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School districts staying the course in wake of Act 10 ruling

MENOMONEE FALLS — On Friday, September 14th, a Dane County judge declared parts of Act 10 unconstitutional. Act 10 curtailed most collective bargaining rights for union workers. Friday’s ruling would reinstate collective bargaining rights for school and local government workers. Wisconsin’s Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is expected to ask for a stay on the Act 10 ruling, which would keep the law in place, at least temporarily, while an appeal moves forward. Meanwhile, school districts across the state are left wondering what the ruling means for them.

The Menomonee Falls School District says it is in a unique situation. Its teachers’ union negotiated a two-year contract with concessions based on the downturn of the economy — even before Act 10 was passed in June 2011. Menomonee Falls officials say in light of Friday’s ruling overturning parts of Act 10, they expect to stay the course.

“Rather than jumping to a conclusion, everybody is just waiting to see how this is going to play out,” Menomonee Falls School District Superintendent Dr. Patricia Greco said.

Other districts and unions who fought Act 10 in the state Legislature may see the judge’s ruling as a way to restore collective bargaining rights.

For the Milwaukee Public School District – the state of Wisconsin’s largest public school district, the only statement on Friday’s ruling from administration was: “We continue to focus on improving student achievement and focus on maximizing academics.”

In Menomonee Falls, an email was sent out to staff over the weekend regarding Friday’s ruling, saying: “We don’t know the impact, and we will keep you informed.”

“No one knows the true ramifications of it right now. The agreements that we have though are representative of the union and the board working together. Regardless of what happens with the state, our groups had already agreed to the conditions at that time,” Dr. Greco said.

Dr. Greco said all school districts are used to dealing with budget uncertainties, often unsure of the amount of state funding they will have.

If Friday’s Act 10 ruling changes things, it will be one more issue for school districts to tackle.

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