Let’s assume that teachers are the essential engine that drives a school district. And we know that around 70 percent of a school district’s revenues are paid out to faculty in salary and benefits.

Wouldn’t that make negotiating a contract between teachers and the district about the most important process a school district undertakes – especially a school district as educationally challenged as the Proviso Township high schools?

We’d say so. And we’d say the three-year contract just revealed after an odd two-month delay, is yet another lost opportunity for this school district to bring any sort of fresh thinking to its efforts.

Couldn’t have been too hard to negotiate with the faculty union when the district was willing to dish out raises of 10 to 15 percent over the three-year term of the contract. Find another job with annual pay hikes of up to five percent.

So if the district is so flush with taxpayers money and so ready to spend then we’d wonder what was the ask? What educational goals did the school board bring to these negotiations? What changes did the administration want in the way teachers work with students, work with each other, work with principals?

Beyond buying three years of status quo, what did the district get here? What about some form of merit pay that rewards the teachers who are really making headway in the classroom? What about creating a level of master teachers who are paid more and charged with mentoring new teachers? What about compensating teachers willing to test new instructional approaches?

Nothing like that is evident in this contract. What is clear is that District 209 – administrators, board and teachers combined – is stuck in the fading compensation strategies that have been around for decades even as public education has suffered.

The contract again includes step pay increases. These are pay raises that come every year just for showing up. You can be a great teacher. You can be a burnout. You get the same raise.

And then there is the circular firing squad of comparable school districts. Find out what other districts you like to compare yourself with are paying their teachers and follow suit. This charade does nothing but perpetually ratchet up salaries within this artificial construct of allegedly comparable districts.

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