Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Collective Bargaining Curbs Save Wisconsin Schools Millions

The very legislation that nearly provoked riots inside Wisconsin’s capital also saved many school districts from financial ruin or having to fire significant numbers of teachers, concludes a report released this morning from the Education Action Group.

The Wisconsin legislature and Gov. Scott Walker (R) passed Act 10 in early 2011. It sparked a weeks-long, raucous protest in Madison’s streets and the capitol building, as well as a recall against Walker, his lieutenant governor, and four state representatives. The law limits most public-sector collective bargaining to salaries, not benefits, and caps public employee’s annual raises at the rate of inflation.

“Act 10, or at least some form of it, was desperately needed,” the report quotes from Glenn Schilling, superintendent of Hartland-Lakeside schools. “Collective bargaining is outdated. Things that made sense 20 or 30 years ago no longer make sense. But to get things out of the contract and make needed changes was impossible.”

Facing a $3 billion budget deficit, Walker cut state school spending by $555 per student, advocating the collective bargaining restrictions as a door to balanced budgets for districts that had to then cover their own shortfalls.

Act 10 also let districts require public employees to contribute up to 12.6 percent of their salaries to health insurance and 5.8 percent to pensions. Both figures are just below the averages of what private workers in the state pay for the same benefits.

Because of these requirements, just the ten school districts that saved the most this fiscal year together saved $85.6 million, according to figures from the MacIver Institute.

“Hundreds of school districts saved a great deal of money,” the report says, “which helped them absorb the blow of reduced tax revenue. Those savings would not have occurred without Act 10.”

Freedom for School Districts

Before Act 10, unions could negotiate with districts on nearly any detail of school organization or spending they liked. The report details how pre-Act 10 arbitration systems locked school districts into unwanted, unwieldy practices and high spending.

“The tools given to us were absolutely necessary,” New Berlin finance director Roger Dickson told the report authors. “We could have been facing cuts in programs, increasing class sizes and a watered-down curriculum.”

In New Berlin, the teacher salary schedule was set so that teachers could move from a $38,000 salary to $78,000 annual salary in nine years. Union officials refused to revisit the schedule or an expensive early retirement program, even though the school district was broke, until Act 10 went into effect. Using the act as leverage, the school board was finally able to renegotiate.

Union Budget Obstruction

Since 1998, teacher benefits more than doubled statewide, to $27, 053 per year, while teacher salaries increased by approximately one-quarter, from $37,897 to $50,627. Both increased every year, despite the recent recession, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

“Arbitrators could force school districts to give their union employees large raises without strongly considering whether the schools or local taxpayers could afford such an expenditure,” the report notes.

The report lists many instances across the state of union officials obstructing school boards’ efforts to balance budgets, keep taxes low, and maintain education quality for students. It also discusses many bargaining agreements required schools to purchase expensive, union-affiliated health insurance, rather than shopping around.

This school year, despite cuts but able to negotiate health costs and more, districts hired 1,799 more new hires than teachers they laid off or saw retire, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.


Church of England schools 'to expand to combat secularism'

Hundreds of new Church of England schools are to be opened to spread Christianity and combat “aggressive secularism”, it emerged today.

At least 200 Anglican primaries and secondaries could be established within the next five years as part of a major expansion plan outlined by the Church.

A report – to be published later this week – will also recommend rebranding existing Anglican schools to “reinvigorate” them in the face of competition from new academies and free schools.

The Church will also propose a more structured programme of advice to secular schools on improving their religious education and boosting exam results.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, chairman of the Church’s board of education, said major reform was needed to tackle “the level of religious illiteracy in our society”.

He also said the changes – to be formally outlined in a report released on Friday – would allow faith leaders to confront the growing influence of secularism.

It follows comments last month by Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party chairman, that British society was under threat from a rising tide of “militant secularisation”.

Bishop Pritchard said: “The whole national context is one in which secularist debates, whether it be on equality, gay marriage, employment in schools, a whole range of things, are bringing up the issues of secularist versus [religious] approaches to society’s life.”

Currently, the CofE runs 4,800 out of 23,000 state schools in England.

But the Church is keen to expand its influence on the back of the academies and free schools programme, which takes schools out of direct local authority control and places them in the hands of charities, entrepreneurs and faith groups.

Speaking before the publication of the report, Bishop Pritchard told the Sunday Times that around 200 new schools could be opened under the reforms in just five years.

The report will also suggest joining with other religions to open a new wave of multi-faith schools.

A group of Church officials is also to be created to design a re-branding strategy for existing Anglican schools, which could result in a new name or logo, internal reorganisation and a campaign advertising the benefits of a faith-based schooling.

Bishop Pritchard, who has led the review, accused the Government of failing to prioritise religious education.

“Successive secretaries of state have discovered that [religion] is such a contentious area and because the level of religious illiteracy in out society is so high, that we don’t know how to handle religious diversity,” he said.


Furious parents withdraw children from Italian nursery after it's revealed teacher posed for glamour calendar

The fathers probably did not object

Furious parents have pulled their children out of an Italian nursery school after it emerged that one of the teachers posed for glamour calendars as part of her extra curricular activities.

Brunette Michela Roth, 38, sparked fury among mothers at the school but - unsurprisingly - not fathers, after news leaked out that she had posed in sexy see through underwear.

American born Miss Roth, who has lived in Italy for more than ten years, has also won several beauty contests including 'Miss Mamma Italiana' and 'Miss Cultetto D'Oro' (Miss Golden Bottom) and has been the talks of TV chat shows and newspapers since the story broke.

In a country which at times still struggles to throw off its sexist attitude and its obsession with scantily clad women it is the latest in a series of stories which have focused on the attractiveness of protagonists.

Only last month a bar owner who served in skimpy tops and short skirts made headlines around the world after her local newspaper printed several pictures of her.

Miss Roth, is a teacher at Castello di Serravalle near Bologna and today was not at all fazed at the fact parents has pulled their children out of the nursery.

She said: 'For me being a model is my second job. I do shoots when school is over and especially in the holidays when I am back in the United States. I am always dressed in the pictures and never naked.

'Maybe I could have been a model but I just love being a teacher. I think there is a little bit of envy going on here and it has gone over the top - there are also mums who tell me that their children can't wait to see me in the morning.'

Miss Roth found herself in the spotlight after posing for a Harley Davidson calendar and after news leaked out furious parents began pulling their children out of the school with one telling the local newspaper: 'She is too attractive and I don't want her teaching my son.'

However Miss Roth hit back and said: 'You just have to ask anyone at the school who will tell you that I am a complete professional when it comes to being a teacher and a model.

'I've heard that the parents who have withdrawn their children are in the park trying to convince the other parents to do the same - I imagined I might get some criticism but I never thought parents would take their children out of the school.'

On her Facebook page their are pictures of the mother of one at the beauty contest as well as her kick boxing in micro-shorts and vest, while she describes her status as 'complicated.'.

Her favourite quotation is: 'Women would like to have more children than that have but if they do they have to turn their back on their careers and professional life. In Italy there is a problem of feminine liberty that affects the possibility of procreating, of having children without being penalised.'

As of today Miss Roth's Facebook page had been inundated with requests for friendship with more than 2,500 subscribers while her local newspaper Il Resto del Carlino ran an online poll which showed 82 per cent of readers backing her.

The head of the school was unavailable for comment but a meeting to discuss the situation is due to be held with parents later this week.


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