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?

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