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Madison schools are closed today after teachers called in sick

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Schools in Madison are closed today, after 40-percent of teachers' union members called in sick by late last night.

They're protesting Governor Scott Walker's proposed cutbacks for public unions. Madison Teachers Incorporated has 26-hundred members, and director John Matthews is urging them to attend a State Capitol rally planned for today to oppose the cutbacks. He said his group only has one day to make a difference.

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The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee will vote on the measure today, and the full Senate will take it up tomorrow. Republican legislative leaders say they have the votes to pass the bill - which ends public union bargaining rights except for pay raises at-or-below inflation.

Workers would also have to pay more for their health insurance and pensions. Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad told parents earlier yesterday that contingency plans were being made to keep the schools open. But by 11 last night, he said there were serious concerns about maintaining a safe-and-secure environment at school. Although the students won't be there, Nerad still expects staff members to show up. Earlier, he said those who take a sick day would need to show medical proof, or else be docked a day's pay.

Madison teachers cannot take personal days off with less than three days' notice. Matthews said it's the first coordinated absence by his group in 16 years.

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