Sauk Prairie Union Contract Could Cost Taxpayers

The school board of Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin, has ignored stipulations of Act 10 and taken up a potentially illegal monopoly bargaining union contract.  If enforced, the contract could once again force teachers into compulsory unionism, and cost taxpayers who would have to pay for any ensuing litigation.  Tim McCumber, Wisconsin News, has the story.

Last fall, the Sauk Prairie School board became the second, and last, school board to adopt a potentially illegal contract with their teacher’s union and made it retroactive. This agreement expires July 31, and the union will push to renew this agreement despite Act 10’s restrictions.

Act 10, among other things, prevents public employee unions from negotiating fringe benefit packages, such as demanding high-priced insurance coverage and then requiring the districts to purchase the coverage from a specific carrier – specifically the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the statewide teacher’s union. At the time, not only did the profits go back to union, WEAC had the highest cost coverage in nearly every school district. Baraboo Schools immediately switched carriers, basically keeping the same coverage, and saved $600,000.

Act 10 also limited how public sector employee unions can negotiate salary increases. The law states that any rise in salary cap cannot exceed the Consumer Price Index unless approved by the voters in a referendum. This is very similar to how school districts and local municipalities have to approve any levy increase that exceeds the levy limit, an amount based on the community’s net new construction – a growth indicator for municipalities.

Most people are probably unaware that the Sauk Prairie School board even approved a new contract. It appeared on only one agenda and was negotiated behind closed doors. The agreement was for 2 years and re-establishes a grievance process in violation of Act 10. It also establishes a salary schedule.

A salary schedule, primarily a tool utilized by unions, requires that salaries and salary increases are paid out based on tenure and college degree. The salary schedule supersedes merit pay, where teachers receive salary increases based on job performance. And of course, we can look to Middleton’s school district as to how the union’s grievance process works. There a teacher was able to retain his job after viewing pornographic emails on school computers.

Nearly all of the school districts in Wisconsin have adopted employee handbooks, as required by the law, to address these very issues. Schools were specifically required to adopt a grievance policy and Sauk Prairie already approved an employee handbook that was very fair to teachers, so why the need to rush into a contract that overrides it?

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation sued Kenosha schools. In Kenosha, they were able to represent a local taxpayer and a local teacher – two parties who have legal standing in cases like this. WILL had no such luck in Sauk Prairie and the school board was let off the hook this time.

Sauk Prairie is officially the last man standing and all eyes are on the board. With the Kenosha case complete, organizations like WILL now have the resources available for an all-out legal defense should they renew this collective bargaining agreement. Expensive litigation appears likely if the district does not change course.