Hinsdale district dispute highlights need for greater transparency

Paul Kersey

Labor law expert, occasional smart-aleck, defender of the free society.

Paul Kersey
/ Labor
October 16, 2014

Hinsdale district dispute highlights need for greater transparency

For weeks, teachers in Hinsdale Township High School District 86 threatened to strike after contract negotiations went awry. But on Oct. 9, the union and district officials reached a deal. A strike was avoided, but at what cost? Hinsdale taxpayers won’t find out until after the ink is dry on the new contract because of...

For weeks, teachers in Hinsdale Township High School District 86 threatened to strike after contract negotiations went awry. But on Oct. 9, the union and district officials reached a deal. A strike was avoided, but at what cost? Hinsdale taxpayers won’t find out until after the ink is dry on the new contract because of the secrecy that surrounds collective bargaining.

A lot was at stake in this contract, and the politics have been intense. In the past few months, the district’s negotiating team argued that demands made by the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association would cost the district an additional $6.4 million. Even in Hinsdale, a comparably well-off community where teacher salaries can exceed $120,000, that’s a lot of money.

On Oct. 3, the union filed notice of intent to strike, and after a heated public meeting, the board replaced two members of the bargaining team. In the very next bargaining session the district and the union announced it had a tentative agreement.

The new contract hasn’t brought an end to the controversy: The union has taken objection to fliers and emails sent out by the board members who were removed from the negotiating team, and is also alarmed by the decision to schedule a meeting of the board’s finance committee on Friday morning.

With the sudden decision to change the district’s negotiating team followed by the sudden agreement on a contract, Hinsdale taxpayers have good reason to suspect the board gave in on all or nearly all of the union’s demands. But again, there’s no way to know for sure because the terms of the tentative agreement are being kept from the public.

The Illinois General Assembly has considered legislation that would require school boards and other government agencies to make public tentative agreements with unions before they are ratified. The political fight in Hinsdale is just another example of why this legislation is needed.

Did the board capitulate? Right now, it’s impossible to say. Taxpayers are completely in the dark on what the district has agreed to in this new contract, despite the fact that they’ll be footing the bill.

In Hinsdale, the politics were fierce and the stakes high. Hinsdale taxpayers deserve to know what they’re on the hook for. The school board has scheduled a meeting on Oct. 20 to ratify the new contract. If board members really care about good government, transparency and support from the community, they’ll release the tentative agreement to the general public immediately. It’s only fair.

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