La Crosse teachers and community members rally for increase in teacher wages

LA CROSSE (WKBT) – La Crosse teachers say their district needs to do what so many other Wisconsin districts have and give them a cost of living wage increase.

The La Crosse Education Association and school district are working on a new contract agreement. The union asked the district for a consumer-based, cost of living increase of 4.7%. The district is offering teachers 2%.

On Monday, teachers and community members marched from Powell Park to the Hogan Administrative Center to testify at the school board meeting. The union president says if the district does not raise its offer, even more experienced teachers will leave the district.

The union started a petition for higher wages. The president says more than 560 community members have already signed it.

“And we hope that today the school district and the board will see that it’s not just the teachers and the employees of the school district, but it’s the whole community who is on board with this,” said Jesse Martinez.

La Crosse Schools Superintendent Aaron Engel says the district isn’t in a financial position to offer teachers more. Engel says due to declining enrollment and state aid, the district has less money this year than last year. La Crosse schools will start the year with a $2.4 million budget deficit.

“It’s trying to balance those competing needs. I wish we could get them the maximum raise and then some. The challenge is our finances don’t dictate it. And for us to be good stewards of our school district we have to be responsible with how we allocate those funds, ” Engel explained.

The La Crosse Educators Association asked for state mediators to help with negotiations. Teachers and Engel are hopeful they can reach an agreement soon.

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