LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - The ongoing negotiations between the La Crosse School District and its teachers continues after several spoke openly to the school board on Monday.
The teachers are hoping for a pay increase of 4.7-percent. The district has said they can offer a 2-percent due to a lack of funding. Declining enrollment has caused a $2.4 million budget shortfall.
Superintendent Dr. Aaron Engel says that Wisconsin law can make it difficult for teachers in these types of labor negotiations.
"Act 10 really changed the negotiating situation in Wisconsin and really limited the power that unions have," Engel said. "Devastating really for our unions. The result is we have to negotiate. We can mediate. But at the end of the day, the state statues indicate that the school board can impose a final offer. That's how it sometimes goes in some school districts depending on the circumstances."
Act 10 is a Wisconsin statue that sets guidelines on collective bargaining talks, particularly public employees like teachers.
The district is trying to save money over the long run. The proposed consolidation of Central and Logan High School would save the district $4.5 million annually.
While talks continue over better compensation, Engel says more than just the teacher's union and district are impacted.
“Our teachers care deeply about our students and about our community," Engel said. "I respect the decisions they might make depending on how they feel about this. Of the teachers that I’ve talked to, their job is to advocate for as much as they can. The folks I’ve talked to also understand the budgetary limitations that the state has put upon us. They’ve underfunded schools for a decade. We’re really starting to feel it in our community.”
To give an idea of the offers, a 2-percent raise would turn a $40,000 salary into $40,800. The 4.7-percent increase would make it $41,880. Teachers hope the increase in pay will attract new staff and retain current educators in the district.