As we await the white smoke from the chimney of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 HQ signaling a new contract between the District and the teachers’ union known as the Park Ridge Education Association (“PREA”), we’ve been trying to keep our finger on the pulse of any public discussions about teachers’ pay and benefits since the contract negotiations are being conducted in secret.
So when we heard that the “Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group” Facebook page had a July 19 post about the same Park Ridge Herald-Advocate article we wrote about in our July 26 post, we had to check it out. And what we found was a plea of “Please don’t screw over our teachers. Please don’t screw over our teachers.”
We printed off the entire discussion as of July 30 at 5:20 p.m., all 18 pages of it, which you can read by clicking here. We encourage you to do so, if only to better understand the entitlement mentality that encourages soaring school costs and property taxes while ignoring stagnant-to-sliding performance.
The author of that FB post is someone who, judging from her many posts and comments, views moving to Park Ridge (in her case, from Chicago where her husband reportedly is a CPS teacher) and paying property taxes (reportedly among the lowest in Park Ridge) as entitling her and her family to every conceivable government service and facility…at no additional charge, of course.
Think of it as a kind of Willy Wonka golden ticket, or an all-inclusive Caribbean cruise (“Keep that cracked crab and champagne coming!”)
Despite authoring that FB post and contributing 30 or so comments to its string, however, she never articulates what exactly she means to not “screw over” the teachers. So we did some research and made a discovery that rivals the little boy’s observation about the emperor’s new clothes: were the D-64 Board to suddenly grow a collective spine and draw the line on sweetening the teachers’ employment terms by keeping in place the exact same terms of the current contract for another four years, teaching in D-64 schools would still be one of the best – if not THE best – jobs in all of Park Ridge.
How can that be? Let us count the ways.
1. This past school year D-64 teachers were required to work just 185 days out of a possible 260 work days (52 weeks x 5 days). That’s only 37 work weeks, leaving those teachers with 15 weeks of holidays and vacation. In almost every other occupation, that would be considered “part-time.”
2. Those work days can be cut back even further by paid sick and personal days: 10 sick and 3 personal per year for teachers with 1-2 years seniority; 12 sick and 3 personal during years 3-4; and 15 sick and 3 personal thereafter. So a fifth year teacher could get away with working only 167 days, giving them a whopping 18.5 weeks of holidays/vacation. Now that’s really “part time.”
3. According to the 2015-16 salary schedule for that 185 day/37-week maximum work year, salaries started at $48,582 for a rookie with only a BA degree. A 5th-year teacher with just a BA received $55,844. And a teacher with 20 years of service and just a BA got $81,526. For employees in the real world who are lucky enough to get 4 weeks off, those numbers would annualize out to $63,025, $72,443 and $105,759, respectively.
4. And how about those constitutionally-guaranteed TRS pensions? Start with a minimum of 75% of the average of the teacher’s four highest consecutive annual salaries during their last 10 years of teaching. And let’s not forget the current contract’s two annual 6%/year pre-retirement “salary spikes” that can artificially jack up those pensions even higher. So retiring even at that lowly $81,526 salary after 35 years – which can occur as early as age 57 – would yield a $61,000/year pension, which is almost $20,000/year more than the maximum Social Security benefit private sector employees get only if they hold off collecting until age 70.
5. Teachers also get better health care benefits than most of their private sector counterparts, even those who don’t have to rely on Obamacare.
Those are just a few of the simple metrics that neither the PREA nor the D-64 Board want the taxpayers to focus on, or even know about. Which is why you’ve never read them in D-64 meeting minutes or in quotes by School Board president Tony “Who’s the Boss?” Borrelli, or by any other Board members, or by the D-64 administrators, in our local newspapers.
Besides those metrics, however, are a number of intangibles that contribute substantially to making D-64 teaching jobs perhaps the best jobs in town, including:
- not having to scramble to arrange child care for all those days off school because teacher/parents have those same days off;
- not having to worry about being fired for incompetence or lack of results, because getting fired for those reasons (“cause” in private-sector parlance) is only slightly more likely than being struck by lightning…in the bathtub while eating jalapeno poppers and drinking Diet Dr. Pepper;
- the non-existent chance of the job being outsourced to Mexico or Malaysia, or even to Iowa or Indiana; and
- working in a clean, well-lighted place where the most serious job-related injury may well be a paper cut that even OSHA isn’t worried about.
Assuming one wants to teach – and even if one doesn’t – how much better a deal can one get?
Of course there are PREA teachers and their apologists who whine about how tough and stressful teaching K-8 Park Ridge kids can be. But with between 15 and 18.5 weeks of holiday/vacation time each year (not including weekends), there’s plenty of time to de-stress. Heck, our Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan get less time off than that, and they’re being bombed and shot at!
Not surprisingly, those same teachers and apologists turn apoplectic when confronted with these facts – especially when they are demanding (through their PREA negotiators) even more money, benefit enhancements, and better working conditions at the taxpayers’ expense.
Who is supposed to be looking out for the taxpayers? Why, the D-64 School Board, of course. Our elected representatives who are so proud of the job they’re doing that they do as much of it as possible – including negotiating with the PREA – in those secretive closed sessions sheltered from public scrutiny.
But if you want some insight into that Board’s taxpayer-last group-think, look no further than the colloquies of Board Member Tom Sotos in that “please don’t screw over our teachers” FB string.
Sotos starts out as Mr. Politician, trying to play both sides against the middle by claiming that “whatever happens…will be in the best interest of both the teachers…and the tax payers” while giving his assuriance that the outcome will be “[a] contract that shows our appreciation to our teachers, yet respects the taxpayers who pay the bills.” He even goes all Donald J. Trump on us: “I assure you that in the end we will come out of this GREAT.”
We suspect he meant “YUGE.”
But then, under some pointed questioning, he shows his true (dark blue?) colors.
When it comes to the teachers’ part-time schedule, Sotos doesn’t want to hear about it: “I don’t think it is fair to bring in months worked as an argument in teachers [sic] salaries”; and “[t]hose teachers should never be questioned about hours worked or Summer’s offer [sic]. Ever.”
According to Sotos: “Most Teachers [sic] put in their time and do their job and in the end it comes out to the equivalent of a full day/full years [sic] worth of work.”
If you believe that, Tommy Boy has some swampland in Florida you might be interested in.
And when it comes to measuring performance and demanding accountability from teachers for the results of their work, Sotos is their lap dog: “[M]eri based pay is altogether different from what I implied I my statement”; and “It’s not fair to teachers to compare them to another profession.”
There you have it, folks, from a Board member who insists he’s looking out for the taxpayers but who sought and accepted the support of the PREA after one of its preferred candidates was thrown off the April 2015 ballot.
Part-time work with full-time pay, spring break and summers off, a gold-plated pension, and no risk or accountability whatsoever.
Sleep soundly tonight, D-64 taxpayers – Sotos is standing guard outside your henhouse.
So you can’t see your chickens getting plucked inside.
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