Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you had to know that someone was going to take the nuclear option to a state budget. I was positive it wasn’t going to be California (check the legislature sometime), and the Tea Party wins in November had me looking to the upper Midwest for some sign of trouble.
Well, it looks like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got the ball rolling.
For those out of the loop, the new Governor chose to get a bill started that increased employee contributions to certain public employee heath and benefit packages, and cut off the ability to engage in the collective bargaining process.
I’ll throw out three things.
First, the bills focus is very selective on the jobs it attacks. It goes after teachers, university staff, and health care workers. Police and Fire were exempt. I find it interesting that this national conversation on Education has now boiled down to collective bargaining and standardized test scores. Last week Wisconsin started pushing a teacher evaluation program that was very loaded on test scores, only it had to be bargained by local units. With collective bargaining gone, that program could be implemented without any input from someone who is not a politician. A clear sign that this is focused on teachers is the fact that Governor Walker won’t back down at all on the bill, even though teachers have been totally willing to concede on wage reductions, increases on the health care and benefits contributions, and those items that actually impact the overall budget.
Second is this illusion that government workers, meaning teachers, are lazy, overpaid, or both. I won’t even get into the lame argument that the typical teacher is lazy. I will however note the following graphic from the New York Times.
So not only are a majority of state workers paid less than the private sector counterparts, the Governor seems to be focusing on the section of the workforce that is considered best educated. It’s one hell of a message to send to the next generation of Wisconsin citizens. “You too can get educated so you can get underpaid and then be called lazy because you followed the path that will be best for your success and the success of the country”. Hmmm.
Finally, as arrogant as this sounds, Wisconsin has become a battleground for the fight against the Educated. No, I’m not saying all those union protesters holding up Mubarak and Hitler signs are the smartest bulbs in the socket. But this agenda, fully backed by Tea Party idiots bussed in from other states, seems to be a grasp at preventing society from accepting the statistical constant that many reactionaries are scared of.
-Educated people are more likely to be successful.
-Income inequality is widening and the educated are on the better end of it.
Think I’m “out there”? Listen to some of the dialogue being spouted by supporters of Scott Walker. They push inaccuracies and lies like they are the 12th grade bully that has come to the sudden realization that education actually matters, and in a panic he is going to distract everyone in class to share the misery. I watched a Tea Partier comment that he was for Scott Walker because he was concerned about state sovereignty, and that the federal government should not bail out any more entities. Never mind that the interviewee was a farmer, part of an industry that is more subsidized by the U.S. Government than any other in the country. Even Scott Walker's personal life is an example of deeming education unimportant. Walker is a college dropout himself, someone who is much more interested in the plight of those whose industries are slowly becoming obsolete. Why promote the next generation of industry when you can wish for the “good old days” to return. Why stock the government with the best and brightest when all they seem to want is a fair day’s work at a fair day’s wage.
If you are still not convinced that the right to collective bargaining in education is the way to go, check out these statistics from the AP Comparative guru Ken Wedding:
Still think I’m nuts?
Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores are as follows:
South Carolina - 50th
North Carolina - 49th
Georgia - 48th
Texas - 47th
Virginia – 44th