Janesville School Board to discuss potential for teacher contract changes
JANESVILLE The Janesville School Board will huddle with its labor lawyer tonight to consider its options in a possible negotiation with the teachers union.
A glimmer of hope appears to exist that the union might agree to consider economic concessions.
That glimmer is enough for the board to get a briefing from labor attorney Mike Julka and possibly vote on a strategy for approaching the union, the meeting notice indicates.
School board President Bill Sodemann recently met with teachers union president Dave Parr about the possibility.
“If there wasn’t hope I wouldn’t be doing this,” Sodemann said Sunday.
Sodemann indicated that hope is driven in part by the potential benefit to the district’s budget. The school board is facing the prospect of raising taxes to close a $2.1 million budget hole in the current fiscal year and a long-range estimate that the board will need to fill a $9 million budget hole in 2012-13.
Julka will discuss what is allowed to occur in contract negotiations under legislation authored by Rep. Joe Knilans, R-Janesville, said Superintendent Karen Schulte.
Knilans’ legislation allows a reopening of the teachers contract while protecting the contract from Wisconsin Act 10.
Act 10 is the so-called budget-repair bill, which strips all public employee unions of most of their ability to bargain new contracts.
The Janesville teachers’ contract protects them from Act 10 until it expires on June 30, 2013.
Parr previously said the teachers wouldn’t consider opening their contract to make economic concessions—as other public-employee unions across the state have done—because that could trigger Act. 10. Knilans’ legislation would protect the union if it reopens its contract, but only until Sept. 29.
“It doesn’t hurt for them to talk to us,” Schulte said. I think we should have the discussion, have it go to their entire membership and let them vote.”
Schulte said some have believed that the only thing that could be renegotiated was employee contributions to their pensions. But Julka will tell the board that anything that saves the district money could be considered, including a pay freeze, furloughs or increased contributions for health insurance.
Parr would not say whether there’s hope or not that teachers would agree to consider an offer. He said he and Sodemann agreed to keep the content of their talk private and that both would go to their respective boards for guidance.
“I just don’t want to get everybody worked up, because I definitely want to see what the (union’s) executive board has to say,” Parr said Sunday.
Running any contract-related matter through the union’s executive board is standard practice. Parr can’t take unilateral action.
If a deal is eventually made, it wouldn’t be sealed until the union membership votes on it.
Parr said he meets with his board on Aug. 29, and if something comes of this, there would be time for the union membership to vote on it before Sept. 29.
The only other item on tonight’s closed-door agenda is presentation of an appraisal of the district’s Educational Services Center at 527 S. Franklin St.
The city of Janesville has expressed interest in buying the site for a new fire station. If the board decides to move forward, the next step could be for the school administration to approach the city, Schulte said.
Schulte on Sunday would not reveal what value the appraiser put on the land and building. She said revealing it could harm negotiations on a sale.