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Milton schools, unions to discuss contracts

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
March 1, 2011
— The Milton School Board and the district's teachers union plan to meet behind closed doors Wednesday afternoon to discuss the teachers contract.

Union President Michael Dorn on Monday declined comment, and school officials said they had no details on the meeting, but the district released a school board agenda that includes a closed session for "discussion of the budget-repair bill and negotiations of the MEA (teachers union) contract beyond 2011."


The teachers contract expires June 30.


The meeting comes as state legislators continue a standoff over Gov. Walker's budget repair bill. The meeting will be the day after Gov. Scott Walker's address Tuesday on a biennial state budget insiders say could contain $900 million in education cuts.


Superintendent Bernie Nikolay on Monday said the union asked the district for a meeting to discuss labor negotiations, but he said that the district didn't have details or a proposal from the union.


Nikolay said it's his understanding that the union seeks to discuss groundwork for future labor contracts.


"The MEA (teachers union) wanted to talk, and the board is always willing to listen," he said.


In the days immediately following the governor unveiling his budget-repair bill, Nikolay said the board planned to hold off on contract negotiations, citing uncertainty over how the legislation would affect the district.


On Monday, Nikolay said the board still sought to forgo contract talks until the district learned details on the state budget.


"I know the board isn't going to do anything until we've had time to analyze the governor's budget proposal," he said.


Some area school districts, such as Janesville, had multi-year labor contracts in place before the governor released plans in his budget-repair bill that would curtail collective bargaining for public sector unions and force union members to pay more for health insurance and pensions.


Other school districts, such as Evansville, have rushed to get labor contracts ratified to lock them in before the governor's legislation could go into effect.


Last week, the Evansville teachers union agreed to a two-year labor contract that gives teachers a 1 percent salary increase but includes them paying 5 percent of their health insurance premium and 5 to 6 percent of their pension.


School labor contracts can take months to negotiate, but the union and the Evansville district settled the contract in just 30 hours.


The last Milton teachers contract took more than a year to settle and went into arbitration when the district and the union came to an impasse over teachers' health insurance coverage.


An arbitrator sided with the district late last year, forcing the union to change health insurance carriers from the Wisconsin Education Association Trust to a Dean-Mercy plan.


District officials have said the move would save the district $1 million this year and that the district would invest some of those savings in startup costs for a 4-year-old kindergarten program in fall 2011.



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