Referendum about salary, benefits of D97 employees

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Richard Gorman

The District 97 referendum is not about the kids. In the near term the referendum's goal is to maintain teachers', certified employees' and administrators' current salaries and benefits. The long-term ramification of the referendum is it maintains a base level of compensation for future increases in salaries and benefits. The context of the referendum is the aftermath of the "Great Recession," a transformational economic event that most of us have never experienced in our lifetimes.

We are mired in debt nationally, statewide and locally. Our focus should be not only to provide a great education, but to also provide an economic environment where our children can apply their knowledge and hard work to prosper. Instead we are burying the kids in debt and virtually guaranteeing them a dismal future with less opportunity and a lower standard of living.

Salaries and benefits will consume at least 75 percent of District 97's 2010-2011 budget of nearly $79 million. The current average teacher salary, not including benefits, is now over $72,000 and is 37 percent higher than the average salary in 2002. In 2011 there is 55 percent more teachers in the district than there was in 1990, yet enrollment is up only 15 percent in the same period. And the contention that people are drawn to Oak Park because of its quality schools seems to be wrong in light of the village's population drop from over 65,000 in 1970 to less than 52,000 in 2010. Ominously, a new teacher contract is on the horizon in 2013, and District 97 is already planning another tax referendum for 2018 even if the referendum passes next month.

Value is a condition that most in the private sector must provide or perish. Even with one of the highest per-pupil expenditures in the state, no Oak Park elementary school is mentioned in Chicago Magazine's top 50 schools. In state testing, District 97 schools are only in the top 9 percent statewide, and four of the six elementary schools failed to achieve federal "annual yearly progress" requirements.

Yet, if the referendum fails, proposed cuts aren't designed to address the largest portion of the budget: salary and benefits. Instead the focus is on items that directly affect the kids. To maintain rising salary and benefits for a select group, the solution comes in the form of reduced staff resulting in larger class sizes and the elimination of sports, arts, languages, and programs for gifted kids and kids with special needs. If we're really concerned about our children and their futures, the debate should be about sharing the burden in difficult economic times, and most importantly getting our financial house in order. Recent events have shown that neither a great education nor deep experience are a guarantee of security or success. Both are essential, but without a sensible and sustainable approach to our finances, their value is highly diminished.

If it's really about the kids then vote no on April 5.

Richard Gorman is an Oak Park resident.

Reader Comments

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Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 9:26 AM

@Noel - "total cost of ownership" for what?You state "$5M will be spent for ground beautification for one school." What school? What project? Surely your cost model was based on something? "we created a cost model for this project & extended it out", again, what is "this project."

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 1:06 AM

The $5 mil is a TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP # based on our analysis of what it will cost to implement and maintain the grounds beautification through till 2020. The tax increase is permanent vs the working cash bond scheme which had a limited life. So we created a cost model for this project & extended it out. That is not misinformation. That is a realistic cost design, implementation, maintenance & some replacement. Will this improve teaching effectiveness & learning outcomes? NO. So Vote NO.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 4:51 PM

@Another No Vote - "$5 million may be overstating the budgeted cost" Overstating it? $2.8M is for the entire district, all 10 buildings. CAOP's flyer states $5M for one building. That is a pretty big difference.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 4:51 PM

@Another No - I would agree it would be overstating it if he said the $5 million was for all 10 schools. He's saying it is for ONE school. In addition, judging by the fact that a number of the district's schoolyards are in rough shape (Brooks, Julian and Irving to name a few), and that many are now being used for hands-on educational opportunities in math, science, art, etc., I don't think $280,000 per school is that significant of an investment over a seven-year period. Just my opinion though.

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 4:36 PM

$2.8 million that is.....

Another No Vote  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 4:34 PM

@EJ - $5 million may be overstating the budgeted cost but $2.8 for schoolyard enhancement is no small pocket change either.

Interesting from Oak Park  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 3:41 PM

@EJackson. I'm not disputing that D97 has some wonderful teachers and that they work hard, but your note regarding their "number of hours...." belies what I observe in the school parking lots. On most days I see the lots emptying out around 4sh - and they don't fill until 30 minutes before the class day begins. On Fridays the lots empty even sooner. Many DO work like you describe, but many do not. Tenure protects the latter - what does the contract require? How much "grading" for 2nd graders?

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 3:15 PM

I would also like to know where the "$5 million will be spent on grounds beautification at one school" comes from since, according to the presentation from the November 18 community forum on the referendum, the total investment in schoolyards at all 10 schools if the referendum passes is estimated to be $2.8 million. Guess the yes group hasn't cornered the market on scare tactics.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 2:11 PM

As for the "short work days" comment, perhaps you should spend a week shadowing a teacher and see the number of hours spent before school, after school, at night and on the weekends helping students, grading, writing lesson plans, staffing school-related events, etc.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 1:55 PM

cont. - Also, where is the poster recommending that we replace principals with master teachers or outsource art and music instruction to private tutors, which I believe contradicts the petition you are circulating to "save" the district's art and music programs from the chopping block? Lastly, no flyer saying that all the people buying into the emotional aspects of the referendum are "suckers?"

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 1:55 PM

cont. - Perhaps you could speak more eloquently about the district's success with the achievement gap and academic plans for the future if you had read any of the various reports delivered to the board this year, all of which are public documents.

E. Jackson  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 1:53 PM

Noel, interesting flyers. I'd like to hear how you came up with the $756 figure on the property tax one based on the Tribune article, especially using the $38 per $1000 calculation Mr. ElSaffar says is correct. I'd also like to hear about the decreased diversity from members of the Asian and Hispanic communities in Oak Park, both of which grew significantly since the last census.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 12:05 PM

Noel, this idea takes you where no man has gone before. You've obviously spent time thinking about the problem. But, you can't be serious about K - 8th students evaluating a teacher's performance? You want parents be asked to provide similar input but how would you take in to account a lack of parental involvement in the learning process. It's not just the teacher's fault if Johnny Can't Read.

Just Sayin'  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 11:17 AM

@ teachers are taking over....Do you really believe this? Is this some messed up Orwellian dream you're having?

Teachers are Taking Over from Socialist Oak Park  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 11:14 AM

Noel, saw the CAOP flyer. "Public schools exist of the teachers, by the teachers and for the teachers. While taxpayers struggle to make ends meet, teachers work in a privileged environment of high-paying, guaranteed jobs, three months a year off, short workdays and early retirement--all at an extremely high cost to the hardworking taxpayers of Oak Park and River Forest....The days of special deals for teachers must end! Educate the educator" Well said. VOTE No.

Just Sayin'  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 10:56 AM

I suspect that you, Mr. Kuriakos, would receive "detractor" status from many OPers based on your outrageous claims that 70-80% of D97 teachers should receive "detractor" status. SInce your are a numbers-based person, can you tell us where you derive the basis for this interesting assessment? Have you been canvassing door-to-door asking parents to complete surveys on teacher effectiveness? You are an evidence-driven person. Show us your evidence.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 10:48 AM

Voting NO will force the district to claw back some of the unconscionable increases of the last 4 yrs when most of us faced tough economic times, saw our compensation stagnate or reduced, saw our home values decrease and our taxes increase. If the referendum passes, it will be a green light to the union to court the money honey (the Board, & continue a decade of increased compensation without commensurates increase in teaching effectiveness & learning outcomes.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 10:44 AM

Since 2000 the percentage change in operating expenditure per pupil increased over 60%, while the percentage change in enrollment only inc by 7%. BTW, D97 enrollment was declining during most of the last decade. Only with the addition of all day kindergarten late in the decade did the enrollment inc. D97 tax levies inc 50% during that period, twice the rate of the CPI, yet they still managed to spend more than what the levies brought in. Where did the $$$ go? Tenure & benefits.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 10:38 AM

By voting NO, you are sending a message to the Board & the Union that tax payers will not fund their salary increases based on tenure. The salaries need to be reduced across the board by 3%-5% so that we can get back to a new normal & keep spending below the CPI. D97 employees also need to shoulder the increase in benefits since it does not increase teaching effectiveness or learning outcomes. These two measures, along with the cuts outlined by Sup Collins in June 2010 will close the deficit.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 10:32 AM

Another way to measure what to pay teachers is to see how much the kid learned from the teacher. What a concept! If we assess the student before school starts and after school ends, we can use this to determine if the teacher had earned their pay. D97 uses the Danielson model/framework to assess teachers. Unfortunately it does not incorporate student assessment!! Four schools in D97 failed AYP in 2010, yet all most all certified employees got a raise! Pay is not tied to learning outcomes!

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 10:26 AM

Based on a 10 pt scale you get Promoters (enthusiasts, 9-10), Passives (Satisfied by unenthusiastic 7-8), and Detractors (Unhappy 0-6). To calc the score, you take the percentage of customers who are Promoters and subtract the percentage who are Detractors. If we develop a similar question & ask students & parents about their teachers and school, I suspect 70% - 80% of the teachers will get score less than 5.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 10:22 AM

If you want to determine a fair teacher's salary then you need to provide additional attributes of a teacher. All teachers are not equal. Great teachers are effective, increase learning outcomes and creates an engaged learner (they want to learn more with less help from the teacher). In the business world there is a score called NetPromoter. It is based on a simple questions: How likely is that you would recommend (company x) to a friend or a colleague? Cont..

The Real OP Resident  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 8:10 AM

@OP Resident. You aren't going to get a meaningful answer on a forum to that question. If you really want to know, go look at the budget on the D97 website and see where the money goes. Keep in mind, there is no single student profile. Different students get different services, some reimbursed, some not etc etc. Not a simple answer.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 11:36 PM

Good question, Curious. That's just what I've been trying to figure out. It was suggested to me that type of info be requested from the school board but I was hoping someone on this forum could provide an actual breakdown on how the $13K per student is spent. We've got reports from teachers that they have been forced to spend their own money for supplies. That's unfair. We don't expect police officers to gas up their squads. I'm surprised more taxpayers aren't asking about expenditures.


Posted: March 26th, 2011 10:57 PM

The instructional cost per pupil for D97 is around $7700. I believe this cost covers teachers, benefits, books, lab equipment, etc. I think the remainder of the $13,000 operating cost per pupil is for basic services (building upkeep, custodians, heat, AC, snow plowing, mowing, etc.). Can anyone confirm this?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 3:58 PM

I really enjoyed the skit with Karl Marx in the movie "Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl". Terry Jones was very funny. This K. Marx; not so much.

K. Marx  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 3:36 PM

Nice try Math - you unearthed some of OPR's agenda at least. OPR will just need to sock puppet his way through this one. We all know the only real answer on pay is to rid ourselves of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 3:20 PM

And now back to you, What. I looked over the past posts and could not find anyone who has actually provided me with a dollar amount they considered a fair salary to pay a teacher. You said it's been answered three times but I couldn't find that information on this page of the forum. Please direct me to where you found that info. You advised me to ask the school board for a breakdown on how $13K per student is spent. Good idea but I thought that some of the posters had the specifics. Guess not.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 3:08 PM

Thanks, Math. Does that $69K include benefits? You should know that salary is less the secretary to the Oak Park Village Manager earns and about half of what department heads at Village Hall take home. In fact, the Public Works director wants to privatize all day-to-day operations and eliminate all full time staff with the exception of his department's supervisors. They stay on the payroll. Strange how it works in the public sector.

Math from Oak Park  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 2:33 PM

@OP Resident-$75k is too much. Using census data the ave income in OP is $77k, with over 60% of the population having above a BA degree. Prorating this for the teacher work yr, the equivalent w/b $56k. Note: D97 report card for 2009-10 said the ave salary was $69k (it w/b higher for the 2010-11 yr before the freeze). I'm willing to stick with that if the admin will make other cuts. Is that specific enough for you?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 1:26 PM

Hey, What! That's some dressing down you delivered. I'll take it to heart. You didn't chime in with what you think is a fair salary for a teacher to earn? In fact, no one is willing to provide an exact dollar amount. I'm prepared to say $75K in salary and benefits. Too much?

What is wrong with you  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 12:20 PM

I have seen the answer to your question three times. As to the other questions. Why don't you pose them to the school bd. You sound like a rabid dog. Tone done your rhetoric and stop targeting specific posters. You are a bully. I feel for your kids. No wonder we have a bullying problem here in the district. Just look at how some parents behave when they don't get EXACTLY what they want. I swear, it makes me want to leave this community. Boycotts, accusing people of not caring about kid

OP Resident  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 11:54 AM

Still waiting for a straight answer to a simple question. What's a fair salary for a teacher? Give me a dollar amount and we'll go from there. Is there anyone on this forum who has the facts & could provide a breakdown of $13K per student expenditure? Let's say $4K covers the teacher salary and benefits. How is remaining $9K spent? Is some of the money also spent to pay for janitors & school board lawyers, paying the light bill, purchasing desks, heating the school, etc.,. Take it to the penny.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 26th, 2011 5:57 AM

@Julie: Few blame teachers. But when the money dries up, issues get exposed that were long-ignored when the dollars were plentiful. Personally, I oppose the Ref not because of some vendetta against teachers, but because when I look at D97 costs overall, I see that they are higher than other districts and delivering lower test scores. I want D97 to live within its current budget and deliver more with less as others do currently. That cant be done without teachers' help. They are the key.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 10:40 PM

@Tom S. Sorry, but I beg to differ. Both you and Alan Reed are my rhetorical idols (and several other anon posters)! It'd be too bad if we won all the battles - but lost the war. I guess we'll learn on April 5th.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:46 PM

@chet21: you are a better man than I.

Can't Do it  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:40 PM

ElSaffar has always maintained that regardless of the language and the equalizer, the increase is $38 per $1000. It's the WJ, 3/23/11 page 25. Can we give this a rest, already.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 9:25 PM

@Everyone please... I am an opponent of the ref and can report that your statement is 1/2 correct. The multiplier was NOT taken in to consideration for the ballot wording, but the correct amt of the D97 request is $38/$1000 - which they have stated since the beginning. HOWEVER, as discussed earlier today on this post between EJackson & myself - does this "tainted" ballot lead voters to vote incorrectly? Only a court case (in one of 10 Cook Cty municipalities having ref) can answer definitively.

Everyone please read this carefully  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:50 PM

Full article is at:

Everyone please read this carefully  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:49 PM

After voter questioned lang on ref ballot stmt for D97 earlier this mo, ElSaffar went over it for WJ newspaper & determined that figures didn't factor in 3.3701 equalizer. "Voters are being told that they'll pay about 30% of what they actually will pay if ref passes," he said. A partner with CC, the law firm that helped D97 write its ballot stmt, told WJ that her firm understands the statute as not requiring use of the equalizer. From

Everyone please read this carefully  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:41 PM

Voters really understand this when making your decision: Your taxes will incr. $38 per $1000 tax bill but then this amt will be multiplied by D97's multiplier of 3.3701. Therefore, your ACTUAL taxes will be 3x higher than what D97 is publicly saying. D97 justified that they got their lang. from attny and didn't need to disclose the multiplier. Check out:

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:39 PM

@OP Res (cont'd) I have a Master's degree and 20 years experience, but if someone without one and/or less experienced can do the job as well as I can for less $, I should expect to be replaced. That's tough, but it's the market at work. So, should experienced teachers with a Master's degree get paid more? Yes, if they can do the job better and drive better ed outcomes than others without it. But not automatically. You want a single number, but you well know its too complex for a that. Ok?

Julie from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:33 PM

@ OP Resident, I am most definitely a "fan"--absolutely. I would like to add that those in the private sector make/made the choice to take that risk with the potential for major wealth as a result. While many enjoyed huge salaries & bonuses for years, teachers looked at a cost of living increase based on their negotiated contracts. We all know that times are tough. Professionals across the board have lost jobs & taken pay cuts, but don't blame teachers who may continue to make a fair salary.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:33 PM

@OP Resident: Sorry, I had to drive home from work, and spend time with my family. I fully reject your babysitter comparison for some of the reasons stated. Also, I would refuse to have anyone else pay for my babysitter and I'd be extremely reluctant to pay for anyone else's. Now, regarding my real answer, "whatever the market will bear", I stand by that.

@ OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:19 PM

Your analogy to what a babysitter is paid fails on many, many levels. When you pay a day care center for child care, the money goes to more than just the salary of providers. Unlike day care centers, teachers don't bear the cost of maintaining the physical school building. About salaries: Lawyers who serve as public defenders make between $40,000 and $60,000 in Chicago. I know college professors who make less than D97 teachers. Look at what other public servants make for comparison.

Working Class Joe  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:16 PM

OP Resident - sorry it has taken me awhile to get back, but I was at my 2nd full time job in order to provide for my family and give my children the opportunity to live in OP. The problem is I may not be able to if our taxes continue to rise. By the way I graduated from a "top school" with honors, and received a master's degree. I'm an engineer and many in my profession make a similar or less salary than teachers w/o the benefit package - sorry, it is the truth. Everyone is hurting right now.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 7:50 PM

@op resident- I'll answer. Teachers should make the same as op cops of similar tenure, prorated for working 9 months year. That's tge price of a defined benefit plan.

Get Real  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 7:01 PM

OP Resident-No one is blaming the teachers or putting the teachers down. Again, both sides of the debate have a high respect for the teachers and the work they do. However, an employee will always ask for the best pay pkg they can get. And it is the employer's responsibility to accept/revise that pay pkg according to budget constraints. Unfort. Dist97 has not held up their end by keeping pay in check. Now we have a mess to clean up w/ the only feasible long term solution of pay restructuring.

OP Mother  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 6:58 PM

The facts are the facts and the economy is the economy and still, I am torn. I do believe that teachers should earn a fair wage. But neither my husband nor I have had a pay raise in 3 years. My inclination is to bite the bullet and vote yes, but people like OP Resident give me pause. If the teachers "win", do the rude, hateful, ignorant win, too? Please cool your rhetoric or you will turn off other on the fence voters.

Arnold from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 6:47 PM

Whassamatter, OP Resident? Why are you so full of bile? Both Alan Reed and Tom Scharre come across as thoughtful, well-meaning and fair-minded. Are you jealous you don't have any "fans"?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 6:29 PM

Get Real, I 'm posting because of my respect for for teachers and understand that no one chose their profession to become wealthy. They have sacrificed to educate children and deserve our thanks. I'm probably should back off but am angered that the biggest mouths refuse to go on the record. You are right about the formula for funding education in Illinois. It stinks and is unfair to children living in poor communities. But that's not the fault of teachers.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 6:22 PM

I'm not an expert, Get Real. Just trying to pin done some dubious characters who refuse to answer a direct question offered in response to comments they have posted. How do you explain their lack of candor? I call 'em out just to see if there is real honesty to their opinion. Too often they prove to be weasels.

Get Real  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 6:21 PM

OP Resident cont-The point of this commentary and most of the posts below is that we as a community can not afford the current teacher/administrator/staff pay package. It is increasing faster than inflation and the District's revenues. Something must be done in order to fix this structural problem. The District has offered no solutions beyond minor fixes to keep the ship sailing without changing the course. Please keep to topic and show some respect.

Get Real  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 6:15 PM

OP Resident-how are you such an expert on salaries? You are way misguided to think that all of the those professions make at least $75k. And there are plenty of professionals with masters and doctorates making $35k-$50k. Do not equate that range to my expectations of teachers salaries. Everyone on here highly respects teachers & the job they do. However, there is no salary minimum out there for teachers - what the community can pay for should set their salaries.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 6:13 PM


OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 6:11 PM

Alan, I don't knw if you have children but wonder how much you pay for babysitting. We give our provider $20 for 4 hours. If that figure seems right; apply the formula to a school teacher. Figure 20 kids in a class. That's $100 per hour. And includes instruction by a skilled and experienced educator. Are you still willing to pay fair market value or do you look for the cheapest when it comes to babysitting services? The slope get slippery when you don't carefully examine an issue.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 6:03 PM

Come on,Alan. Put a dollar amount on what you think a teacher should be earning. Why is this such a tough question for you? I think teachers are underpaid and deserve a salary equal to what is earned by people with advanced degrees and experience. Like doctors, lawyers, accountants, pharmacists.,. So, let's start at $75K. Too much for you?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:57 PM

Answer the question, Tom Sharre or take a hike. Who cares if you use your name or post as Professor Irwin Corey? Gibberish is still gibberish. You can shut me up by going on the record. I'm not interested in meeting you face to face or playng dodgeball. That seems to be your sport.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:44 PM

OP Resident: I post under my actual, legal name. My address & phone number are easily accessible. If you would like to attack me face-to-face, I will meet you for lunch and pick up the tab. But be sure to spell my name correctly, or you will get incorrect information. Please chill. The Mayan Doomsday is still a year away.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:37 PM

@OP Resident: regardfing "love", see last post. Regarding wages, you'll dislike my answer, but it happens to be true...I believe that people should be paid whatever the market will bear, without the distorting impacts of unions and goverments except to ensure safety in the workplace and a living wage. I'm a believer in the free market...and sometimes that means that people need to adapt over the long haul. I sure have. Lifetime employment is a thing of the past.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:31 PM

btw, OP Resident: I understand and respect yours and others' passion regarding the issues around the Ref. Please try to understand that those of us who have chosen other options to educate our children look at the $13,500 expenditure per child per year and, via a different perspective but with no malice, see that as an awful lot of money already and the prospect of needing more quite shocking. We all love our children, but there are limits to what others can be asked to bear our on behalf.

OP Resdient  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:28 PM

Alan, are willing to answer the same questions I asked Tom Sharre?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:26 PM

Just as I expected, Tom Sharre. You got nothing to say but you're saying it. You were able to weasel out of answering a direct question but I think you've been exposed as a major blowhard.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:25 PM

@OP Resident: I made a suggestion, not a blanket statement. You're right, it probably wouldn't be something useful for 5 yr olds, but perhaps 6th or 8th graders. Clearly, some new solutions are needed. What ideas might you have that would begin to untangle these issues that will be around for years?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:23 PM

@OP Resident: Not to speak for Tom, but you're asking the wrong question (and simultaneously getting to the heart of the conflict in this issue). Most of us would spend all we have to educate a child we love. But, that's not the question the ref asks, nor is teacher pay. The ref asks "does D97 require more funding to serve the OP community?" and compared to other districts/options, the answer is "No"

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:19 PM

Alan Reed, you do realize we are talking about educating children as young as 5 years old? There is more to a teacher's responsibilities than simply lecturing. Technolgy in the classroom is a useful tool for educators but there is so much more involved in the learning process.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:18 PM

I am fairly certain you've heard the saying about some people knowing "the price of everything but the value of nothing." Peace out.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:13 PM

Spare me the Hallmark moment, Tom. Answer a simple question. What's fair compensation for a school teacher? Are you willing to go after salaries paid at Village Hall and the Park District? Your "fans" seem to agree with your postings and comments. How about convincing the rest of us that you have given the issue of fair pay for teachers a thoughful consideration. Or are you saving that hot air for a balloon ride?

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:11 PM

Here's a crazy sister-in-law is college professor in Columbus, Ohio and she specializes in teaching sign language. Because there are not enough students at one school for a full class, they broadcast and record her lectures to several campuses. At each campus there is an assistant who helps make sure the students are "getting it." Via new technology, I wonder if this is a way to reward and pay very talented and experienced teachers at less cost overall to the taxpayers. Ideas?

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 5:04 PM

Love is not measured in dollars.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 4:53 PM

Same question to you, Tom Scharre. What do you consider adequate compensation for a school teacher? Place a value on educating the children you "love". Tell us if you think the Village Manager or his department heads are overpaid. How about the Park District director and his superintendents? All make considerable more than a District 97 teacher.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 4:46 PM

I think we've found common ground, Fiscally. The funding method for public education in Illinois is unfair and unequal. It discriminates against the poor. I do wonder what you consider to be a fair salary to pay teachers? Is $75K too much?

Mary from OP  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 4:27 PM

Tom, Perfectly said.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 3:55 PM

Hey idea: I love children. I respect anyone who does their job well. Including teachers. I enjoy the arts. Embrace foreign languages. And support my community to the best of my ability. But I am going to vote "no." By the way, if you are the parent of any "darned public school kids", please know they are welcome to play on my lawn. Full disclosure: it is a very small lawn.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 3:14 PM

Hey, Frustrated, let's carry that thought a step further. Maybe we can't afford teachers at all! We should just close these pesky schools and get these darned public school kids off our lawn.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 3:07 PM

To Carol Threlkeld from OP: then perhaps the employees of District 97 should adjust all their salaries accordingly to keep all the teachers and staff necessary to maintain the programs. Instead the District will cut programs and staff to maintain the remaining employees salary and benefits. How many private sector companies have asked their entire staff to take pay cuts in order to save everyone's job? OP Resident I'll check in later because I've got a lot of work to do. The bills keep coming...

Carol Threlkeld from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 2:54 PM

@FFOP, just as a quick reminder, when you are making your calculation of what we can afford as a community, please take into account the art, music, language and sports teachers who are part of our community, and who face losing their jobs if the referendum fails to pass.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 2:40 PM

I'm not a member of any of the professions you have an issue with. I'm not sure why it matters. How about those ball players and movie stars? And many would be envious of your wife's satisfaction with her career. That is priceless. Read the letter again and try to relate to it objectively. This is about what WE can afford as a community.

Op Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 2:25 PM

I don't eat baloney; so I'm not buying it. Tell us, Real World and Fiscally Frustratewd what you do to earn a living, your level of education and how your work impacts the lives of people in this country? If you are a banker, doctor, accountant, pharmacist, lawyer, etc.,. you are likely earnig a lot more than the average teacher. My wife is not looking at a fat pension when she retires. She teaches because she knows she can make a difference. How many of you able to say the same?


Posted: March 25th, 2011 2:15 PM

OP Resident you are making the point of the letter. That is that the referedum is not about the kids but rather wages and benefits and keeping them. I would suggest most people work hard and District 97 teachers may work hard as well but appear to be highly and securely compensated. You seem very concerned about fairness and equity. The debate about the referendum is about the fairness and equity that the District's expenses place on all Oak Parkers who pay the costs of education in Village.

The Real World  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 2:12 PM

OP Resident-most people in the private sector work 70 hours a week to be successful. Anything less and you could be fired at a moment's notice. And the 70 hours are salary based not hourly with 2 weeks vacation a year. It seems that we all have top notch education and we all work hard-your wife has nothing on us. However the point is that none of us in the private sector have retirement packages that extend our salaries out for 30 years.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 1:26 PM

Share with us, Joe. What do you do for living that requires you to put in a 70 hour work week? How much of that time is compensated? What is your level of education & salary? My wife graduated with honors from a top university and holds two masters degrees. She teaches at a suburban school. The families are the working poor.Again, I'll ask to you get your facts straight before spouting off. Teaching is a stressful profession and salaries are meager compared to what other professionals earn.

Working Class Joe  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 1:02 PM

OP Resident - I'm glad your self-diagnosed superiority gave you're the opportunity to chuckle. I work similar hours as your spouse, but I don't have vacation from mid-June to mid-July, nor 2 weeks at Christmas, and another for Spring Break. What "poor" school does she work at in District 97? I don't think they exist. Based on your prior comments, I think you're just frustrated. Did Wall Street/insurance companies/"rich folks" do this to you too?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:32 PM

Working Class Joe, I'm sure your clueless comments gave some teachers a chuckle. Other may have have cried. You know zip about a teacher's life. My wife starts her day at 6am & won't make it home until dinner time. She's grading papers & contacting parents until bedtime. On weekends, there are hours spent lesson planning & preparing reports. Teaching 4th grade at one of the area's poorer schools is no picnic. Her 70 hour work week beats your schedule by a mile. All that for less than $55K.

Working Class Joe  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:05 PM

OP Resident - I think it is fair to say that teachers work less hours than those in the private sector, but based on current figures, they are making comparible salaries, not to mention that they retire as millionaires based upon roughly $70k in retirement per year for an conservative average of 15 years. I know my 401k is nowhere near that level, and I know it is all my own cash, not my neighbors. So yes, they work, but do they really work "harder" than anyone else - who's at the pool in July.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:46 AM

Fiscally Frustrated is right but so am I. The attacks on teachers are unprecedented in my lifetime. It is not fair to demand techers produce better results without demanding accountability from parents, adminstrators and politicians. I think too many people don't understand how much time teachers dedicate to their students and profession. They are not reponsible for the current economic woes but have become an easy target for blame and abuse by corporate funded hacks like the Gov. Walker.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:32 AM

To OP Resident: I think you missed the point of the letter.

Time for Change  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:56 AM

Your article is intelligent and informative. I hope your points resonate with the readers.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 4:40 PM

Tom Gorman seeks "sharing the burden in difficult economic times". The teachers are agreeable to that but I don't see anyone else coming on board. So far, only the middle class and working poor are being told to carry the load while those solely responsible for these economic hard times been able to convince some people to fight against their own best interests. We saw that when the insurance companies funded protests against health reform. It's happening now with the blitz against unions.

Luke Scottwalker from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 3:14 PM

Brilliant piece, Mr Gorman. As a lifelong OP resident, age 55, I remain confused by the continued overspending by both school systems in light of the drop in population from 1970 to today. That and the over-inflated opinion of education quality in light of statewide rankings. A NO vote and real reform is the only, logical answer.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 6:10 PM

I am actually quite encouraged to see the commenters that agree this letter is full of some things that we have not heard from the schools or our newspapers here in Oak Park, actual data and straightforward logic. After 22 years, the "It's for the kids" plea is getting downright insulting. Cutting music and arts while the teachers are continuing to get raises, increased benefits as well as increased staffing levels is a deal breaker. Sorry D97, but I think we just got pushed too far.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 4:55 PM

The money that will be saved from the teacher pay freeze will be used to retain teachers that might otherwise be let go.

Status Quo - No  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:58 PM

Even if the salaries and benefits can't be addressed I dislike that there has been new spending added to the budget instead of using that money to at least help preserve some of what is on the cutting block - I find that frustrating.

KCaffrey from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:35 PM

While I tend to agree about teacher salaries and benefits, that issue is not on the table in this election. Your thoughts are valid, but misguided in this context. The fact is that if this referendum doesn't pass, the kids will be the losers. The D97 board has cut costs wherever possible, but addressing teacher compensation is not currently an option. Why penalize kids just to make a moot point? Please start this discussion again before the next teacher contract is negotiated. I'm voting yes.

Beyond the Rhetoric from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:18 PM

@LanceManion: LOL. Yeah, it's pretty thick out there. The disturbing trend of ugliness in national politics rears its head in local OP politics. I guess you can't talk logic and data with a button-wearing mother afraid of losing her child's free music lessons who's convinced it's "for the (i.e., her) children". If they put a billion dollar ref on the ballot tomorrow, she'd still vote YES and post a sign in her yard. Others have said "pod people" and "kool aid drinkers" and I agree.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:17 PM

Thoughtful. Rational. Reasonable. And undeniably true. Mr. Gorman, you have made an excellent case for why a "no" vote does not come from a mean spirit. As Theodore Roosevelt said, "There is only one quality worse than hardness of heart and that is softness of head."

LanceManion from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:10 PM

Uh, I'd appreciate it if we could not focus on facts, but instead focus on our feelings and hearsay and innuendo, while simultaneously lobbing ad hominem attacks at anyone who has a differing opinion, particualrly if that differing opinion deviates from my perception of what an Oak Parker should be like and believe in. Thank you.

Beyond the Rhetoric from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:09 PM

Thanks, Richard, for speaking up. Beyond the fervent "It's for the kids, keep property values high" dogma, this issue remains unaddressed. Even the WJ has touched on the need for change and management of these issues, but District 97 is apparently too busy whipping up a marketing campaign, threatening to kill the arts and scaring parents to actually address this serious issue. Frustrating, b/c getting to a reasonable solution that doesn't hurt teachers but is sustainable for taxpayers is key.

TellingItLikeIt Is  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:01 PM

Agreed. Of 46 large elementary districts in Cook County, D97 is 4th in instructional expenditures per student and 19th in wealth (as determined by Equalized Assessed Property Value per student). Most districts in need of a legitimate tax increase point to low expenditures and low tax rate relative to neighboring communities of comparable wealth. D97 can do neither because its salaries and expenditures are already among the highest in the county.

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