D97 needs more than teacher wage freeze, cuts

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Due to the fiscal mismanagement by the state, public school districts throughout Illinois are being forced to make difficult decisions regarding how to keep themselves funded. Reserves are all but depleted. District 97 is no different. Though the district has made budget cuts throughout the past 10 years, its fund balances will be severely depleted by 2013.

On April 5, District 97 will be asking voters to support a referendum that will generate much-needed funding for our schools in the form of an increase of $38 for every $1,000 on property tax bills. If the referendum doesn't pass, the programs that will be eliminated at the start of the 2011-12 school year will be numerous. They include elementary art and Spanish, fourth and fifth grade instrumental music, CAST and BRAVO drama programs, plus all sports and other after school programs at the middle schools. The number of resource teachers in the Gifted, Talented, and Differentiation program and the media specialists will be cut in half. There will also be reductions of positions held by middle school assistant principals, central office administrators, teaching assistants, and secretaries. In short, the cuts, totaling approximately $4.5 million, will be staggering.

The Oak Park Teachers' Association (OPTA) and several other employee groups agreed to a wage freeze for the 2011-12 school year. These actions will save the district more than $1 million dollars next year and additional dollars going forward. However, even with these savings, the district will still be facing a structural deficit that will have a profound impact on the educational experience being offered to students.

We are asking you to help maintain the excellence of Oak Park's public school system by voting for this referendum on April 5 and encouraging your friends and neighbors to vote for it as well. Your support on this important issue will determine the future of education for the children of this community.

Susan Tresselt, Jennifer Nelson, Allison Ibarra, Stacie Klein, Linda Koplin, Paul Packer, Mary Alheim, Lynne Beauprez, Faith Cole, Stella Turi and Arnetta Thompson

Oak Park Teachers Association
Executive Board

Reader Comments

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Joe Public from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2011 8:55 PM

Maybe if Oak Park hadn't voted "yes" to OPRF high school's double referendum, they wouldn't have gotten substantial raises a few years ago. Now they are 30% higher than those of District 97. Seems nobody has a problem with that since nobody suggests they take a pay freeze.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 11:58 AM

[Any estimates or assumptions contained herein represent our best judgment as of the date indicated and are subject to change without notice. Examples are merely representative and are not meant to be all-inclusive] The fund balances can increase by controlling expenses, especially total compensation (by salary reductions & shifting benefit costs increases). Voting NO will force D97 to take such measures instead of cutting core curriculum programs like visual art & music.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 11:56 AM

Lets be clear the fund balance is a PROJECTION based on assumptions. Here is what PNC the consulting firm says about there #s. The analysis or information presented herein is based upon hypothetical projections and the war past performance and have certain limitations. No representation is made that it is accurate or complete or that any results indicated will be achieved. In no way is past performance indicative of future results. cont..

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 1st, 2011 10:05 AM

@EJ. I see that you just referenced Trib Local. Well, I did the same last night. Please scroll down for that reference and then share your opinion regarding my posts, particularly the ones related to why the "YES!" campaign is based upon the immediate $5M in cuts to CAST/BRAVO, etc - while, per article, "lowpoint" of negative $1.2M isn't "projected" until 2013. Jassen is finessing with ISBE, etc. That's just suggestions/guidelines, not statute/law.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 11:13 PM

@Jassen. We're discussing apples and oranges. The ENTIRE "yes" campaign is built on "if the ref fails there will be $5M in cuts and so you better vote yes and prevent the elimination of CAST/BRAVO/MUSIC/ART, Ms. Rosa, the secretary, 1/2 of the Media Specialists, etc!" I now provide info that thoroughly disputes this and you say, "yeh, but, we don't really want to go that low."? "RIF" notices have gone out and parents are furious & despondent and you aren't happy with my info? Peace. Bed-time.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 11:11 PM

@chet21 - "with feigned good intentions and manners, I'll be privately ostracized and publicly semi-ignored." sorry you feel that way. There are a lot of 'nobodies' on the FORC and a lot of people that aren't "yes men," as some would say. Their opinions are still valued. Oh well.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 11:07 PM

@chet21 - but again, nobody should be convinced by me. Do the research. Look at the ISBE website (http://www.isbe.state.il.us/sfms/ABCsofAFR/ABCsofAFRdefault.htm) or other resources.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 11:03 PM

@chet21 - As I said. we have been over this and just disagree. If you are willing to run a district with a budget in the mid-$60M range with a fund balance down to anywhere close to $1.2M, then we are just never going to see eye-to-eye on this. There are district that have done it and it doesn't go well. I also want to note that I misspoke about the ISBE score and was thinking of cash on hand, not fund balance, though clearly related.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 10:56 PM

@Jassen. Finance Cmte? I'm a nobody (esp if the ref passes) and my experience in these sort of matters is that, with feigned good intentions and manners, I'll be privately ostracized and publicly semi-ignored. In my first posts I wrote that I'm not interested in "tilting at windmills." I'm now convinced that D97 can lose this ref, re-huddle and reform, and then get it right for, if necessary, a ref next year. The money is there and CAST/BRAVO/MUSIC/ART, etc. don't have to be cut by one penny.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 10:46 PM

@ Jassen. FY2013 ends on June 30th, 2013. Read the preceding paragraphs, there are a lot of "he saids," referring to Traczyk, without quotes. A ref in April of 2012 brings $$ by Dec of 2012 - 1/2 way thru the FY. Further, & most importantly, the "lowpoint" is just $1.2M - why is D97 and the YES! campaign still holding to the $5M in cuts? You don't think that they can find $1.2M in cuts in 1.5 yrs? Again, please answer this: why $5M in cuts when FY2013 (1.5 yrs away) "lowpoint" is only $1.2M?

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 10:41 PM

@chet21 - The other important element in the story is that the Board is required to either make cuts or go for a referendum if their are projecting a negative fund balance in the next two years (as we currently are). That is exactly the options posed to the voters on April 5th. Chet, I would encourage you to volunteer to serve on the financial oversight committee for D97. You seem to have good ideas and that is where much of their financial direction comes from.

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 10:38 PM

@chet21 - as for fund balance, we have been over this many times and we just disagree. ISBE has guidelines, you disagree with them and are willing to run a lower balance. Ask Noel about that one. He has been calling the district ISBE financial score "disgraceful" and since the fund balance is the only thing giving D97 a bad score, he must agree we need to increase the fund balance (though through different means).

Jassen Strokosch from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 10:33 PM

@chet21 - 1) that isn't a quote. You will notice the reporter didn't use quote marks. Thats important because it should read FY2013 which isn't the same as 2013. 2) "Mr. Traczyk seems to have known all along" Yes, he and everyone else who attended any of the public planning sessions, workgroups or Board metings going back 9 months has heard Peter and Bob and PMI and everyone else involved in the referendum say that very thing many times.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 9:43 PM

Pt. 3. @Jassen & EJ. In truth, I'm looking for corroboration of this information. It appears straight-forward to me and does appear to answer my perpetual question of "why is D97 proposing $5M in cuts when deficit is only $3M AND 6/30/11 fund balance is $17M - just $3M less than two previous fiscal years?" Thanks.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 9:24 PM

Pt. 2. @Jassen -will you NOW (after speaking w/Mr.T) send out an email blast to your followers and say, "hey, armaggedon ain't happening until 2013 - you don't have to lose sleep about, y'know, the previous message of cuts to CAST/BRAVO/ARTS/MUSIC, etc!"? EJ. You are so prolific with your comments and questions-what do you have to say about this revelation from Mr. Traczyk? Oak Park Voters - you can NOW safely send a message of reform to D97 and vote NO. BTW, D97 health care plan,IMO,is fair.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 9:16 PM

PTl 1. @Jassen & EJ. Finally, it's here - and Mr.Traczyk seems to have known it all along: http://triblocal.com/oak-park-river-forest/2011/03/31/local-school-leaders-defend-obscene-balances/ Go to 2nd to last paragraph and here's the quote: "The lowest point is projected to be be in the negative in 2013, when the district would be $1.2M in the hole." TRANSLATED: D97 CAN LOSE REF, work on reform for 6 months (with me?) and then place, if necessary, new ref on ballot in April, 2012.

Free Health Care?  

Posted: March 31st, 2011 9:06 PM

Just to set things straight with OP RESIDENT...I am an OP 97 teacher and I pay about $750 per month for health care. I worked in the public sector for 20 years before taking on teaching and my health care contribution was far less....just an FYI--you sound very UPSET so you may want to get your facts straight.

KPost  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 9:20 PM

1 year freeze extends the ZERO to employee healthcare prem until 2014 and 3%/2% merit/step increase. Assuming the board was really going to get serious/hard noses about future negotiations, this would be on the block. So accepting a freeze actually costs the OP taxpayer more. Did anyone call for renegotiation of the contract? Or were they just busy calling families asking to place a Referendum Yes sign in their yard?

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 12:42 AM

If OPTA believes its members are worth every $ then they should tear up the current contract, walk the talk by agreeing to a pay for performance system starting with the 2011-12 sch yr. The current pay lanes & scales is a remnant of the 20th century sch system. We are well into the 21st century & teachers pay & performance need to catch up to reality & to the rest of the economy. Progressive CBs across the country have embraced modern pay practices & OPTA should do the same or be left behind.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 12:36 AM

The OPTA should do the right thing for our kids & share in the pain by taking an across the board 3%-5% cuts & agree to shoulder future benefit cost increases. This will allow core areas such as musical & visual arts to survive. It will allow the district to eliminate the structural deficit & keep its expenditures below the annual CPI inc in tax levies. A NO vote will force the hand of the OPTA. OP tax payers have been generous, but the good time are over. We have a new normal.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 12:30 AM

While the private sector, non-profits, & publicly financed charter schools have implemented pay based on performance, OPTA members have not. While 4 of our schools FAILED AYP, all most all OPTA members received their raises. While our children from our minority population continue to lag their white peers, OPTA members still receive their scared raises. OPTA members' performance eval does not take into account student learning outcomes or teaching effectiveness. A NO vote will change that.

Noel Kuriakos  

Posted: March 30th, 2011 12:26 AM

The OPTA would be expected to put out such as statement. But OP tax payers are not going to buy into this. First of all while the rest of our country has experienced the worst recession since the 1930s, OP taxpayers loosing their jobs, taking salary cuts, paying more for their benefits, OPTA members received raises & bonus yr after year, refused to shoulder more of the benefits costs & have not been held accountable for learning outcomes & teaching effectiveness.

John Abbott from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 11:36 PM

You gotta love someone who signs himself "OP Resident from Oak Park" -- a designation that calls into question whether, a) the person is actually an Oak Parker or b) ever managed to graduate from school. In which case, the animus against teachers perhaps becomes more understandable. That said, I do really appreciate all the capital letters, because otherwise I would have had a hard time following the argument here.

Chill out  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 11:23 PM

@OP Res: Time for you to call it a night...I think you've been over-served.

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 11:06 PM

You guys are UNBELIEVABLE - you have have the audacity after you pay raises for each the last 10 years, collective bargaining agreements, you get your health care PAID, pensions PAID yet ONE year PAY FREEZE you think that makes up for it all? You guys are the reason we ARE IN THIS MESS! Give us a 3 YEAR PAY FREEZE, and pay your own damn health care, then we might back your tenured asses... UNIONS = CLOWNS.

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