Janesville71.8°

Teacher contract negotiations on hold

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
November 10, 2009
— Negotiations on a new contract for Janesville public school teachers are on hold while the teachers work on a new approach.

The two sides had tentatively scheduled a meeting for Monday night, but that didn't happen.


Instead, the Janesville Education Association will work on a pay-and-benefits proposal with an eye to renewing talks in January, said JEA President Dave Parr.


Negotiations began in May. The most recent bargaining session was Oct. 19.


The school board's initial offer included a pay freeze this year. The teachers' initial offer concentrated on working conditions, such as doing away with required "staff development' training sessions that many teachers say do not help them do their jobs.


Parr said district negotiators have focused on economic issues—wages and benefits—and refused to talk about the union's working-conditions proposals. Talks have been going nowhere, Parr said.


"If they don't want to talk about conditions, we'll talk about money," Parr said.


Superintendent Karen Schulte said she sees this as a positive development.


The district has been asking all along that the teachers present a complete package of proposals, including pay and benefits, and teachers have not yet done so, Schulte said.


"I do understand they prefer we just look at working conditions first, but we feel we need to see the whole proposal," Schulte said.


Not only that, but the school board has ordered its negotiators to get the union's complete offer before moving forward, Schulte said.


Parr said teachers have been reluctant to discuss a comprehensive proposal because in past years, teachers' concerns were swept aside after teachers agreed to talk about money.


Parr said he would be "pleasantly surprised" if that didn't happen again.


Schulte said the district is open to discussing a comprehensive proposal.


"We haven't seen the entire proposal. Once we've seen it, then yes, we would be open to (discussing) it," she said.


Parr said the teachers' proposals on working conditions actually could save the district money. Canceling many staff-development sessions, for example, would eliminate the cost of guest speakers and increase teachers' effectiveness.


Teachers say the mandatory sessions take time away from them doing their jobs.


"We know how hard times are, so we're willing to talk about things that would improve working conditions that don't cost any money," Parr said. "If that can't be done, then I guess we're going to bring an economic proposal. …


"We would rather focus on things that would improve student learning that don't cost the district any money."



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