School District Officials Still Tight- Lipped on Act 10 Effects
by Heather McDonald, City-Timers Staff
Stevens Point Area Public School District officials have not opened up much about the effects the new Act 10 law would have on the district and its unions, and likely they won’t be able to address the effects any time soon.
In addition, the recent decision by a Dane County judge that the collective bargaining portion violates the state and U.S. Constitutions regarding free speech and freedom of association leaves some aspects of the new law up in the air.
Superintendent Attila Weninger declined to answer a set of about a dozen questions emailed to him on Sept. 19, saying “your questions will take some time to answer and to get some of the info.” Financial and business related questions such as how much of the district’s annual budget goes toward salaries and benefits for teachers and how does Act 10 change that he referred to the business office, which also has not yet responded. Other questions such as how the district is preparing for the impact and whether the district can offer any other benefits in lieu of salary increases because of the new law “would require a conversation,” he said.
About two weeks ago, the state court threw out parts of the collective bargaining law saying it limited raises for union employees, including teachers, but did not limit those of nonunion groups, thereby violating the constitutional right to equal representation.
Stevens Point Area Education Association members also are finding the lack of communication difficult. The union still is negotiating a contract for the 2011-2012 school year. In addition, the largest impact so far is the reduction in time allowed for class preparation.
“The open communication between the association and district has not taken place since Act 10 was put in place,” said Pat Leahy, president of SPAEA. “The biggest issue that is affecting our members is lack of prep time. Before Act 10 we had guaranteed prep time in our contract and now we do not.”
School Board president Dwight Stevens agreed that lack of prep time could be a factor for the district.
“Our prep time went away with Act 10 and the (move) to six periods at SPASH,” he said.
The district, with the hiring of some additional limited term employment staff, has attempted to rectify some of those anticipated issues at the high school level, which limits a teacher’s class load to six one semester and five the other.
Though Leahy says elementary levels are also affected, Stevens said the lower levels should be operating “pretty much the same as before.”
Teachers could not be reached for comment before deadline.
In the past and in surrounding districts, teachers have been provided prep time during the school day through nonscheduled class periods.