You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'Wisconsin protests'.
Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 entries.

Wisconsin’s Teacher Protests: What the Protests are NOT About

  • Posted on February 26, 2011 at 3:07 AM

Earlier this week, I wrote about the protests in Wisconsin that hit the national news feeds so hard.  It was the kind of political post that I try to stay away from on this blog.  However, I felt it necessary to post about what the protest were about, before I posted about what the protests were NOT about.

In the United States, we spend more to educate consumers about what products to buy than we spend to educate our children.  This fact provides a disturbing illustration of US priorities when it comes to education.  We do not pay teachers enough to hire and retain the high quality teachers our children deserve.  We do not devote enough resources to providing our children with the high quality learning environments they deserve.  We do not devote enough resources to develop the best methodologies for teaching our children, nor do we train our teachers in the existing best practices as our children deserve.

Imagine if parents, teachers, school administrators, and community leaders protested our country low prioritization of education.  Imagine if it happened in just one state.  The way the protests in Madison have spread, we could raise awareness to new heights.  Instead, teachers protest over their union rights, their pay raises, and the amount they must contribute to their benefits packages.  If the protesters in Madison are to be believed, union rights are sacrosanct, but our children’s rights to a high quality education are not.  If teachers have to be let go, if classes have to be shut down, if services for students with disabilities need to be pared back or eliminated—well, that’s fine.  Just don’t touch their union rights. 

Our public schools are in trouble.  Unions do not help the situation.  It seems like nobody is really helping the situation.  Our priorities haven’t changed.  Our country still wants to provide students with an assembly-line style education for as little money as possible.  As much as special education rights represent a dramatic shift from that mentality, that shift has only gone so far.  Too many people argue that special education deprives “real” students of the resources they need.  Providing those “real” students with individualized education isn’t even on the negotiating table.

Why not?  Why aren’t our children our highest priority?  Why is it so easy for education budgets to be attacked?  Why do we, the voting public, tolerate the federal government’s inadequate support for federally mandated education, while our politicians vote for pork barrel spending to buy off their constituents?

I’m a fiscal conservative.  I believe the government should live within a balanced budget.  But I also believe that our spending priorities have to benefit the people—not just some special interest groups, but all the people—first and foremost.  Few things satisfy that priority like providing our children with a high quality education.  But that isn’t our priority because the voting public, the protesters, and the lobbyists do not make it a priority—so our elected politicians do not have to either.

There are a lot of things worthy of protest.  There are a lot of things that are worth my time and energy.  Protecting union rights are not.  Once upon a time, when workers were systematically abused by their employers and unions fought against those abuses, the unions were worth fighting for.  Now unions are a political force unto themselves, answerable first and foremost to themselves, and then to the workers they represent.  Like any other special interest group limiting information or disseminating misinformation is their stock and trade, a means of influencing their base, and they are good at it.

The irony is that if our present day workers—including the college-educated teachers who are currently teaching our kids—had a better education, then these tactics wouldn’t work nearly so well.  But, that’s not really ironic at all.  It’s the whole point.  Why would decision makers provide their constituents with a high quality education when doing so would require them to meet higher standards of political discourse and legislative action?  It’d be like shooting themselves in the foot.

Wisconsin’s Teacher Protests: What the Protests are About

  • Posted on February 21, 2011 at 6:39 AM

Sometimes it’s difficult to keep my political blogging past in the past.  When Wisconsin makes the national news day after day, it’s difficult.  When my kids’ schools are closed due to political protests, it’s difficult.  I wanted to post about the protests on Friday, but I resisted…for a while, anyway.  The more I thought about it, the more I saw this as an opportunity to post about what the protests are NOT about.  But first, I’ll post about what the protests are about.

According to the union protesters:

  • This bill eliminates the union’s ability bargain with local governments and endangers their union’s ability to protect workers’ rights.

According to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:

  • Wisconsin is broke.
  • He was elected to shore up deficit spending.
  • He will reduce how much money the state provides to local governments to fund vital services.
  • This bill provides tools to those local governments to keep government jobs and keep costs under control.
  • This bill does so by increasing the amount government workers must contribute to their retirement and health care benefits, while limiting the union’s ability to negotiate with local governments, requiring local voter approval for negotiations.
  • Workers rights are protected by Wisconsin law, not the union.

Personally, I think the union has motivated the workers they represent to protest due to another facet of this bill:  It gives worker the choice to join the union or not.  Workers currently do not have that choice in Wisconsin.  For example, if you are hired to work as a teacher for the public school system, you are automatically part of the union and you automatically have to pay union dues.  You join the union or you don’t work as a teacher.  The unions want to protect this status quo, because it increases their rosters and the amount of dues they collect.  I believe that is the primary reason the union has worked so hard to stir up their members.

This is also the primary reason I do not agree with the protesters.  There is a lot of misinformation being disseminated on the news stations.  Hailing back to my political blogging days, I did something profound:  I actually read the bill.  Governor Walker is right; it does limit the union’s powers.  It does not eliminate them as protesters and pundits have claimed.  It also does not increase the amounts workers will have to contribute by nearly as much as many pundits have claimed.  However, the bill is also disingenuous, as most pieces of legislation are.  It is disingenuous because it lumps things like whether or not union membership can be forced on a worker with an emergency budget bill.  That kind of thing happens a lot, but it shouldn’t.

While I support Governor Walker’s efforts to respond to the havoc the recession has wrought on Wisconsin’s economy, I don’t support his decision to include anti-union legislation with an emergency budget bill.  While I support workers’ right to protest for the issues that are important to them, I cannot join in a protest that supports forcing workers into a union.  Nor do I think it reasonable for government workers to stay isolated from the effects of the recession when that isolation contributes to the hardships the taxpayers must endure.  It’s a tough choice, but Governor Walker was elected to make it.