Teacher, district deal still possible

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011
— After months of saying no, the Janesville teachers union could decide next week whether to reopen its contract.

The Janesville Education Association's executive board decided Monday to call a meeting of the union's membership to decide whether to negotiate with the school board, JEA President Dave Parr said.

The membership meeting is set for Thursday, Dec. 15.

The school board has asked the union several times over the past eight months to make economic concessions to help the district balance its budget. Previous answers have been "no."

The board has asked teachers to do what many other public employees were forced to do this year: begin paying into their retirement fund.

Janesville teachers are exempt from the new state law that requires the pension payments—and potentially higher payments for health insurance—because they had a contract in place before the law was passed.

The contract protects the teachers through June 2013. At least some school board members would like the teachers to agree now to begin paying more for their benefits to make up for a loss in state aid.

Teachers will be asked Dec. 15 whether their union should negotiate with the school board and discuss a deal, Parr said Tuesday.

Parr indicated that the executive board has a particular deal or at least a new line of reasoning in mind, but he would not reveal what that thinking is until members hear it at the meeting.

"There are just are some different thoughts we'd like to discuss with the membership," Parr said.

Parr said he expects a vote on whether to proceed with negotiations.

The union has 743 members, Parr said.

The board in September offered not to cut teaching positions next year, except in the case of enrollment declines, if the teachers would pay 2.9 percent of their salaries toward their pensions this year and 5.8 percent starting next year.

The union's representative assembly, which comprises about 80 teachers, voted Sept. 12 not to negotiate.

This time around, the board made no specific offer but asked if the union would be willing to discuss the topic.

Any change in the contract would require another vote of union members and of the school board.

The district's other two union groups plan a meeting Saturday to discuss the board's offer.

School board President Bill Sodemann said the board is looking at an estimated budget deficit of $8 million to $10 million in 2012-13.

The board Tuesday night could vote on a plan to save money by increasing the maximum class size at the middle and high schools from 30 to 32 next school year. The administration has not yet given an estimate of how much money that might save or how many teaching positions might be cut.

Last updated: 7:09 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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