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Editorial: Weight lifted after settled contract

Published 11:05pm Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Everyone won when Niles Community Schools and the Niles teachers’ union signed off on a new teachers’ contract Monday.

The district freed up enough money in compensation to more or less fix its structural deficit problem.

The teachers negotiated less of a pay cut than what was originally proposed by the district.

And, most importantly, the students won, too.

Teachers and administrators no longer have the distraction of worrying about reaching a new contract. Their sole focus can go back to educating children.

The community can also rest assured the district won’t go into deficit for at least another three years.

School officials say the district will remain above water until sometime in the 2015-16 school year even without retirement reform by the state.

This school year, the district will pay 27 percent toward teacher retirement funds. That means for every dollar the district pays a teacher, the district must also pay 27 cents toward retirement. Next year, that number will jump to 33 percent.

For some perspective, the district was paying 14.8 percent toward retirement six years ago.

It’s no wonder board members were cautiously optimistic when voting to ratify the deal Monday.

The deal itself is fine. It’s the retirement reform — which is completely out of their control — that has them worried. With retirement reform, the district should be sitting pretty for a long time.

Let’s just hope Lansing can come to an agreement on retirement reform, much like Niles Community Schools and the Niles teachers’ union did on a new teachers’ contract.

This editorial represents the views of the editorial board.

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