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.

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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?

CFT takes steps to prepare for a teacher strike. Again.

Reminiscient of last year, the CFT is again putting into motion the threat of a strike. No, they are not officially striking. And no, the Union has not yet taken a vote to authorize a strike (a meeting is scheduled for 4:30 today). But according to the NG, that is the route they are headed down.

The CFT also (finally) has a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CFTlocal1925

Like last year, I still fail to see what role the public is supposed to play in this as it stands. It is our tax dollars, but yet it is the districts responsibility to spend those dollars wisely, and the Board to oversee the district (ie, to govern).  If asked if I support the teachers or the administration, in all honesty I would have to say “that is a poorly framed question”, but I lean towards supporting the teachers because I have a better idea of what they do; they teach my child, and I have a very subjective opinion about how that happens. 🙂

From where I sit, it sucks that the teachers do not have a contract (as of summer). And yet they still teach. That says something. Why don’t they have a contract? Why is negotiation so hard? I cannot help but wonder, what would happen if the CFT dealt directly with the voting public to hash out a contract? What if the administration were simply side-stepped? I know “HORRIBLE IDEA!!!” you say. But what if…..  And tell me, why is it such a horrible idea? I know the Board, elected of the people, is supposed to act on behalf of the people, but…. I mean, really, us “common folk” have absolutely no idea what is going on behind the closed doors. And I am told that this makes good business sense, but I do not fully understand why.

Teach me.

 

Public sector news media links:

NG: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-09-18/updated-champaign-teachers-approve-strike-authorization-vote.html

WCIA: http://www.illinoishomepage.net/story/unit-4-contract-negotiations/d/story/ilOjjHkM3k2mdfvUOPFvHg

WAND: http://www.wandtv.com/story/23470969/champaign-teachers-vote-to-authorize-strike

WICD: http://www.wicd15.com/# (currently the featured story, this will change)

If teachers do strike, what about kids on free/reduced meals?

Some notes are bouncing around the PTA Council, and an important thread has developed – if the teachers do decide to strike, what do we do about the families that depend on free/reduced meals? Below is a message from Mary Davis:

I have been thinking about the strike and how students can still get meals. I am contacting ISBE to find out how activities need to be presented so we can offer breakfast and lunch and/or snack.

I do not have a list of PTA Presidents. Would you please send this to all and cc me?

Thank you,

Mary Davis, CDM, CFPP
Food Service Director
Office: 217-351-3852
Fax: 217-373-1247

 

The evolving story of the CFT/Board negotiations

Keep checking back on this: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-09-27/updated-champaign-teachers-union-take-strike-vote.html

I asked (in the comment section):

What role does the public play in all this? The CFT held an “informational picket” before the regular board meeting at the beginning of the month, but it was not clear to me then (and nor is it now) what the public is actually supposed to do. I get that the event supposedly applies pressure on the Board, but to do what exactly? All we know are very general things. And maybe that is the way it is supposed to be – I just don’t get what part we play in this little saga. It is our tax money afterall, right?

I have also asked the PTA Council if they have any plans to hold a panel/discussion with CFT and Unit 4 reps – I know I would appreciate knowing more about what’s going on. But moreover, I really want to figure out what my own role is. Am I supposed to be just a bystander? I don’t think so.

UPDATE: Meg updated her article at 4:07 pm – I think some of the new text (in addition to an important change in the title) is as follows:

The school district issued a statement saying the school board was “surprised and disappointed” to hear of the vote while the district and union are still negotiating.

A strike authorization vote is when the union’s negotiating team goes back to its membership to report on how negotiations are going, said Illinois Federation of Teachers Spokesman David Comerford.

The union members then give the team feedback and takes a vote to give the bargaining team authorization to call a strike if necessary, Comerford said. The vote has to do with the union’s constitution and is different than the intent-to-strike vote the union would have to file with the state Educational Labor Relations Board at least 10 days before striking.

Comerford said a new state law has changed the timeline on which downstate teachers strike.

 

Additionally, I spotted Cathy Mannen, Sue Grey and Tom Lockman at the Mellon Center after 5:pm – I did not see them meeting or talking, so I cannot relay any facts other than that I saw them.

Education is in the news

The strikes in Chicago are making a bigger impact than I initially gave them credit for. One way I can tell is that a tech news aggregator I follow (remember, I said tech news) has, not one, not two, but 4 articles talking about Education.

The Pro CPS Strike side

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/negotiators-reach-framework-to-end-chicago-teachers-strike-classes-could-resume-monday/2012/09/14/bb3fa52c-fed3-11e1-98c6-ec0a0a93f8eb_story.html

I find it fascinating how Jesse Jackson kinda pops out of the woodwork once in a while. What is most interesting is how the “people” are cast to be on the same side as the Unions, both against the BOE and the City. What they argue is indeed good and worthy – to lift up those schools and districts that are getting the butt-end of the deal in terms of finances. If you take this story as it is, it sounds like the pro-Union crowd is so looking out for kids that they are willing to sacrifice… well, teaching, I guess. I would like to find out what happened after the 19-day strike 25 years ago – was it a good thing overall for the kiddos? Did it help?

The Anti CPS Strike side

http://www.studentsfirst.org/blog/entry/statement-from-studentsfirst-ceo-and-founder-michelle-rhee

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/courts-police-and-fire/2012-09-17/chicago-mayor-court-must-end-teachers-strike.html

Michelle Rhee, the now famous poster child for StudentsFirst, paints a picture of greedy unions and greedy teachers. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is made out to look like some kind of tree-wielding ogre, reading to smash the impudent unions with the force of Law. No matter who is actually “right”, the Union’s President is quoted as saying “There’s no trust for our members of the board” – a very telling statement if indeed true for most folks. Based on these articles, it seems that the parents (the three or four that were interviewed out of 500,000+ effected parents) are on the same side as the unions.

Is the problem just money?

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