Photo: Waukegan Teachers Council
Those who follow my blog regularly know that I have been on it in reporting on two Chicago area school districts and their two union locals.
They are different in many ways.
They are similar in that they demonstrate what teachers across Illinois are facing.
There is more than a hammer on a Time Magazine cover coming down on teachers these days.
Hinsdale is a school district in the western suburbs of Chicago. The Hinsdale High School Teachers Association is affiliated with the Illinois Education Association and the National Education Association. It has a teaching staff of highly regarded professionals. The staff is appreciated by the community it serves.
While few were paying attention, a right-wing, ideologically driven Tea Party group was elected to the school board in a low turnout election. When contract bargaining began, all hell broke loose. The extremist board members suggested that then-CTU President Karen Lewis was somehow involved. They issued attacks on the IEA staff people who work for their union members. The board spent thousands of dollars of school district money on fancy mailers to parents’ homes. They lied about what was appearing on Facebook and threatened teachers’ free speech rights.
Once Hinsdale was a competitive district in terms of compensation. This ideologically driven board has created an atmosphere that has led many employees to seek jobs elsewhere.
Following community pressure and the removal of the extremists from the bargaining table, the contract was resolved. But those board members and their agenda remain alive and well in Hinsdale.
Waukegan is a working class town a hour north of Chicago. The Waukegan Teachers Council is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. It has a staff of highly regarded professionals. The staff is appreciated by the community it serves.
The board of education appears not so much driven by ideology, but by an unreasonable desire to keep the district uncompetitive with surrounding districts when it comes to compensation.
When the teachers engaged in a legal job action and went on strike nearly three weeks ago, many hoped it would be settled quickly. But the board has acted with very little sense of the urgency of the situation. They have left it to highly paid attorneys to do their bargaining for them.
While Waukegan runs a budget surplus, it has done this for years on the backs of teachers and other district employees. Many have been forced to seek employment elsewhere to earn enough money to support their families.
As one veteran Waukegan teacher told me, “Teachers can’t stay in Waukegan.”
Waukegan teachers need the support of all those who care about public education and collective bargaining. Not just from the two state teacher unions, but the entire labor movement.
And this from a teacher in Hinsdale:
Just a quick note to say thank you for the attention you brought to our crazy school board.
They’ve already doubled down and threatened to cut teaching positions at the very meeting they approved the contract. This after they tried to delay approving the contract. But even though this is the worst contract we’ve seen in a long time, with nothing but concessions to the board, somehow these crazy board members claim it is going to do what all the previous contracts never did – somehow bankrupt the district.
Mind you, all those previously unsustainable contracts led to a $50M+ surplus, a AAA bond rating, and absolutely no deficit spending for years, this one with a 0.7% raise to the base is going to ruin the district.
By golly, they now HAVE TO cut programs and teachers!!!! I just hope to God the community has finally caught on to these manipulative dishonest individuals and their extreme political agenda.
Thanks very much for helping to raise that awareness.