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Competency, Not The Contract, Should Be The Main Issue for Conservatives in School Board Race

Why supporting the teachers contract should not be the big issue for conservatives in evaluating the three conservative challengers in the School Board election.

Last year on May 23 the Menomonee Falls School Board approved what I hope will be the final contract ever for the district. At the time I was opposed to the decision and felt it was a serious mistake. My wife, who is now running for the School Board, disagreed with me. At the time the Teachers Unions were leading the fight to restore collective bargaining and attacking the best leader I have seen in politics in a long time, Scott Walker.

This clouded my opinion into thinking our side might be losing the battle in our very conservative community. Now I want to explain in this blog some reasons my wife may have been right.

Before I begin, I want to say despite my opposition, I was not happy with the behavior of some on my side. Mark Belling and others, attacked the school board members personally. I amost understand the protesters shouting shame as my wife and I enter the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner for the Waukesha GOP, last April, but I would like to see conservatives take the high road. I took the opportunity to have a discussion with a current school board member. They are not career politicians, but rather people who serve because they want to see that our children get a good education. They may have mis-read the likely future outcomes of the legal challenges to Act 10 putting more pressure than needed to accept what they felt was a favorable deal for the district.

First, we need to look at why they felt the need to do anything before the court settled the Act 10 legal battle. Contract negotiations were initiated in the fall of 2010. Included in the negotiations with the union, the School Board had been working to switch health providers, even before Scott Walker took office. Through a health care study, the district was determined to move Humana, and would start  July 1, 2011. If my memory is correct, the district needed to give WEA Trust a thirty day notice on cancelation. They were coming close to the time and needed to make some decision. The district had an 18 month lock on price for the new carrier that gave the district $700,000 in savings. The next week was Memorial Day meaning time was short to make the decision and give the 30 day notice to WEA Trust.

Still my big concern was the second year of the contract. You could argue with tougher negotiations and union knowing it only had months, at most, left before their power would be gone, that they could have got a one-year deal, but there is no way of knowing that. This point is irrelevant by the time of the vote since it would be very difficult to get that change made quickly enough. My concern with the second year of the contract was that they would have trouble with the budget for this coming school year. However, with the deal last month for more concessions from the union before the window expired to do so, provided by the legislature and Scott Walker, that took away that argument.

Included in the contract, in addition to switching health insurance carriers the teachers are making the same 5.8% contribution as state employees, they are paying 8% to 15.8% of health insurance premiums depending on the choice of plans which did end up less than state employees based on the larger numbers choosing the plan with the smaller network.  In addition, they cut post-retirement healthcare by more than half. I asked if the School Board would have taken more if Act 10 were in place in time and the answer was no. These changes are actually similar to what other school districts achieved that did not make contracts and went solely off Act 10.

On the mind of the members of the School Board were several other points:

  • The contract locked in the savings giving stability for the administration to prepare for the coming school year even if the courts took months more to make the decision.
  • If we failed or fail in the future to keep Act 10 in place, the Menomonee Falls last contract is a much more favorable place to start from than the one they had.
  • The school board and administration now have time to put the handbook together and plan a well thought out transition.

Some have claimed if they had implemented Act 10 fully that they would not have laid off teachers. This statement is ignorant in two ways. First there is no such thing a full implementation of Act 10, since for instance, you could eliminate health coverage all together under Act 10. Second in a district with declining enrollment at several levels like Menomonee Falls it would not be prudent to keep more staff if you felt could deliver the needed services with less staff.

The contract is actually a success of Act 10. Without Act 10 there is no way the school district would have got anywhere near the savings they got. There are districts that waited until Act 10 was settled and had teachers sacrifice less. If our district waited and did the same thing it would have been used as an example of how Act 10 was working. It is unfair to compare Menomonee Falls School Board passing a contract to Milwaukee where they irresponsibly did a deal for four years knowing big budget cuts would come, a new governor promising to cut spending, and federal money to stimulate public unions going away. It is also not like Kenosha where they are firing large numbers of teachers because of the deal they made. Those contracts should be serious election issues and those board members should be held accountable for their lack of concern for education in their communities.

I have read through the contract and it has positive aspects listed above in addition to creating an opportunity to implement merit pay in the coming school year. I see several options for balancing future budgets using Act 10. First, like my wife suggests on her website, larger deductibles which fit well with going self- insured that the district moving toward at as it gets data from Humana, which is something WEA Trust refused to do. Second, currently the district pays the whole cost of long term disability insurance, this could be an option for the employee at some cost to the employee. Third, the contract allows 12 sick days per year, I have not used 12 sick days in my last 10 years.  This could be lowered to 8 and still be more than fair.

The last thing I would point out is the two other conservative candidates are making a big deal about the contract and use of Act 10, basically the main point of their campaigns. Yet when asked what they would do differently they had a Rick Perry moment, but a least Rick Perry just forgot his plan, these two never had one. They have not prepared themselves in any way to do better than the people they are complaining about.

For the School Board elections here in Menomonee Falls we should not make support of this contract the big issue. My wife is not “sold out” to any union nor would she ever “sell out” to the unions. She does want to work with all employees, as any leader should, to achieve better results. She will support using the tools given in Act 10 to control costs and has put the effort in to be the “Competent Conservative” in this race.

1) http://www.sdmf.k12.wi.us/modules/cms/pages.phtml?sessionid=74b1764545cc48f8625c2605e67d714b&pageid=231210&sessionid=74b1764545cc48f8625c2605e67d714b

 

2)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tulsa March 20, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Mr Divelbiss : Just who is running for Election you or your wife .after seeing the MF logo are you now speaking and or a representative for the School Dist. You called the other two candidates conservative but what about the other person running . I take it your wife would have supported the 2 year contract as you would of as you said. I think most residents feel it was the way the contract was brought forth and the NON- disclosure agreement was a turned off and 11th hour and limited notice didn't help current board members, and the exit of the Super to St.Louis. I think your wife being a teacher may help in her in this election and brings hands on experience the other Candidates may not have . Good Luck .
Michele Divelbiss March 20, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Chris...My husband is just my biggest fan. The graphic is just one chosen by Carl. Dave and I have never really talked politics, so I will not claim to know his political beliefs. My husband was actually very opposed to the contract. Only in hindsight has he been able to look back and see that the contract was actually moving in the right direction. He came to his own conclusions after I insisted he actually read the entire thing. I truly hope that the community will be able to get to know Dr. Greco. Dr. Marty is gone and it's time to move on. Dr. Greco has already provided sound leadership in less than a year on the job. I guess in my own sense of modesty and practicality, I tend to downplay my experience as a teacher. I have experienced some good times subbing and some very frustrating times as an aide before I had kids, but I have always felt having the flexibility to be home with my kids has been worth not working full time.
Tulsa March 20, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Mrs Divelbiss :Maybe you need Carl to post that it was his discision to used the MF School Dist , logo because it gave the impression that the School Dist is supporting you , which I feel would be improper for the School Dist to do . With that said , Mr Divelbiss has is own blog page and has been bloging on your behalf on every posting on the web, I 'am more interested in what YOU have to say and less what your Husband viewpoints IE, rebublican circle etc etc. As I stated ,the contract was and still is a issue for many for the reasons I listed. Your lucky you can be a stay home Mom but as you know if your elected you will be away for home alot more . One of my Question is will you tell us you will only make decisions base on what you have read and have first hand Knowledge not what some other board member tells you. I would like to ask the other candidates many of the same Questions if they feel to answer . One debate held by the PTA was insufficient to Vet all the Candidates , I would hope the others would inform us the difference between Candidates since you said all are conservatives, whatever that means.
Michele Divelbiss March 21, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Chris...we can keep up the discourse on here or I would even meet for lunch or after you were off work. My family has already been getting used to Mom having a busy schedule, and I believe setting an example of service is important for my children to see. I have only attended a couple board committee meetings, but I do know a committee can only consist of three board members, because you cannot have a quorum voting at the committee level. I know Dave Noshay likes to attend he finance committee meetings, but he cannot vote on any committee action, because he isn't a member of that committee. He just likes to hear the discussions. The committee meetings are open to the public in most cases. So items will get discussed at the committee level and then once approved there it goes to the full board. The board receives an executive summary packet for the given agenda items. Dr. Greco was the one to institute the discussion/action sequence, so items on the agenda are discussed at the first meeting and then advanced or action at the following meeting. I have seen action delayed for further discussion when warranted.
Michele Divelbiss March 21, 2012 at 02:41 AM
So should I be elected, I would absolutely take every opportunity to determine for myself which way I will vote on a given issue. I am told that past practice has been to put new board members on the finance committee to make sure they have an understanding of what is happening finance wise in the district. I feel like the Finance Study Group they offered to the public gave me a good beginner's course. If you really want to talk about how politics play into it, I would really prefer to meet you sometime in person. I have very definite feelings, but those discussions are better face to face. I'm not a coffee drinker and I don't go to bars, but I'd be happy to meet next week.
Tulsa March 23, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Thanks Michele : I am gathering information on the cadidates and feel free to continue our discourse here. One of the current board member Lori Blodorn said " aligning with political party does the community disservice" and aligning oneself with polical affiliation etc. Michele with what you and your husband have said about being a conservative Rebublican party members I think Blodorn was refering to you as a candidate ,,, Refer to Partisan politics articale 3/22/12 on MF patch Your Thoughts Michele. ---- You can respond over there on that article if you like. I sure you will like to respond to Blodorn Statements.

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