Janesville40.1°

Teachers, board dispute cost estimates

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 20, 2008
— Monday, the Janesville schools superintendent sent an e-mail to all teachers, hoping to show them that the school board has offered a pretty good deal for the 2007-09 contract.

Tuesday, a teachers union leader e-mailed all the teachers, saying the board’s offer wasn’t worth considering.


The stark disagreement revolves around a dispute between the two negotiating teams over how to figure the costs of a contract settlement.


Superintendent Tom Evert—and the school board, apparently—believe their last offer was much better than if the board used its legal power to impose a qualified economic offer.


Dave Parr, co-lead negotiator for the teachers, says a QEO would be much better for teachers than the board’s last offer.


What’s a QEO?


Those of you who have heard this answer before can skip this simplified explanation.


A QEO is not an offer at all. It is a legal way the school board can force a settlement.


If the board invokes a QEO, the teachers have to take it.


A QEO is an increase of 3.8 percent in the cost of salary and benefits combined, with no changes in the benefits package from the previous year.


Determining how much money is needed for a QEO first involves determining the current cost of salary and benefits. Apply a 3.8 percent increase to that number, and you’ve got your QEO cost for the next year.


Then, sum the cost of health insurance, retirement and other benefits in the new year. Subtract benefits costs from the total, and whatever is left goes to salaries.


Parr says the district’s last offer unrealistically projects a 12 percent increase in the cost of health insurance, which would shrink the amount of money left over for salaries.


That 12 percent belies the fact that the district’s self-funded health plan is piling up hundreds of thousands of dollars in health-care savings this year, Parr said.


A QEO costing, however, would be more realistic using actual costs, Parr said in his e-mail to his fellow teachers, and the result would benefit teachers more than the district says it would.


Therefore, the argument goes, it behooves teachers to hold out for a better offer, because the worst that could happen is that the board imposes a QEO.


“We’re not going to sign a losing contract when we’re guaranteed one that is better,” Parr said.


The district disputes the union’s QEO calculations.


“We believe the current board offer is far and away better for teachers than imposition of a QEO,” Evert said.


Parr said if the board imposes a QEO, the question becomes whose QEO calculations are correct. Parr said the union would take the district to court to prove its figures are right.


Evert agrees it could end up in court.


“We believe our costing of the QEO is correct,” Evert said. “JEA disagrees. … The answer would have to be determined by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission or a court.”


Both sides, by the way, rely on their negotiating attorneys to calculate the QEO numbers.



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