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Janesville teachers consider retirement over Act 10 uncertainty

Published On: Jan 30 2013 02:44:12 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 10 2013 07:11:24 PM CST
JANESVILLE, Wis. -

Almost two years after Act 10 was introduced, the controversial law is still creating questions for teachers and school district administrators.

The Janesville teachers union said teachers dealing with uncertainty about benefits are considering retirement.

The Janesville Education Association estimates 10 percent of the district's teachers could be retiring at the end of the school year.

After 23 years on the job, fifth-grade teacher Kimberly Bern may leave the classroom. She said uncertainty about benefits after June has her considering retirement.

"My husband is self-employed. I carry the insurance, and I need to have that health care information piece before I make my decision," Bern said.

Dave Parr, president of the Janesville Education Association, said as many as 75 teachers have come to him looking for advice, but with contract talks stalled he has few answers.

"We don't have a contract after July 1. We know the school board isn't interested in talking to us about that," Parr said. "Right now, it looks more favorable for you to retire, and that's disappointing."

"The board politely notified the union we're going to wait until we know more things with the law," Janesville School Board President Bill Sodemann said.

Sodemann said he hopes the district won't lose good educators as a result of Act 10 remaining in legal limbo.

"I think those changes are going to be minor compared to other things that are more important. Are you still effective at your job? Do you enjoy doing it and working with the kids? If you do, please stay. Again, we're not trying to push anyone away," Sodemann said.

Bern said she and other staffers will have to wait for answers.

"I don't want to retire," Bern said. "I love coming to work every day. I would miss that interaction with the students, and I feel like I can still make a difference in children's lives."

So far, about 20 teachers have decided to retire at the end of the school year. It's unclear how many were motivated by this uncertainty over benefits.

Teachers have until April 15 to submit paperwork for retirement.

The Janesville Education Association estimates the district will see more retirements if there isn't a contract in place by then.

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