Thursday, March 10 was an eventful day. With the approval by the state Assembly of legislation stripping public employees of nearly all collective bargaining rights, it appears that our school district has about a day to negotiate with our teachers and other bargaining units represented by MTI about an extension of our current collective bargaining agreement, which expires at the end of June. (We have already agreed to extensions for our two bargaining units represented by AFSCME and for our trades workers.)
Board members have received hundreds of emails from our teachers and others requesting that we extend their contracts and that we do it quickly. Here is the response I sent to as many of the emails as I could on Thursday night. I apologize to those to whose messages I simply didn’t have time to respond.
Thanks for contacting me to urge the School Board to extend the contract for our teachers and other represented employees.
This is a difficult situation for all of us and one that all of us would have preferred to have avoided. However, it is here now and we have to deal with it.
Like all our Board members, I respect, value and like our teachers. I want to do whatever I can to ease the stress and uncertainty that we’re all feeling, but I’m also required to act in the best interest of the school district and all of our students.
The situation before us is that if we do not extend the contract with our teachers, then, once the legislation approved today goes into effect, collective bargaining will effectively come to an end.
The School Board met tonight to discuss the terms of a contract that we could responsibly enter into for the next two years, given the uncertainty we face. We agreed on a proposal, which we submitted to MTI this evening. Like our previous settlements with other bargaining units, the proposed contract gives us the flexibility we need to adapt to the requirements imposed on us by the new state law, as well as the reduced spending limits and reduction in state aid that are parts of the proposed budget bill.
The proposed contract is written so that it gives the District discretion over changes in salary and in contributions to retirement accounts and to the cost of health insurance. I recognize that you can feel uncomfortable about the extent of the discretion that our proposal reserves for the school district. We have to write the contract this way, because any change in the contract – like re-opening the contract to adjust its terms – triggers application of the new state law that abolishes nearly all collective bargaining. So we have to draft the contract in a way that any adjustment in its economic terms does not amount to an amendment or change to the contract, and providing the school district with discretion to make such changes seems like the only way to do this.
The Madison School Board scheduled a meeting for 2 p.m. Saturday to approve a deal with its unions before a Republican law to strip collective bargaining takes effect.
The vote is scheduled less than 48 hours after the School District and Madison Teachers Inc. exchanged initial proposals Thursday night at a hastily called School Board meeting.
The two proposals, released by the district Friday afternoon, called for extending contracts until June 30, 2013, and freezing wages, but differed on benefit concessions and other details.
MTI asked that teachers be granted amnesty and given full pay for four days missed last month. Hundreds of teachers called in sick on Feb. 16, 17, 18 and 21 to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to limit collective bargaining. Walker signed the bill Friday after the Legislature approve it Wednesday and Thursday.
MTI also asked for the missed days to be made up by adding 8 to 15 minutes to the end of every school day through the rest of the year. That would fulfill a state requirement for instructional time.
The MTI proposal did not include any employee contributions to pension and health insurance premiums over the next two years, something other unions around the state seeking contract extensions proposed to their school boards.
The district’s proposal called for allowing it to set pension contributions, change its health insurance carrier and employees’ share of premiums, set class sizes, and increase or decrease wages at its discretion, among other things. The district faces a $16 million reduction in funding under Walker’s 2011-13 budget proposal.
Don Severson: Considerations Proposed for the Madison School District 2011-2012 Budget 300K PDF, via email:
The legislative passage of the bill to limit collective bargaining for public employees provides significant opportunities for Wisconsin school districts to make major improvements in how they deliver instructional, business and other services. Instead of playing the “ain’t it awful’ game the districts can make ‘systemic’ changes to address such challenges as evaluating programs, services and personnel; setting priorities for the allocation and re-allocation of available resources; closing “the achievement gap”; and reading and mathematics proficiency, to name a ‘short list’. The Madison Metropolitan School District can and should conduct their responsibilities in different ways to attain more effective and efficient results–and, they can do this without cutting teacher positions and without raising taxes. Following are some actions the District must take to accomplish desirable, attainable, sustainable, cost effective and accountable results.