Editorial: Time for Kaneland to make the tough decisions

Our page 1A story about Kaneland School District’s decision to ask the teacher’s union to renegotiate its contract should not come as a surprise to anyone.

The district faces a $3 million deficit in next year’s budget; $1.2 million of that based on the teacher’s raises agreed to in last-minute negotiations in October 2008 to avert a threatened strike. After receiving 4.86 percent raises last year and 6.21 percent raises this year, Kaneland Education Association (KEA) members are scheduled to receive 5.6 percent next year.

Even if the teacher’s union agreed to a total salary freeze for the next two years, Kaneland would still face an approximate $1.8 million deficit. According to Associate Superintendent of Schools Jeff Schuler, the “easy cuts” were made when the district cut $750,000 from the current year’s budget.

Therefore, all that remains are the kinds of cuts that negatively impact students; whether that be in actual teaching positions, programs, extracurricular activities, etc. These are the types of cuts that could increase class sizes, reduce or eliminate non-core, elective classes, and reduce or eliminate extracurricular activities—clubs and athletics.

Following the conclusion of last year’s contract negotiation, KEA Chief Negotiator Lynn McHenry said, “We recognize the economic times, but we would like to be competitive with our neighbors.”

If it is true that KEA members recognize the current economic times, then we hope they also recognize that they are among the vast minority of workers who were guaranteed a raise this year and next year. In fact, the majority of workers would love to know that their jobs will simply exist next year without some form of a cut—whether that be in salary, hours or benefits.

We recognize that it is important for Kaneland teachers to receive equitable pay to districts surrounding us—but we also recognize that each district is unique and must have its own salary structure, especially in the current economic environment. Each neighboring district has a unique situation, in terms of population, student growth, tax base, facilities, programming, etc. Given that, then each district should expect to have a unique salary structure, and if the ultimate goal is to educate students to the best of their abilities, we hope to see the KEA at the bargaining table in the very near future. We also hope to see every employee of the district willing to share whatever sacrifice necessary to ensure that the students experience the least sacrifice of all.