Friday, October 2, 2009

Will Our Teachers Strike?

Parents in Flossmoor School District 161 recently got a letter that read:

An open letter to the Taxpayers of and Parents of children in
Flossmoor School District 161:

The Board of Education and the Teachers’ Union currently have an unresolved negotiation ongoing to renew the recently expired teachers’ contract. Given the current state of discussions and the fact that the information available to the public is incomplete, we feel it is necessary at this time to provide facts to our community.
The key issues, near as I can tell, is the inequity between what teachers in SD 161 get paid (relative to teacher salaries in the rest of the state), and what administrators get paid in SD 161 (relative to administrator salaries in the rest of the state).

The Illinois report card for Flossmoor SD 161 [PDF] notes that the average teacher's salary for the district is $50,400 while the average teacher salary in Illinois is $60,871. Meanwhile, the average salary for administrators in the district is $131,804 while the state average is $105,117.

So while teachers in Flossmoor make an average of $10,000 less than teachers around Illinois, our administrators are averaging $25,000 more!

The argument I've always heard for the reason that we pay our administrators so much more was twofold: that we wanted to attract the best school administrators possible and that Flossmoor wasn't that cheap to live in.

Which makes sense. But shouldn't the same hold true for our teachers?

Our property values aren't held up by having the best administrators in the country, they are held up by having the best schools. The best schools are not defined as having the "best administrators" but having the best teachers and having a healthy, productive work environment for students to learn.

So what am I missing? Not only does it seem unfair that our teachers are being paid less than the state average (but expected to perform above the average), but they seem to be expected to live, well, elsewhere.

I'd rather have our teachers living in our community -- or at least able to afford to live in our community. That keeps them invested, because it's not only their job but it's their neighborhood.

If you asked me -- and no one did -- I'd say that Illinois schools have way too many administrators in the first place. They have more than double the number of administrators that were in the public schools I attended, which were regarded (at the time) as some of the best in the nation. It is clear to me that this was because we had extraordinary teachers, not a large number of administrators who were highly paid.

We don't have children in public school anymore, but we do have an interest in maintaining the integrity and property values in the community where we live. I would hope the school board would share that same interest. There are undoubtedly many places that the school board could make cuts, but teacher salaries aren't among them. Our schools should be better than average, our teachers should be better than average and their pay should reflect that expectation.

Below average? Flossmoor isn't a below average community. That's the message we should be sending to the SD 161 school board.

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