Spotlight on Locals: Gale Ettrick Trempealeau Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen presents Gale Ettrick Trempealeau Education Association (GETEA) President Laura Knutson with the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Certificate.  They are joined by GETEA leaders (L to R) Alexis McVietty, Sue Guenther, Karen Shimek, Jennifer Henderson, Amy Schaefer, Cindy Stetzer, and Aaron Ottum.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

When I asked Laura Knutson, President of the Gale Ettrick Trempealeau Education Association, what makes her local strong, she told me, “We have a good working relationship with our administration and our school board. We work together cooperatively.”  

This good working relationship is what led to one of the successes for the GETEA around health insurance. Two years ago, when the district began a process to make modifications in the health insurance of moving to a high deductible plan for all employees, the members of the school board listened to the concerns and fears of the employees and decided to make an investment in health savings accounts to ensure that employees would be able to meet the high deductible, especially on day one of the new plan taking effect. Laura said, “This went a long way toward calming fears and showed a good faith effort on the part of the school board and administration.”  

Cindy Stetzer, high school science teacher and leader of the Gale Ettrick Trempealeau Education Association, reiterated Laura’s sentiment about the success of the GETEA in the transition to their health insurance plan. She noted, “Because of our working relationship, the school district took the concerns of the teachers to heart. They listened to us.” Cindy also said that when working with the school district on their compensation model, “We were able to find some common ground.  The district heard us, and we built a plan that has strengths and isn’t as cumbersome as some plans in nearby districts.”  

When asked what makes the GETEA strong, Cindy shared, “It is the people that we have in our local association that keep us strong. We are active, and we have taken time to build good relationships with administration and the school board. Because of that, we have a seat at the table. Additionally, those in leadership roles always keep the lines of communication open.” 

As far as advice to other locals in Wisconsin, Cindy advised, “Focus on your successes, not what’s been lost. And, keep plugging away at this work every day by continuing to foster relationships. When you focus on what you need to best take care of and educate the students in your district, you will be able to see gains.”

Laura’s advice to locals in Wisconsin is, “Keep the lines of communication open with administration and your school board. We continue to meet regularly and remain proactive in our approaches to putting our students first and to keeping our schools strong.”

 Thank you to the Gale Ettrick Trempealeau Education Association for your steadfast commitment to cooperation, communication and relationship building.  

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.

All 18 WTCS recertifications are successful

All 18 recertification elections in Wisconsin Technical College System locals were successful this spring, according to results from the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC). Recertification votes were successful for:

Blackhawk Technical College Education Support Professionals, Blackhawk Technical College Faculty Federation, Fox Valley Technical College Education Support Personnel Association, Fox Valley Technical College Faculty Association, Gateway Educational Support Personnel, Gateway Technical Education Association, Lakeshore Technical College Education Association, Madison Area Technical College Full-Time Teachers Union, Madison Area Technical College Paraprofessional and School-Related Personnel, Milwaukee Area Technical College Full-Time Faculty, Milwaukee Area Technical College Paraprofessionals, Milwaukee Area Technical College Part-Time Faculty, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Educaton Support Specialists, Waukesha County Technical College Educational Support Professionals, Western Technical College Paraprofessionals and School-Related Employees, Western Technical College Faculty and Non-Teaching Professionals, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Support Staff, and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Teachers.

The law requires 52% of all eligible unit members (not just those voting) to vote yes for the recertification to pass. The WTCS locals are a mixture of WEAC and WFT affiliated locals.

Click here to open a PDF file with voting result details.

Educators ask Joint Finance Committee to support public education funding increases and measures to attract and retain quality teachers

Advocates of public education testified in Janesville Friday at the first of four state budget hearings by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, expressing strong support for Governor Evers’ proposals to increase public education funding and to attract and retain quality educators.

“Wisconsin’s professional educators, like myself, are locked into an unfair and unrewarding economic system,” said Janesville social studies teachers Steve Strieker.

“Working conditions and professional pay have declined. A teacher shortage looms with the continued exodus of colleagues. Teacher training is being gutted and fast tracked for easy licensure. Precious public school monies have been diverted to mostly less-needy private school students in the form of vouchers. And public school funding has been slashed. This situation stinks for public school teachers, as well as the parents, and students we serve,” Strieker said.

Others testifying Friday included WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Secretary-Treasurer Kim Schroeder and Lake Mills teacher Brenda Morris.

These and other educators asked the committee to support measures proposed both by Governor Evers in his state budget plan and by the Legislature’s own Blue Ribbon Commission on school funding. They include increased special education funding, predictable revenue cap increases and salary increases to attract and retain teachers.

Other hearings scheduled are:

  • Wednesday, April 10, Oak Creek Community Center, Oak Creek.
  • Monday, April 15, University Center – Riverview Ballroom, UW-River Falls.
  • Wednesday, April 24, University Union – Phoenix Rooms, UW-Green Bay.

Find out more about the state budget at weac.org/budget.

Lake Mills teacher Brenda Morris testifies before the Joint Finance Committee (above). WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen poses with WEAC members outside the hearing (below).

Legislative Update – JFC hears from State Superintendent

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction testified on its proposed 2019-21 budget in front of the Joint Finance Committee today, Wednesday, April 3.

The DPI budget proposal, which would increase public school funding by $1.4 billion, is a move toward restoring what’s been cut over the past eight years. Democratic legislators on the committee and State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor stood their ground on the need to increase funding for students while Republican JFC members repeatedly knocked the proposal.

While the JFC is holding hearings on the governor’s budget proposal, they’ve made clear they are considering they’ll ignore his proposal altogether and instead introduce their own budget. Given public sentiment to reinvest in education, Republican leaders have said a funding increase is on table but have questioned how much money that would include – and how it would be divided between public and private voucher schools. Republican members of the JFC did point out the funding for education in their last budget, which did not restore funding they had cut previously but marked the first time they hadn’t made cuts in many years. They also spoke out against capping voucher enrollment.

Key points from the hearing:

  • “…the focus of our budget — and my agenda as Wisconsin’s state superintendent — is educational equity. Educational equity is providing each child the opportunities they need to achieve academic and personal success. It’s about fairness.” – State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor
  • “…taxpayers probably can’t afford it.” – Luther Olsen, Senate Education Committee Chairman
  • “This budget to me obviously indicates a real true investment in K-12 education, but it also underscores how much we haven’t been paying in the past budget.” – Sen. Jon Erpenbach

Some examples of how the budget advances fairness in education:

  • Increases investment in student mental health by $63 million. State support remains far short of demand and this budget significantly expands school-based services, pupil support staff, and mental health training. One in five students faces a mental health issue, and over 80 percent of these students going untreated.
  • Invests in early childhood education. All Wisconsin students benefit from full-day 4K, and there are 3K grants for the five largest school districts. To eliminate achievement gaps, Wisconsin will finally address learning deficits early. All children deserve access to high quality, developmentally-appropriate, early learning environments – no matter where they live or what their family circumstances are.
  • Establishes after-school program funding. $20 million in aid to fund after-school programming provides more children opportunities for high-quality, extended learning time.
  • Creates Urban Excellence Initiative. Multiple strategies tackle achievement gaps in the five largest school districts that educate 20 percent of all Wisconsin students.
  • Addresses the needs of English learners. Extra support, including an increase of the state reimbursement rate from 8 percent up to 30 percent by 2021, will help this population achieve academic success.
  • Funds special education for the most vulnerable students. This budget ends the decade long freeze on primary special education aid with a $606 million investment to increase the state’s reimbursement rate from 25 percent to 60 percent by 2021.

JFC takes up transportation

Along with the DPI, the Joint Finance Committee took up the governor’s proposed transportation budget. Prevailing wage and an increase in the gas tax were among questions the committee members posed to Transpo Secretary Craig Thompson. Here are the key points:

  • While Republican members of the JFC said they doubt the guv’s proposed 8 cent/gallon increase would be offset by the elimination of the minimum markup, Dems said the gas tax increase would build a path to a long-term plan to fund roads.
  • Thompson said the governor’s plan to reinstate prevailing wage will save money over time, ensure there are qualified workers on the job, and increase competition, but Republicans on the committee expressed firm desire not to bring it back – having just eliminated it.

Bills We’re Watching

  • Character Education (AB 149 / SB 138). The Assembly version of this bill was introduced Wednesday. This authorizes the Department of Public Instruction to award grants to school districts for teachers, pupil service professionals, principals, and school district administrators to participate in professional development trainings in character education. Under the bill, DPI is authorized to make these grants for 24 months.

Legislative Update: Education committee to take up student privacy and more

The Assembly Education Committee will hold public hearings on three bills at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 4, at the state Capitol. On the docket is a bill to expand student information schools can release to the public, safety drills and including arts opportunities in school report cards.

To weigh in on any of these bills, use the WEAC Action Alert!

CLICK HERE NOW TO SEND AN EMAIL
TO THE ASSEMBLY EDUCATION COMMITTEE

  • Pupil Information (AB53 / SB57). Expands pupil information allowed to be disclosed by a public school to include the names of parents or guardians. Under current law, the information that may be included in “directory data” that may be disclosed to any person (as long as a public school notifies families of the categories of information and informs families an opt out procedure) includes pupil name, address, telephone, date/place of birth, major field of study, activity/sport participation, attendance dates, photographs, weight and height as member of athletic team, degrees/awards, and most recent school attended. School districts may include all, some or none of the categories to designate as directory data.

  • Safety Drills (AB 54 / SB56). Allows the person having direct charge of the public or private school to provide previous warning of any of these drills if he or she determines that is in the best interest of pupils attending the school. Currently, no advance notice is allowed.

  • Arts Opportunities (AB67 /SB64). Requires the Department of Public Instruction to include the percentage of pupils participating in music, dance, drama, and visual arts in annual school and school district report cards. The DPI would include this information for each high school and school district, along with the statewide percentage of pupils participating in each subject. This information would not be allowed in evaluating school performance or district improvement.

To weigh in on any of these bills, use the WEAC Action Alert!

CLICK HERE NOW TO SEND AN EMAIL
TO THE ASSEMBLY EDUCATION COMMITTEE