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Madison School Board approves 3% base wage increase for staff in 5-1 vote

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By a 5-1 vote, the Madison School Board on Wednesday approved a 3% base wage increase for staff for the coming school year, two-thirds of what local teachers union Madison Teachers Inc. had asked for at the start of negotiations.

Board members Laura Simkin, Savion Castro, Chris Gomez-Schmidt, Nichelle Nichols and board Vice President Maia Pearson voted to approve the 3% increase, while board member Nicki Vander Meulen voted against the increase. Board President Ali Muldrow recused herself from the vote because her partner works for the district.

“Our teachers deserve 4.7%, nothing less,” Vander Meulen said. “Because I believe in our staff and I would like to keep our staff, I have to vote no.”

Simkin and Gomez-Schmidt said they are in favor of reopening negotiations if a surplus is discovered in the budget. Gomez-Schmidt pointed to the 0% increase in the revenue limit for public schools under the state’s current two-year budget as the main factor preventing the district from offering a higher increase.

Madison School Board adopts $561 million budget 6-1, amid ongoing wage negotiations

MTI president Mike Jones said he was disappointed in the decision, saying it could affect staffing and hiring for the coming school year.

“We’re going to be planning for a school year knowing we’re going to be down staffing-wise with no discernable plan by the district to increase hiring,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some tough decisions on our end.”

The district’s negotiating team told the union that a 3% wage increase for all staff was their final offer on June 10, and again on July 1, according to district documents.

MTI responded to both notices with proposals for ways the district could reach the 4.7% base wage increase and remain within the budget, which was passed by the School Board in June. But those proposals were met with silence from district administration, Jones said.

“Which is frustrating,” Jones said, adding, “4.7% we knew was going to be a challenge, but when you’re seeing all of the other districts around you and all of the urban districts in Wisconsin able to do it, it makes you wonder.”

The Milwaukee School Board unanimously approved a 4.7% base wage increase for all staff at the end of April, the largest increase in more than a decade for the district, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Kenosha and Green Bay school boards also unanimously approved a 4.7% base wage increase for staff in March for the coming school year. In January, the Oshkosh School District also approved a 4.7% wage increase for all staff.

Parents, district employees warn of an exodus of special education staff if pay isn't raised

In Dane County, the Marshall School District plans to give certified staff a 4.7% increase next school year, while McFarland will offer all staff a wage increase of roughly 6.1%. The Verona School District offered staff a 4.7% increase, but the increase is dependent on the passage of a fall referendum; the Waunakee School Board approved a 4.7% base wage increase for teachers and a 4.7% wage increase for all staff; and the Wisconsin Heights School Board voted to extend a 4.7% base wage increase to all employees.

3% in budget

The Madison School Board voted 6-1 in June to adopt the district’s $561.3 million preliminary budget for next school year, which included the 3% base wage increase.

Madison teachers warn of an exodus of staff if inflationary 4.7% base wage increase is not met

Negotiations began in May with MTI requesting the 4.7% increase — the annual inflationary amount and the maximum allowed in bargaining under state law. The district offered a 2% increase — not including additional wage increases tied to experience and educational attainment, known as steps and lanes.

In the budget adopted by the district in June, that base wage increase offered by the district had grown to 3% for all staff through bargaining, along with a 2% increase specifically tied to experience and educational attainment for teachers.

MTI, along with teachers and staff, had previously warned of a staff exodus if the 4.7% increase was not met. More than 300 staff members submitted their intent to resign or retire from the district during the July regular board meeting.

“It’s disappointing because we’re all trying to be on the same page in terms of doing what’s right for our kids and our families and our community, but that involves recognizing people’s labor ... and putting your money where your mouth is if you’re going to say, ‘We value our workforce,’” Jones said.

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Elizabeth Beyer is a digital producer for the Wisconsin State Journal. She joined the team in 2019 and was formerly a data, video and audio reporter at the La Crosse Tribune.

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