We admire the collaborative relationship between the board and administration of the District 91 elementary schools and the Forest Park Teachers Association.

That said, we’re with school board member John Tricoci, who cast the lone no vote when a new three-year teachers contract was OKd by the board. Tricoci agreed that the district’s “great, hard-working teachers” deserved a raise but in tough economic times, the annual 3.75 percent hike was just too much.

He’s right. And put that 11.25 cumulative hike over the next three years on top of the 12 percent pay increase teachers earned cumulatively over the three years of the prior contract. That’s a notable pay increase during the worst economic recession in our lifetimes.

Several neighboring school districts have negotiated pay freezes for teachers. It’s tone deaf to expect stretched Forest Park taxpayers to fund a contract that does not reflect today’s  hard times.

A comment by Supt. Lou Cavallo goes to the heart of our concern. “This was an earnest attempt to keep pace with similar districts with similar enrollment,” he said, noting the 10 other districts that D91 “benchmarks” itself against. We try not to rail in our editorials but this is a hot button for us. By employing the closed loop of comparative districts – and this is the common practice – school boards create an artificial marketplace which perpetually ratchets up pay as districts play catch-up to each other.

Please don’t lump this criticism with public employee bashing which has swept the Midwest in the past 18 months. We support teachers and other public employees. We want them to make a good living. But we’d appreciate some shared sacrifice until times get better.