Wisconsin Teachers Seek Last-Minute Contracts

By: - March 11, 2011 12:00 am

NEW CONTRACTS FOR TEACHERS: Wisconsin ‘s teachers’ unions are urging school districts to renew teacher contracts before a bill stripping teachers of collective bargaining rights takes effect. On Wednesday night, the state Senate used a procedural loophole to pass a bill banning collective bargaining for most public employees, including teachers. But at least 50 school districts have already renewed teacher contracts and more are expected in the coming weeks, according to the Wisconsin State Journal . In Idaho , meanwhile, lawmakers sent a bill to Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter Tuesday that also would restrict collective bargaining for teachers. And in Indiana , House Democrats remain out of state to block the passage of a similar collective bargaining bill. Their absence is holding up other school overhaul proposals favored by Republican Governor Mitch Daniels.

MASSIVE CUTS IN PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett unveiled a budget proposal this week that would cut $1.5 billion from K-12 and higher education for the coming fiscal year, due in part to the loss of federal stimulus funds. More than a dozen state universities, including Penn State, would see state funding cut by half. For Penn State, which gets only about 8 percent of its funding from the state, the cuts would still translate into a loss of $182 million. University officials say those kinds of cuts could force the school to close some of its 24 campuses. The proposals would represent the largest single-year cut ever in higher education, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

POWERFUL SCHOOL OVERSEERS : Michigan senators have approved a bill to grant new powers to state-appointed officials tasked with cleaning up the finances of struggling municipalities and school districts. Under the bill, which has already been approved by the House, these emergency financial managers would have the authority to declare bankruptcy, dissolve local governments or school districts and weaken collective bargaining agreements. Senate Republicans supported the bill, which was decried by Democrats as an attempt to wrest power from local officials and consolidate it at the state level. Detroit schools are already run by an emergency financial manager and state officials expect more managers to be appointed as local governments increasingly face insolvency.

ONCE MORE FROM THE TOP: Florida ‘s legislative session opened this week and already education committees in both houses have approved legislation to tie teacher pay to student performance, eliminate tenure and require teachers to sign a new contract every year. Republican Governor Rick Scott has vowed to sign the bill should it reach his desk. A similar bill was vetoed last year by former Governor Charlie Crist. The opposition to this year’s legislation from education groups has been more muted than a year ago, since school districts and teachers’ unions endorsed similar initiatives as part of the state’s application for federal Race to the Top funds. Florida was awarded $700 million in Race to the Top money. 

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