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Choices: Milwaukee teachers could have saved city schools, themselves
The Wisconsin Reporter ^ | 6-18-12 | M. D. Kittle

Posted on 06/19/2012 2:51:04 PM PDT by afraidfortherepublic

MADISON — The dark fiscal clouds are starting to lighten in Wisconsin’s largest school District.

But Milwaukee Public Schools‘ fiscal picture could be a lot brighter, had its teachers’ union chosen to open up its labor contract with MPS and agree to some salary concessions.

Tweaking the deal could have saved scores of positions, opening up the opportunity for more teachers in the classroom, more programs to bolster the academic achievement of a school system that has seen its share of failure, and perhaps offering relief to Milwaukee taxpayers.

Life is all about choices, and the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association opted to reject concessions and keep what it had earned through its 2010 negotiations with the district.

Beginning in July 2013, however, if the law that redefined public-sector collective bargaining in Wisconsin holds, Milwaukee’s teachers will be operating under a new system, and the district and its taxpayers are expected to see pronounced savings.

They said, no, no, no

In April, the MTEA overwhelmingly rejected a plan that asked teachers to give back five day’s pay to help the school system reduce the size of its overcrowded classrooms.

Of 3,931 members to vote, 2,296 opposed the measure.

MTEA leadership and MPS had asked the state Legislature for permission to reopen the existing contract, which runs through June 2013, to the opposition of teachers unions in Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine.

The Legislature granted the request, but Milwaukee teachers, who have long asserted that the education of the district’s children must be everyone’s top priority, killed the proposal.

In essence, the teachers would have given up much of their 3-percent raise in the coming school year. MPS has estimated that average teacher base salary next year will be around $62,800.

Educators, on average, would have given back about $1,600 to the district.

Thanks to some earlier health-care concessions by the union, the district will realize about $19 million in savings under its 2012-13 budget. The better-than-expected revenue picture will bolster MPS’ commitment to art, musical and physical education, while boosting funding for costlier specialty programs and launching the movement toward high school reform, according to MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton.

The existing contract between MPS and its teachers was signed months before the Legislature passed changes to public-sector union collective bargaining.

“We’re not where we need to be but we’re making a significant down payment,” Thornton said in a statement following the Milwaukee Board of School’s passage of the $976-million budget earlier this month.

Michael Bonds, president of the Milwaukee School Board, said the existing contract “turned out to be a positive contract.” He said the health-care savings will save 75 to 100 jobs.

But as many as 300 more teaching positions remain on chopping block.

Bonds said many of those jobs could have been saved had teachers been willing to reopen the contract and give up some pay.

“I was very disappointed, because I’d been pushing them the longest,” said Bonds, a long-time professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, of the move to renegotiate.

Savings ahead

The board president pointed to some fiscal relief for the district and taxpayers in July 2013, when MPS’ 6,000-plus teachers begin paying for their pensions and more toward their health insurance premiums, in accordance with Wisconsin’s Act 10.

The collective bargaining reform law, pushed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature, stripped collective bargaining for most Wisconsin public sector employees.

Milwaukee Public Schools is expected to save about $170 million in pension costs during the next five years, and the district is projected to shave off about $1 billion of $2.2 billion in the cost of the unfunded liability during the next 30 years.

“We have stabilized the district’s finances. That would not have been possible without Act 10,” said Bonds, who noted his support of the law has not made him very popular among his colleagues in the school system.

Those projected savings due to Act 10, the board president said, have barely been mentioned in Milwaukee-area media.

“The paper (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) didn’t pick up on that. They wrote a little, small paragraph. If it was negative, it would have been a whole book,” Bonds said, asserting the district hasn’t gotten much attention or credit for cutting millions of dollars in transportation costs, shuttering failing schools and improving opportunities for minority students.

The savings to the district, through Act 10 has begun.

Roseann St. Aubin, MPS communications director, responded to Wisconsin Reporter’s request for information on existing and future savings, noting that the first 80 exempt staff, not covered under the teachers’ contract, contributed to their pensions in the 2011-12 school year. Those contributions saved an estimated $2.4 million.

In a couple of weeks, about 3,000 employees, nearly one-third of the district’s approximately 9,500-member workforce, will begin contributing to their public pensions, saving MPS an estimated $7.7 million. Those employees include food service workers, tradespeople, non-licensed staff, substitute teachers and part-time recreation staff. Many of the employees earn considerably less than teachers.

St. Aubin did not provide figures on how much the district expects to save when teachers begin contributing to pensions next year, but some of the savings will result from the school board’s decision to freeze supplemental pensions for teachers and end it for new hires.

Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee’s teachers union, did not return a Wisconsin Reporter call seeking comment.

In his blog, Peterson claims teachers and educational workers throughout the country are “standing up for children and the teaching profession,” in part pointing to Milwaukee educators getting out the vote to in an attempt oust Walker in his recall election.

“Even though the grassroots organizing was unprecedented, Walker and his financial backers from around the country, survived the recall attempt,” Peterson writes.

The results of the recall election, Peterson said, have forced MTEA to “reimagine and reinvent” the union, moving from “collective bargaining to collective action,” and building “collaborative public schools that serve all students.”

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Wisconsin
KEYWORDS: act10; contracts; savings; walker

1 posted on 06/19/2012 2:51:16 PM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic; Hunton Peck; Diana in Wisconsin; P from Sheb; Shady; DonkeyBonker; ...

Wisconsin Act 10 in Milwaukee savings

FReep Mail me if you want on, or off, this Wisconsin interest ping list.

2 posted on 06/19/2012 2:52:53 PM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic

When the dust settles and the people see tax savings with no detriment whatsoever to the product of education, these unions will have lost all of their bargaining power.

3 posted on 06/19/2012 2:56:09 PM PDT by johniegrad
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: johniegrad
I still wonder that so many teachers would rather be laid off than have a job, at the modest expense of paying a bit of their own insurance and pension contributions.
5 posted on 06/19/2012 3:06:37 PM PDT by hinckley buzzard
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To: afraidfortherepublic

The government needs to get out of the school business.

6 posted on 06/19/2012 3:16:19 PM PDT by Woodsman27
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To: hinckley buzzard
I still wonder that so many teachers would rather be laid off than have a job, at the modest expense of paying a bit of their own insurance and pension contributions.

They've never been told "no" before. I'm 58 years old and I remember Wisconsin teachers going on strike for wages and benefits when I was a junior in high school. They have quite literally been given everything they want ... until now.

7 posted on 06/19/2012 3:21:09 PM PDT by johniegrad
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To: hinckley buzzard

Because in the union cult mindset, it will always be someone else who loses their job.

8 posted on 06/19/2012 3:38:19 PM PDT by ebersole
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To: afraidfortherepublic

Of course, it would be interesting to see a budget that started from zero and give all expenditures for a look. Administrative overhead in Milwaukee, I guess, is about what it is in most districts, too much.

9 posted on 06/19/2012 3:45:30 PM PDT by RobbyS (Christus rex.)
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To: Woodsman27
"The government needs to get out of the school business."

Tell that to the GOP.

10 posted on 06/19/2012 3:47:51 PM PDT by KantianBurke (Where was the Tea Party when Dubya was spending like a drunken sailor?)
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To: ebersole

The ones with seniority know that they will not be the ones to lose their job so they vote accordingly. If the decision was made on merit instead of seniority, the vote could be different and the teachers would probably work harder too!

11 posted on 06/19/2012 3:52:35 PM PDT by Rusty0604
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To: Tzar

NCLB is the product of naive thinking. You have to ask the question: what all students should they know at, say, the end of the 4th grade, the 8th grade? Who is going to decide what the “should” will be?

12 posted on 06/19/2012 3:53:29 PM PDT by RobbyS (Christus rex.)
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To: Rusty0604

“Merit,”is pretty subjective.

13 posted on 06/19/2012 3:56:06 PM PDT by RobbyS (Christus rex.)
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To: hinckley buzzard
I still wonder that so many teachers would rather be laid off than have a job, at the modest expense of paying a bit of their own insurance and pension contributions.

If you have seniority then you know they'll start chopping at the bottom and the risk of them getting to you is inversely proportional to your seniority. IOW, "union brother/sister solidarity" extends as far as the paycheck, then it's every man for himself.

14 posted on 06/19/2012 3:56:47 PM PDT by randog (Tap into America!)
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To: hinckley buzzard

Let’s say Milwaukee announces that 10% of its teachers will be laid off if their demands are not met by the union.

Let’s say that, based on union rules, 75% of the union members know that they are in no danger of losing their jobs in the layoff.

The union rejects the demands on an overwhelming 70-30 vote. (I’m assuming that 5% of those with safe jobs have a little sympathy.)

The 10% lose their jobs. The remaining 90% keep their jobs and benefits.

The union did its job—it protected its members. Now that those 10% who lost their jobs are no longer employed in the district, they are no longer in the union.

To me, unions are like a combination of a protection racket and pyramid scheme. The protection isn’t there unless there’s new blood below you.

15 posted on 06/19/2012 3:59:10 PM PDT by JeffChrz (Why are college kids worried about an interest rate doubling instead of tuition doubling?)
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Comment #16 Removed by Moderator

To: Tzar

Nothing new about the notion of a “common core.” The problem is how insubstantial the core is. No common body of knowledge, not even definite opinions built around a factual core but rather “attitudes “ such as those our“betters” would like us to have.

17 posted on 06/19/2012 7:43:14 PM PDT by RobbyS (Christus rex.)
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To: afraidfortherepublic
lets be very the NEA, and to its members, education is just one thing and one thing only...the teachers...its not the support staff or the teachers aides, or the janitors, or the secretaries or the school board or the parents and most certainly it has nothing to do with the children....
18 posted on 06/19/2012 8:45:54 PM PDT by cherry
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