Collective bargaining limitations lead to school improvements in one Wisconsin district

posted at 6:33 pm on July 5, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Remember when Democratic senators in the Wisconsin state legislature said Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to limit collective bargaining for public teachers’ unions would be detrimental for students? When union protesters — among other cruder criticisms — enjoined politicians to “care about educators like they care about your child”? Looks like the law that caused such bitter controversy in the Badger State will benefit both students and teachers in at least one Wisconsin district. The Washington Examiner’s Byron York reports:

The Kaukauna School District, in the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin near Appleton, has about 4,200 students and about 400 employees. It has struggled in recent times and this year faced a deficit of $400,000. But after the law went into effect, at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, school officials put in place new policies they estimate will turn that $400,000 deficit into a $1.5 million surplus. And it’s all because of the very provisions that union leaders predicted would be disastrous.

In the past, teachers and other staff at Kaukauna were required to pay 10 percent of the cost of their health insurance coverage and none of their pension costs. Now, they’ll pay 12.6 percent of the cost of their coverage (still well below rates in much of the private sector) and also contribute 5.8 percent of salary to their pensions. The changes will save the school board an estimated $1.2 million this year, according to board President Todd Arnoldussen.

These savings were only made possible by limits on collective bargaining, York explains. Before Walker’s bill became law, the school district was obligated, by its collective bargaining agreement, to purchase health insurance coverage from WEA Trust, a union-created company. WEA Trust predictably hiked its prices — but, as soon as the school district became free to shop around for cheaper coverage, even WEA Trust dropped what it was charging.

But wait, there’s more: With those savings, the school district plans to hire more teachers!

Limits on collective bargaining will also lead to smaller class sizes, a boon for students. That’s because, in the absence of the work rules in place under the unions, teachers will now pick up an extra class period a day, teaching six instead of five — and will be present at the school for a full 40 hours each week, rather than just 37.5. I’d venture to guess it’s easier for a teacher to teach just 26 students at a time than it is to teach 31, too.

The school district also plans to implement merit pay.

This bright news comes just as the National Education Association admitted, for the first time, that evidence of student learning should be considered in the evaluations of school teachers around the country — and as the union gave an early 2012 presidential election endorsement to President Barack Obama. Oh yeah … and as the union approved a dues increase.

 


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But wait, there’s more: With those savings, the school district plans to hire more teachers!

Obama’s going to have to step up his effort to destroy more jobs.

MeatHeadinCA on July 5, 2011 at 6:37 PM

And we look at this as a victory?

Just balancing our budgets?

We are sad.

faraway on July 5, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Hopefully we’ll see more stories like this that expose unions and the harm they do.

darwin on July 5, 2011 at 6:41 PM

…and the NEA today announced their support and backing for Obama for President, without knowing if there is any other choice.
They aren’t even trying to hide it anymore…

right2bright on July 5, 2011 at 6:42 PM

But wait, there’s more: With those savings, the school district plans to hire more teachers!

But isn’t the point to save money? I’m sorry but I am a bit unclear. I thought the budget was being busted by overspending…isn’t the idea to save money and cut spending rather than redirecting it? Shouldn’t that $1.2 million be saved and applied to deficits or to next year’s budget?

Blaise on July 5, 2011 at 6:42 PM

And we look at this as a victory?

faraway on July 5, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Yes, in Wisconsin? This is most definitely a victory.

darwin on July 5, 2011 at 6:42 PM

…and the NEA today announced their support and backing for Obama for President, without knowing if there is any other choice.

They aren’t even trying to hide it anymore…

right2bright on July 5, 2011 at 6:42 PM

They’re having a bad day today, what with that Atlanta school cheating scandal…

Del Dolemonte on July 5, 2011 at 6:43 PM

But isn’t the point to save money? I’m sorry but I am a bit unclear. I thought the budget was being busted by overspending…

Blaise on July 5, 2011 at 6:42 PM

That’s the state budget.

darwin on July 5, 2011 at 6:44 PM

The school has one employee for every 10 students and they are hiring more teachers to decrease the classrooms to 26 students. Who are all these other employees?

Rose on July 5, 2011 at 6:47 PM

Who are all these other employees?

Rose

Principals, vice-Principals, multiple secretaries to both of these positions, janitors, lawyers, gardeners, crossing guards, school bus drivers, etc., etc.

honsy on July 5, 2011 at 6:55 PM

con’t.:

nurses, counselors, psychologists . . .

honsy on July 5, 2011 at 6:58 PM

Kind of like “a day without illegals”….. works for me!

rightwingyahooo on July 5, 2011 at 7:03 PM

The WEA Trust also provided jobs for former teachers. And the profits from the inflated premiums went back to the union for political activity.

This was one of the under-reported issues in the debate, but one the union was very upset at losing. Heh.

Wethal on July 5, 2011 at 7:04 PM

But wait, there’s more: With those savings, the school district plans to hire more teachers!

Yet, the foolish NEA is supporting Obama for re-election.

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Limits on collective bargaining will also lead to smaller class sizes, a boon for students.

Sorry, “smaller class sizes = better grades” is a liberal myth.

SirGawain on July 5, 2011 at 7:32 PM

But wait, there’s more: With those savings, the school district plans to hire more teachers!

Yet, the foolish NEA is supporting Obama for re-election.

Schadenfreude on July 5, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Maybe just trying to get it out there before the Union Members and Teachers realize that Walker actually helped them out and the NEA and Unions hurt them long term.

bluemarlin on July 5, 2011 at 7:39 PM

If I was a property tax payer in that district I might rather see the money saved go to reducing property taxes.

Why is ‘class size’ the golden calf for the progs? At one time American K-12 schools performed very well, and class sizes didn’t seem to be a problem.

slickwillie2001 on July 5, 2011 at 7:50 PM

The school has one employee for every 10 students and they are hiring more teachers to decrease the classrooms to 26 students. Who are all these other employees?

Rose on July 5, 2011 at 6:47 PM

I attend my church’s school from K-6th grade. It was the BEST elementary school in my home town and there was a waiting list to get in (church members had priority). About 25 kids per class. We had a principal, her secretary, 7 teachers, 1 nurse, 2 custodians and 1 bus driver for a total of 13 adult employees for 175 or so children.

Khun Joe on July 5, 2011 at 8:35 PM

Haha, and here I am contributing 13.8%!!!

ernesto on July 5, 2011 at 9:16 PM

Teachers are only part of the school staff, believe me. And if I had only 25 kids in a class I’d think I died and when to teacher heaven. I’m more likely to have 35-40, sometimes more, and if they’re all there to learn, that’s no problem (like in an honors class). When they’re not, it’s like herding cats, except nobody expects the cats to learn anything. :)

Bob's Kid on July 5, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Why is ‘class size’ the golden calf for the progs? At one time American K-12 schools performed very well, and class sizes didn’t seem to be a problem.

slickwillie2001 on July 5, 2011 at 7:50 PM

Yeah, and at one time the entire K-12 class was about thirty students total or less. These days teachers could be seeing that many kids in a single hour.

The long and short of it is that it gets exponentially harder to teach as you get “farther from a group and closer to a crowd” as one teacher put it. It’s harder to keep order and answer questions the more students you’re trying to teach.

Uncle Sams Nephew on July 5, 2011 at 10:10 PM

Think of the poor starving teachers!

PattyJ on July 5, 2011 at 10:24 PM

Actually, the true Progressives don’t want to see them in school at all. They think that the kids should sit around in a circle under a tree with their teacher as equals and discuss their feelings. Their view of education is more along the lines of “social awareness” than really learning anything concrete. They despise the idea of kids sitting quietly in orderly rows and often attack most facets of American education as being outdated/antiquated and being a holdover from the old Industrial Revolution society.

Fellow Conservatives are too busy attacking teachers to really be concerned with the fact that American families have steadily been disintegrating and that school is the last thing on the list of priorities for many of these kids.

Get rid of the thugs/juvenile delinquents and those who don’t want to be there and who are old enough to work and these public schools will naturally improve. It is not fair to compare those students whose parents bring them up with goals, morals, and expectations and send them off to private schools with the vast majority that are a captive audience brought into this world by parents who themselves have little use for education.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 6, 2011 at 12:49 AM

The problem is that is hard to enforce discipline, when you can not punish.

Slowburn on July 6, 2011 at 6:09 AM

And we look at this as a victory?
Just balancing our budgets?
We are sad.
faraway on July 5, 2011 at 6:40 PM

faraway – that’s correct – it IS a victory. Spending unwisely is immoral – it leaves us with less resources to help those that need it. In fact, re-read this post and you’ll see that the savings is allowing them to hire more teachers. So, kids are going to get more because they are spending wisely and balancing the budget.

happi on July 6, 2011 at 9:23 AM

Wednesday, school officials put in place new policies they estimate will turn that $400,000 deficit into a $1.5 million surplus. And it’s all because of the very provisions that union leaders predicted would be disastrous.

But wait, there’s more: With those savings, the school district plans to hire more teachers!

If Gov. Pawlenty did this in Minnesota when he “took on the unions and won”, he needs to ‘splain this in his ads.

This is how you win people over to these reforms–show results, like more young teachers being hired, smaller class sizes, better education. And who knows, if this school district runs a surplus, they might even lower property taxes!

Steve Z on July 6, 2011 at 12:13 PM