Ill. School Board: Making Change Work

By Del Stover

With the district running a sizable deficit and the fiscal picture looking bleak for the foreseeable future, school leaders in Illinois’ Skokie-Morton Grove School District 69 knew they had to make some major changes in how they did business.

But they didn’t limit themselves to the standard, everyday response to a budget crisis --  painful spending cuts and staff layoffs.

Instead, they decided to use their financial crisis as an impetus for something new and revolutionary. After lengthy talks with their teachers union, school officials broke away from the traditional salary schedule and tied future compensation to inflation --  a move that should help stabilize future budgets.

It only makes sense, says Superintendent Quintin Shepherd.

“Under the old compensation model, a teacher got a percentage increase for advancing a year on the salary schedule, and over time, that’s like compound interest that’s added to their salary every year --  it continues to grow,” he says. “This is a problem because these salary increases have nothing to do with the district’s revenue stream.”

The new compensation model is a radical change --  one that will prevent salary costs from outpacing revenues as it did in the past, school officials say. That should help the district contain costs and, in future economic hard times, make it easier to avoid drastic cuts in academic programs or teacher layoffs.

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