HINSDALE – While salary negotiations continue between teachers and the district, tensions are mounting over the possibility of a District 86 teacher strike.
During the week of July 27, the District 86 Board of Education asked that teachers promise not to go on strike during the upcoming school year.
The Hinsdale High School Teachers Association has not obliged, and although the union announced that it plans to be working in the weeks leading up to the first day of school, as well as on the first day Aug. 22, the teachers are holding onto the ability to strike after the school year starts.
Meanwhile, information from both sides of the aisle has been circulating throughout July via news releases and emails.
Outspoken community member Linda Burke said she feels the goal of the District 86 board isn’t to figure out contracts, but rather to force teachers out using a regressive bargaining tactic.
“The evidence fits together like a jigsaw puzzle,” she said in an email. “The board majority wants a teacher strike. They are already poised to replace all of our teachers.”
However, in a speech delivered during the committee of the whole meeting Monday, District 86 Board President Richard Skoda said the district has made real concessions to an offer they already consider fair. He also denied any use of a regressive bargaining tactic, and said there has never been an aim to fire teachers.
“The board has never in public nor in private contemplated firing teachers and replacing them with inexperienced teachers,” Skoda said. “Besides such action being contrary to the wishes of the board and the community, firing teachers is prohibited by the contract, by state tenure statute, and by state bargaining requirements.
“This is a total falsehood that is circulating in emails and in social media and those circulating it know this to be the case.”
The claim of regressive bargaining stems from the board’s offer, which increases the cost teachers would have to pay for health care – a cost teachers claim is unfavorable.
During the District 86 Finance Committee meeting July 31, the committee members explained that the district has to pay about $9.2 million in health care costs this coming school year. Of that amount, about $1.1 million comes from employee contributions.
“Taxpayers have absorbed 100 percent of the increases [to health care costs],” school board member Ed Corcoran said.
Another point of recent contention between the board and the teachers has been what bonuses are paid for advanced degrees.
The current board offer grants $2,000 stipends to new teachers with a masters degree in their subject area. That stipend could potentially grow to $4,000.
But the teachers association argues that advanced degrees in teaching should be considered the same as an advanced subject area degree.
“Mr. Skoda and the other new board majority are openly displaying their ‘respect’ for education in this statement: a degree in education is not a subject area degree,” an admin posted on the HHSTA website. “That’s not an error of anything but omission.”
As time passes between salary negotiations, the teachers union has regularly used social platforms to discuss their vexation with the way negotiations have been going.
Posts by admins on the teachers association’s Facebook page often include words of resentment towards the board, followed by a news story or blog post about the current state of negotiations.
One of those posts included an image of an axe striking the dashboard of a car. The news site took responsibility for the graphic, calling it a glitch, and said they instead intended to have the image of the teachers association logo there.
However, the image had already caused tensions to flare.
“The posting of this alarming graphic has been interpreted by some as a threat to person and property leading to much unnecessary anxiety in families,” Skoda said.
“The explanation, if accepted, explains how the axe picture may have been inappropriately attached. However, it is uncertain, at this time, if that explanation is valid.”
He said the teachers association was asked to remove the image, but no action was taken for four days.