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Letter to the Editor: Teacher Strike

Reader questions timing of strike.

The pending strike by LF District 115 teachers union, LFEA, with direct affiliation to the Illinois (IEA) and the National union (NEA) is ironic in that the Chicago Teachers Union is similarly affiliated. The timing of the Chicago and the Lake Forest unions is more than likely coincidental, or perhaps not.  

Strategically, the timing is perfect for both School Districts; new school year complete with parent and student apprehension, the midst of a football season, and new academics in which to orient and master. Falling behind early in the year is disruptive for the students and will drive the parent’s nuts. All of forgoing is designed to bring extraordinary pressure on the Board of Education (BOE) to cave, irrespective of cost and loss of leverage.

What is at work here are the opposing forces critical advantages. The BOE has the economic advantage because the strikers will be without income, and for many, devastating and each new strike day increases discomfort and raises striker anxiety. Furthermore, the BOE has the option of replacing the striking teachers and encouraging those who are the professional educators and not so sympathetic, to return to work, regardless of the union position.

For the BOE, pressure from vocal parents elevates to hysterical proportions raising doubts of the firm position they have collectively taken. And, there must be some BOE members who are not as committed to the tough stance.

Let’s get some facts straight, the over wrought parents represent a small percentage of the tax payer community of District 115 and are not a serious threat to the BOE, other than some verbal abuse. The LFEA has been unreasonable and unrealistic in their demands as to wages and resistance when asked to make small contributions to some health benefits. The offer from the BOE is not only reasonable in the alternate universe of the education world; it is generous in the real world in which the rest of us live.

My son in law with a masters, is a teacher of 19 years in a Minneapolis area public school district, now earns just slightly more than a beginning teacher in D 115. He contributes more than 50% of his health care premiums and 100% of the cost of the same benefits for his family. The increase for 2012 school year is 1.6% and his class load is 30 students. While comparisons are odious, they may be instructive.

I appeal to the BOE, hold your ground, you are on the right side of the disagreement; fiscally, ethically and morally. The vast majority of the tax payers support your position and plead that parental pressure does not overwhelm you.

Al Boese    

Lake Bluff, IL

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John Utah September 12, 2012 at 04:24 PM
@PJoc - the only folks supporting the teachers are teachers, unionists, families related to teachers, and people who still think the IL teaching industry is paid like its the 1960s (low pay, all for the children). How you can see those salaries here and elsewhere and not think SOMEONE SOMEWHERE IN SOME TOWN has to put their foot down, is beyond me.
Really? September 12, 2012 at 04:44 PM
When I see these salaries & the increases over the last 3 years, I am OUTRAGED! Particularly since my children have had some of these teachers in the classroom and they have been far less than what their website is promoting them as. Has your household income increased as such? Not mine. Just because, as they say in their video, they attended "...the schools to which your children aspire..." does not mean they are good teachers! One can be well educated & know their subject matter, but that does not a good teacher make! Some of these teachers have been negligent and abusive. But, tenure protects them. (Gary - you and I have disagreed in the past; but, we are together on this one! Thank you for enlightening everyone.)
RationalTht September 12, 2012 at 05:32 PM
@P. Jocelyn - is LF ready to pick up that $3,000,000 pension for EACH TEACHER going forward (the state is looking to push pensions back to the districts)? It is not just about NOW. Also, how do you feel about having to pay an additional penalty for the teacher's healthcare - it is a "Cadillac" plan under the ACA.
GP September 12, 2012 at 05:40 PM
As an HR consultant and seeing the impact of the economy to employees in many companies locally and nationally....I'm shocked at the salaries for the jobs they hold!! I'm not minimizing the responsiblity but comparing these broadly, I can't find a single industry today (or even Pharma 10yrs ago) that would have offered these types of increases and benefits packages. The increases appear to be a gimme and not performance based but I could be wrong as I don't have that info. I would like to be on the side of the teachers as they have a tremendous responsibility and I've been grateful but this is a complete disappointment. There is a line of fair and very fair which in this case appears both lines have been crossed significantly towards absurd.
Gary September 12, 2012 at 06:14 PM
The school is recruiting helpers: www.lfhs.org "Important Information - Strike is Announced and begins effective Wednesday, September 12, 2012 LFHS Seeks Help for Support Roles If you would like to serve in a support role at Lake Forest High School during the teachers’ strike, please contact Gail Moesta at 847-582-7388 for more information or to set up a time to complete the application process."
BJ Tyler September 12, 2012 at 06:59 PM
@P.J. ... ???? If the rate of CPI change was zero, that would actually strengthen the BOE argument not weaken it. - I'll pause for a moment while you think about this - Now, FWIW...the CPI was actually up 1.4% during past 12 months ending July (however to find this, you actually had to have to read the BLS news release and not just the headlines!)...please make an attempt to read/think/educate before you write.
BJ Tyler September 12, 2012 at 07:00 PM
@P.J. ... ???? If the rate of CPI change was zero, that would actually strengthen the BOE argument not weaken it. - I'll pause for a moment while you think about this - Now, FWIW...the CPI was actually up 1.4% during past 12 months ending July (however to find this, you actually had to have to read the BLS news release and not just the headlines!)...please make an attempt to read/think/educate before you write.
JC September 12, 2012 at 07:45 PM
To our BOE: Please hold your ground! This is just insanity that these teachers are holding the community hostage. It's why labor unions have no place in the public sector and should be outlawed in our state. These teachers are compensated at the highest levels in the country against their peers with retirement benefits that nobody has in the private sector. Also they only work 75% of a normal private sector work year. They get automatic annual salary increases just for showing up and tenure after 2-3 years on the job. We even gross up their salary ahead or retirement to increase their pension which costs all of us even more. Yet we probably get 1000's of applicants wanting to teach here every year. It is irresponsible to pay them any more! Enough is enough. Let's hire replacements and get our kids back on school ASAP.
David September 12, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Unadjusted CPI for the 12 months ended July 2012 was 1.4%. Citing 3 months of CPI while ignoring the other 9 months is flawed. (But I suspect P Jocelyn was smart enough to know that already). The percent change in CPI from 2010 to 2011 was 3.2%. Looking at the salary numbers posted above, it seems that most teachers received increases in pay well in excess CPI. Wages for most Americans have lagged CPI, but that is the real world where compensation can go down and does not always go up.
pete September 12, 2012 at 08:44 PM
the lfhs average salary was 106k and that puts them in the top ten percent of ALL incomes in the USA and for only working 9 months of the year. as the rest of the us struggle with the economy, job loss, foreclosures and taxes maybe the teachers should be thankful our tax dollars are paying them what they are getting. this sense of entitlement to regular increases is not reflective of the times and reminds me of the housing bubble where prices have to automatically go up.
pete September 12, 2012 at 08:48 PM
notice how chuck gress avoids answering the question on the average pay for lfhs teachers and the exasperation of the anchors reaction. wgn video below. http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/09/11/lake-forest-h-s-teachers-might-also-go-on-strike/
parent trap September 12, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Two sides to every story. Always.
parent trap September 12, 2012 at 09:26 PM
It seems like the "replacements" are going to be anyone from the community that can pass a background check. Check out the district web site. www.lfhs.org
pete September 12, 2012 at 09:30 PM
a health wellness teacher/driver ed teacher making 168k. shouldnt have any problem filling that spot.
Hmmmm6 September 13, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Its easy for people without children at the school to say our children are compelled to attend school when they have no one qualified to teach them. Strike replacement NFL referees have been the subject of lots of discussion; we can turn the TV off when we get disgusted by a bad call. My child, who does not suffer fools easily, will be forced to sit in AP and Honors classes with instructors who may not have a clue. Who is being hurt here? The kids. The Board and the teachers need to meet and compromise. Enough nonsense about scheduling. Enough nonsense about no counter offers. Get to work. You are the adults in the room, and sadly, neither the teachers nor the BOE are acting admirably. A pox on both your houses.
Hmmmm6 September 13, 2012 at 02:09 AM
What is your citation for most people in the private sector have lagged the CPI? Please make sure your data is for wages for college educated workers, because college educated workers have withstood this recession considerably better than non-college graduates. General market data is not acceptable. Best data is comparable school districts, which does suggest the teachers need to MOVE.
pete September 13, 2012 at 02:20 AM
the assumption that any replacements will be less the qualified is completely wrong. there are many qualified teachers who would love the opportunity to teach at the school for a "fair" wage if given the opportunity. as a matter of fact it would probably get rid of some of the dead wood that have become way to comfortable. and there is more than a few. ask around.
Kathy September 13, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Just view the union website http://lakeforestteachers.com/ to get their side of the story, I think everyone that has something to say should too.
RationalTht September 13, 2012 at 02:54 AM
@Hmmmm6 - No, school districts would NOT be a good comparison - just because one district overpays does not mean LF needs to continue the madness. Additionally, you cannot just compare percentages, but rather total compensation. If someone is making 50K and they get an additional 5K, that is 10% - that does not mean the LF teacher making 100K deserves an additional 10K just to keep the percentages the same. Also, I have talked with teachers in other surrounding districts and the insurance coverage at 100% is UNHEARD OF.
Kathy September 13, 2012 at 02:55 AM
I'm taking the liberty and copying part of the comment posted in the Tribune by a LFHS alum, Moira Toner: You are and always have been a profoundly privileged and wealthy community. Start acting like it... Most teachers were graced with the personal and professional means to conjure individual and collective bests from we students—the willing and unwilling alike... Many of my LFHS teachers were priceless: Al Pimontese, whose presence still plays in my head as I drive; Joe Occhipinti, whose innovative style immersed us in cultures outside our safe and familiar world; ... the ancient and indomitable Alva Lowey, who applauded my poetry as wonderful, and gave me a C anyways because I would not conform; ... and David Strain, who saw through my complacency and challenged me so sharply and so well that ignited my own motivation. LF, only you can say if your investment in your children’s public education is sufficient to yield the return you expect. Today, why not re-invest your education, experience and money in your children’s future. Contribute to the dialogue, and set a new standard for innovation and excellence. You do it every day in between commutes. With collaboration, perhaps LFHS can be the first to offer teachers a Pay for Performance compensation plan that factors school administrator and parent accountability into student performance before teacher performance is evaluated. Dig deeper...
David September 13, 2012 at 04:21 AM
HMMMM6 - My source for "wages for mosr Americans have lagged CPI" comes from Federal Govt statistics.
Hmmmm6 September 13, 2012 at 04:56 AM
As someone else has commented, if you think professionals are expensive, try amateurs. If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
Hmmmm6 September 13, 2012 at 04:57 AM
What a lovefest.
Hmmmm6 September 13, 2012 at 05:02 AM
@ David--Hmmm, federal government statistics is not persuasive. I agree that wages have been stagnant, you have not convinced me that they have not kept pace with the CPI.
David September 13, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Wages certainly haven't been stagnant for LFHS teachers. Using Gary's numbers above, on average, the top 25 teachers earned a nice increase in pay in both 2010 (+4.77%) and 2011 (+4.62%). On average, the top 25 paid teachers earn $12K more per year today than they did two years ago. So much for a claimed freeze in pay. Please also keep in mind that our LFHS Dist covers LF, LB, Knollwood etc. Not every taxpayer lives on Lake Road. Some live in very modest homes and are paid by the hour. We've got seniors on fixed incomes who are being crushed by the weight of property taxes. We've got young families in $120K townhomes who struggle to pay the bills (and property taxes which have been rising faster than their incomes). We've got a fair number of families living in 2 bed homes in our Dist. Many families have seen their property tax bill increase 15%+ in just the last two years. Don't tell these folks that yet another property tax increase is no big deal. It very well might be the straw which breaks the back.
David September 13, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Wages certainly haven't been stagnant for LFHS teachers. Using Gary's numbers above, on average, the top 25 teachers earned a nice increase in pay in both 2010 (+4.77%) and 2011 (+4.62%). On average, the top 25 paid teachers earn $12K more per year today than they did two years ago. So much for a claimed freeze in pay. Please also keep in mind that our LFHS Dist covers LF, LB, Knollwood etc. Not every taxpayer lives on Lake Road. Some live in very modest homes and are paid by the hour. We've got seniors on fixed incomes who are being crushed by the weight of property taxes. We've got young families in $120K townhomes who struggle to pay the bills (and property taxes which have been rising faster than their incomes). We've got a fair number of families living in 2 bed homes in our Dist. Many families have seen their property tax bill increase 15%+ in just the last two years. Don't tell these folks that yet another property tax increase is no big deal. It very well might be the straw which breaks the back.
Patrick September 13, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Most of you argue that LFHS teachers make too much money. So if you were king, how much should a LFHS teacher make? Consider a math teacher with 20 years of experience. How much should he or she make? Answers that are not acceptable: (1) Less than what he or she is making today. Show some courage. Give us an actual number. You may need to do a little research instead of just looking up the salaries of LFHS teachers (which include coaching stipends, by the way). (2) Less than what I'm making. You may laugh, but someone has actually made this argument in one of these threads. How arrogant! Please keep in mind that LFHS must compete with other North Shore schools, many of which already pay more than LFHS. Look at the pay scales. I have. In fact, I actually work in one of these schools, and I make 12% more than the equivalent teacher at LFHS. Most of you are staunch capitalists, right? Have you considered that teachers' salaries are a result of capitalism? These are affluent communities with high expectations. LFHS must compete with the other top-flight schools in the area. For Pete's sake, many of you pay $80-$100 per hour for your kid's tutors. Why don't you demand lower rates from your tutors? The answer: capitalism!
Burt September 13, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Is it true that district 115 teachers averaged over 5% increases anually for the 5 yr Period preceeding last years "freeze".???
David September 13, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Teachers salaries are not a result of capitalism. Give me a break. In what reality do Drivers Ed teachers make more than an AP Calc teacher just because the Drivers Ed teacher has been at a school longer than the AP Calc teacher? In what reality do Drivers Ed teachers make $120K per year, get free healthcare & collect a $70K a yr life pension at age 55? The pension alone might $2.1 mil, a 3% annual increase might mean $3.2 mil in total pension benefits. I'm sure the LFHS Drivers Ed teachers are nice people, nothing against them. Just don't tell me they are paid a wage set by supply and demand. In what capitalist reality does most everyone get a 4.7% raise without regard to student results, economy, expenses, enrollment, etc. In what reality does an employee get 100% free healthcare & reject a proposal to pay 10%? To answer your question -- I might pay $100 an hr for a Calc tutor but not drivers ed. $500 gets a kid 30 hrs of drivers ed class & 6 hrs on the road training. The capitalist system says that drivers ed is worth $13.89 an hr with $0 pension or helthcare, with $0 for a car or a classroom or parkig lot. You work in a school, you should be able to do the math. Are you telling me that if LFHS advertised open drivers Ed positions for $75K plus healthcare, a pension, a winter break, spring break, holiday breaks, summers off etc that LFHS wouldn't receive any applications?
Burt September 14, 2012 at 03:02 AM
What These teachers are demanding is an outrage. Dont they realize we are in the midst of what their president obama calls the worst recession since 1929. Glad they were big enough to "take one for the team" with no raise last year .raises in 5 of the last 6 years. Highest salaries in the state,ridiculos pensions,,9 month work year.health care we all dream of...seems like a perfect scenario to strike..get real or leave

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