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Doyle removes big limits on teacher salaries

Gov. Jim Doyle removed some big limits on Wisconsin teacher salaries when he signed the new state budget Monday.

But the state's largest teachers' union says it won't be as bad for school budgets and taxpayers as many think.

Dan Burkhalter of WEAC says we'll probably see more innovative negotiating between teachers and school boards.

And the end result won't be as bad as management thinks or as good as many teachers think.

Doyle eliminated the 16-year-old QEO in which school boards avoided arbitration by offering 3.8 percent yearly increases in salaries and benefits.

But as health insurance skyrocketed over the years, many teachers gave up pay raises to avoid losing their health benefits.

Burkhalter said management got the better end of the deal in recent years and the new law gives teachers a fairer shake.

Arbitrators no longer have to give the greatest weight to local economic conditions or a district's revenue limits in deciding teacher contract disputes.

Meanwhile, the elimination of the QEO means that two parts of what insiders call the "three-legged stool" of education financing are now gone.

A second leg - the state's promise to pay two-thirds of all school costs - is now down to about 60 percent.

The only leg that remains are the schools' state-mandated revenue limits.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson put in the three-legged stool in 1993 to stop what was then the 8 to 9 percent increases in school taxes each year. Those increases have averaged 2 to 7 percent since then.