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Madison's Collective Bargaining to "Handbook" Transition: Status Quo, or ? Intrade?

Matthew DeFour:

Madison will be looking to its own collective bargaining agreement as well as handbooks adopted by other districts and input from employees, Nadler said. Unlike previous collective bargaining discussions, however, School Board meetings on the subject will be held in open session. Madison Teachers Inc. Executive Director John Matthews, who in 45 years has had a hand in expanding the collective bargaining agreement from four to 157 pages, has been emphasizing since Act 10 passed that everything in the agreement has been jointly agreed upon by the School Board and union. "Instead of collective bargaining it's going to be meet and confer," Matthews said. "We have really 50 years of developing things together that make the school system work." Don Severson, president of a conservative watchdog group and MTI critic, sees the handbook as an opportunity for the district to break away from MTI's influence over school operations. He wants a middle school to be able to hire a math teacher from outside the district with math certification, for example, rather than be forced to hire a district teacher who meets minimum requirements but lacks such certification. "They need to keep in mind that the only thing the union has any involvement or responsibility for is negotiating salary," Severson said.
Related: Current 182 page Madison Teachers, Inc. Collective Bargaining Agreement (PDF) and Concessions before negotiations ("Voluntary Impasse Resolution Procedure") I suspect that 90% of the existing collective bargaining agreement will end up in the District's "Handbook". Perhaps someone might setup a prediction @ Intrade on this matter. Conversely, some Districts will think differently and create a far different and more appealing world for some teachers. New Wisconsin School District Handbooks take effect.

For our schools, is blame the only certain outcome?

Paul Fanlund:

But both are deeply concerned about what the school district's ability to serve children, and the achievement gap is on the front burner. In the wake of a bitter fight over Madison Preparatory Academy -- a proposed but ultimately rejected charter school aimed at fighting that gap -- Nerad proposed a detailed achievement gap plan of his own. Even after scaling it back recently, it would still cost an additional $5.8 million next year. And then there are the maintenance needs. "It's HVAC systems, it's roofs, it's asphalt on parking lots," Nerad says. "It's all those things that don't necessarily lead to a better educational outcome for young people, but it ensures that our buildings look good and people feel good about our buildings, they're safe for children." He pauses, and adds, "My point is that we have a complex set of issues on the table right now." Madison teachers made about $20 million in voluntary pay and benefit concessions before the anti-collective bargaining law was enacted, according to district figures. But Nerad says state school support has been in relative decline for more than a decade, long before Walker's campaign against teacher rights.

$9,860/student vs. $14,858.40/student; Paying for Educational Priorities and/or Structural Change: Oconomowoc vs. Madison

Chris Rickert summarizes a bit of recent Madison School Board decision making vis a vis educational outcomes. Contrast this with the recent governance news (more) from Oconomowoc; a community 58 miles east of Madison.

Moreover, it's not like Madisonians are certain to oppose a large tax hike, especially given the way they responded to Walker's bid to kill collective bargaining. Before that idea became law, the board voted for -- and the community supported -- extending union contracts. Unions agreed to some $21 million in concessions in return for two years' worth of protection from the law's restrictions. But the board could have effectively stripped the union of seniority protections, forced members to pay more for health insurance, ended automatic pay raises and taken other actions that would have been even worse for union workers -- but that also would have saved taxpayers lots of money. Board members didn't do that because they knew protecting employees was important to the people they represent. They should be able to count on a similar dedication to public schooling in asking for the money to pay for the district's latest priorities.
Christian D'Andrea
The changes would have a significant effect on teachers that the district retains. Starting positions - though it's unclear how many would be available due to the staff reduction - would go from starting at a $36,000 salary to a $50,000 stipend. The average teacher in the district would see his or her pay rise from $57,000 to $71,000. It's a move that would not only reward educators for the extra work that they would take on, but could also have a significant effect in luring high-level teachers to the district. In essence, the district is moving forward with a plan that will increase the workload for their strong teachers, but also increase their pay to reflect that shift. In cutting staff, the district has the flexibility to raise these salaries while saving money thanks to the benefit packages that will not have to be replaced. Despite the shuffle, class sizes and course offerings will remain the same, though some teachers may not. It's a bold move to not only retain the high school's top performers, but to lure good teachers from other districts to the city. Tuesday's meeting laid out the first step of issuing non-renewal notices to the 15 teachers that will not be retained. The school board will vote on the reforms as a whole on next month.
The Madison School District has, to date, been unwilling to substantively change it's model, one that has been around for decades. The continuing use of Reading Recovery despite its cost and lower than average performance is one example. With respect to facilities spending, perhaps it would be useful to look into the 2005 maintenance referendum spending & effectiveness. It is my great "hope" (hope and change?) that Madison's above average spending, in this case, 33% more per student than well to do Oconomowoc, nearby higher education institutions and a very supportive population will ultimately improve the curriculum and provide a superior environment for great teachers.

THE BAD OLD DAYS OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING: Why Act 10 Was Necessary for Wisconsin Public Schools

Steve Gunn, Victor Skinner:

Not so long ago, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), the state's largest teachers union, sported the motto, "Every child deserves a great school." The irony of that motto was not lost on school administrators, particularly in more recent years, as they struggled to balance budgets while local WEAC unions refused to accept financial concessions that would have helped maintain quality programming for students. In school district after school district, layoffs have occurred, class sizes have increased and student programs have been cut, partially because many unions refused to accept temporary pay freezes, or pay a bit more toward their own health insurance or pension costs. This was happening all over the state, even before Gov. Scott Walker was elected and his biannual budget slowed the rate of state aid to schools. The problem is not difficult to understand. Most public school administrators tell us they spend between 75-85 percent of their total budgets on labor costs, mostly for salaries and benefits for union teachers. If a budget crisis hits and spending cuts are needed, school boards will logically look at the biggest part of the budget. But under the old collective bargaining system, local teachers unions had broad legal power to reject cuts in labor costs, and frequently did so. With 80 percent of the budget often untouchable, school boards had little choice but to cut from the 20 percent that has the most profound effect on students. Something is definitely wrong with that picture, if you believe that schools exist primarily to benefit children.

Wisconsin Teacher Union Conflict: Milwaukee vs. Madison, Green Bay, Racine & Kenosha

Leaders of the Madison Teachers Inc. union were among those who signed a letter dated Tuesday telling Milwaukee union officials that the legislation would harm public employees and the recall effort. "Such legislation will enable Governor Walker to claim victory of his policy to (rein) in public employee wages and benefits," said the letter, signed by MTI executive director John Matthews and president Peggy Coyne, along with their counterparts in Green Bay, Racine and Kenosha. "Allowing Governor Walker to make such a claim just before the recall election will prove detrimental to recalling him and, therefore, will only enhance his ability to further harm all Wisconsin public employees." Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said that without the concessions, members of the Milwaukee union may lose their jobs. "The latest letter from public sector union bosses shows clearly that Democrats and their allies put their politics before everything else, even their own members' jobs," Werwie said in a statement.
Erin Richards:
Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee teachers union would get 30 days to negotiate salary or fringe-benefit concessions from employees, under a bill the Legislature sent to Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday. After a lightning-fast circuit through the Legislature on Tuesday and Wednesday, the bill cleared both houses on a voice vote with no debate. Walker favors it, but leaders of several other teachers unions in large cities criticized the move because they say the action initiated by MPS and the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association could undermine the Walker recall effort. Because the bill was passed on voice votes in both houses, there was no roll call that would identify which lawmakers supported the bill or opposed it. The bill is intended to allow the state's largest district and its teachers union to open up the teachers' contract for 30 days to discuss potential economic concessions because of an extra $10 million payment the district needs to make to the City of Milwaukee's pension system. The city informed the district in January that it needed the payment because of a downturn in the stock market.

"Concessions Before Negotiations, Redux"; What can School Board candidates promise the teachers union?

Jack Craver:

Of the 33 questions on the questionnaire for School Board candidates crafted by Madison Teachers Inc., one asks the candidate whether he or she will "introduce and vote for a motion to adopt the Collective Bargaining Agreements negotiated between MTI and the Madison Metropolitan School District as [school district] policy." Both Arlene Silveira, who is running for re-election on the board, and Michael Flores, who is running for an open seat, responded "yes." Both candidates received MTI's endorsement. Ed Hughes, a fellow board member, is dismayed by what he sees as a pledge that will restrict the administration's ability to develop new solutions for district issues. "The pledge of the MTI-endorsed candidates isn't to exercise good judgment; it's a pledge to renounce the exercise of any judgment at all," he says. In particular, Hughes is worried that retaining certain elements of the existing contract, such as the non-compete clause that keeps the district from contracting with non-union employees, will limit schools' ability to get kids help from qualified outsiders.

Seat 1 Candidates:

Nichele Nichols

Arlene Silveira (incumbent)

Seat 2 Candidates:

Mary Burke

Michael Flores

Related: Chris Rickert: (Wisconsin Gubernatorial Candidate Kathleen) Falk's pledge to union leaders hypocritical or admirable? 1.25.2012 Madison School Board Candidate DCCPA Event Audio & Transcript. "Concessions Before Negotiations" has been going on for some time locally.

Wisconsin School districts press to reach agreements

Karen Herzog:

With deadlines looming against a backdrop of uncertainty, some area school districts are scurrying to reach agreements with employee unions, gaining concessions in benefits to avoid mass layoffs and program cuts. A few agreements are new or extended contracts, including a two-year contract for teachers approved last week in Menomonee Falls. Others, such as an agreement approved for West Allis-West Milwaukee teachers, are more limited. School districts could have made the changes without union approval if the law largely eliminating collective bargaining for most public employees wasn't stalled in court. School officials also are crafting new employee handbooks to replace union contracts, outlining benefits and working conditions no longer subject to negotiations if, as expected, collective bargaining is limited to wages. Some districts are obligated by contract to send layoff notices by June 1. Districts also must give 30 days' notice if they want to switch to less expensive insurance plans before the new fiscal year begins July 1. Many districts have union contracts that expire June 30.

The labor movement after Wisconsin

Lee Sustar:

Two days before the big Los Angeles labor demonstration, for example, a coalition of six unions representing more than 14,500 municipal workers reached a tentative agreement on a contract with an estimated $400 million in concessions, including cancellation of scheduled pay raises and a measure that would almost double workers' contributions to retirement benefits from 6 to 11 percent. That's close to the pension contribution of 12.8 percent mandated for Wisconsin public-sector workers in Walker's anti-union bill. The LA contract, if approved, will save the city government $1 billion over 30 years. "The structural impact will go on forever," admitted Service Employees International Union Local 721 President Bob Schoonover. Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown is using the Republican minority in the state legislature as a bogeyman to pressure state employees' unions to take concessions beyond the $400 million they accepted last year. "I tell my union friends, you're going to have to make some changes now, or much more drastic changes later," Brown said. Nevertheless, union leaders are giving Brown a pass, despite budget proposals that will devastate working people in California. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten recently gave a speech in which she denounced Walker and defended public-sector workers--but embraced Brown's call for "shared responsibility, one that will hopefully lead to a better budgetary outcome in the short term, and a better economic output in the long term."

Teachers will move forward

Mary Bell

Wisconsin's public school teachers and support staff are reeling after a week in which our state leaders put political ambitions before their constituents. When the governor signed into law his unprecedented attack on workers' rights, he did so amidst plummeting approval ratings and an intense and growing base of Wisconsinites who are outraged by the actions he is taking to destroy our great state. Make no mistake, this disregard for public opinion and workplace rights will have a broad and lasting negative impact on our state's future. From schools to hospitals to public services - and ultimately, to middle-class families across this state, the damage these actions set into place will be deep and wide. On behalf of educators across our state, I remind you that weeks ago we accepted the financial concessions the governor asked for to help solve our state's budget crisis. But we have consistently said that silencing the voices of workers by eliminating their collective bargaining rights goes too far.
Mary Bell is a Wisconsin Rapids junior high teacher with 33 years experience in the classroom. She is serving as president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

Madison School District reaches tentative contract agreement with teachers' union

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School District has reached a tentative agreement with all of its unions for an extension of their collective bargaining agreement through mid-2013. Superintendent Dan Nerad said the agreement includes a 50 percent employee contribution to the pension plan. It also includes a five percentage point increase in employees' health insurance premiums, and the elimination of a more expensive health insurance option in the second year. Salaries would be frozen at current levels, though employees could still receive raises for longevity and educational credits. The district said the deal results in savings of about $23 million for the district over the two-year contract. The agreement includes no amnesty or pay for teachers who missed four days last month protesting Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to strip public employee collective bargaining rights. Walker's signing of the bill Friday prompted the district and MTI to reach an agreement quickly
A two-year tentative contract agreement has been reached between the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Madison Teachers Union for five bargaining units: teachers, substitute teachers, educational and special educational assistants, supportive educational employees and school security assistants. District administrators, with the guidance of the Board of Education, and Madison Teacher Inc. reps negotiated from 9 a.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Saturday when the tentative agreements were completed. Under details of the contract, workers would contribute 50 percent of the total money that's being contribution to pension plans. That figure according to district officials, is believed to be very close to the 12 percent overall contribution that the budget repair bill was calling for. The overall savings to the district would be $11 million.
David Blaska
I present Blaska's Red Badge of Courage award to the Madison Area Technical College Board. Its part-time teachers union would rather sue than settle until Gov. Scott Walker acted. Then it withdrew the lawsuit and asked the board for terms. No dice. "Times have changed," said MATC's attorney. The Madison school board showed a rudimentary backbone when it settled a contract, rather hastily, with a newly nervous Madison teachers union. The school board got $23 million of concessions over the next two years. Wages are frozen at current levels. Of course, the automatic pay track system remains, which rewards longevity.
NBC 15
The Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison Teachers, Inc. have reached tentative contract agreements for five bargaining units: teachers, substitute teachers, educational and special educational assistants, supportive educational employees, and school security assistants. District administrators, with the guidance of the Board of Education, and MTI reps negotiated from 9:00 a.m. Friday until 3:00 a.m. Saturday when the tentative agreements were completed. The Board of Education held a Special Meeting today at 2:00 p.m. and ratified the five collective bargaining agreements. The five MTI units must also ratify before the contracts take effect. Summary of the agreements:

On Quickly Extending Madison Teacher Contracts; Board to Meet Tomorrow @ 2:00p.m.

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

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 apparently is going to meet tomorrow @ 2:00p.m. to discuss extending the teacher contracts, though I don't see notice on their website. Matthew DeFour:
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.

Wisconsin Teachers urge school boards to approve contracts ahead of budget repair bill

Matthew DeFour:

Teachers unions across the state are urging school boards, including Madison's, to approve two-year contract extensions with major wage concessions before a Republican proposal to dismantle collective bargaining takes effect. But the Wisconsin Association of School Boards is warning districts not to rush contract approvals as they may be limiting their options in the face of historic state funding cuts. "We're telling people to be very cautious," said Bob Butler, an attorney with the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. "There's just a lot of unknowns for what their revenue will look like under the governor's (budget) proposal and how that proposal will evolve over time."

A Case Study in Teacher Bailouts: Milwaukee shows that unions will keep resisting concessions if Washington rides to the rescue.

Stephen Moore:

The Obama administration is pressuring Congress to spend $23 billion to rehire the more than 100,000 teachers who have been laid off across the country. Before Congress succumbs, it should know about the unfolding fiasco in Milwaukee. Wisconsin is a microcosm of the union intransigence that's fueling the school funding crisis in so many cities and states and leading to so many pink slips. It also shows why a federal bailout is a mistake. Because of declining tax collections and falling enrollment, Milwaukee's school board announced in June that 428 teachers were losing their jobs--including Megan Sampson, who was just awarded a teacher-of-the-year prize. Yet the teachers union, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, had it within its power to avert almost all of the layoffs. The average pay for a Milwaukee school teacher is $56,000, which is hardly excessive. Benefits are another matter. According to a new study by the MacIver Institute, a state think tank, the cost of health and pension benefits now exceeds $40,000 a year per teacher--bringing total compensation to $100,500.

Do Teachers Get To Vote on Salary Freezes?

New Jersey Left Behind:

No disrespect intended towards the 71,000 members of the facebook page "New Jersey Teachers United Against Gov. Christie's Pay Freeze," but the zeitgeist of NJ seems to be in step with Gov. Christie, Ed Sec Schundler, and the New Jersey School Boards Association's call for local unions to agree to salary concessions. A recent Rasmussen poll showed that only 28% of New Jersey residents oppose pay freezes, not to mention that school budgets failed two weeks ago at an unprecedented rate; however, 2/3 of school districts that won salary freezes won budget approval. (Here's a complete list). There is no doubt a cadre of teachers out that who would happily accept pay freezes, especially with the added incentive that agreements signed within the month will delay implementation of the 1.5% base pay contribution towards health benefits. (Translation: a one-year pay freeze adopted before May 22nd is really a 1.5% pay increase.) However, we're starting to hear reports of districts where local union leadership is bypassing membership and declining to put such an agreement to a vote. One example: in Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District, a large Somerset County district with a 1,360 member teacher union, the president of BREA explained to the Star-Ledger why he didn't allow a formal vote after the School Board asked for one: "We truly believe that the executive committee(s) has a handle on how members feel. We talked to people and teachers and we listened."

Cornell '69 And What It Did

Donald Downs:

Forty years ago this week, an armed student insurrection erupted on the Cornell campus. I was a sophomore on campus at the time and later wrote a book on the events, Cornell '69: Liberalism and the Crisis of the American University. To some the drama represented a triumph of social justice, paving the way for a new model of the university based on the ideals of identity politics, diversity, and the university as a transformer of society. To others, it fatefully propelled Cornell, and later much of American higher education, away from the traditional principles of academic freedom, reason, and individual excellence. "Cornell," wrote the famous constitutional scholar Walter Berns, who resigned from Cornell during the denouement of the conflict, "was the prototype of the university as we know it today, having jettisoned every vestige of academic integrity." In the wee hours of Friday, April 19, 1969, twenty-some members of Cornell's Afro-American Society took over the student center, Willard Straight Hall, removing parents (sometimes forcefully) from their accommodations on the eve of Parents Weekend. The takeover was the culmination of a year-long series of confrontations, during which the AAS had deployed hardball tactics to pressure the administration of President James Perkins into making concessions to their demands. The Perkins administration and many faculty members had made claims of race-based identity politics and social justice leading priorities for the university, marginalizing the traditional missions of truth-seeking and academic freedom. Two concerns precipitated the takeover: AAS agitation for the establishment of a radical black studies program; and demands of amnesty for some AAS students, who had just been found guilty by the university judicial board of violating university rules. These concerns were linked, for, according to the students, the university lacked the moral authority to judge minority students. They declared that Cornell was no longer a university, but rather an institution divided by racial identities.

A Watershed Teacher Labor Negotiation in Washington, DC

Steven Pearlstein:

As we head into the Labor Day weekend, it is only fitting that we consider what may be the country's most significant contract negotiation, which happens to be going on right here in Washington between the teachers union and the District's dynamic and determined new schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee. Negotiations are stalled over Rhee's proposal to give teachers the option of earning up to $131,000 during the 10-month school year in exchange for giving up absolute job security and a personnel-and-pay system based almost exclusively on years served. If Rhee succeeds in ending tenure and seniority as we know them while introducing merit pay into one of the country's most expensive and underperforming school systems, it would be a watershed event in U.S. labor history, on a par with President Ronald Reagan's firing of striking air traffic controllers in 1981. It would trigger a national debate on why public employees continue to enjoy what amounts to ironclad job security without accountability while the taxpayers who fund their salaries have long since been forced to accept the realities of a performance-based global economy. Union leaders from around the country, concerned about the attention the Rhee proposal has received and the precedent it could set, have been pressing the Washington local to resist. But Rhee clearly has the upper hand. The chancellor has the solid support of the mayor and city council, and should it come to a showdown, there is little doubt that the voters would stand behind her in a battle with a union already badly tarnished by an embezzlement scandal and deeply implicated in the school system's chronic failure.
There are signs that things may be a bit different in Madison today, compared to past practices.

November 2008 Referendum Chatter

Mitch Henck discusses Monday evening's Madison School Board 7-0 vote to proceed with a recurring referendum this November. 19 minutes into this 15mb mp3. Topics include: property taxes, uncontested elections, health care costs, concessions before negotiations and local control. Via a kind reader's email.

A Health Care Cost Win for the Madison School District & A Pay Raise for Madison Teacher's Clerical Unit

Sandy Cullen:

Nearly 200 employees of the Madison School District who currently have health insurance provided by Wisconsin Physicians Service will lose that option, saving the district at least $1.6 million next year. But the real savings in eliminating what has long been the most expensive health insurance option for district employees will come in "cost avoidance" in the future, said Bob Nadler, director of human resources for the district. "It's a big deal for us - it really is," Nadler said. "It certainly will be a benefit to both our employees and the taxpayers," said Superintendent Art Rainwater, adding that the savings were applied to salary increases for the employees affected. The change, which will take effect Aug. 1, is the result of an arbitrator's ruling that allows the district to eliminate WPS coverage as an option for members of the clerical unit of Madison Teachers Inc., and instead offer a choice of coverage by Group Health Cooperative, Dean Care or Physicians Plus at no cost to employees. Those employees previously had a choice between only WPS or GHC. Currently, the district pays $1,878.44 a month for each employee who chooses WPS family coverage and $716.25 for single coverage. For Dean Care, the next highest in cost, the district will pay $1,257.68 per employee a month for family coverage and $478.21 for single coverage. This year, WPS raised its costs more than 11 percent while other providers raised their costs by 5 percent to 9 percent, Nadler said.
Related: The tradeoff between WPS's large annual cost increases, salaries and staff layoffs will certainly be a much discussed topic in the next round of local teacher union negotiations.

Union Negotiations Go Online

American Airlines and its unions are actively using the web to publish their positions. Check out the Association of Professional Flight Attendants Website. Related: Concessions before negotiations and an alternate view.

Waukesha Schools go to Mediation over teacher contracts: Trading Jobs for Compensation?

Pete Kennedy:

The word "mediation" usually isn’t all that menacing. But these days, and in this district, "mediation" packs plenty of punch. A few weeks ago the Waukesha School Board announced it had taken its teachers to mediation. That means a neutral party will try to negotiate a settlement between the teachers union (the Education Association of Waukesha) and the board. What’s most significant about the board’s action is the mediator can declare an impasse and send the proposals to an arbitrator. And that, my friend, is a big deal. Why? First, because arbitration is the labor-relations version of high-stakes poker. It’s a winner-take-all proposition. Both sides present their proposal to a (supposedly) neutral third party, who picks the plan he or she believes fairest. There is no in-between - you win or you lose. Arbitration also is a big deal because it’s hardly ever done, at least when state public schools are involved. "Yes, it’s significant," said David Schmidt, superintendent of the School District of Waukesha for the past 10 years. "It’s the first time we’ve done it since I’ve been here." Schmidt says he is fine with the teachers union, that the real trouble is in Madison. (The EAW is very much in agreement.) But right now, the problem has to be fixed closer to home. "What we can control locally are our expenditures," Schmidt says.
Links and notes on Madison's recent teacher's contract.

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