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Janesville School Board sends letter to legislators about Walker plan

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 20, 2011
— The Janesville School Board met Saturday and voted to send a letter to Janesville-area state legislators about Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.

The letter has both positive and negative things to say about the controversial bill.


The board “appreciates the flexibility the budget repair bill will provide in containing wage and benefit costs and addressing issues including working conditions,” the letter states.


However, the letter continues, “the members of the Janesville Board of Education are divided over the curtailment of collective bargaining rights …


“Many members are concerned that the changes in the bill limiting the scope of collective bargaining would remove the ability of local school boards to use the bargaining process in ways that enhance local control, because local school boards would be prohibited from deciding whether to enter into a contract on any item other than wages.”


The vote was 6-3. Board members Bill Sodemann, DuWayne Severson and Greg Ardrey voted against sending the letter.


Ardrey said his only objection was that a letter should be sent only if the board were unanimous.


Sodemann said Severson wanted any action to be taken at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, when more people could witness the proceedings.


Kevin Murray proposed an amendment to the letter, encouraging legislators to vote against the bill, Sodemann said, but only Murray and Lori Stottler voted for that.


Sodemann said he proposed an amendment calling on Sen. Tim Cullen to return to duty at the Capitol. Cullen is one of 14 Democratic senators who are refusing to return to vote on the measure, which is delaying action because the Republicans do not have a quorum.


That motion also failed, 6-2, with Severson joining Sodemann in the minority.


In addition to Cullen, the letter will go to Republican Assembly Reps. Joe Knilans, Amy Loudenbeck and Evan Wynn.


Sodemann said he is required to sign the letter on behalf of the school board, even though it goes against his beliefs.


“I will do what I’m elected to do,” he said, unlike the Democratic senators.


Sodemann said he would write a personal letter to state his own positions.


Sodemann noted the letter calls for more local control, but he said the bill would give the board more control but outlawing binding arbitration, the process that throws deadlocked contract negotiations into the hands of an arbitrator.


The district might have gotten a better deal with the teachers last year if not for the threat that an arbitrator would have taken the union’s side, Sodemann said.



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