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Elmbrook schools could avoid arbitration, Waukesha schools uncertain

School Zone

The Journal Sentinel education reporters offer news and notes from their beat

Nov. 23, 2010
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By Amy Hetzner of the Journal Sentinel

Nov. 23, 2010 0

The Elmbrook School Board is slated to vote Tuesday night on a tentative agreement reached with its teachers that would increase salaries and benefits by an annual average of 3.58%.

The Elmbrook Education Association already has ratified the agreement for the 2009-'10 and 2010-'11 school years.

Meanwhile, the Waukesha School Board announced Tuesday that its most recent offer was rejected by union leaders and not brought to a vote of the Education Association of Waukesha membership.

The board's news release said the offer would have raised teachers' base pay by 5% annually over four years between the 2009-'10 and 2012-'13 school years, but it also would require teachers to pay a greater share of their health care premiums and adjust to a salary schedule more comparable to other school districts.

Waukesha's teacher salary schedule has been criticized in recent years because it allows teachers to get to the top of the pay scale in a much shorter time (at one point, it took only five years) so long as the teacher completed college coursework approved by the district.

Don Casey, co-chief negotiator for the EAW, could not be reached immediately for comment.

The tentative agreement in Elmbrook is anticipated to save the district money on health insurance. The contract agreement also accommodates changes in the high school schedule.

Interestingly, under Elmbrook's new salary schedule, a first-year teacher would be able to earn more than $40,000 annually in pay. Bob Butler, a staff attorney with the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said a handful of school districts around the state now offer more than a $40,000 starting salary to teachers.

The Oak Creek-Franklin School District has the highest starting teacher salary, he said, at $41,000 a year. The move toward higher starting salaries is due to both natural progression in cost-of-living increases as well as an effort by school districts to compete for higher-need teachers, such as for science positions, Butler said.

UPDATE: Casey said Waukesha teachers' union negotiators had given the school board their counter offer last week.

"I think it's bad form," he said of the board's decision to issue a news release before answering that counter offer.

He also clarified that the district's offer would raise average salary by 5% over the four-year period, not annually. The union has asked for 2% annual salary increases.

About Amy Hetzner
I have covered schools in the metro Milwaukee area since I joined the paper in 2000. Prior to that, I worked at newspapers in Alabama and Illinois. I hold a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master's in journalism from Northwestern University.
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