Sick Leave Headaches

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There's been plenty in Wisconsin to raise teachers' temperatures, but moves by districts to cut sick leave now that teachers unions have limited collective bargaining rights is no doubt causing some fevers. An article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says that Hamilton School District is reducing its 20 annual sick days by about half and Elmbrook School District is going from as many as 15 sick days per year to just seven days. 
These stats will no doubt be waved around by some as evidence that Wisconsin's teachers are losing their rights and benefits.  But let's take a look at each case.  Remembering that this is sick leave—teachers' vacation time is built into the school calendar—Hamilton seems to be moving from an excessively generous benefit toward the norm.  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average full-time, private industry worker earns just eight days of sick leave after five years.  With the reduction, Hamilton's sick and personal leave will now be on par with 33 other districts we track in the Teacher Rules, Roles, and Rights (Tr3) database.

Elmbrook, on the other hand, while not far off from the private industry average, will be giving teachers less sick and personal leave than almost all of the 98 districts for which we have such data.  (The one exception is El Paso, which gives 6.5 days to first and second year teachers; after that teachers have 11 days of sick and personal leave combined.) The district reports this cut will save $16,000 a year.  That seems like very small savings compared to the big hit it will likely seem to teachers.

Ginger Moored