Imagine the surprise of District 95 teachers when they read in the editorial section of the Landmark (“That’s quite a deal,” The Landmark View, Sept. 26) they were to receive $40,000 per teacher for tuition reimbursement. “That’s quite a deal” is right! This was not accurate and the Landmark published a correction to their error. Hopefully, everyone in the community now knows that the $40,000 is a pool of money to be shared among all the teachers (approximately 80 teachers or about $500 each) for tuition reimbursement.
As teachers continued to read, they were saddened. District 95 has not asked for an educational referendum in approximately 20 years. The district has always been conservative with taxpayer money.
As a result, the Board of Education recognized that the district was not attracting outstanding candidates to begin their careers in District 95. They also recognized that many good teachers were leaving the district for better paying districts and districts offering better benefits.
Six years ago, the school board elected to place more money on the salary schedule for incoming and newer teachers. The editorial fails to acknowledge that the veteran teachers who received a “pay day” sacrificed their pay increase so more money could be placed on the bottom steps of the salary schedule. This resulted in pay raises of less than 3 percent for those veteran teachers compared to the 4- and 6-percent raises for the other teachers.
The editorial also fails to recognize the number of years these teachers have given to the district. Just as an example, try 48, 38 and 33 years. When looking at these salaries, keep in mind the number of years those individuals have worked. Should we penalize teachers for many years of dedicated service?
Another point of misrepresentation is insurance. Many surrounding districts pay 100 percent PPO coverage for their employees. As it is now, even with the 85-percent coverage, our teachers pay $9,680 per year for HMP family coverage. The $1,000 offer to employees who do not take the district’s insurance actually saves the district $3,200 per year, per teacher who opt out of the insurance coverage offered. Recognizing that insurance rates are costly, the teachers elected to raise their deductible to keep the rates lower. They continue to pay a higher deductible in this new contract.
The teachers of District 95 are well-educated, hard-working, dedicated individuals. Just drive by either school early in the morning and late afternoon, early evening. No longer is there the three-month summer vacation. Teachers work well into June and begin to prepare for their new school year in early August. This doesn’t include summer classes and workshops. Teaching has become a year-round profession.
Fortunately for District 95 teachers, the school board, administration, parents and community members recognize the value of our teachers. District 95 has “quite a deal.”
Joanne Collins is co-president of the Teachers’ Association of Brookfield (TAB), the teachers’ union for Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95