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Editorial: Demand action, not symbols from board

There is an easy, emotional response to the suggestion the District 192 School Board might ask some of its administrators to volunteer for a pay freeze. "Darn right!" some will say. "Everyone else is struggling. Let school employees feel some of the pain, too."

If the district wants to balance its books, the argument goes, let them make cuts, not raise taxes.

Problem is, the voluntary pay freeze discussed and rejected Monday would go approximately nowhere in any attempt at adjusting the District 192 budget. The money tied up in any salary increases affected employees are due is a tiny fraction of the district's overall budget.

Even Tim Burke, the board member who proposed the freeze, said Tuesday he did not know how many employees the move would affect. Nor did he know how much the district could save if every affected employee volunteered to keep his or her salary at the current level. The move, he said, would be largely symbolic.

But we don't elect school board members to make symbolic gestures. We elect them to make tough decisions. To make sure our children get the best education possible. Not to debate resolutions that are ultimately hollow.

If the district's administrators want to take a pay cut in a show of solidarity with district residents, then more power to them. If board members want to demand a salary freeze, then let them do it. But to ask employees to volunteer -- you know, if it's OK with them -- is passive-aggressive and not particularly helpful.

None of which is to say the school board should not have salaries on its mind. Several employee groups have contracts up for negotiation this year. Board members and unions alike should be focused on making sure making sure those new contracts are in the best interest of the district as a whole. If that means no salary increase, then so be it. If you disagree with the results of those negotiations, then complain about those.

Otherwise, let's let the board concentrate on work that really matters.