Negotiations continue apace on a new contract with teachers in the District 97 Oak Park elementary schools. That according to a joint statement released last week by the district and the teachers union. 

The release was a bit of PR mumbo jumbo. It states a goal of a contract that “rewards the dedication and hard work of our teachers, aligns with the district’s commitment to fiscal stewardship and that will benefit our students, our schools and the village of Oak Park.”

We’d expect nothing less.

But the release does suggest some substantive discussions as, working with a federal mediation facilitator from the start, the two sides are talking about length of the school day and work day, evaluations, planning time.

As the district and teachers continue to meet weekly with a goal of a May contract, we’d offer three hard reminders:

Equity. The school board and administration have baked the concept of equity into every strategic goal, public pronouncement and pep rally. The most foundational path to equity is through the contract with teachers.

Innovation. District 97 bent and broke the norm with its last teacher contract. Now is the time to build on those innovations in pay systems, methods of evaluation, paths to greater teacher leadership. This new contract cannot be a breather on the path to the future.

Costs. We read the PR speak about length of the school day and planning time as wanting more teaching time, wanting more ways to foster collaboration among teachers in how they reach out and take hold of the kids who struggle. We hope we’re right. And we think that taxpayers will, within a narrow window, accept pay hikes to support that work. But one critical reality here is that a new contract cannot speed a tax hike referendum. Oak Parkers will not put up with that. They just won’t.

Keep talking. And bring us a contract that convinces us D97 is authentically focused on equity and taxpayers.

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