MPS teachers, psychologists to get 1% bonus from district

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee Public Schools teachers and psychologists were sent an email on Tuesday morning, March 4th indicating they would be getting a one-percent bonus in an upcoming check -- a move that has the teachers union crying foul.

MPS Board, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, decided that instead of increasing the base salaries of teachers and psychologists, give them this one-time payment, equaling one-percent of their salary, for a total of $3.6 million.

A similar one-time payment went to support and administrative staff in January, costing $3.5 million.

The email sent out on Tuesday, signed by outgoing Superintendent Dr. Gregory Thornton, said, "I want to stop and take a moment to thank you for all your hard work on behalf of our students this school year." It goes on to say, "I am pleased to announce that you will be receiving a one-time non-base building payment that is equivalent to 1% of your salary."

The email ends as follows: "On behalf of Board President, Dr. Michael Bonds, and the entire Milwaukee Board of School Directors, thank you again for your dedicated service and commitment to our students. We will continue to seek out ways to show our appreciation to you not only in terms of salary but other creative approaches."

Act 10 preserves one area of negotiation for unions -- bargaining on wages. But if an impasse is reached, a school district can give its final offer.

Milwaukee School Board member Meagan Holman says that's what happened between the board and the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association.

"There were lots of meetings. They bargained to impasse. This is Act 10 at work. This is what Gov. Walker wanted. I know that our labor negotiators have worked incredibly hard and they met with MTEA on a regular basis and this was the commitment we were able to make at this point with the kind of money we have available," Holman said.

Leaders from the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) are not happy with the surprise bonus. They sent an email to teachers that says the bonus "undermined the collective bargaining process and disrespected educators by unilaterally issues members a one-time bonus rather than bargaining with your union." It also says, "The district's refusal to respect the bargaining process, and the lack of a clear path for career advancement, restricts our ability to attract and retain quality educators."

MTEA President Bob Peterson says the board could have done more -- as some of the suburban districts have done.

He says the one-time payment in the midst of contract negotiations is somewhat of a union-busting tactic.

"Giving us small base building wage increase wouldn't have cost them that much more and it would have signaled to our employees that they're interested in attracting and retaining highly-qualified professionals," Peterson said.