When debate over public unions flared up in Wisconsin last year, educators claimed Gov. Scott Walker's austere reforms would require thousands of teachers to be laid off.
They were wrong.
With small changes in pension and healthcare contributions while allowing school districts to buy health insurance plans on the open market, Walker's reforms have resulted in what could be considered a statewide teacher-retention program. School districts such as Wauwatosa, hometown of Governor Walker and the Weekly Standard's Fox News star Stephen Hayes, faced a $6.5 million deficit and planned to lay off dozens of teachers. But Walker's reforms allowed all those teachers to remain employed.
At other large school districts such as LaCrosse, Racine, Wausau, and Beloit, if there were any layoffs at all, they were limited to two or fewer. And in addition to retaining teachers, the reforms have instituted merit-based pay systems that allow excellent teachers to be rewarded.
However, not all school districts adopted Walker's reforms so readily. Milwaukee's school district, which is immediately east of Wauwatosa, rammed through a union contact in December, just in time to avoid being subject to the reforms.
Now it appears the Milwaukee district is reconsidering its hasty action.
After the City of Milwaukee announced last week that Milwaukee Public Schools would have to contribute almost 10 million additional dollars to the city's pension plan (which covers non-teaching employees, such as engineers and educational assistants), the Milwaukee teachers union made the unusual move to write a joint letter with the non-union school board and administration, requesting an additional 30 days to negotiate compensation and benefits.
This request comes on the heels of a 90-day window between November and February to adjust teacher contracts. As the legislation signed by Walker, known as Act 10 and Act 65, makes it impossible to alter existing agreements without nullifying them, a decision to extend this window will have to be made very soon, as the Wisconsin legislature's general session completes its work today.
However, no matter how badly reforms are necessary, other union leaders are not happy with the Milwaukee teachers union for essentially admitting that Gov. Walker was right, especially before the recall election.
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