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Wisconsin Association of School Boards executive director John Ashley is asking legislators to modify Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill in a letter sent to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance.

The newest letter is a pretty sharp departure from the organization's initial statement when Walker announced his plans last week.

Ashley represents hundreds of school districts across Wisconsin. The organization has long sought more power and flexibility in dealing with teachers and their unions but the letter dated Tuesday and sent to Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Robin Voss, co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, says the proposed bill goes well beyond anything the group's membership has requested.

Pending legislation, Ashley says, could create problems for individual school districts, including possible job actions and other disruptions. His letter also states the bill as written "would wipe away the ability of local school boards to use the bargaining process in ways that enhance local control."

The letter says that while WASB is "generally supportive of provisions in the budget adjustment bill that would require (or enable) greater employee contributions to pension and health insurance benefits to control costs in these areas...members are deeply divided over the dramatic curtailment of collective bargaining rights proposed in the bill."

It could be that the extent of that division has only become apparent in the past few days. The association's initial news release simply said that Walker's plan "brings balance back to bargaining" and that they would "work with the Legislature and Governor to modify the reform package as needed."

Ashley notes in the new letter that the bill goes well beyond anything WASB members have requested in terms of altering the employer-employee relationship.

Ashley outlines specific WASB requested changes but says the net effect would still "keep in place the basic collective bargaining structure that has maintained labor peace in Wisconsin for over 50 years."

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