After six months of effort, the two sides negotiating a new pact with teachers at OPRF High School can point to “substancial progress” and “good faith.” 

Not good enough, apparently, as the Faculty Senate (i.e. the union) and the school board are now heading to non-binding mediation. A first session with federal mediation was reportedly scheduled for this past Monday.  

Given the perfect storm in which District 200 has placed itself, that is not a surprise, nor a particular disappointment. If these negotiations had been short and sweet, taxpayers would have been in trouble.

The Imagine OPRF committee is pushing a $145 million-plus building renovation project that will, seemingly, require some level of referendum support from taxpayers.

The district is sitting on $100 million in reserves, a good portion of which it bent every rule to illicitly collect from taxpayers. Faculty see that cash and, inevitably, want a good piece of it and certainly don’t want any cries of poor mouth from the district.

A brand new — as in released Monday night — report from the village government’s Taxing Bodies Efficiency Task Force, pushes hard, suggesting that no tax hike referendums should be put forward until 2030, that spending increases should be capped by the Consumer Price Index, and, in an unnamed nod to OPRF, that any capital plans among taxing bodies should be primarily paid for out of cash on hand. 

Makes for tough negotiations, which will be more or less a novelty for this school district. Look back over the past two decades as spending at the high school has accelerated and you will find a series of stunningly generous, while also stunningly unambitious, contracts with faculty. 

That simply cannot be allowed to happen again. So, mediation? Bring it on. Binding arbitration? Could be next.

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