The Waukesha School Board approved ontracts with the teachers’ union for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school year on Tuesday night during an emotionally charged meeting.
The contracts include a wage freeze for the 2009-10 school year and a 1 percent increase this school year.
Waukesha teachers have been working without a contract since July 1, 2009, so the school district will pay the teachers for the back pay, which is being covered in this school year's budget.
The contracts approved Tuesday expire in four months and include a slower rate at which teachers can advance through the salary schedule. Under previous contracts, teachers could advance on the schedule to be among those receiving the top pay within nine years. Under the approved contracts, that scheduled was slowed down to take teacher 18 years to make it from the bottom of the pay scale to the top of the pay scale.
The school board had been negotiating that provision since Oct. 22. The new contract also allows the school district to reduce some starting salaries by $8,000, said School Board member Kurt O’Bryan.
Although members of the public commented during the meeting that it appeared that the district was slamming the contracts through based on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill and proposed 2011-13 executive budget, O’Bryan noted that the district had not been able to negotiate the salary structure until recently. If the school board did not approve the new pay scale before the budget repair bill took place, the school district would have to remain on the accelerated schedule because wages remain subject to collective bargaining in the governor’s budget repair bill.
“We had a short, two-year window,” O’Bryan said. “If you were going to change it, it had to be done now.”
The contracts run through the end of the school year, which means the district will be able to use the provisions Walker is giving to school districts to balance budgets despite revenue caps and decreased funding as it begins working on the 2011-12 union contracts.
“It is all changing in four months,” O’Bryan said.
In addition to the changes in salary, teachers who are eligible will receive early retirement benefits paid in full for the first three years and paid up to the rate of the third year for the remain fourth and fifth year. This will allow the teachers who were unable to retire last year with the benefits to retire, allowing for higher paid teachers to leave the district.
By having those several dozen teachers retire, the school district can hire teachers at lower salaries, providing an additional savings as the school district plans for a multi-million deficit.
“That, in addition, is going to save us a lot of money,” said Waukesha School Board Member Patricia Madden.
Those retiring after the 2011-12 school year will be receiving caps on their retirement benefits at approximately 50 percent compared to this year’s retirees. That benefit ends with teachers retiring following the 2011-12 school year and is not applicable to the following school years.
School Board Member Steve Edlund was the lone opponent of approving the teachers’ union contracts. He tried to push off the vote for two more weeks, but his proposal failed.
“There is nothing that compares to this in the private sector,” said Edlund at one point in the meeting.
Further coverage of this issue, including public comment, will be on Waukesha Patch in the next several days.