As the Supreme Court reviews the constitutionality of Act 10, teachers in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District requested the opportunity to bargain for the next school year and current salaries.
The Middleton Education Association made one request to open negotiations with district officials in September and another request in October.
"We believe the recent Circuit Court ruling or the ruling Judge Colas made last year still allows us to bargain a complete or full master contract for the 2014-2015 school year. We also believe they are able to provide more of an increase," Chris Bauman, MEA president, said.
The Board of Education voted unanimously to delay any talks.
"We've requested to delay negotiations on a base salary partly because of our budget unknowns, enrollment, a variety of other things in terms of our total budget expenditures that are required for 2014-2015," MCPASD Superintendent Don Johnson said.
While the board decided to delay talks, some teachers at Middleton High School have begun circulating a petition in hopes of getting their message across.
Recently, the board approved an overall wage increase of $1,078 per year for teachers.
However, a number of teachers say the increase is not enough, considering their personal contributions to retirement and health care. In some people’s opinion, the increase penalizes teachers who have been around for years.
Bauman said teachers' patience is running thin and some are thinking about leaving the district in light of the ongoing pay freeze.
"Teachers are willing to do what they need to do to meet their students' needs, but all they're asking for is a living salary. There are teachers who have told me they're making less now than they did five years ago. That doesn't seem OK to me," Bauman said.
Johnson said he knows teachers work hard, but the school district has limited resources to keep a competitive pay scale. Johnson added the school board is considering other options for salary increases after the holidays.
When it comes to a new master contract, Johnson said the board is waiting to see what the Supreme Court rules, but if negotiating is not required, the board is likely to move toward implementing an employee handbook.
"Everybody's really waiting for this Supreme Court thing to happen because there's so much rhetoric going back and forth. I think we're just tired of having so many lawyers argue," Johnson said.
Another point of debate is the $1.7 million MCPASD received in state aid. Bauman said a budget comes down to choices and the board could have allocated money to staff that have been on a pay freeze for years. However, Johnson said more state aide means less from local property taxes and does not increase the district's revenue.
The teachers' union predicts Act 10 will be upheld, but will continue trying to convince the school board to bargain.