Janesville school officials react to Act 10 ruling

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Nick Crow
Thursday, July 31, 2014

JANESVILLE — The Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 5-2 Thursday to uphold a controversial 2011 law that ended collective bargaining for most public workers.

Opponents of the law had argued Act 10 violated workers' rights to free assembly and equal protection. The law prohibits public worker unions from collectively bargaining anything besides base wage increases.

The Janesville School District was one local entity affected by the legislation.

Dave Parr, Janesville Education Association president, said he isn't surprised by the court's decision. As head of the teacher's bargaining unit in the district, he sees the decision as a negative one that could affect potential teachers in the future.

"You know that (it's bad for unions) when you have more conservatives than so-called liberals in the court that side with politicians more than with what is right," Parr said.

Parr said his group will now move on because the court has made its decision. He said he is disappointed that public workers are being treated differently than other union workers.

"There really is nothing to negotiate anymore," Parr said. "Act 10 completely took that away. You have to accept whatever the district offers you."

"Now whatever happens is completely up to elected officials," Parr said. "Will they be able to attract and retain the best people out there? Will the best people want to be teachers? I think it will be difficult to keep and retain the best teachers in Wisconsin."

Superintendent Karen Schulte said she was hesitant to assume what the ruling would be and believes it gives closure to the issue.

"I think it just brings closure to the whole topic," Schulte said. "Now we can move on with the new districts we are creating."

Schulte said she doesn't see a shortage of teachers as being a problem because those fresh out of school have never worked in a world of collective bargaining.

"It's up to us to create good schools with good pay and good benefits to attract and retain the best teachers," Schulte said.

"We need stellar teachers to help students achieve," Schulte said. "I think the challenge, my challenge is where is the money going to come from? As I look onto the horizon, whether it's Act 10 being upheld or going away, I don't see anymore money coming in from the state. I think districts, if they want to pay well, need to find ways to bring money into their districts."

Wisconsin Education Association Council President Betsy Kippers said in a written statement Thursday that “no court ruling can take away their right to organize through a union.”

“We are assessing how the ruling will impact our members and any options available,” Kippers said in her statement. “Here's one thing everybody should know: No law or legal ruling will ever stop us from remaining Wisconsin's loudest collective voice for students and public schools.”

Gov. Scott Walker said in a written statement that Act 10 has saved taxpayers more than $3 billion.

"Today's ruling is a victory for those hard-working taxpayers," Walker said in the written statement.

"Change will come," Parr said. "The pendulum swings both ways. I think it will swing back towards the middle. It has to."

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