Teacher benefit cuts offset some school aid lossesA new study shows the contentious cuts to teachers' benefits pushed by Gov. Scott Walker last year offset about two-thirds of the reductions to school revenue.
By: The Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Contentious cuts to teachers' benefits pushed by Gov. Scott Walker last year offset about two-thirds of the reductions to school revenue, according to a new study released Monday.
The report by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance shows school districts across Wisconsin collectively cut spending on health and pension benefits by about $287 million in the 2011-2012 academic year as the result of cuts to public worker benefits and limits on collective bargaining.
The alliance found the benefit cuts offset about 64 percent of the $451 million decrease in revenue for school districts imposed by Walker and Republican lawmakers as part of their efforts to balance the budget last year.
The analysis used data from the more than 420 Wisconsin school districts collected by the state Department of Public Instruction, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://tinyurl.com/a5bkhjr ) reported.
"This clearly shows that the benefits did generate a fair amount of money where districts limited them," said Todd Berry, president of the alliance. The alliance is a nonpartisan think-tank that analyzes taxing, spending and other budget-related issues.
In addition to sharply reducing aid to schools, Walker and GOP lawmakers dropped by more than 5 percent the cap on how much money schools can raise through state aid and local property taxes.
Walker and Republican legislators passed legislation ending most collective bargaining for teachers and many other public workers and then required most public employees to pick up at least half of the contributions to their pensions. The legislation also required state workers to pay 12 percent of their health insurance premiums and allowed schools to require the same of their employees.
The move spawned massive rallies at the state Capitol and unprecedented recall elections.
The report noted that the savings from the offsets would have been higher, but some districts, including Milwaukee Public Schools, still have valid contracts which include different terms.
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com.