Madison Board of Education Should Not Rush to Vote on Layoffs

In the aftermath of the votes on the May 24th Madison School referenda, it is critical that the Madison School Board not rush to vote on layoffs of teachers and other staff. Currently, the Board is scheduled to vote on layoffs at noon on Thursday, May 26. This deadline for layoff votes is self-imposed by the district and Madison Teachers Inc (MTI). State law sets a later deadline. The district and the union could change the May 26 date by mutual agreement. In 2003 the vote on layoffs following a referendum for the operating budget was scheduled for June 4.

Certainly our employees deserve for the district to put an end to the uncertainty in their job futures as soon as we reasonably can. Families counting on our programs also need an end to uncertainty about 2005-06. However, I hope that the Board will not vote on layoffs until it has considered asking MTI to look for mutually agreeable options to limit or avoid layoffs. We would be very late to start this discussion. On the other hand, there is precedent in recent Dane County history for local government and unions to avoid layoffs through negotiations. In October of 2003, County Executive Kathleen Falk and AFSCME union leaders did exactly that. County Executive Falk Announces No COLA / No Layoff Labor Union Agreements with County Workers
It is also important to remember that the Board of Education has not finalized the budget for 2005-06. That budget is the basis for the current list of $7.4M in staff and programs. A four-vote majority could make changes within the budget. That flexibility might be helpful to the negotiation process.