WI Judge Strikes Down Act 10
The Wisconsin law that broke the union stranglehold on Wisconsin schools in an effort to gain fiscal balance lost most of its force on September 14, when a judge ruled parts of Act 10 to be unconstitutional. The lower court ruling sets the stage for a state Supreme Court battle and throws Wisconsin school districts’ current budgets into chaos.
After Dane County Judge Juan Colas overturned key parts of the Wisconsin law, Governor Scott Walker issued this statement: “The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5th. Now, they are ready to move on. Sadly, a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backward and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the Legislature and the governor.” June 5th was the date the governor won the election a second time against the same opponent, in a recall fueled by the union.
Many union leaders and teachers are pleased with the ruling. “As we have said from day one, Scott Walker’s attempt to silence the union men and women of Wisconsin’s public sector was an immoral, unjust and illegal power grab,” stated Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.
Act 10 allowed collective bargaining with government union workers only over cost-of-living salary adjustments, eliminating bargaining over other issues such as health benefits, safety, and pensions. This severely reduced the power of the Wisconsin teachers union. Since police and fire fighters could bargain on all issues, Judge Colas ruled the law was unfair as all workers were not treated the same. Overturning the law apparently strikes down provisions that workers pay half of their pension contribution and at least half of their health care premiums.
Last year Act 10 was temporarily blocked when another judge said the state legislature had violated open meeting laws, but the state Supreme Court overturned that decision and restored the law. Governor Scott is confident that the state will ultimately win this new battle on appeal.
School district budgets for 2012-13 were based on Act 10 provisions. Now many districts’ contracts/agreements with their unionized teachers are back to the status quo, but there is no longer money from the state to fund that status quo.
West Bend School Superintendent Ted Neitzke said, “We don’t have the money to pay for what we used to do.”