Meeting in closed session Thursday night, the Madison School Board inched closer toward extending current teacher union contracts through the 2015-16 school year.
“I’m very happy to report that the board voted unanimously to direct our superintendent to begin good-faith collective bargaining with all of our district’s represented units,” said Arlene Silveira, who was elected School Board president on Monday.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke was among School Board members who voted in favor.
Silveira said that the bargaining is for the purpose of negotiating a “successor agreement,” meaning that the board would like to see some changes addressed in the contracts of Madison Teachers Inc., one of few teachers unions in Wisconsin that still have a bargained contract.
She would not say what those specific changes were, calling them part of the board’s bargaining strategy .
“We’re really excited because we do believe in collective bargaining and we look forward to sitting down at the table with our employees to develop agreements that really benefit our staff and help them feel secure, and also help us carry out our vision for all of our students.”
Before its closed session discussion and vote, the board listened to the impassioned pleas of teachers and school staff, and three state legislators.
The Doyle Administration Building auditorium was packed with red solidarity shirts as teachers and their allies advocated for collective bargaining. Twenty-five speakers spoke in favor of extending the contracts. No one spoke against.
“The stakes tonight for my daughter, for my community and for my district are high,” said Kerry Motoviloff, a math instructional resource teacher who has a daughter in seventh grade at O’Keeffe Middle School.
“We are all intelligent adults here, so tonight let’s dispense with the window dressing,” Motoviloff said, adding that a vote for or against contact extension is a vote for or against collective bargaining in the district, and in turn, Gov. Scott Walker’s signature legislation that led to massive protests at the state Capitol three years ago.
Act 10 stripped most public workers of most of their collective bargaining rights, and the legislation is still being challenged in the courts.
Rick Esenberg, an attorney with the right-leaning Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, questioned the timing of MTI’s request to extend contracts, charging it was intended to evade an upcoming decision on Act 10 by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. “Act 10 has been upheld in every court that has considered it, except for (Dane County Circuit) Judge (Juan) Colas,” Esenberg said in a statement.