In Illinois, New Funds Bring Rancor, not Rapprochement
Local teachers' unions and school boards in several Illinois districts are learning that an influx of state funds for education does not necessarily produce harmonious contract negotiations--even if the funds were intended to boost teacher salaries.
The legislature's appropriation this year of an additional $211 million in state aid for schools--money envisioned as a way to raise minimum teacher salaries but ultimately left unearmarked--has increased rather than decreased the tension at the bargaining table, as some districts have allocated their share to other purposes.
Others--most notably Springfield--have directed the additional funds to salary increases, but there has not been an "automatic allotment to affect teacher salaries," said Gerald R. Glaub, assistant executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards.
Last month, he said, Springfield renegotiated contracts to give teachers bigger pay increases. But many other districts were not financially able to put money into salaries; they needed additional funds just to balance their budgets, Mr. Glaub said.
But Reginald L. Weaver, president of the Illinois Education Association, which represents teachers in most districts outside Chicago, argues that those districts are "poormouthing."
He said the lawmakers who backed the legislation made it clear that "the money be used to bolster salary negotiations."
"The idea," he said, "was that without a set minimum state salary for teachers, school boards would have more money" overall to work with in salary negotiations.
''It is difficult for districts to claim they don't have money when in fact additional funds were granted by the legislature," said Mr. Weaver.
Other union officials said the additional state funds would help districts make long-delayed salary adjustments. In seeking double-digit percentage increases for their members now, they argued, they are trying to make up for lean years in the 1970's and early 1980's, when states and cities were in a financial crunch and salaries did not keep pace with inflation.
But according to Lugene Finley, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education, the money was an added supplement to general state aid and thus it is up to local districts to determine "what portion goes for salaries versus other needs."
Vol. 05, Issue 01, Page 4