John Matthews, Executive Director
MTI has been advised that the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which is the legal arm of the Bradley Foundation, and is reportedly funded by the billionaires who fund the Bradley Foundation, has filed a lawsuit attempting to negate the Collective Bargaining Agreements between Madison Teachers Inc and the Madison Metropolitan School District. Factually, no such suit has been filed, as yet. We do believe that such a suit will be filed with Madison resident David Blaska as the complainant. WILL has been searching for a complainant for some time. Blaska has apparently now agreed. Him doing so is no surprise, given his hostile attacks on MTI, its members and other public workers, over the past several years.
Governor Walker’s statement last week is in error that the Madison Metropolitan School District is the only District with a current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Sauk Prairie also has a progressive school board and has seen the benefit of engaging in negotiations with their employees which has resulted in a Collective Bargaining Agreement. Negotiations with employees is an enlightened way of discussing with and learning from one’s employees of their concerns and how the operation may be more productive. A school board – most of whom are not educators – benefits greatly from engaging in discussions with those who have achieved degrees in education and most of whom have many years of experience in working with children in an educational setting.
MMSD is one of 13% of the 424 Wisconsin school districts which operates below the State mandated revenue controls. This is a fact the Governor failed to recognize and WILL fails to recognize. And, I bring to your attention that the Republican enacted State imposed revenue controls on school boards are contrary to the Republican philosophy that government should be administered at the lowest possible level; i.e. the State placing mandates on local school boards is not something Governor Walker should be bragging about. MMSD’s budget is among the very most fiscally responsible in the State, even while also engaging in discussions with its employees’ union; seeking their opinions through negotiations to make one of the best school districts even better.
Walker’s statement that the MMSD could save millions by changing health insurance carriers or reducing health insurance benefits also illustrates his ignorance. MMSD unilaterally changed health insurance carriers when Act 10 removed that subject from being a mandatory subject of negotiations; a topic which many years ago became a mandatory subject of bargaining, when MTI prevailed in that argument both before the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. That ruling was based on the fact that if an employer reduced benefits it negatively impacted one’s take home pay, and wages is a mandatory subject of bargaining. But, the District did change carriers given their authority under Act 10, and doing so did indeed reduce the standard of living of all MTI represented District employees. That is not something of which the Governor should be proud.
The Governor’s statement that the school district could save millions more by unilaterally manipulating the teacher’s salary schedule is based on his ignorance on the topic of teacher remuneration. The salary schedule set forth in the MTI-MMSD Collective Bargaining Agreement is one which is based on a UW study. The issue causing the study was the need of MMSD to be able to attract and retain high quality teachers; the schedule developed by UW professors and later amended in negotiations, causes teachers to earn additional credits each four years and receive their principal’s recommendation to move forward on the salary schedule. Thus, the schedule produces teachers who are up on the latest academic information and teaching techniques, and who are performing at a high level.
What the Governor has failed to recognize in his severe restriction on public employee wages and benefits is the restricted standard of living of these employees, the negative impact it has not only on their families, but also on the communities in which they reside – they no longer have the disposable income to enable the purchase of homes, home goods, clothing, automobiles and the like. That supposed saving which the Governor refers to has simply taken that money out of circulation.
The Governor criticizes Ms. Burke for voting for these contracts. The Governor should be congratulating her for voting to continue a Contract which provides MMSD employees due process of law and just cause standards relative to their employment by the District – that is the American way – and it is something that Walker’s signature legislation, Act 10, has destroyed for most public employees.
WILL certainly has the right to challenge the contracts, but I see such as a waste of money which could be used in educating children, and it causes unnecessary stress on District employees and the community . The contracts were negotiated at a time doing so was legal. There was nothing improper or illegal about it.