While the Madison Teachers Union wants to the district to begin new contract negotiations, after a Dane Co. judge struck down the controversial law curtailing collective bargaining rights for public workers, the Merrill Teachers Assoc. will ask for the same.
Nothing has been officially decided yet, but the Merrill School District's interim superintendent, Don Stevens, will meet with the union president, Tom Andreska, Tuesday to begin to figure things out.
Andreska says he will request the district revert back to its 2011-2012 contract, which allowed for employees to bargain over insurance plans, wage increases, workplace conditions and class sizes.
Meanwhile, Stevens says he's open to negotiations but that there are just too many unanswered questions at this point to make a final decision right now.
"The huge 'but' in this is we don't know if we should negotiate even though that's maybe what [the ruling] might say," Stevens said. "And we do not know, for example, is this case that has been resolved in Dane Co., does it truly include all of the state?"
He says he believes school board members will take a cautious approach when planning ahead.
"I think we need to be very patient rather than move right now," Stevens said. "So that's the status I'm assuming my board will take once they get some information on this."
When the governor cut 900 million dollars in public education across the state to eliminate the deficit, the Merrill School District was hit hard. It faced almost a 10 percent cut to its budget, and that meant an entire school, Pine River, had to close. Act 10 was designed to help relieve school districts of some of that economic burden. Yet union leaders say collective bargaining rights had nothing to do with filling that hole and maintain the issues they'll once again negotiate won't come at the expense of the quality of students' education.
If the law is overruled or if the state attorney general is granted a stay while the legal drama gets resolved, Act 10 will still be in effect. But unions say these new contract negotiations will be worth it, even if they're short-lived.
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