Janesville59.5°

Teacher contract negotiations resume

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 27, 2007
— The two sides in the Janesville teacher contract dispute got back together Monday, but it appears they still have a long road ahead of them.

Spokespersons for both sides called the 90-minute session productive, but they wouldn’t reveal specifics.


They agreed to meet again Dec. 7, and they agreed to make health care the topic of that meeting.


“We’re still talking, and we’ve agreed to meet again on the seventh. That’s all we’ve got to say tonight,” Dave Parr, president of the teachers union, said shortly after the meeting.


“Health care clearly is a major issue to the Janesville Education Association, and it is the board’s No. 1 issue,” Superintendent Tom Evert said after the meeting.


Evert said the two sides also might talk about “innovative ideas for early retirement” benefits Dec. 7.


The school board is still interested in having teachers pay part of their premium-equivalents in the district’s self-funded health plan, Evert said. Teachers have never paid premiums.


District administrators, a union representing custodial, maintenance, and food-service workers, and non-represented employees already are signed up for the premium-payment plan, Evert said.


The board proposes that all employees pay 10 percent of their premium cost, or 5 percent if they agree to join wellness activities.


The teachers argue that they already contribute to their health plan through high co-pays.


The teachers say the cost of their health care to the district is among the lowest in the area, and they will bring their data to prove it to the next meeting.


Both sides will come armed with data on health care, Evert said. The Dec. 7 session is scheduled to last three hours.


The union’s lead negotiators, Jennifer Fanning and Parr, said the board’s ideas would mean higher costs to teachers, which would degrade the quality of education in the district over the long term.


“Teachers will start looking elsewhere for contracts that don’t demand such costs from them,” Fanning said.


“We need a contract that will attract and retain the best teachers in the state. That’s the bottom line,” Parr said.


Negotiators’ schedules preclude more negotiations between Dec. 7 and Jan. 2, “but if we’re on a good roll, we certainly can pick up after winter break,” Evert said.



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