed by the Board is in line, and even slightly above, than that offered by other school districts in the area in their contract negotiations, a 2.5% increase for teachers. With the amount of increase proposed by the Board, LFHS can remain competitive with other school districts in the hiring of good teachers for its student population.
In regard to Health Insurance, LFEA is asking that existing employees continue to receive, without charge, HMO Single and Family Premiums and PPO 750 Single and Family Premiums. This would mean that the Board would have to pay more for 5 of the 10 health insurance plans offered to LFHS teachers. Four plans are already 100% Board paid.
Not to be forgotten is that teachers can retire at age 55, and many do. In ten years teachers making over $100,000 a year at LFHS will be drawing at age 65 the same pension as the salary made in their last year of teaching.
Additionally, their pensions are automatically adjusted each year to reflect the COLA increase of 3% for the rest of their lives. This isn't even true for Social Security recipients.
Out of five pension systems in the state of Illinois, the Teachers' Retirement System is the largest and the costliest of Illinois's pension programs. In March of 2011 Tribune reporter, Diane Rado, indicated that the TRS "is now almost $40 billion short of what's needed to cover future benefits -- the deepest financial hole in 20 years of state records." http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-22/news/ct-met-teacher-teacher-pensions-0323-20110322_1_teacher-pension-pension-mess-pension-costs
With Illinois lawmakers looking to rein in the massive costs of public programs, teachers at LFHS should be worried that the nest egg they've always considered a sure thing might shrink. More and more school districts have concerns that local taxpayers might have to start picking up more of the
What happens when a union in a private sector business insists on a pay scale and other benefits for its members that cannot be supported by the company? The company will eventually go out of business, or it may have to go overseas to save the company where workers can be employed who are not demanding "the store."
In a free enterprise system there is competition. Businesses who are obligated to increase the cost of their products to cover increases of wages and benefits to stay in business do not fare all that well.
But what happens, if through teacher union bargaining, teacher demands become too rich to support existing conditions? Schools certainly do not go out of business!
If teacher unions are permitted to continue their heavy-handed bargaining as in the past. Illinois, an already financially challenged state, will continue to go further and further into debt, a debt that is now unsustainable and approaching financial Armageddon.
And let's not forget about all the taxpayers, not only here in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, but also throughout Illinois, who pay handsomely to fund schools, wanting the very best for the children in their communities.
Even though LFHS is located in what is called an upscale area of northern Illinois, not everyone is doing well in this down economy. Like elsewhere else, there have been many foreclosures and people have lost their jobs. Teachers have little fear of losing their jobs under ordinary circumstances as they have tenure.
Teachers seem to forget that they work for the public and that their jobs are public sector jobs paid for by taxpayers. A large portion of our Property taxes go to fund our schools. As was indicated at the District #115 Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 11, The largest chunk of the FY2012 budget now being drawn up is for salaries.
Just as tax payers must pay for LFHS teacher salaries, etc., they must also pay for the Board Attorney, Mike Hernandez, who does not come cheap!
I commend the District 115 board for remaining firm. For LFHS teachers, when is enough, enough? You already teach in the best high school in the entire state with the highest teacher salaries. You are looking quite silly to outsiders who must be shaking their heads in wonder.
Teachers at LFHS have positions that many other teachers can only dream about. It is a given that there are many qualified teacher out there who would jump at the chance to teach in Lake Forest District 115.