Only a Few, Large School Districts Will Resort to Layoffs Most Take Advantage of New Law to Leverage Concessions from Teachers

By Christian D’Andrea
MacIver Institute Education Policy Analyst

Part four in a series.

While the state’s largest city, Milwaukee, won’t be found on the list of districts drafting contracts based on the savings tools of Act 10, many of Wisconsin’s key municipalities have adhered to concessions in order to keep money in their classrooms. Places like Madison, Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Racine have all approved new contracts that will save millions of dollars in 2011-2012 alone. In all, at least 10 districts that serve 8,000 students or more have made the switch to employee contributions in their upcoming pacts

Largest Reported Districts with New Contracts
School District
2011 Student Count Pension Health Insurance Estimated Savings
Madison 24,806 5.8% 5% in 2011-12, 10% in 2012-13 $15,500,000
Racine 21,100 5.8% n/a* $19,200,000
Green Bay 20,376 5.8% 12.6% $11,000,000
Appleton 15,194 5.8% 12.0% $10,100,000
Waukesha** 13,796 n/a n/a $1,100,000
Eau Claire 10,914 5.8% 12.6% $3,500,000
Sheboygan 10,124 5.8% 12.6% $6,600,000
Oshkosh 10,111 5.8% 12.0% $5,200,000
West Allis 8,976 5.8% 10.0% $5,900,000
Wausau 8,546 5.8% n/a $3,354,900

*Teachers’ co-payment-based health care plans will be replaced with high-deductible plans where, for health care and prescriptions, teachers would pay up to $400 a year toward deductibles ranging from $2,000 to $6,000 depending on single or family, in-network or out-of-network care.

**Waukesha’s reported contract applies only to 2009-2011, and a deal for the 2011-2013 school years is still in progress.

If you include Fond du Lac and Stevens Point, both of whom are currently in the midst of contract negotiations, then 12 of the state’s 15 biggest districts will have introduced new contracts or extensions to their educational staff members in 2011. The only missing cities from that list are Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Janesville. Combined, these participating districts will save an estimated $80.3 million for the upcoming school year.

The three holdout cities have steadfastly refused to re-open their teacher contracts to include concessions. As a result, they’ll face a significant deficit in their districts, and may resort to layoffs to cover the breech. Over 500 teachers in Milwaukee and Kenosha alone are facing pink slips thanks to local authorities’ unwillingness to add employee contributions to previously agreed-to contracts.

The state’s larger communities make up the bulk of students covered our list – which is likely due to the fact that these bigger cities earn more media coverage than Wisconsin’s small towns. However, 28 districts that serve fewer than 2,000 students have made the switch to teacher-contribution contracts. These districts, which include places like Ripon, Waupun, Hartford, and Altoona, will save an estimated $19,224,579 in 2011-2012.

These cuts have had significant effects from Wisconsin’s largest cities to its smallest towns. The 12 large cities with contracts that cover the 2011-2012 school year (Waukesha, whose contract extends as far as the 2010-2011 school year, is excluded) are saving an average of $617 per student. That figure is more than $100 above the statewide average of $517.12 in savings. In the 28 small towns that have been reported, the per-student benefit is $558.

The list is still a work in progress, but the benefits are mounting. Districts across the state have been able to cover financial shortfalls thanks to the efforts of staff members who are pitching in to contribute to their benefit packages. This stretches from communities with nearly 25,000 students (Madison) to some with less than 400 (Green Lake, Weston). Despite trying times, these schools have been an importance example of perseverance in Wisconsin.