Thursday, June 14, 2018

Scott Walker's immodest attack on Wisconsin education

Cap Times Editor Emeritus Dave Zweifel's current column is a must-read primer on the many corrosive consequences on students, teachers and the learning environment tied to Gov. Scott Walker's signature attack on public policy in Wisconsin known as Act 10.

Zweifel cites a new study which underscores the first-hand accounts many of us have heard since Walker "dropped the [Act 10] bomb" on an unsuspecting public sector workforce statewide once he took office in 2011, and writes: 
Among the hardest hit have been the state's public school teachers. Not only were they required to pick up a significant portion of their health insurance and pension costs, Act 10 also significantly hamstrung local school districts from raising some revenue on their own even as the state cut $750 million from public education while enacting tax breaks for many of the state's big businesses.
To state the obvious, the act has significantly altered the relationship among teachers, administrators and school boards. Just how big this impact has been was detailed in a study conducted last year entitled: "In the aftermath of Act 10: The changed state of teaching in a changed state...."
[The] researchers...found that Act 10 has had a big impact on the teachers' relationships with their districts and the way they teach in the classroom and has also contributed to emotions that include feeling vulnerable, indifferent and sanguine...
One of the toughest problems for teachers, the study found, is that because Act 10 took away the requirement that teachers could be fired only for just cause, there's constant pressure to be extra careful. In other words, you never know when an official will visit your classroom, not like what you're doing and soon you're out the door. 
The study also revealed that class sizes have increased in most of the districts and there is now seldom enough time to "sit down with kids" and build relationships. 
The "churn" among the teaching force is significant, many have retired early, and others leave for better and, often, less-stressful jobs.
I'd taken a closer look in September at Act 10's continuing, negative impacts - -  
Walker's WI Act 10 destroyed the teaching profession
- - and Zweifel's focus on the study helps add data and context to Act 10 and its endlessly-unfolding trauma. 

One thing to never forget about all this is the dissembling Walker engaged in about Act 10, its reach, and goals when he launched and sugar-coated it. 

Remember Walker's assertion at a news conference that Act 10 was a set of mere "modest, modest  requests," as reported by then-Isthmus editor Bill Lueders on February 18, 2011? Talk about must-read/never-forget journalism
"These are bold political moves, but these are modest, modest requests," Walker asserted, of proposals that would completely strip public employees of their right to collectively bargain for anything except salaries (and to severely limit their ability to do even this), along with sweeping new rules that will make it difficult for their unions to survive.
And why do I say Walker dissembled? Because his own account of the reach and impacts that hoped would flow from Act 10 were captured in his own, self-serving braggadocio recorded by a Buffalo, NY blogger during an infamous February, 2011 prank call when Walker thought he was talking to heavyweight far-right funder David Koch.

Here is what Walker said during the call that he had told his Cabinet a few days earlier on February 6th, 2011 - - twelve days before he stood in the State Capitol, and, with false modesty, spun Act 10 to reporters as "modest, modest requests." 

This is how he framed Act 10 for his top advisers, and does any of it sound "modest, modest" to you
This is an exciting time. This is — you know, I told my cabinet, I had a dinner the Sunday, or excuse me, the Monday right after the 6th. Came home from the Super Bowl where the Packers won, and that Monday night I had all of my cabinet over to the residence for dinner. 
Talked about what we were gonna do, how we were gonna do it. We’d already kinda built plans up, but it was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb. 
And I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before, had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air-traffic controllers. 
And, uh, I said, to me that moment was more important than just for labor relations or even the federal budget, that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism because from that point forward, the Soviets and the Communists knew that Ronald Reagan wasn’t a pushover. 
And, uh, I said this may not have as broad of world implications, but in Wisconsin’s history — little did I know how big it would be nationally — in Wisconsin’s history, I said this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history. And this is why it’s so important that they were all there. 
I had a cabinet meeting this morning and I reminded them of that and I said for those of you who thought I was being melodramatic you now know it was purely putting it in the right context.


Anonymous said...

And don't forget about how he let his so called business loans that don't get paid back.

Anonymous said...

Long after Scott Walker is consigned to be an asterisk in the history of what was once a great state, public education in Wisconsin will NEVER recover to the level of excellence that Wisconsinites enjoyed for 30 years before Scott Walker & the Rethuglicans made it their mission to denigrate and destroy the personal lives of thousands of dedicated educators across Wisconsin.

Since 2013, I have chronicled the effects of Act 10 on teaching conditions in numerous school districts across SE Wisconsin on the website Teaching in Wisconsin. Those of us who collect data for this website are frequent speakers at college campuses across Wisconsin, and more recently, Minnesota. Our message is clear; if you are graduating as a teacher, run as FAST as you can AWAY from Wisconsin. By providing examples of the hundreds of teachers who have been fired since Act 10, often on the basis of just ONE parent complaint, our stories are all the encouragement the next generation of teachers need in order to cross Wisconsin public school districts off their employment lists.

Increasingly, we are being invited to speak at colleges across Minnesota to help that state retain it's young teachers from being recruited by many of Wisconsin's absolute shithole school districts, districts with 70% to 80% turnover since Act 10; districts that go up to Minnesota job fairs to recruit unsuspecting Minnesota teachers because Wisconsin kids won't work at those districts.