NEW RICHMOND, Wis. (WCCO) — While the Wisconsin showdown was continuing at the capitol on Sunday evening, it’s also moving to communities across the state.
At 4 p.m. on Sunday, the capitol building in Madison was supposed to be closed to protesters; the first time since the Republican governor first proposed a bill to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights as a way to help balance the state’s budget.
But hundreds of protestors have refused to leave and so far Madison police say they are trying to persuade them to leave, rather than arresting them.
Teachers in at least one western Wisconsin town are already feeling the impact of the budget battle.
All of the teachers in New Richmond received preliminary non-renewal notices from the school district. And other districts may do the same thing by Tuesday.
“We just don’t know what we’re going to have,” said New Richmond Schools superintendent Morrie Veilleux.
Veilleux said he had no other choice but to issue preliminary layoff notices to all 204 teachers in the district.
“Based on our attorney’s advice and my recommendation said that we should do mass layoff of all teachers until we can figure out what is gonna happening with our legislature here and our governor’s budget repair bill,” Veilleux said.
Veilleux said the district’s hand was forced. Without solid numbers from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget there is no way the district can know how much money the state will contribute to education.
“We don’t know what cuts will have to be made and so that’s the hard part of this thing,” said teacher Andrew Schroetter.
Teachers and union representatives Schroetter and Jim Saliny say it’s a waiting game. The governor should announce his budget on Tuesday giving districts hard numbers to use in deciding who if anyone gets laid off and or what programs could get cut.
“I think us, the union members, have said we’ll give our concessions in wages and benefits and the thing that’s really upsetting is the collective bargaining you can’t even sit across the table and talk about concessions or work conditions,” said Saliny.
Veilleux said the district had until Feb. 28 to issue the preliminary layoff notices. Final notices must be sent my March 15.
If the district had waited until April 15, which is when the teacher’s union’s contract expires, the notices would be null and void, leaving New Richmond with a huge budget shortfall and no way to lay off teachers that it can’t afford.
Both sides of the issue hope once the budget is announced, districts like New Richmond will get the say on how they spend the money.