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Teachers reject Janesville School Board's offer

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
September 13, 2011
— The Janesville teachers union has said no to the school board's latest effort to exact economic concessions.

The Janesville Education Association's Representative Assembly on Monday voted not to reopen its contract.


The board on Friday sent a letter with a new proposal: No cuts of teaching positions next year except for enrollment declines if the teachers pay 2.9 percent of their salaries toward their pensions this year and 5.8 percent starting next year.


Most state workers started paying 5.8 percent this year under the terms of new legislation, but a few groups, including Janesville teachers, don't have to make those pension payments because they had a pre-existing contract.


The board is looking for concessions in order to balance its budgets this year and next year. Some have suggested many layoffs are possible.


School board President Bill Sodemann discussed the offer with the teachers for about 40 minutes Monday.


Sodemann said he is disappointed, but "I think just me meeting with them and discussing it was in itself worthwhile. They treated me with respect. We disagreed on things of course, but they gave me straight answers."


Sodemann said the disagreement came down to differing points of view. The teachers thought taxpayers should have paid more in recent years, he said.


Sodemann said many taxpayers feel they can't pay more because of the economic situation, including local layoffs or pay cuts.


Union President Dave Parr said about 80 teachers attended the meeting. He would not reveal the vote, but a majority voted "no."


Parr said many teachers believe they are being unfairly targeted as a source of funding local education.


Parr said a pervasive feeling among the teachers was that the board was asking the teachers to shoulder the burden, even though the community had not been asked to do much, because the board has not taxed to the maximum in recent years.


"More or less, the question came down to, you (the board) want us to fund education," Parr said.


Sodemann said that unlike many other taxpayers, teachers are getting a raise this year. A minority will receive increases of about $7,000, Sodemann noted, because of a change at the top end of the pay schedule that affects veteran teachers with high amounts of post-master's degree credits.


The board approved the increases one year ago.


There's one more chance for the union to take up the question. A petition of 25 members could put the issue to a vote of the full membership.


A membership meeting requires a seven-day notice, and the deadline for approving a change in the contract is Sept. 29. Parr said any petition should be delivered to him by Sept. 20 to ensure he can give proper notice to members in time.



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