Budgets and Benefits and Bargaining, Oh My!
The problems in public schools around Wisconsin have been brewing for some time. This state, like many others around the country, is facing a huge budget shortfall and has been faced with the difficult job of slashing the current budget in hopes of staying afloat financially. While plenty of line items have been the object of discussion during this process, the one that has garnered the most attention in recent weeks has been the reductions of teacher benefits. According to a recent report in the New York Times, Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin since the beginning of the year, has proposed cuts to teacher benefits and collective bargaining rights.
An article at JS Online reports that the head of the Milwaukee teachers union asked public schools in the city to close on Thursday, due to the danger of allowing students to attend class with so many teachers away from their posts. At that time, a spokesperson for the Milwaukee school district stated that school was still scheduled for those days. However, some individual schools did decide to close to protect the safety of the students.
Madison school officials have yet to comment on the case, and Peter Davis, legal counsel with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, stated that he was not in a position to comment either. However, Davis did tell the Journal that a "strike includes any concerted work stoppage by municipal employees, any concerted interruption of operation of services, or any concerted refusal to work or perform normal duties for the purpose of enforcing demands on a municipal employer."