Call it karma, just desserts, or schadenfreude. The cost to taxpayers of doctors’ notes excusing Wisconsin teachers from work so that they don’t get fired for illegally walking out on classes has been estimated at $6 million. Watching Big Government crack down on Big Labor? Priceless:
Staff at the state Department of Regulation and Licensing have begun to review roughly 300 e-mail complaints about doctors issuing excuse notes for protesters at the state Capitol over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.
Complaints that name a specific doctor and the alleged violations of rules covered by their licenses will be forwarded to the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board. Letters specifying the complaint will be sent to the doctors at the start of the investigation. ….
Officials with the Madison and Milwaukee school districts also plan to scrutinize doctor’s notes presented to excuse absences during the protests. Because of the large number of teacher absences, Madison schools were closed for four days, and Milwaukee schools were closed for one.
Meanwhile, those notes may not help some of the teachers keep their jobs anyway. If Democrats don’t return to the state Senate by Friday, Governor Scott Walker will order layoffs from lists that districts have already been advised to prepare:
Public school officials are being advised to approve preliminary layoff notices for staff by the end of the month, before many of them usually contemplate workforce reductions and before they know how much money they can raise for the next school year.
Buried in this report is an explanation of why Walker wants to reform PEU collective bargaining rights at the state level in order to gain control of costs:
Wisconsin law requires that school districts provide final notice by March 15 to individual staff members that their contracts will not be renewed for the following school year. The law also requires that staff receive preliminary notice of the potential layoff at least 15 days before the deadline for final notice.
But the state’s collective bargaining law has allowed school boards to reach agreements with their employees that delay that deadline, said Barry Forbes, a staff attorney for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Often school boards also persuade their employees to waive the deadlines until the districts have a better idea of what their budget might look like for the following year.
Now, with the governor’s proposed bill that would allow districts to only bargain over wage issues with their employees, those bargained deadlines could be wiped out when most existing contracts end by the middle of this year, Forbes said.
The current collective-bargaining law creates a hodgepodge of contract terms on pensions and benefits as well as wages, which makes it difficult for the state and the localities to control costs. Walker wants a uniform approach to collective bargaining that gives counties, cities, and school districts much more leeway to address cost issues and keep budgets in line. Since the state will have to curtail revenue support to counties and cities as the money simply isn’t there any longer, they will need those tools more than ever.
That’s a prescription for fiscal sanity. Too bad the doctors on the streets of Madison are instead endorsing budgetary obesity.