Janesville teachers could soon see a new salary structure that would reward both years with the district and professional development.
On Tuesday, the Janesville School Board will consider a new pay scale designed to retain good teachers and be economically sustainable over time, according to a memo from Assistant Superintendent of Administrative and Human Services Scott Garner.
The memo was part of the board’s information packet for Tuesday’s meeting.
If the proposed structure is approved, it would be the third change in the way teachers are paid since Act 10 passed in 2011.
Under the terms of Act 10, the state law that stripped public unions of most of their bargaining rights, unions can negotiate only for raises up to the amount of the consumer price index.
For example, in December 2016, teachers received raises of 0.12 percent for the 2016-17 school year.
In addition to that, the district instituted a pay-for-performance policy that allowed teachers to qualify for additional raises. At first, the system required teachers to get a rating of “effective” in five of six categories, including professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional delivery, assessment for and of learning, learning environment and professionalism.
In the first year of the system, nearly 99 percent of teachers qualified for raises. The board then voted to lower the standards, so it was even easier to get a raise.
In August, Janesville Superintendent Steve Pophal asked the board to do away with the pay-for-performance system, saying it discouraged teachers from taking risks and required too much paperwork.
The proposed system has eight levels with several steps within each level.
For example, level one has four steps, each one representing a year of teaching. If a teacher’s contract is renewed after each year, he or she is entitled to a $1,200 raise.
Teachers are required to stay at level one for at least two years, with certain exceptions.
In order to move up to level two, teachers would have to earn 90 approved hours of professional development. Those hours could include district professional training or credits from approved graduate courses.
The cost for professional development comes out of the teachers’ pockets. Six credits of graduate school work would equal 90 hours of professional development. At the UW-Whitewater, six credits of graduate work would cost about $3,000.
If level one teachers have not completed 90 hours of professional development after four years at level one, they no longer get a raise. Instead, each year they would receive a $500 stipend.
In moving from level one to level two, educators would receive an additional $3,600 to their base salary.
Level two also has four steps, each one representing a year of teaching. Teachers must stay at level two for a minimum of three years, with certain exceptions. For the first four years at this level, teachers would receive a $1,200 raise. After four years, their salaries would be frozen.
Moving up to level three would require 135 hours of professional development.
The salary structure has eight levels.
Implementing the proposed pay structure would cost an additional $1.2 million next year, according to the memo from Garner.
If the salary structure is approved, starting teachers would earn $42,000. Starting teachers now make about $37,000, said district officials.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction from 2016 shows that the low salary in the Janesville School District was $36,415 and the high salary was $78,457. The average salary at that time was $55,216.
From new prisons to tax cuts for parents, Wisconsin lawmakers are rushing to pass hundreds of millions of dollars in new commitments in their final days of work.
Some of these proposals may still fail to become law and others will take years for their full costs to be felt. But each represents a potential obstacle to keeping the state’s budget balanced going forward.
A tally by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that lawmakers have voted for up to $678 million in one-time spending or tax cuts for an adult prison, child tax rebate, lockups for juvenile offenders and limits on welfare.
On top of that, legislators voted for roughly $220 million in ongoing yearly costs to lock up more repeat offenders, boost rural jobs programs, and hold down prices within the Obamacare insurance market. Republicans pushed the bills, though some Democrats also voted for some of them.
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said Republicans were scrambling to boost their poll numbers and leaving the state with little cushion if the economy sours.
“This wouldn’t be enough to keep the state running for more than two or three days,” he said of the state’s budget balance. “(The spending) is a reflection of how politically desperate the landscape has become.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said his party was reacting to better-than-expected state revenue projections. The tax rebate, he pointed out, was a one-time outlay.
“We’re spending the anticipated surplus,” he said. “This is out of our savings.”
Last month, the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office predicted that the state’s main account would finish the current budget in June 2019 with a better-than-expected $460 million balance.
That helped spark a series of spending bills and tax cuts from Gov. Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers, who have watched with unease as Democrats have done well in a series of recent special elections in Wisconsin and other states.
The Assembly, for instance, on Thursday passed a one-time $100-per-child tax rebate and sales tax holiday bill.
The Senate could still amend that bill, but it currently would return $174 million to taxpayers. The Assembly also approved a bill to spend $50 million a year on rural jobs programs.
If approved by the Senate, those bills and several other minor ones would leave the state with $207 million in its main account in June 2019, or enough to run the state for four days.
In the next 2019-21 budget, the challenges would increase.
Last fall, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that in this next budget state spending would exceed taxes by $991 million.
The state has had bad projections like this before and they aren’t perfect—for instance they don’t account for how the economy could affect tax collections or the cost of ongoing state services. To help out, the state should also have $322 million in its rainy day fund by next year.
But these latest bills would make the state’s projected shortfall worse, not better.
That could still change. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald,R-Juneau, said he doesn’t back all of the bills passed by the Assembly, even though most of them have Walker’s backing. The current version of the tax cut, for instance, doesn’t have close to enough Senate support, he said.
“They continue to cut deals between the governor and Assembly. I don’t know why they think that will result in bills becoming law,” Fitzgerald said.
But for now, here’s what the bills would cost:
$350 million in one-time costs to build a new adult prison. This legislation was passed by Assembly Republicans this week but still needs Senate approval. The legislation authorizes the state to borrow the money and then pay it back over many years. The state could still opt not to build the prison.
$80 million in one-time costs to replace the state’s troubled youth prison, Lincoln Hills School for Boys, with several regional facilities. This bipartisan Assembly bill still needs Senate approval and Fitzgerald signaled Friday that senators could still amend or drop it. The state could convert Lincoln Hills to become a second new adult prison.
Up to $42 million in one-time costs and up to $38 million in ongoing yearly costs to implement Walker’s proposed limits on welfare programs such as food stamps. The Senate sent these bills to Walker this week but it will still take more than a year to implement these changes.
Roughly $50 million a year in state money to hold down costs within federal Affordable Care Act marketplaces. This Obamacare bill now sits on Walker’s desk but its costs won’t kick in until July 2019.
An estimated $61 million a year to lock up hundreds more repeat criminal offenders and hire dozens more prosecutors around Wisconsin.
Up to $32 million in one-time commitments for ads to attract out of state workers and tweak the state tax code. An additional $14 million in ongoing commitments would go to rural schools and a plan to keep two paper plants from closing.
Walker now has Senate Bill 54, which would require state officials to initiate proceedings to revoke probation, parole or extended supervision for offenders charged with a felony or violent misdemeanor.
The Department of Corrections estimates the proposal would ramp up over two years and send nearly 1,800 more people to prison at an annual cost of $57 million a year.
By adding to estimates of future prison populations, the bill is also increasing the need to build a state prison.
Vos, the Assembly speaker, said he was not convinced the tough-on-crime legislation would increase state inmates and cost as much as projected.
But he said the Assembly was willing to provide $350 million to build a prison in case the need does arise. If it doesn’t, a new prison may be needed anyway to replace others that are more than 100 years old, he said.
local • 3A, 6A
Historic house gets new start
Within weeks, Janesville interior designer Anne Rosa plans to move Interiors, a longtime Janesville interior design and home furnishing business, into the circa-1856 house originally known as the Chester Alden House. The home, at 211 S. Main St., for years housed the Hansen Funeral Home. Rosa and her husband Mike Mikkelson in October 2017 bought the storied, former funeral home from auction, paying about $175,000 to buy the property from its previous owner, Angela Hansen. “When we open, it’ll look just like a model home, which we think it’s just perfect for,” Rosa said.
Weapons training key for cops
Firearms training isn’t optional for police officers. Last year, the Janesville Police Department went through more than $13,000 in ammunition, according to Chief Dave Moore. Moore recently declined to support a proposal to build a gun range for police in the town of Beloit. That’s partly because the La Prairie Pistol Range that Janesville police use already meets his department’s needs. The Janesville facility off Reed Road features both indoor and outdoor ranges and is three miles from the police department.
state • 2A
Ryan upbeat in Waukesha talk
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s confident Republicans will triumph at the polls in November, while acknowledging that midterm elections are often tough for the sitting president’s party. Ryan delivered an upbeat message to Waukesha County Republicans Saturday night and said of the GOP nationally, “We’re going to win.”
nation/world • 6B
Storms kill at least five
The death toll rose to at least five Sunday after severe thunderstorms swept through the central U.S., spawning a tornado that flattened homes, gale force winds and widespread flooding from the Upper Midwest to Appalachia.
Since the 1800s, Janesville has been a city that values two-wheeled travel.
Big-wheel biking was a popular activity in the 19th century, said Paul Murphy, Janesville Velo Club president, and residents enjoyed racing bicycles at the Rock County Fairgrounds.
Today, about two centuries later, the city is rolling on its goal of becoming a more bike-friendly community and completing bike corridors that connect the east and west sides, said Terry Nolan, coordinator of the Janesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Cycling has been in the news in several ways recently.
The city recently honored two local businesses for being bicycle friendly as part of its effort to be recognized as a bicycle-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists.
Bike lanes were included in city plans to convert Court Street from a one-way to a two-way road later this year.
The city recently applied for grants that will connect off-road trails for cyclists and pedestrians.
And for the first time, Janesville will be one of 11 Midwestern cities that will host a summer criterium race featuring hundreds of cyclists.
Murphy and Nolan said the efforts are part of Janesville’s goal to boost its quality of life.
For years, Janesville staff has talked about becoming an official bicycle-friendly community.
This year, the city took the leap and applied.
The League of American Bicyclists’ application is about 140 pages long, covering everything from infrastructure, enforcement, education, plans, how the city measures progress and more.
“It’s extremely comprehensive,” Nolan said.
The league will review Janesville’s application, conduct interviews and eventually rank it, showing what the city is doing right when it comes to cycling and how it can improve, Murphy said.
“It’s a step in finding where we’re at,” he said.
“Being able to say you’re bicycle friendly, it means a lot, especially when you’re trying to attract new people to the community,” Nolan said. “Being bike friendly isn’t just bikes. It means your community is safe for pedestrians; it’s safe to drive. It means your community has a very high quality of life.”
As part of the application process, the league suggested Janesville recognize local businesses for welcoming cyclists. Working with cycling advocates, including Murphy, the city created and distributed bicycle-friendly business awards.
Officials received two nominations and gave the award to both businesses: Flippin’ Frog Ice Cream & Tasty Treats and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville.
The hospital sponsors the Janesville Velo Club’s Go Slow bike ride and provided a $5,000 mini grant to the Rock Trail Coalition to develop a Rock County trail map. It also installed a trail across from its property and a bicycle rack near its emergency room entrance, according to a news release.
Flippin’ Frog, part of It’s a Keeper Bait & Tackle, is perhaps the only business on the Ice Age Trail that serves refreshments, such as ice cream and drinks. The business also raised money for a park pavilion just off the trail near the Monterey Dam, provides free use of an air pump and other tools, and has convenient bike parking, according to the release.
“People must appreciate the fact that we try to take care of everybody in the outdoors, including the cyclists,” said Shawn McCarten, owner of It’s a Keeper. “We take a lot of pride in that area—a lot.”
McCarten applauded efforts to make Janesville more bicycle friendly. He approves of the bike lanes planned for Court Street.
“It’s a great thing to have for the city. It brings more people in, and we’re proud to be part of that recognition,” McCarten said.
Nolan compared the bicycle-friendly recognition to the city’s annual sustainability awards. The hope is that the bicycle-friendly business awards will become an annual distinction as well.
During recent meetings on Milwaukee and Court street work, residents expressed interest in downtown bike lanes.
City officials were listening.
When Court Street is converted to two-way this year, bike lanes will be included between Linn Street and Garfield Avenue. In segments where dedicated bike lanes won’t fit, road signs will indicate that cyclists share travel lanes with motorists, city officials have said.
The segment of Milwaukee Street that runs through downtown will be redone in 2020. It does not have enough room for bike lanes, so they will have to be limited to Court Street, officials have said.
Murphy said he knows the city can’t wave a magic wand and have bike lanes appear wherever they’re desired.
“It’s a case-by-case situation as engineering projects develop,” Murphy said.
“It happens little by little,” Nolan agreed.
Including bike lanes in a street project adds cost for road paint and signs, but the overall expense is minimal, Nolan said.
On-street bike lanes are an ideal way to let cyclists access Janesville’s prized attraction: paved, off-street trails, Nolan and Murphy said.
The city’s 30 miles of paved bike trails are a rare commodity for a community of Janesville’s size, and the city recognizes the trails’ value, Nolan said.
“It’s really been a great benefit, and I think a lot of people outside the city envy Janesville for being able to have something like this,” Murphy said.
Early this year, the city applied for two grants to extend and connect paved trails. It will be a while before the city learns if it will get the grants—which could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars—and even longer before the work is completed, but the city is working to fix the trails’ weak points.
One area is on the north side of town. A 1-mile gap exists in the Ice Age Trail between the Highway 26 overpass near BMO Harris Bank and Janesville Animal Medical Center to the northeast.
Connecting the trails would allow pedestrians to more easily travel between Janesville, Milton and beyond.
The city also applied for a grant for a trail on the west side. That project involves paving a path through the greenbelt to connect the Robert O. Cook Memorial Arboretum with Rockport Park to the south.
The velo club, Rock Trail Coalition and others have cut and maintained close to 12 miles of off-road trails near Rockport Park.
Murphy said connecting that area to other parts of the city would be a boon for both cyclists and pedestrians.