The Lake Forest High School District teachers strike has ended; however, the bitter taste remains. LFEA (The teachers union) behavior has been instructive and revealing. The first surprise revelation is the LFEA affiliation with the State and National Trade Unions, the IEA and the NEA. That revelation was rather puzzling and most unbecoming of professionals. Professionalism and trade union membership are inconsistent and incompatible beliefs. Teaming up with Trade Unions at the state and national level doesn’t square with District 115, LFHS parents, students and the community. Does the recent Wisconsin protest of Governor Scott Walker’s reform agenda, by the militant teachers union leadership who hired goons from the NEA’s rent a thug department, resemble the sort of collaboration we would want our teachers to have?
The second impression one gains from the opening position of the union, is that of delusional thinking in the bubble of Lake Forest which is a quantum disconnect from the prevailing universe of teacher compensation and benefits. As the teachers must know, the State of Illinois is the keeper and provider of the teachers’ pension plan. Reliance on safekeeping by the State as the source or retirement funding, should be the cause of far more anxiety than hard line bargaining from the Board of Education. The Wall Street Journal, on Saturday September 21st, 2012, posted a sobering article about a looming government employee pension funding crisis, nearly everywhere. In that category, Illinois leads the pack for irresponsibility, ineptitude and deception in the (mis) management of various pension funds, estimated to have shortfalls of $80 Billion to $200Billion. While this is going on down state and out of sight, the Lake Forest Teachers will be impacted when the their pension fund finally defaults from lack of cash. There are many contributors to the crisis, but surely the politicians, so thoroughly controlled by the teacher’s union puppeteers, are in front of the parade. That is the same union with which the LFEA is associated.
The third and likely the most potentially long term corrosive effect of this strike, is the division among the teachers about the wisdom and impact of a strike. There are devoted and dedicated LFHS teachers, many in number, whose better instincts know a strike is disruptive to the students, damaging to their personal and professional reputation and will harm the District. Then there are those for whom teaching is a job and a pay check, and sadly, there are more than enough in that category. Among the latter group, there is indifference toward the mission. The conflict between these very different attitudes will inevitably clash, both among the teachers and the administration. Such conflicts will not improve the quality of education or experiences at LFHS. The LFEA, in order to insure an outcome they preferred, employed a classic union steamrolling tactic and called for a voice vote to strike. That move brought irresistible peer pressure and created the herd mentality. A secret ballot would have been fair to all and very likely produced a different outcome.
Teachers, if you want to be treated like the professionals you want to be, and compensated handsomely by D 115 for being so, please act with the dignity that distinction calls for, and attend to the responsibilities for which you have been appointed. Then, disassociate from “Big Union”, and in the future, do what is in your professional DNA, not what some union activists want you to do.
Al Boese, Lake Bluff