Wrapping up the CFT contract negotiations: the facts

As mentioned earlier, I have been on a quest to find the facts behind salaries. After waiting and waiting and not getting anywhere by waiting, I decided to FOIA the raw data and analyze it myself. Getting the data into an electronic spreadsheet was extremely time-consuming, and thus I am proud to present my work here and let anyone view the spreadsheet for themselves. The first “worksheet” is an index pointing to and explaining the other worksheets.

It is not my intention to cast either the CFT or the Administration/BOE in a particular light. Rather, this is my academic work on finding facts and figures. I also wish to make it quite clear that I am a strong supporter of the teachers; I would be remiss if this post were used to disparage teachers in any way.


CAVEAT

There is a bit of consternation on both sides of the fence related to terms like “raises” and “incentives”. I am studiously attempting to avoid those terms and refer simply to “increases”, the observation of how a salary changes.


As I read through the teacher contracts of the past 10 years, it was clear to me that a salary has many components and that the salary schedule is a rather complex matrix of longevity increases and increases due to continuing education. I cannot hope to explain or understand why there are some years with very strange patterns as demonstrated via the “heatmap” worksheet; for instance, in 2009 a massive increase was given to 6th year teachers in the BA track. In 2012, sizable increases were doled out to two steps in the MA+30 track and the MA+60 track, each. It is also interesting to visualize how the salary schedule “freezes” at a certain point for those in the BA track; some teachers in 2011 received no salary change whatsoever, if they were in the BA track.

I do confess, Craig Walker challenged me to take a closer look at salaries which spurred me further to dig up the numbers. He suggested I take down a previous chart that showed teacher salary increases lagging behind the Consumer Price Index (CPI); even though I now know that the previous chart is biased and one-sided, I have decided to leave that chart “as is” because it demonstrates how hard it is to get real truth in certain circumstances.

 

So these are my facts. I have shown you all my work, my sources and my results. Please check them as you see fit.

Next time we have teacher contract negotiations, this is the kind of data I want to see. The fact that the data is archived in a printed format makes this entire exercise significantly more challenging, but not impossible.

No CESP contract, yet

Meg wrote an article (which I cannot read due to the paywall):

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-10-23/no-contract-settled-champaign-support-union-talks-members-picket-negotiating-s

It sounds like the CESP has a ton of support from the CFT based on the CFT facebook page. Apparently the CESP reps met with the BOE and administrative reps for quite a while tonight; hopefully they have hashed out more compromises and are moving closer to a resolution.

CFT teacher's contract approved

Interesting mix of agreements – looks really good for teachers, I believe. I have not yet had time to look over the summary, but am awaiting the final contract to be published. I have also requested via FOIA all contracts for the past 10 years just to do some more reading (I hear they weigh in at like 70 pages each – ouch).

From Stephanie Stuart:

http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/6334

On behalf of Champaign Unit #4 School District and the Champaign Federation of Teachers:

The Champaign Unit #4 School District Board of Education approved a contract with the Champaign Federation of Teachers (CFT) Monday.

The Champaign Federation of Teachers’ (CFT) contract expired on June 30, 2013. The new contract was ratified by CFT’s membership October 16.

“I commend both of the Board of Education and CFT leadership for their dedication to reaching a fair contract that honors the work of our teachers while remaining responsible to the taxpayers,” said Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand. “There is great work being done in our classrooms every day. With this contract in place, we can continue to work together to provide the best possible education for the children in our community.”

The collective bargaining agreement includes the following provisions: Read the rest of this entry »

One step closer to a new teacher contract

And one step further away from a strike.

 

I am very glad to hear that the CFT members “overwhelmingly” voted in favor of the latest deal (NGFB). The BOE will have a discussion next Monday and probably, in the end, agree to the final terms. We hope. 🙂

An interesting way to visualize salary data

visualize_salary_data

I saw a link from a twitter feed about visualizing salary data, and it made me think of our teachers and Unit 4 administrators; the BART employees were seriously considering a strike, and at the last moment decided not to – not unlike our own local scenario. I am curious, what do readers think of this visualization? Is it relatively intuitive? Easy to use? Informative? Helpful?

http://blog.vctr.me/bart/

Personally, I liked the interactive feel of it. I like that the data points can be filtered for various levels of detail. I was not crazy about the color scheme at all, but at least it allows you different ways of seeing the same data.  He has a couple more visualizations here: http://enjalot.github.io/bart/

 

Of course, the premise is that one has access to the raw data. Unfortunately, that is a huge stumbling block in our local situation.

"tentative contract" – woot!

Just received an update from Stephanie Stuart:

The Board of Education is pleased with the progress of tonight’s bargaining session. At this time, the Board understands that the Champaign Federation of Teachers will be taking information from tonight’s meeting to its membership. The District is committed to bringing resolution to these negotiations in a way that is fair to all parties and does not disrupt the educational program for our students.

 

Be watching for an article from Meg Dickinson (who is at the Mellon Center, probably interviewing people at this late hour *grin*). Here is her “author” link on NG:

http://www.news-gazette.com/author/meg-dickinson

Oh, just saw her update:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-10-08/champaign-school-district-teachers-union-have-tentative-contract.html

They have a tentative contract! Excellent! Wow, that was a long, hard-fought battle. I hope both sides have laid ground to build a better relationship upon.

 

 

Also, the CFT will probably put something on their FB page, but not sure when:

https://www.facebook.com/CFTlocal1925

Sounds like the membership has not voted (obviously), so everyone is keeping pretty tight lips until the teachers can mull it over. More to follow later, surely.

On the quest for facts (context: CFT contract negotiations)

I am sharing out some of the documents I have received from both Unit 4 and CFT.

From CFT

  • The Members’ Perspective: This document forms the basis of the now-infamous chart from a previous blog post, “Ongoing saga“. True to the title, it also provides some perspectives and concessions on behalf of the members of the CFT
  • Champaign parents want you to know: A new document making the rounds as of Saturday; a flyer presenting a couple more (not new) viewpoints from the CFT and encouraging readers to “help us prevent a strike” and contact board members
  • CFT Responses: a word doc of an email from CFT President Cathy Mannen that responds to several of my questions

From Unit 4

  • Salary Schedule Explanation for Unit 4 Salary Schedules for 2013 and 2014 Proposed: an excel spreadsheet that shows last year’s salary schedule and the proposed salary schedule, with two examples of hypothetical teachers to help explain what the changes mean on Sheet 1. I added some rough analysis on Sheets 2 and 3 to show how Steps and Lanes change by percentage (again, that is stuff I added, not original to the document I received).
  • In regards to the 2012 teacher salaries, I asked that the report be augmented with Step and Lane information. Unit 4 responded by saying that they have supplied all the information they intend to. Which I took to be cryptic lawyer-speak for “no”.

Some other facts that bear repeating. Unit 4 holds that the $24 million in question is actually divided evenly between two funds; one is the Working Cash Bond fund and the other is a “rainy day/safety net” cash fund.

The Working Cash Fund is specifically for Operations, Maintenance and Capital Projects. The Education fund is for paying out money to teachers (among other things, but the teacher portion is by far the largest). While 105 ILCS 5/10-22.33 does provide for the option to transfer funds from the Operational Fund to the Education Fund, those loans must be paid back. In effect, the district cannot transfer money from the working cash bond fund to the education fund for the purposes of paying any kind of raise (since the money would effectively not be paid back to the working cash bond).

From talking with various board members, I have come to understand that the $12 million “rainy day” cash fund has slowly been built up over the years. During a Saturday afternoon phone call with Scott MacAdam, I further learned that this reserve cash also makes it possible to secure loans at lower interest rates, and if that reserve were to be diminished we would suffer from higher interest rate loans. I did not ask what the thresholds are (probably should have).

Also to come out of talks with board members is that the BOE offer of a 1.7% Step/Lane increase + 1.3 COLA will cost a little over $1 million over a three-year period (if I remember what I was told correctly). Apparently, the BOE is prepared to dip into the rainy day fund and shave off about 10% to help meet the requests of the CFT, in exchange for that three-year contract.  On the other hand, the CFT is saying that their request (3.65% COLA and 1.57% Step/Lane) would require less than 5% of $24 million, or by extension, less than 10% of the $12 million, over a one-year period.

It is probably important to mention that the contract negotiations are not solely about money and raises. I have been reminded many times by many folks (thanks, readers! *grin*) that among both the contested and the concession sections of the contract are topics like language nuances, expectations for related duties, etc, all of which are important and have quite a significance to the teachers.

To round off the “facts” I have so far, I have also requested (of both Unit 4 and the CFT) a historical snapshot of salaries that aggregates by total salary, COLA, Step and Lane raises. I am a little concerned by the “partial truths” I hear from each side. However, I made that request on Saturday, so I do not expect any kind of quick turn-around, given all the other activity going on. I have also requested, via Scott MacAdam, an analysis of how salary adjustments can effect the cash reserve for the next few years (holding still certain variables like property taxes, pension law, etc etc).

For some further opinions on this matter…..

There is a lot of drama and passionate feelings on both sides. I do not want to dive into that; dealing with the emotions, perceptions, agendas and politicking is not my cup of tea. I will say that they are very real for a lot of people. Yes, of course I have my own emotional response (essentially, RUN AWAY!! *grin*), but from where I sit, it seems like the emotions are adding an additional weight that is preventing, or at the very least obscuring, meaningful progress.

Obviously, nobody wants a teacher strike. Equally obvious (I hope), the individual board members do not hate on the teachers (I mean, think about it, that would be rather self-defeating, wouldn’t it?).

Here is what I hope to see happen at the big negotiator-less negotiation bash on Monday night; that both the BOE and the CFT work on cementing a positive relationship which basically says “Hey, we realize we do not see eye to eye on everything, but let’s do the best we can now and start planning, now, for how to do this better next time.” It bothers me that CFT negotiations are starting to become a procrastinated annual brouhaha that eats up many resources and time, like a mad dash at the end of a long race. And divides the community (which is poisonous). Hiring a negotiator is like having mom or dad referee who gets to go on the swing first. And, let us not forget that the other union (CESP) apparently has no major, earth-shattering issues during their negotiations. I realize that is a totally different ballgame, but there are similarities and I wonder where the differences lie. No matter how Monday ends, no matter if we do or do not have a strike in the next few weeks, I challenge Unit 4 and the CFT to work it out so we are not doing this whole thing all over again next year.

One last thing; I realize the budget is tight and more significantly, not well understood by most people. What would it take for the school district owners (you and I, the voters and tax-payers) to better understand how money comes in and goes out of their school district budget? Why is it that the one and only place to provide a raise for teachers is from the reserve cash balance?

Letter to the Board

update: edited for better formatting (curse you WordPress!!)

Good evening,

I know each of you has been extremely busy with many different topics related to Unit 4; I thank you for serving on the board and fulfilling a much needed role.

I would like to take a moment and remind the three board members that were voted in during the April elections what you said you were going to do as a board member. The full list I culled together can be found here:
https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/another-look-at-the-school-board-candidates/

From that list, I would highlight a few things, especially as tensions rise around the topic of the CFT contract negotiations. The questions I ask below I ask out of respect and sincerity – I ask because I truly wish to learn.

Mr. MacAdam: You said you were committed to fiscal responsibility, especially given your background and experience with Busey Bank. One of your goals was to develop strategies so the school district can be financially sound. You also spoke about being transparent and speaking in public. What strategies have you developed in the past 6 months? How do you intend to communicate those strategies out to the community? How have your plans and efforts contributed to teachers feeling appreciated and valued?

Ms. Bonnett: Your campaign spoke significantly of engaging the community, earning trust, being transparent and having quality communications, among other things. I thank you that you have retained your facebook page as an effort to remind us of your goals and also to have an extra open door of communication. As the Board President, you are the voice of the Board. How have you striven to build, earn and keep trust and engender accountability with the community and among your colleagues on the board? How have you encouraged communication and aided community members in gathering and checking facts?

Ms. Stuckey: You have a goal specifically tailor for the CFT negotiations – one of your goals was to attempt to support budget talks with the CFT early in the process and to ease cooperation between the Board and the CFT. How did that go? You also spoke frequently of working to make sure that any budget cuts would have the least negative impact to children (or impacting the least number of children). You also spoke of motivating community members to get involved and (along with the other board members) board transparency. What work have you done to make sure children are impacted as little as possible? How much success has your efforts to increase community participation met with? Read the rest of this entry »

Ongoing saga of CFT contract negotiations

salaries_vs_cpi

I like graphs. I like information, facts and data. Unfortunately for me, it is hard to find hard data when I read through what the Board of Education (BOE) and the Champaign Federation of Teachers (CFT) are putting out in the public sphere in regards to the ongoing teacher contract negotiations.

According to a table generated by the CFT, teacher salaries have not kept up with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) since the 2nd half of 2005 (ie, the 2005-2006 school year). I do not yet have any figures that go back further – this is all I got.

You can download an excel spreadsheet I used to generate the graph by clicking on the graph above.

As noted by the recent press releases from both the BOE and the CFT (and also on the CFT Facebook page), there is significant confusion about what exactly a “raise” is. First there is the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA); the BOE initially offered 0%, .5% and .5% for the next three years, but revised that to 1.3% each of the next three years, according to an informational session with the CFT (as shown in the graph). The BOE also offered 1.7% “step” raises (only for teachers with less than 22 years of experience) in their final offer which they perceive as further increasing the teacher’s salary for a total of 3% each year for three years (this information is NOT reflected in the graph above). The CFT is asking for a 3.65% base salary raise for one year, and a “step increase” (meaning that each teacher moves up one step).

Raise your hand if you are confused. Read the rest of this entry »

CFT negotiations

Both the CFT and the Unit 4 BOE have released their version of the story in regards to the ongoing contract negotiations as they attempt to get past yet another bottleneck. For your reading pleasure, here are the official releases:

Unit 4 BOE – Summary: http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/6297

Unit 4 BOE 39-page monster: http://www.news-gazette.com/sites/all/files/pdf/2013/09/26/Champaign_school_district_proposal.pdf

CFT: http://www.news-gazette.com/sites/all/files/pdf/2013/09/26/CFT_contract_proposal.pdf

The first thing I noticed is what appears to be a glaring disparity between what the BOE said they offered (3%/year for 3 years) to the CFT in terms of Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) and what the CFT said the BOE offered (1.3%/year for 3 years). Am I blind? Did I miss something obvious? Was it a misunderstanding?

The parents are making their voice heard in support of the CFT and the teachers in general. It is starting to look like it is the administration and the BOE on one side, and the CFT, teachers and parents on the other side. This division concerns me greatly! Specifically, as someone who has put in an application for a board member and helped another to run for the Board, it pains me to see the BOE lined up across the line from the parents. At least, this is the perception I have of how this is shaking out.

Having said that, I do have other issues with the offer the CFT has made public. For instance, I personally am very much against vague “Step increases” – I do not believe people should receive “longevity rewards.” I MUCH RATHER pay more money to a REALLY GOOD teacher who has only been teaching for two years than a REALLY BAD teacher who has been teaching for 30 years. And therein lies the core issue – how do you know if a teacher is really good or really bad? How do you get rid of a bad teacher once that determination has been made? And under the current system, how in the world do you reward a really good teacher? We could listen to Michelle Rhee’s suggestions for how to grade teacher performance, that is one possibility. There are a few others out there that sound very similar (ie, peer grading, student/parent grading, etc). That could use some more discussion. But as it is now, I do not like “Step increases” at all!

Another issue with the CFT public proposal; while acknowledging the many good things in the Unit 4 financial landscape (and using that to say Unit 4 would have no problem affording the proposed salary increases), the CFT has not accounted for the problematic future of less federal/state funding and pension reform. Perhaps even more significant, the CFT has not publicly identified how exactly the budget can be shuffled in order to accommodate their requests. It is almost like robbing Peter to pay Mary, except that in this case, we all know Mary and we have no idea who Peter is. Would the CFT propose cutting…. High School band? Special Ed? What goes on the chopping block to make room for higher teacher salaries? Oh, you say administrator salaries…. now that would be an interesting discussion….. But herein lies yet another root issue – who really understands the budget? On September 23rd there was a so-called “public hearing” on the 2014 budget. I did not see any discourse; no questions, no outrage, no encouragement, no real explanation. Yes, a bunch of slides, but it painted a very high-level picture and I got lost while trying to wrap my head around it. The public cannot possibly hope to suggest, with confidence, that the budget can or cannot be shuffled one dollar in or out simply because we just do not understand it. How much does the CFT really understand it? And if they do, maybe they can provide some alternative budgets.

This is not to say that the Unit 4 BOE proposal is without fault. The 39-page detailed offer is a double-edged sword, as it is extremely thick and intimidating while at the same time, very thorough and comprehensive. It is a totally different read from the CFT proposal. I do like that they offer a bevy of explanations and rationale. On the issue of teachers being limited to 20 minutes of non-instructional time, I felt that the Unit 4 BOE proposal was exceedingly over the top. $1.7 million for 22 so-called “aides” to help ensure a “safe and secure school environment” comes out to a whopping $79,800 per person!! Crikey! So, my take-away is that the district rather spend money on people who do police work rather than people who do education. Interesting….

CORRECTION: the $1.7 million is to be spread over three years, bringing the aide salary down to $26,600/year.

In regards to salary, the BOE is offering (they say) 3% raises for the next three years, totaling 9%. They estimate that this will cost $3.5 million. I do not really understand how this fits into the budget. We are told that times are tight, the future is uncertain, that the school districts needs a certain amount of money in reserve, etc. Where is the $3.5 million coming from? And why is the CFT painting a picture that the BOE is being stingy? I must have missed something.

Also, why is the CFT only wanting a one-year contract, and the BOE offering a three-year contract? Contract negotiation is painful and expensive – why would the CFT only want one year contracts? For that matter, do we really need them? I know, I am asking the stupid question here. But look, teachers are teaching and getting paid with no contract currently. What if we just didn’t have contracts?

In conclusion, I believe there are two core issues we all need to tackle:

  1. how to assess and reward or improve educators (including principals)
  2. how to understand the budget

These are two very big issues, and I fear that the BOE nor the CFT nor the expensive Mediators are going to help us progress on those topics at all. And thus, we are setting ourselves up for yet another repeat next Fall. Oh joy.

Times are changing. While there are many interesting aspects to the single-room schoolhouse of yesteryear (yestermillenium might be more accurate), we must adapt and change as does technology/pedagogy and most importantly, fight the unintended consequences of today’s corrosive norms (eg, “school to prison pipeline”, overly individualistic “American Dream” chasers, etc).