Local district issues layoffs
The Eau Claire Area School District (EASCD) Board of Education has decided to give preliminary layoff notices to 20 teachers due to implications arising from the Budget Repair Bill.
The director of human resources for the school district, Fred Weissenburger, along with Superintendent Dan Heilmann recommended this course of action to the Board of Education based on the advice of legal counsel.
Usually, final notifications of layoffs do not need to be given until May 1 under a current contract, Weissenburger said. However, Gov. Scott Walker’s bill would terminate that contract. Without that provision in place, state law dictates that notifications need to be given by Feb. 28 with a final notice by March 15, he said.
If layoff notices are not provided in time, the district will have to continue paying the staff, according to the minutes.
“It’s a very cautious thing to do at this place in time,” Weissenburger said. It will provide “financial protection of the school district.”
Wendy Sue Johnson was the only board member to vote against this resolution. She said that this decision by the board is causing unnecessary stress, in part due to the district not knowing what its staffing needs will be yet.
She also said that the layoffs are based on a hypothetical.
“If you have an existing contract with somebody on any issue and a new law passes … the new law generally would not apply to that previous contract,” Johnson said. “It would just apply to contracts moving forward.”
UW-Eau Claire junior education major Kayla Stier also feels that decisions lately have been somewhat rash — especially considering the bill has not been passed yet.
“Nothing is official yet,” she said. “I feel like they are taking actions that aren’t even necessary yet.”
Though Weissenburger agrees that the timing of these layoff notifications isn’t optimal, the district is just being proactive and he said he trusts the advice they received.
Johnson said that layoffs typically happen based on staffing needs, though there is the chance for more layoffs to follow depending on possible budget cuts to the district.
Johnson said around 80 percent of the ECASD budget is staff salaries and benefits, so less budget may mean fewer teachers, although it is yet to be determined.
Eau Claire senior education major Melissa Meyer worries about the job climate for teachers.
“It’s definitely difficult to have a positive outlook on the job market that I’ll be entering in the next few months.”
Meyer student teaches in the Osseo-Fairchild School District, which she said just laid-off numerous teachers. “It’s very difficult to foresee a lot of positions being opened for not only people being laid-off in their own district as well as new teachers starting off next fall.”
Both Meyer and Stier said that they had not planned on teaching in other states, but they both will go to where there are jobs. Their career outlook has not changed, they said.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” Stier said. “Even if they cut my salary in half, I’ll still want to be a teacher.”