Teachers vote to ratify union contractTeachers in the Superior school district voted Tuesday to ratify a contract to preserve union rights through the 2011-12 school year.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Teachers in the Superior school district voted Tuesday to ratify a contract to preserve union rights through the 2011-12 school year.
The new contract retains the language of the current Superior Federation of Teachers Local 202 contract, but with a few key changes.
Among those changes, the administration asked union members to pay 12 percent of their health insurance costs and contribute to the retirement plan as defined by Wisconsin state statute. The contract extension also called for no wage increase for the 2011-12 school year.
Dana Parask, executive secretary of the Superior Federation of Teachers, said the newly ratified contract will protect teachers’ rights until June 30, 2012, regardless of what happens with Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.
He thanked the School Board for supporting the teachers and said both sides recognize their common goal is to serve the community.
“You often hear there is an adversarial relationship between school boards and unions, but that has never been the case in Superior,” Parask said.
The Superior School Board took up the measure to ratify the new teacher’s contract at an emergency meeting Friday. Board members Pat Dorin and Len Albrecht abstained from voting on the Local 202 contract, which passed 4-0.
“I think what we’ve tried to accomplish today are some fiscal things that will helps us,” said board member Hendricks.
He felt it was important to protect the district financially without becoming part of what he said was rightly being characterized as union busting.
In its contract proposal, the Superior School Board included the health care and retirement concessions found in Gov. Walker’s budget repair bill but made no move to weaken the union’s ability to negotiate.
“We don’t see any need to eliminate all of the collective bargaining rights,” said Janna Stevens, Superior school district superintendent. “We’ve always had an incredibly good working relationship, always have come to a good understanding. I don’t see any reason to try to push that through because we’re in a good situation here in Superior.”
Stevens said despite the tensions swirling in Madison for the past two weeks, teachers in Superior all have been very professional and have continued to work side by side with the administration and School Board to serve the students.
“When you go out and do visits, teachers are teaching as usual,” Stevens said. “Do I think they’re under stress? There’s no question.
“But it’s a proud day in Superior because even with all that stress, teachers are working together. When teachers have decided to go down [to Madison], we’ve made sure that we have subs that are certified to cover, otherwise they’ve said they’re not going to go. It’s a great place that we work at; we’re lucky.”
The Superior school district now looks ahead to its next challenge following the release of Gov. Walker’s budget proposal Tuesday.
“We’re preparing for the worst case scenario,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be astronomical.”
Walker’s budget proposal calls for districts to reduce their revenue limits by 5.5 percent — a loss of about $2.5 million in revenue for the Superior school district — even as the state decreases funding for general school aid by 8.4 percent in 2012 and 7.7 percent in 2013 — about $750 million in cuts statewide over those two years.
“Part of what we did, if it does move forward or even if the governor’s bill moves forward and they don’t ratify [the contract], part of our big hit will be cushioned by people contributing to the health care and the WRS (Wisconsin Retirement System),” Stevens said.
However, the district will still have a significant hole to fill in its budget.
The administration had been brainstorming to prepare for the expected cuts, and Stevens said the district has a number of plausible ideas to deal with the sharp reduction in aid.
“Our plan is, we want to keep the best learning environment possible,” Stevens said. “In order to do that, we need to have good staff and we need to have good programs; so eliminating staff and eliminating programs is something we do not want to do.”