By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
Madison, Wis. — The Sauk Prairie school board on Monday unanimously approved a new collective bargaining agreement for teachers while Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s signature law that restricts collective bargaining for government employees, is before the state Supreme Court.
“Act 10 is not in force, it’s been declared unconstitutional,” school board president Richard Judge told Wisconsin Reporter. “I think the (Dane County) Circuit Court ruling made it clear that we can do what we want to do.”
The state has appealed a ruling, that parts of Act 10 are unconstitutional, made in September 2012 by Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas. But lawyers from other school boards and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards have advised their clients not to engage in collective bargaining with teacher unions.
“I suppose somebody could (sue the school board),” Judge said. “I don’t think they’d have a lot of standing.”
But C.J. Szafir, at the public interest law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, disagreed.
“Judge Colas’ decision only applies to Dane County. We will be looking into it,” Szafir said. “Just like Kenosha and like (Milwaukee Area Technical College), where (WILL) has filed lawsuits, there is no window to evade Act 10.
Last week, WILL filed a lawsuit against Kenosha Unified School District, its school board and the Kenosha Education Association – the local teacher’s union – after the board approved a contract with the union.
The suit contends the agreement violated Act 10 by collective bargaining for more than base wage increases beyond the rate of inflation. Kenosha school district attorneys had warned school board members the contract negotiations were “likely illegal.”
Likewise, the Wisconsin Association of School Boards has told school board members not to negotiate with unions.
“We’ve been advising (school board members) that we believe that the Court of Appeals decision made clear the reason they didn’t issue a stay on the Colas ruling is that they believed it only applied to the parties to that decision,” said Barry Forbes, an attorney at WASB.
The Sauk Prairie agreement scraps base salary increases and instead institutes a salary schedule like those used before Act 10 passed. The agreement also reinstates a grievance process for teachers.
“You’re free to disagree with the policy,” said Szafir. “But you can’t disregard state law. There are penalties for ignoring the law.”
Contact reporter Ryan Ekvall at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Nockian.