Janesville36°

Contract revision amendment remains in bill

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JAMES P. LEUTE
June 16, 2011
— Even with the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s validation of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, school districts and their unions still would be able to open selected pieces of employment contracts if the state’s 2011-13 biennial budget passes with an amendment authored by Rep. Joe Knilans, R-Janesville.

Knilans said Wednesday that his amendment still is part of the 2011-13 state budget bill lawmakers started debating Wednesday.


Knilans’ amendment would allow districts and unions to reopen a contract to modify compensation and fringe benefit requirements only.


“Nothing has changed with it, other than some tweaks to language about raises and extensions,” said Knilans, who put together the amendment at the urging of school district officials and board members in Janesville.


The local school board and teachers union approved a new teachers contract last fall, months before Walker introduced his budget repair bill.


The bill wipes out most collective bargaining powers now enjoyed by public employees. The unions can negotiate for wages only, but even those negotiations would be limited by the rate of inflation.


The bill also allows all governmental bodies to require employees to pay 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pension fund and 12.6 percent of their health-insurance costs.


In Janesville, officials have estimated that the district could save $3.1 million if the Janesville Education Association agreed to modify its contract so employees would pay 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pension fund.


Under the contract that runs to June 30, 2013, teachers will pay nothing toward their retirement and 3 percent to 8 percent of their health insurance premiums.


District officials have said the savings generated by pension contributions could be used to hire back some of the 100-plus district employees who will lose their jobs because of a budget shortfall. The savings also could reinstate classes that have been cut, they said.


The JEA has twice turned down invitations to reopen the contract, fearing that doing so would expose teachers to the elimination of most of their collective bargaining rights and severe benefit reductions.


JEA President Dave Parr said last week that if the state budget passes with Knilans’ amendment intact, the union would re-evaluate its position.


Knilans said that once the budget repair bill becomes law—now expected to be June 29—districts will be in a better position to assess their finances and options. Districts and unions statewide could then talk about reopening contracts and hiring back employees, he said.



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