Teachers in Illinois’ second largest school district rejected a proposed labor contract that would have moved the district away from the traditional teacher salary model in favor of a more flexible pay structure that would have allowed ambitious teachers to advance more quickly to top salaries.
Both the school district and the local teachers union leadership had recommended teachers adopt the deal, which was hashed out over four months at the bargaining table.
But the more than 2,400 teachers in District U-46, which operates 57 schools in northwest suburban Elgin, Bartlett, Streamwood, and eight other communities, voted the deal down by a 2 to 1 margin on Thursday. The final tally was released on Friday.
The contract also would have raised starting pay. A beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree would have made $50,000 under the deal, up from $43,000. District officials had argued that would make U-46 more competitive in hiring.
Lisa Del Giudice, a math teacher and union rep at Kenyon Woods Middle School, said there were aspects of the deal she and other teachers liked, but “this would really benefit those teachers first coming into the district. Once you get to the middle of your career or the end of your career, it’s not as much of a benefit,” said Del Giudice, who finished her 33rd year of teaching on Friday.
She said raises for many teachers would not have covered insurance increases or cost of living. And she said teachers care about other issues — like safety and class sizes — that the proposed contract doesn’t address.
Like nearly every other school district in the state, Elgin’s current contract is made up of set salary increases called “steps,” given for years of service, and “lanes,” given for additional higher education.
“Traditional ‘step and lane’ schedules tend to be very backloaded, so you’re making more money later in your career,” said Kency Nittler, who follows trends in teacher contracts for the National Council on Teacher Quality. But Nittler said that isn’t helpful in retaining or motivating early career teachers.
The rejected contract would have allowed younger teachers to move up faster to a higher pay rate by accumulating “career credits.” Those would be given for additional years of service and education — just like the traditional teachers contract — but also for many of the additional things teachers do at schools.
“Every one of our teachers are doing things outside the normal school day, including committee work, collaborative meetings, events at the school — there are so many things they’re doing outside of those hours, and as of right now, they do it on a voluntary basis,” said Richard Johnson, president of the Elgin Teachers Association.
Johnson was on the bargaining committee and supported the deal. He said the union plans to survey teachers to understand their concerns before heading back to negotiations. The contract expires in August.
The school district did not return calls for comment on Friday.
In a press release before the vote, district officials said the agreement “follows the lead” of the Denver Public Schools and Cleveland’s public schools. Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Suzanne Johnson said it was an effort “to compensate teachers as professionals who dedicate their time and expertise to not only improving their own instructional practice but also the learning conditions and climate at their schools and the entire District.”