Janesville School Board faces decision to negotiate or wait
JANESVILLE The Janesville School Board will wait until next month to respond to the teachers union's request to negotiate a new contract.
The board met behind closed doors Tuesday and discussed matters relating to potential negotiations, but the board made no decisions and took no votes, board President Bill Sodemann said.
Board member Kevin Murray wants to negotiate. He said he is fighting an uphill battle.
"Maybe our employees have ideas we haven't considered," Murray said. "Our teachers want buy-in, and I think that's best for all involved. But this time I'm in the minority (on the board.)"
Board member Karl Dommershausen has suggested lower-level talks so the board could find out more about what the union is proposing without negotiating. Murray said he prefers negotiations, which have more "teeth."
"I'm still exploring some sort of compromise that would involve opening the contract on specific, targeted items—one to three issues, maybe," Murray said.
If court challenges to Wisconsin Act 10 are upheld, the board will be able to impose benefit levels, employee contributions for insurance and working conditions when union contracts run out next July 1.
Murray said the board's vote Tuesday on a new dress code might be the tip of the iceberg of what the board might decide to do. Some kind of merit pay system is one potential item, he said.
But Murray said the district would see a long-term benefit of gaining consensus rather than imposing what a majority of the board wants.
Either way, the board is likely to find itself with a better budget situation once all employees start paying into their pensions, as required by law, and start paying more for health insurance, which seems to be the board's intent.
The teachers union is offering concessions it says would save $10 million a year or more, almost one-tenth of the district's operating budget.
Murray said that might allow for more spending to increase student achievement, but the question is how it would be used.