All eight members of the Madison Metropolitan School Board say Gov. Scott Walker's pending budget repair bill is likely to undermine the board's productive working relationship with teachers, damage the work environment and create problems for students.
And, they say, it's unlikely that the changes imposed on school districts will help balance the budget.
The board took the unusual position Tuesday morning of releasing a written public response to the governor's proposal, urging him to reconsider the plan.
"The rush to push radical changes through the legislature in a matter of days before anyone has a chance to consider their ramifications in a careful and balanced way shows lack of respect for our employees and the democratic process," the statement reads.
It is signed by Board President Maya Cole, Vice President Beth Moss and board members Ed Hughes, James Howard, Lucy Mathiak, Marj Passman, Arlene Silviera and student representative Wyeth Jackson.
The statement puts the district at odds with the official position of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. According to a statement by WASB executive director John Ashley on the organization's website, "Gov. Walker's proposal will provide school boards with flexibility in containing benefit and wage costs."
According to Madison board member Marj Passman, WASB's position could ultimately create more problems than it solves for local school districts. "I've been disappointed with the association for some time... I've lost faith that the association can help us, or our teachers," Passman told me Tuesday morning via phone.
Passman, a former teacher, added that she visited several Madison schools early this morning where teachers were participating in informational picket lines protesting Walker's budget plans before the school day began.
"It sure seemed to me like there was a lot of community support for them (the teachers) out there this morning, with cars honking and people waving. This was all on their own time, and when the contract day began, everyone was inside," Passman added. "I do think they have to be careful to preserve that support from parents and from the Madison community."
A letter from Madison Superintendent Daniel Nerad to Walker released Monday requests slowing down the process for the governor's budget repair bill, with a return to the bargaining table to resolve "very difficult budget problems." In his message, Nerad warned, "The upset for our entire staff that has been created through your proposal does not portend well for our community."
At the state level, Superintendent Tony Evers has called on legislators to change some provisions in the bill to avoid harm to public schools. Writing to Rep. Robin Vos and Sen. Alberta Darling, education committee chairs for Wisconsin's legislature, Evers said Monday that stripping collective bargaining rights from teachers would bring an immediate salary cut of up to 10 percent for Wisconsin's teachers and would "shatter relationships among educators and schools leaders" and "hurt classrooms, our kids and the people who educate them."