It’s been a while since we checked in on how things are going in Wisconsin since the state passed the law restricting collective bargaining.
Before the reform, many districts’ annual union contracts required them to buy health insurance from WEA Trust, a nonprofit affiliated with the state’s largest teachers’ union. Once the reform limited collective bargaining to wage negotiations, districts could eliminate that requirement from their contracts and start bidding for health care on the open market. When the Appleton School District put its health-insurance contract up for bid, for instance, WEA Trust suddenly lowered its rates and promised to match any competitor’s price. Appleton will save $3 million during the current school year.
That’s a win. Before the law the districts had to negotiate with ONE insurance provider. Now they can shop. The savings? $3 million.
At the outset of the public-union standoff, educators had made dire predictions that Walker’s reforms would force schools to fire teachers. In February, to take one example, Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad predicted that 289 teachers in his district would be laid off. Walker insisted that his reforms were actually a job-retention program: by accepting small concessions in health and pension benefits, he argued, school districts would be able to spare hundreds of teachers’ jobs. The argument proved sound. So far, Nerad’s district has laid off no teachers at all, a pattern that has held in many of the state’s other large school districts
Because teachers are now required to contribute to some of their health care and retirement, the districts are able to save jobs. So far 289 in one district alone. A win.
Another example of saved jobs:
The Wauwatosa School District, which faced a $6.5 million shortfall, anticipated slashing 100 jobs—yet the new pension and health contributions saved them all.
Boom goes the dynamite.
Beyond the cost savings, districts are able to implement policies that encourage better educational outcomes: