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Feb 11, 201510:25 AMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Madison teachers contract comes back to bite taxpayers

(page 1 of 2)

Like the Sun Prairie groundhog, the Madison school district’s teachers contract has come back to bite the taxpayer. The Madison Metropolitan School District is looking at a $20.8 million budget deficit next school year.

Good Madison liberals worried about the state balancing its budget can now look closer to home.

To balance the budget, the district will most certainly have to raise taxes again; last year’s increase was a hefty 5.4%. It will probably cut programs. It may even lay off teachers. To ease the blow, will it ask those teachers to contribute to their excellent health coverage like 99% of the rest of the world?

This is the school district that thumbed its nose at Wisconsin law, the school district that eschewed using the flexibility given it by Wisconsin Act 10, the 2011 collective bargaining reform. Madison is the only district that collects union boss John Matthews’ dues for him, the only district that requires fair share payments, the only district that does not require its employees to contribute toward their very excellent health care insurance. A district that gave teachers longevity raises of 2% and 3% on top of free health insurance.

(“A total hike in pay of 2 percent to 3 percent sounds pretty good to most private-sector workers. That’s well above inflation,” the Wisconsin State Journal editorialized at the time. According to DPI statistics, the average MMSD teacher has been teaching for 13.3 years and makes $74,328 in total compensation, including fringe benefits.)

The Madison School Board rushed to lock in this union sweetheart of a contract on June 4, 2014, before the state Supreme Court could rule — a contract not due to expire until June 30, 2016.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Madison school board member Mary Burke said, “Employee contracts and the wellness plan were negotiated and drafted, respectively, when the board did not know what the budget for that year would look like.”

Students, taxpayers get back of the line

But you voted for that contract, Ms. Mary. All seven of you did. You were running for governor, Ms. Mary. You wanted teachers union support, and that was their price. What have we been saying? Teachers union first, students and taxpayers, back of the line!

The Madison school board can go back into that contract and require employees to contribute what state and county employees contribute toward their health care. If they do that, they can pare the projected deficit down to $6 million.

Board member Ed Hughes seems to get it, but — it seems a pattern — always after the fact. 

“We’re talking about taking … a machete to our programs given the cuts we’ll make because we’re the only school district in the state that’s unwilling to ask their employees to contribute to their health insurance, I think that would be an impression that we would deservedly receive ridicule for,” Hughes said.

All seven of you deserve ridicule for sneaking through a closing window to ratify that contract in the first place — only three weeks before the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Act 10 by a 5-2 vote, overturning a lower court’s stay.


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Comments, page 1 of 3 1 2 3 Next »
Feb 11, 2015 10:40 am
 Posted by  Anonymous


Just want to share our dilemma up here in the north.

Our school board and teachers union had reached an agreement, PRE ACT 10, that teachers and staff would have to pay more toward their health insurance and retirement. So when Act 10 was passed there was no saving for our district, the changes to the contract had already been made by agreement between the union and the district. So now with the continuing cuts to state aides to schools, expansion of vouchers, loss of ability to raise funds, levy limits, etc by the current administration our district will receive $460,000 less this year than last. No more "tools" to use compliments of the folks in Madison. So we are looking at cutting programs. Which should it be: AP science, ag, tech ed, english ?

Feb 11, 2015 12:46 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

It is funny while many residents of other school districts actually were finally able to hold the line or in some cases actually levy lower property taxes, Madison is the one place that always needs more more more. Madison one the best funded districts in the state but with questionable outcomes especially amongst minorities and poor students. So something does not add up. money is not fixing the issues and MTI and union thugs have decided that outcomes do not matter unless we get keep holding the tax payer hostage. They have taken over the education process which leaves many that are the most vulnerable and needy without other options or much of a chance in life a.k.a charter schools.

I left the Madison district but if I had stayed my taxes on a small house would have increased by 500 dollars over the last 4 years. Instead I can actually make ends meet for my family, now knowing there are controls in place and districts now actually have to make hard decisions instead of just rubber stamping everything, claiming we need this or else the sky will fall referendums. Time to pass a state law that says you have to go through a complete financial audit every time you think you need to go to referendum for more money.

Feb 11, 2015 01:35 pm
 Posted by  David Blaska

Up North Dilemma: You can reduce salaries or benefits. Or you could raise the levy limits through voter referendum if your neighbors are willing to pay higher taxes. Your choice.

Feb 11, 2015 03:22 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous


Yup, that will work well. We can't attract bright young teachers because; 1) nobody in their right mind would go into the teaching profession right no because of the way Walker et al have demonized the profession so there aren't many coming out of college, 2) we are being out bid by larger suburban districts for the best of our STEM teachers (who can blame them for getting a bigger pay check?), 3) if we reduce salaries and/or benefits.. see 1 and 2 above, 4) do you have a clue how much it costs to hold a referendum? I wish we could send the bill to Madison.

Dave, can continue to give the simplistic and thoughtless responses all you want, but there are no solutions inherent in them.

Feb 11, 2015 04:55 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Up North,

No dilemma to David. Cut those teachers' benefits & salaries even more. In Walker's Wisconsin, most teachers who are just starting out in the profession will NEVER see salaries of more than $45-$50,000 per year at any time in their careers. Why is Walker focusing on the denigration of only ONE profession, public school teachers, to finance all his tax cuts for the rich? Easy answer: Because there is a deep HATRED towards teachers all across Wisconsin making teacher the easy target to denigrate & demonize.

Never mind that the Up North districts like yours can't fill open teaching jobs in science, math, technical education, etc... Walker & Blaska have the antidote for that too. Open teacher licensing to anyone who has some "real world" experience. Like the kid cleaning the animal cages at Petco this year, high school biology teacher next year. Or the guy taking inventory at Fleet Farm this year, your school district's new Calculus teacher next year. Education miracles abound in Walker's Wisconsin.

To prepare for the new jobs reality in Walker's Wisconsin, I would recommend cutting all Advanced Placement classes, all science and mathematics classes, any classes requiring students to learn how to think and apply knowledge. In Walker's Wisconsin, the future holds only minimum wage jobs that only require obedience, no thought needed. For the few jobs that will require higher order thinking skills, we can import talent from the other 49 states that have not decimated their K12 and University systems.

Feb 11, 2015 06:45 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

"sneaking through a closing window"

Like juvenile delinqent vandals.

Feb 12, 2015 08:05 am
 Posted by  madisonexpat

I believe that is known as "Home Rule". Seems like a good idea to me.
What alarms me is the similarity to corrupt machine politics. In Dane County one liberal judge, one sleazy DA and union control of the school board and its Tammany Hall in Dane County.

Feb 12, 2015 08:42 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Perhaps it is more difficult to attract STEM teachers "up north" because remote and rural areas do not attract professionals in general. Many rural areas do not attract sufficient numbers of physicians and other health providers because they are cultural backwaters. How many brain surgeons or physicists are living in Menominee County? Professionals tend to congregate in dense urban areas. Opposites really don't attract.

Feb 12, 2015 08:45 am
 Posted by  David Blaska

Up North and Anonymous at FEB 11, 2015 04:55 PM — If you truly fear being unable to attract teachers, your school board can float a spending cap referendum to the voters and raise salaries. But then, I've suggested that before. Is there a reason you won't comment on the solution? While we're at it, please provide statistics on the unfilled teaching vacancies you allege. Which districts have gone begging?

Feb 12, 2015 10:04 am
 Posted by  Anonymous


We have "floated" a referendum. It passed but barely. Now with the proposed budget we will have to do that again. As I asked earlier, do you know how much it costs to have a referendum ? I didn't think so. The voters have already "spoken" by electing a school board of their peers, so why the need to hold an annual or semi-annual referendum? More needless interference from Madison.

Our school has two tech ed positions that are filled by long-term subs. Neither want a full time job as they are retired professionals from associated fields. I know two adjacent districts are have dropped tech ed classes so they can share one teacher. Another has dropped ag completely because they can't get a full time teacher.

You may live a secluded lived in that hot bed of socialism, but the folks out here in the hinterlands have to live with the short-sighted and short-term decisions of our new breed of scoundrels.

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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