School districts are firing more teachers in the three years since new collective bargaining laws did away with certain job protections, according to the state's teachers' union and school board association.
No group tracks how many teachers get let go, but the Wisconsin Education Association Council and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards both report a noticeable increase in terminations and non-renewals of contracts, the Oshkosh Northwestern Media reported.
Union contracts used to require that school boards had proof of wrongdoing before firing a teacher, with an arbitrator reviewing the case to ensure the board had just cause for termination. But those job protections were dissolved under Act 10, the law that restricted collective bargaining for most public employees.
Supporters of the law said it kept unions from preventing the firing of bad teachers. Opponents said it opened the door to discrimination and arbitrary firings.
Many districts have established new grievance procedures that allow teachers due process. That means they can request a hearing and argue their case before the school board, but there would be no arbitrator.
"Under Act 10 so many districts have thrown the idea of just cause out the window," WEAC spokeswoman Christina Brey said. "... Without a procedure in place where the employer would follow a certain standard or protocol, (firing) now really equates to an unfair process for educators who might be targeted."
At least one school official said it was hard to say whether there the number of firings or resignation agreements was up. Mike Nault, the human resources director for the Oshkosh school district, said the bottom line was that any separations be handled fairly.
He said the district fired two teachers in the past year — one for being drunk in the classroom and another for reasons not related to performance. Another six teachers agreed to quit as part of disciplinary cases.
"From an HR perspective, I think it's very important that employees understand that whether it's discipline or non-renewal or termination that we will treat them fairly and give them every opportunity to improve and perform competently," he said. "When you give them that support and due process, I think employees understand they're treated in a respectful manner."
Resignation agreements generally include some form of compensation or benefits in exchange for the employee's voluntary resignation.