One such district was Milwaukee, the state's largest school district. This week, realizing how many district staff could lose their jobs as a result of the union's intransigence on benefit changes, Milwaukee's teachers were presented a plan in which they would save teacher jobs by contributing 2.6% of their annual salaries, or about a week's pay. The results were predictable:
After robust discussions and three days of voting, members of the Milwaukee teachers union have rejected by nearly a 3-to-2 margin a proposal to contribute about 2.6% of their salary to Milwaukee Public Schools next year to help reduce burgeoning class sizes.
The proposal was one part of an effort the union is launching to enlist a greater amount of community and business support for the state's largest public school system. The union intends to kick off that campaign with a Children's Week starting April 22, but the lack of a financial contribution from teachers will likely make it harder for the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association to persuade citizens and civic leaders to similarly contribute a week's worth of their pay to the school system.
According to results released by the union, 3,931 members voted on the proposal between March 28 and March 30, with 1,635 supporting the measure and 2,296 opposing it.
"We had hoped to jump-start the bigger campaign with this collective contribution," MTEA president Bob Peterson said in an interview Tuesday. He added that teachers are still on board with the campaign to build support for the school system.
MPS estimates the average teacher's base salary to be next year to be $62,800, so a 2.6% pay cut would have amounted to an educator giving an average of $1,633 back to the district next year.
The teachers' current contract with the district calls for an across-the-board 3% raise to take effect on July 1, 2012, so the financial contribution would have essentially amounted to teachers forgoing most of a raise they had coming next year.
The four-year contract called for a pay freeze in 2009-'10, and then a 3% raise on earnings between July 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011. A 2.5% raise then took effect on July 1, 2011.
The contract expires at the end of June 2013, at which point the union will be subject to new state legislation that dramatically limits collective bargaining. That legislation is facing a legal challenge.
Peterson said he has spoken to hundreds of educators about the proposal, and that many said giving up the extra money would have been a burden. Many teachers are paying off student loans, and they and others already contribute much of their own money each year to pay for classroom supplies that are not sent in by families or provided by the district.
Of course, we constantly hear from teachers about the detrimental effects larger class sizes have on students - yet the union is essentially voting in favor of larger class sizes in order to hold on to every dime of their paychecks. In doing so, they are throwing potentially hundreds of younger teachers overboard, simply so they don't have to suffer any reduction in benefits.