LFHS-type transparency must be sought in all school districts

Total cost to taxpayers to fund basic Lake Forest High School teacher and administrative salaries rose from $11,947,456 in 2009 to $13,463,111 in 2012.

When teachers at Lake Forest High School District went on strike on Sept 12, many residents of Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and in surrounding communities expressed dismay.  Often asked was whether Lake Forest High School teachers had a tin ear. 

An article in the Chicago Tribune by reporters Lisa Black and Jeff Danna on the morning of the strike had this to say:  "For the first time in the district's history, teachers in Lake Forest High School District 115 went on strike after failing to reach an agreement over salaries during negotiations that ended just before midnight . . . Teachers set up a picket line in front of Lake Forest High School this morning, carrying yellow signs that read, "Lake Forest Teachers for a Fair contract."   http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-12/news/chi-lake-forest-high-teachers-also-poised-to-strike-20120911_1_lake-forest-teachers-first-teachers-strike-teachers-tuesday-night

Although many citizen taxpayers became aware during the course of the strike that far from being "unfair," the salaries and benefits of LFHS teachers were quite generous -- some would say overly.   Although it is not my intent to open old wounds, transparency is necessary when called for, especially when as it involves taxpayers. 

Brian Costin, Director of Government Reform at the Illinois Policy Institute (Illinoispolicy.org), compiled the following chart published on Nov. 3, using the IIRC database (iirc.niv.edu), that shows the average 2012 salaries for teachers in school districts that experienced recent labor unrest.    www.illinoispolicy.org/blog/blog.asp?ArticleSource=5207 

School District

Lake Forest CHSD 115 (went on strike)
Average teacher salary

$107,172 Barrington District 220 (strike authorized) $80,451 Geneva CUSD 304 (strike authorized) $75,078 City of Chicago SD 299 (went on strike) $74,990 Highland Park: North Shore SD 112 (went on strike) $73,506 Evergreen Park ESD 124 (went on strike) $64,095 Prairie Grove CSD 46 (went on strike) $61,980 Carpentersville USD 300 (strike authorized) $61,714 Grayslake CCSD 46 (strike authorized) $57,358 Algonquin Consolidated SD 158 (strike authorized) $56,532 Champaign CUSD 4 (strike authorized) $55,185

The Illinois Interactive Report Card Website (iirc.niv.edu) is a good site to explore, as it provides a number of key statistics for every public school district in Illinois, including average teacher salary.

Here is another useful site to locate average salaries at Illinois school districts.

Although the IIRC website doesn't include other high-cost compensation items such as health care and pension benefits, Looking at salaries is a good starting point for understanding teacher compensation costs that must be borne by local taxpayers.  It's also an easy way for every taxpayer to know how much the average teacher salary is in their own school district and how their school ranks with other schools in the states. 

This is especially important when it comes time to negotiate collective bargaining agreements. For the next negotiations, which will take place in four years at Lake Forest High School, the public should keep a watchful eye on information such as this.  The board should also have a better plan in place than to wait for a strike to occur at the beginning of the school year.

But this isn't the end of the story.  Bill Zettler (www.championnews.net/bill-zettler) recently shared with me a study he did showing the percentage increase of salaries for each administrative staff member and teacher from 2009 to 2012. 

The total cost to taxpayers to fund basic Lake Forest High School teacher and administrative salaries rose from $11,947,456 in 2009 to $13,463,111 in 2012.  Zettler's information was complied from the following website, which is an excellent source for locating "Teacher and Administrator Salary Base" information in schools throughout Illinois.   www.familytaxpayers.org/salary.php  

The highest jumps in salaries were among the administrative staff, but teachers also fared well.  The salary of the Assistant District Superintendent went from $173,355 in 2009 to $206,469 in 2012 (33+%).  A high school Calculus teacher's salary jumped from $133,368 in 2009 to $158,843 in 2012 (25+%). Few teachers ranged below 10% in salary spikes.  Common were 13% to 22% hikes in salaries from 2009 - 2012, a time of a sharp loss in property values and wealth in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. 

As reported at an October #115 board meeting, the biggest outlay in the budget for 2013 is for administrative and teacher salaries.   http://www.lfhs.pxxq.com/D115%20BOE.pdf  

With the new four-year contract approved and ratified by the District 115 board and the LFEA (http://lakeforestteachers.com), following a seven-day strike which ended on Sept. 19, whipped cream can now be added as a topping to what were already Lake Forest High School salaries that were far above the average received by high school teacher in Illinois.   www.dailyherald.com/article/20120919/news/709199896/ 

Although the District 115 School Board held the line somewhat, the salary portion of the negotiations included a 2.7% average increase in its first year and a 3.8% increase in the second year.  Increases for the third and fourth year are based upon a formula tied to the consumer Price Index, but the estimated raises are 3.6% and 2.4% for years three and four,  respectively.  Health insurance benefits largely looks similar to the previous contract, with HMO and PPO family premium splits of 90/10%.  lakeforest.patch.com/articles/details-from-lfhs-strike-agreement-released  

Not bad at all when layoffs are becoming common place, when cuts in salaries are necessary for companies and businesses to survive, and where healthcare coverage may be lost as employers can no longer afford to provide employee healthcare coverage with the advent of Obamacare.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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