(CN) – Teachers this week saw how one school district will implement Gov. Scott Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill,” which prohibits collective bargaining for anything but salary – and they don’t like it. The New Berlin School District’s new Employee Handbook takes effect today (Thursday); teachers call it the most “punitive” in the state.
The changes follow the implementation of Walker’s anti-union bill, which has served as a blueprint for copycat bills in states around the nation. It restricted teachers’ collective bargaining ability to wages, leaving benefits and working conditions in the hands of elected school boards and administrators.
New Berlin, a suburb of Milwaukee, is 95 percent white with a population of 39,000 and a median household income of $75,853.
The handbook makes several changes to teachers’ hours, pay, dress code and insurance.
Teachers take issue with several of the new rules: they will be fired for having students as friends on Facebook; people chosen for jury duty must try to serve during non-school hours; evaluations will be done without notice; and the dress code requires business casual attire and prohibits spirit wear unless it is worn on designated spirit days.
Teachers also criticized new “More Time, Less Pay” policies.
Elementary teachers’ work days were increased by an hour, or 205 hours per contract year; secondary teachers’ days were lengthened by 30 minutes, or 95 hours a year, without any increase in pay.
The equivalent of more unpaid days will increase next year, as the school year will last 10 full months. Teachers could be required to start as early as 6:15 a.m., work as late as 5 p.m. and in-service or training days may be required outside of the normal schedule.
There is no set overtime pay – just stipends.
The local teachers union, the New Berlin Education Association, informed members that if the political landscape does not change by next year, it expects that pay will be based on performance.
Pay is insured for this school year because of the union’s agreement.
The teachers also face significant changes in insurance. Their deductibles will increase from $150-$300 to $4,000. They will have to pay more for drugs and will be responsible for premium increases.
The union says teachers previously agreed to take reduced insurance benefits in lieu of pay increases, and have not had a raise in 3 years. Long-term disability pay has been reduced from 90 percent of pay to 60 percent. The sick bank will be discontinued – providing no security for teachers who become critically ill.
Retirement benefits have been reduced. A former $15,000 payout and age 55 retirement has been eliminated. Continued insurance benefits have been decreased and pension deductions are required. After 2021, no retirement benefit packages will be given.
In an email, New Berlin Education Association President Diane Lazewski wrote: “Teacher morale is at the lowest I have seen in my 19 years at New Berlin. As a result of the current climate facing teachers in New Berlin, I am afraid that this district will lose a significant portion of their excellent staff. Clearly, it is a good thing for all involved when we work together, which is what collective bargaining provided. None of us wants a mass exodus at the end of this school year. In the end, this will only hurt the students.”
Lazewski said New Berlin stood by Gov. Walker and his anti-union agenda. She said other districts made similar changes to insurance and pension contributions, but that New Berlin is “intent on being punitive now that they are in ‘control.'”