Posted In: Higher Education, Idaho, Massachusetts, Multimedia, New York, Uncategorized, Wisconsin, Workers' Rights

State News Roundup for March 10, 2012

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Wisconsin – On one year anniversary, Rep. Pocan and Sen. Risser call for reversal of anti-collective bargaining law

On the one-year anniversary of Governor Walker’s signing of Act 10, which undermined more than 50 years of labor peace in Wisconsin, State Representative Mark Pocan and Senator Fred Risser are calling for passage of the Collective Bargaining Restoration Act [ed note: pictured above].

The Collective Bargaining Restoration Act (Assembly Bill 338/Senate Bill 233) would repeal the anti-union provisions of Wisconsin Act 10, which essentially eliminated the ability of public employees to negotiate working conditions and other key topics with their employers. Risser, who was a legislator when Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law was established more than 50 years ago, said Wisconsin must return to its foundation of fairness and collaboration. “Governor Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature undid in five weeks what had worked for Wisconsin for more than 50 years,” he said.

The authors believe this bill would be an important step in healing Wisconsin’s political divide and again give public employees – such as teachers – the ability to again have a respected voice at the table when it comes to decisions that impact their students and schools. Sara Bringman, a retired Madison teacher who spent more than 30 years in the classroom, said it comes down to the ability to give-and-take with the best interests of children at heart.

“A collective bargaining agreement allowed me to concentrate on my students,” said Bringman, who noted that she has two children who are currently teachers in the Madison Metropolitan School District and members of Madison Teachers Inc. Bringman said the loss of voice creates a huge void in schools, and noted that the lowest-paid educators – education support professionals such as aides, food service workers, bus drivers and custodians – are especially struggling to make ends meet under Act 10. “As I go across schools to volunteer I am listening to educators with a loss of morale,” Bringman said. “Teachers and other school employees need to know they are valued, so they can concentrate on the education of our children.”

Get the full story at WEAC.org.

Massachusetts – Students, faculty and staff and administrators join forces to urge legislators to increase higher ed funding

For the first time in a long time – if ever – students, faculty and staff and administrators convened at the State House to speak in one voice in support of increased funding for the Commonwealth’s public colleges and universities.

State funding for public higher education has declined by more than $700 million – or 42 percent – since 2002 – while enrollment figures continue to rise. Participants at the March 8 advocacy day urged legislators to support a 5 percent increase in the operating budgets for all 29 public higher education campuses, and include the collective bargaining reserves as proposed by the governor in House 2. They also urged legislators to increase the scholarship account, which provides financial aid to students, by 5 percent.

“We are here to welcome you to the people’s house,” said state Rep. Tom Sannicandro, earning huge applause from the overflow crowd packed into Gardner Auditorium at a kick-off event for the Massachusetts Public Higher Education Advocacy Day. “This is your house. We are your state representatives and we work for you. We want you to get out there today and tell your stories.”

Visit MassTeacher.org to find out more and learn how you can get involved in the fight for fair higher education funding in Massachusetts.

Idaho – Public schools budget set

The Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved a budget on March 5 for schools for next year representing a 4.6 percent increase in state general funds. The overall budget, however, increased just 0.4 percent above this year’s level, due to a decrease in federal funds. And although the recession is easing, Idaho schools will still receive $139 million less from the general fund in Fiscal Year 2013 than in FY2009.

School employee salaries were in the spotlight during the deliberations. Answering a question, State Superintendent Tom Luna said that 31 percent of Idaho teachers make less than $30,500, which will be the new minimum salary. He didn’t mention that $30,500 is $1,250 less than new teachers were making in FY 09. Additionally, discretionary funds—the funds districts use to pay to keep the schools running and for the purchase of additional programs and expenses not specifically funded by the legislature—will be $6,070 less per classroom next year than they received in FY09.

Democratic legislators on the committee attempted to introduce several proposals that would have reinstated one of the years of salary experience for teachers, which was frozen several years ago; added $3.8 million to pay for one additional day of professional development for teachers (the budget passed today funds just one day, despite the state’s new technology push); and slightly bumped up technology and discretionary funding. Those proposals failed on party-line votes.

Read the complete article by visiting IdahoEA.org.

New York – Regents join call for more aid to high-need schools

The Board of Regents agree with NYSUT’s call to shift millions of dollars in competitive grants to the general school aid formula.

Regent James Tallon, who chairs the Regents State Aid Subcommittee, said the state education policymaking board is urging lawmakers to reject the governor’s plan to expand the competitive grants from $50 million to $250 million and instead shift $200 million of that funding to a more progressive school aid formula that will help more districts.

“The needy districts have taken a bigger hit per pupil,” said Tallon, who represents the Binghamton area and is a former Assembly leader. “We need to go back to the basic formula that directly channels more aid to the districts that really need it.”

NYSUT is calling for the entire $250 million in competitive grants to be redirected to support core educational programs. Many school districts are still reeling from the $1.3 billion cut in school aid imposed last year and finding it difficult to craft budget plans under a new cap approved last year.

At a news conference last month, parents and 33 lawmakers joined with NYSUT and citizen groups to voice their opposition to the executive budget’s competitive grant proposal. Tens of thousands have signed an online petition posted at www.nysut.org/supportourschools.

Visit NYSUT.org to get the whole story.

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