It’s All about [Leveraging] the Kids: Teachers March Wisconsin’s Students to a Dishonest Tune

Take a good hard look at the pictures above and below. Every one of them contains young children or adolescents wrongly recruited to carry the water of public employee unions here in the great state of Wisconsin. Looking at the above pre-printed signs, one might ask: “Stop the attack on Wisconsin families?  How about stopping the attack on Wisconsin taxpayers?”

Anyone watching the national news already knows that an ugly fight has unfolded in my home state between the public employee unions and the Republican governor and legislators elected in surprising numbers last November. I will leave the details to other sources since they are readily available. The long and short of it is, Wisconsin is dead broke, and Governor Scott Walker is looking to put an end to the gross fiscal mismanagement that got us to this bad, bad place.  One of the ways he aims to do that is to ask the state’s public employees to start chipping in toward their benefits. They currently pay not one thin dime toward their pensions (for which there is zero vesting period) and a teeny, tiny little contribution toward their healthcare coverage. This would be bumped up to a 5.8 percent pension contribution (in line with the national average) and a 12 percent healthcare contribution (half the average paid by a private sector worker).

If you think the unions are unhappy about that, you should hear them on the following provisions:

Collective bargaining – The bill would make various changes to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages.  Total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum.  Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled.  Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union.  Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues.  These changes take effect upon the expiration of existing contracts.  Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes.

Let’s be clear about what Governor Walker accomplishes via this bill, should it pass (and as of a couple of hours ago, the Joint Finance Committee had finally voted and moved the bill on to the full legislature):

  • Cut Wisconsin’s $136.7 million deficit for FY 2010-2011
  • Save state employee jobs in order to keep people off unemployment in a challenging job market
  • Keep total employee contributions far below what anyone in the private sector would pay
  • Aim toward Right to Work instead of outright decertification of unions

Considering the level of fiscal and economic challenge Wisconsin now faces, you’d think union members might feel a bit grateful not to have to make far greater sacrifices…or lose their jobs altogether. Instead, they’ve gone completely bat$#!%. And they’ve dragged children of every age into their extended temper tantrum as they try to bully Republican legislators into giving in to the status quo Wisconsin can no longer afford. The don’t seem to have any conception at all that Wisconsin swung from its typical purply-blue to a rosy shade of red last November.

I’ve made visits to the State Capitol Building for two days in a row now. On both days, hoards of children, from toddlers all the way up to high-schoolers, were present…many holding signs, others singing or chanting, some marching, a few running through the corridors shrieking…ALL unwittingly helping to propagate union lies about the bill and anger toward legislators standing for fiscal sanity and limited government. Like these girls for example who seemed so happy to be holding these signs:

Most of these kids were of school age.  On a weekday, that’s exactly where they should have been.  In school.  Instead, they were being used by adults, many of them teachers who apparently have zero conscience but had the chutzpah to carry signs like the one below, saying, “Care about educators like they care about your child.” Respectfully, if pimping children out to be used as the pawns of the unions is how teachers in this state “take care” of them, I wouldn’t wish that sort of succor on anyone.

It hasn’t stopped there, either. Wednesday, there was a massive “sick out” so that teachers could show up at the Capitol, many of them bringing students with them who should have been learning how to do an algebraic equation or diagram a sentence or memorize the Pre-Amble to the Constitution (I know, I know, I’m dreaming on that Constitution one). Instead, they all took a field trip to learn firsthand what recently-unelected Governor Jim Doyle last year so egregiously added to the state’s public school curriculum: The History of Collective Bargaining, aka Traditional Methods of  Bullying the Guy that Signs Your Checks.

And that is exactly what makes me so furious about the use of children to further union ends. Teachers, in particular, are grossly abusing a massive power differential and an inherent trust in their relationship with students to further their own ends. They are telling lies in order to get these students to sing and dance to their tune.

They’ve told kids that programs they love at school will be cut. (No school cuts are on the table in this bill).

They’ve told students that pension funds would be taken away from teachers who’d saved their whole lives. (There are zero retroactive cuts in the bill, particularly any that would violate the state’s fiduciary responsibilities).

They’ve screamed the message to children that collective bargaining rights are being taken away. (Unions will simply have to take a vote every year to re-certify and allow individuals to choose whether they want to be represented by the union or not.)

All of this falsehood being pumped to impressionable minds who have no reason to doubt the people they so easily look up to as role models.  And for what?  Because teachers, along with other public employee unions don’t want to contribute to fixing a massive fiscal problem that financing their benefits over the years has helped to create. There is no, “Kids, we’ve had it golden for a long time, but there comes a day when you have to take responsibility.” Now THAT is what I would call honorable teaching: Giving kids a view of how things work in the real world. Showing them how to accept difficulties in life and move forward in spite of them. Giving them a true sense of even the crappy, devalued dollar we now have.

Instead, they’re dragging kids as pawns into a labor protest, teaching them to feel entitled, showing them how to throw a massive and ugly public temper tantrum if you’re not getting what you want, and modeling how to intimidate people who won’t cede the road entire to you. Nice…

For the past two nights, students in Baraboo were up marching around the town square in protest of teachers losing pay and collective bargaining rights.  Yesterday afternoon, there was a student/teacher walkout in that same town. As of this morning, a huge rash of school districts all over the state—Platteville, Racine, Madison, De Forest, Edgerton, Lodi, Waunakee, you name it—are closed as a result of high teacher absences and an inability to cover them with enough substitutes. You can bet, students will once again be a prominent percentage of the crowd again this morning, with the vote being taken around 11am.

I shudder to think that kids may have been in the mobs that showed up at the homes of Republican legislators who were being picketed over the past few days. I don’t know if there were children there or not, because I wasn’t there, but based on what I’m seeing everywhere else, and the ways children are being used to do the union’s heavy lifting, I frankly wouldn’t be at all surprised. Abysmal…

But it’s “all about the kids,” right…?  That’s what the teachers keep disingenuously telling us, anyway.

Teachers and other public-employee union members and leaders ought to be heartily ashamed of themselves for way they are lying to and using these children, who are not getting an honest picture of this situation.  Nor are they getting the education they deserve…the education that will serve them out in the real world. That bringing this fight first into the classroom, and then taking the classroom out into the street, is not at present a fireable offense…?  Well, it damned well oughta be.

And that is all I have to say about that. Back to the Capitol I go for what ought to be another very dismal day in education in Wisconsin.

38 Comments on It’s All about [Leveraging] the Kids: Teachers March Wisconsin’s Students to a Dishonest Tune

  1. It’s a shame, the poor union members are throwing a temper tantrum because we adults are making them give up their pacifier and use the big potty.

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    • outstanding! when the teachers con-fuse “workers’ rights” with the privilege of collective bargaining, one wonders whether they ought to be teaching at all.

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  2. What’s wrong Kirsten, got nothing but ad-homenem attacks in your bag of tricks? There are plenty of other ways besides forcing state employees, who already make 4.8% less per hour in total compansation compared to their private sector counterparts, to cut their take-home pay. How about we delay JUST ONE majory highway project for two years? that would same more money, and based on a Nov 9 WPRI poll, falls in line with the will of the people to protect education most, and transportation least from cuts.

    Please, can we have a discussion about the needs of Wisconsin rather than reasons to be angry at your political opponents?

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    • Mr. Logan – times are a changing. Welcome to the real world. No more cushy benefits and indulgent pay for you sir! Compete or die.

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      • anonymous // 02/17/2011 at 3:06 pm // Reply

        Mr. Logan doesn’t work for the state… I do… let me tell you I worked in the private sector before working in the public. I took a 30K hit because I liked the idea of helping people out and felt that some of that difference in pay was made up by the benefits.

        The idea that state workers earn more than the private sector is a ploy to divide public and private workers. This makes it easier to lower the worth of all labor.

        Wake up.

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        • Dan Collins // 02/17/2011 at 3:13 pm //

          Gee, Mr. anonymous, how do you know whether Mr. Logan works for the public sector or not? Do you agree with him that this post is “ad hominem,” yet the comparisons of Governor Walker to Hitler, Mubarak, Mussolini et al are supposed somehow to be in good faith?

          Unions have been driven by the politics of envy for a long time. The Obama administration has the politics of envy as a centerpiece of its agenda. Yet somehow people saying “that’s too much to pay” is suddenly a bad thing.

          What are your thoughts on health care reform? Should doctors get 20% less?

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    • Average Wisconsin teacher makes over $100k /nine months in compensation.

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      • You know that “Milwaukee” “Wisconsin”, right?

        We have the QEO on the books in Wisconsin, so in order to try to keep up with the cost of health insurance, which has far out-stripped inflation, the teachers have had to give up pay increases. Public employees working for state and local governments have done the same.

        Public unions are not characterized by greed, they are not sucking society dry. What has happened in the private sector is that, after breaking the unions, the corporations have been engaged in a race to the bottom. Instead of whining that public employees get benefits that private ones used to, but no longer do, perhaps some of that anger should be directed at private employers, who are sitting on record cash reserves and are making record corporate profits, and paying out record executive bonuses while cutting those basic benefits for workers in order to “stay competitive.”

        Let’s have some reality and perspective, folks.

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        • AndyM // 02/22/2011 at 3:03 am //

          The “does not equal” sign was misinterpreted as formatting code in my response. It should read “Milwaukee does not equal Wisconsin”.

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        • Bob Reed // 02/22/2011 at 1:56 pm //

          Sure Andy…

          It’s all the eeeevollll corporation’s fault.

          Imagine, sitting on their cash reserves during the most business-unfriendly administration since FDT; heck, perhaps of all time ! Never mind that their tax burden and regulatory environment is completely uncertain and dependent only on whichever way Obama thinks the political winds are blowing.


          In many respects the unions, private and public, together with the highest business tax rates on earth, have made American businesses almost comletely uncompetitive abroad. Were it not for the undermining of the dollar, by design, by the Fed our exports would be suffering as well.

          All you’re doing is being insulting and engaging in class warfare Andy, like most of the progressive left in this country; you whine about divisions, but fuel the divisiveness.

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  3. Dan Collins // 02/17/2011 at 2:44 pm // Reply

    Gee, I wonder how Wisconsin high schools treat kids taking a Senior Skip Day.

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  4. Enoch,

    I am not a union employee – I just started my own private business. Would you care to revise your remark?

    Please, can we have a discussion about the needs of Wisconsin rather than the reasons to be angry at your political opponents?

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    • there is no reason for public employees to make more than private sector equivalents – whether in salary or benefits or pensions – in addition, the idea of tenure offends the sensibilities. no compete-y, no perform-e, no eat-e. what’s good for me is good for thee.

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  5. Dan,

    Please, can we have a discussion about the needs of Wisconsin rather than the reasons to be angry at your political opponents?

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    • Dan Collins // 02/17/2011 at 3:01 pm // Reply

      Matt, can you see how the needs of Wisconsin might not be equivalent to the wants of teachers unions? Can you see how it’s wrong to manipulate kids and not tell them that there are going to be days added to the end of their school year? Can you see how it is wrong to break the law or to abscond to another state so as not to have to vote?

      You people have blown it, dude. And you’re the one who brought up the topic of how much teachers are paid in relation to other people, btw. Do your calculations include benefits, or does that not serve your purposes?

      Finally, I’ll thank you not to tell me how to conduct my blog.

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      • Dan,

        My calculations do indeed include benefits.

        The issue facing Wisconsin today is how to deal with the budget problem. But you are resorting to ad homenem attacks that are a fallacy. I am fine with fixing the budget, but there are ways to do it that do not require going against the expressed interests of the people of Wisconsin. Maybe if people like you could keep it to the facts and avoid posing the false choices that Scott Walker provides the Senate would have quorum today and Wisconsin could live up to its state mottow of “Forward”.

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  6. Bob Reed // 02/17/2011 at 3:04 pm // Reply

    Gee Matt,
    It’s kind of hard to have a discussion, or a vote it seems, if the allies of the teachers union, the Democrats in Wisconsin’s state house, all mysteriously dissapear rather than tackle the issue.

    It’s a cheap trick meant to enable the protesting mob, who are, incidentally, co-opting students to attend their protest action (another cheap trick considering these student neither have a right to vote yet, probably don’t have a well defined opinion on the subject, and whose parents probably voted in the Governor based on his promises of fiscal austerity), and provide another day of “optics” in the hopes of getting Walker to cave.

    Cheap tricks all around by the party of “Big Labor!”

    I’m skeptical of your claim that Wisconsin teachers make less than their private sector counterpart as well; given parochial schools long-standing reputation. Care to back that one up?

    Either way, Wisconsinites have spoken via the ballot box, and asking the teachers to pay a small part of their benefits is not too much to ask-for rational folks that is.

    But, you know, we’re talking about mostly progressive Democrats, and their fellow travelers; some of which have the decency at least to refer to themselves as the socialists that they are…

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    • Bob,

      Here is the study of total compensation of private versus public workers:

      Asking someone who is making less in total compensation compared to working in the private sector, to give up a big chunk of their take-home pay is too much to ask – just like it would be too much to ask right now for people to pay more taxes.

      Please, avoid the temptation to resort to questioning the source – and instead look at the data and the methodology to marshal your response.

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      • Leave it to a Lefty to submit as evidence a “study” performed by Leftists

        “The Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit Washington D.C. think tank, was created in 1986 to broaden the discussion about economic policy to include the interests of low- and middle-income workers. Today, with global competition expanding, wage inequality rising, and the methods and nature of work changing in fundamental ways, it is as crucial as ever that people who work for a living have a voice in the economic discourse. ”

        You lost me at .ORG

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        • Please, avoid the temptation to resort to questioning the source – and instead look at the data and the methodology to marshal your response.

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      • Bob Reed // 02/17/2011 at 4:13 pm // Reply

        Please Matt, the Economic Policy Institute ? Surely you have an actual independant source for such an analysis as opposed to, you know, a Soros funded propaganda source.

        As the cliche goes, there are lie, damn lies, and statistics. One glance at the methodology description was all I needed:

        …by Labor and Employment Relations Professor Jeffrey Keefe of Rutgers University, controls for education, experience, hours of work, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity, experience, citizenship and disability. The study uses data collected primarily from the National Compensation Survey, and in accordance with standard survey practice, focuses on year-round, full-time public and private-sector employees.

        Where to start…

        To begin with, Teachers don’t work full time.

        And, the study breathlessly notes that the WI public employess recieve a higher percentage of their “compensation” in terms of “non-salary benefits”-i.e. healthcare and pensions and such. But, it never seems to factor in the differences in the levels of services provided by those non-salary parts of their “compensation”. That is to say, it doesn’t compare the Cadillac health-care and retirement plans of the public employees to the most certainly lesser ones that the private sector employees recieve.

        Which in and of itself is enough to discredit this study as any fair comparison, as are most others that try and broad brush comparisons of “compensation” instead of comparing salaries directly. Hey Matt, I wonder why they didn’t do that instead? I’ll bet you know the reason just as assuredly as I do…

        The “study” also goes on to assert that public employees have less vacation and sick leave time than private employers. being as polite as possible, this is still pure BS…

        And Matt, they don’t actually compare the two types of employees, but instead resort to more subjective measures of “human capital” instead, which is a clear indicator that fudge factors were introduced; speaking as one who’s done more than a bit of data analysis and reduction in my time.

        No Matt, they primarily rely on education level to draw comparisons, which is patently devious, since teachers especially are required to have Master’s degrees, and in general many public employees are transplants from academia; while in the private sector most employees with higher levels of education are in professional or manegerial positions.

        And BLS data? Please. These folks can’t even give the nation an honest measure of unemployment. So their input is suspect a priori

        Coming back full circle, I’d just like to note the top-of-the-page post at EPI:

        EPI budget experts analyze key provisions of President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2012: Flawed but better than some alternatives.

        That, as well as some of their other headline pieces that praise governemnt “investments”, damn government “budget cuts” (save for defense, natch), bemoaning anti-union “violence” in Colombia, and proclaiming that New Hamshire doesn’t need a right-to-work law-despite what the citizens think; all these speak volumes of EPI’s bias, and in doing so reveal the results of the “study” you linked as being so much propaganda.

        You’ll have to do better than that here.

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        • AndyM // 02/22/2011 at 3:11 am //

          Wow, Bob, the fact that you can’t comprehend a very basic breakdown of their study methodology suggests that you are singularly unqualified to pass judgment on the validity of that study. Seriously.

          Let me know if you want me to deal with all the flaws you had in reading comprehension in that post one at a time, or if it doesn’t matter to you one way or another. Please keep in mind it will require reading words and trying to understand them.

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        • Bob Reed // 02/22/2011 at 1:45 pm //

          Bring it on Andy,

          I read and understood the study’s stilted logic and shot it down fairly well.

          Or are you all snark and bring no discussion to the table?

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  7. Roxane Gunser // 02/17/2011 at 3:05 pm // Reply

    One of the signs in the 3rd picture appears to read,

    “Care for educators like they care for your child”.

    Hmmm… caring in my world doesn’t mean heaping a ton of debt on the shoulders of the young people you are educating…because to retain their current benefits that is exactly what will have to happen. Perhaps the union was needed back 5 decades ago but the unions have served their need but they became too inflexible, too political and too strong. The pendulum doth swing the other way.

    Just one point re: the unions: SEIU, the union which many nurses are in, was an ardent supporter of Obamacare and was also one of the first organizations to get the “opt-out”. Yes, that’s right, they fought hard to get it passed so we have to suffer under it, but it isn’t good enough for them or for Congress. Ditto for many other unions. Duplicity at its finest.

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    • Roxane,

      You have fallen into the trap of the false choice that Scott Walker is foisting on the people of Wisconsin. The choice is not between cutting state worker take-home pay or creating more debt. There are many other ways to cut state spending to balance the budget. A single major highway project in the state, if delayed for two years, would save more money than what is being proposed in the budget fix bill. There are plenty of other options.

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      • Matt – let’s do both! I am all for that…


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        • I am all for doing a little bit of both – get some concessions from the unions (as they were offering prior to the introduction of this bill), and for paring back our highway spending.

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  8. No no – I mean strip the special treatment for Public Union Employees AND Reduce significantly the monies to Big Road Construction.

    You know, share and share alike. We all must sacrifice.

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  9. snaqwells // 02/17/2011 at 4:52 pm // Reply

    I would propose that states with these crazy “quorum” requirements for the legislatures amend them to state that a percentage of legislators currently in the state must be present. I understand the idea of the quorum is to prevent one party from railroading the other by scheduling middle-of-the-night proceedings; but that can be prevented in ways that don’t encourage the sort of juvenile “I’ll-take-my-ball-and-go-home” behavior we’re seeing here (and that we saw in Texas recently).

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  10. snaqwells // 02/17/2011 at 4:54 pm // Reply

    I’m confused; exactly which parts of Walker’s proposal are unfair and why?

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    • jefferson101 // 02/17/2011 at 7:45 pm // Reply

      He needs to quote their fearless leader Barack back to them.

      Governor Walker, repeat after me. “I Won!”

      Maybe the teachers will follow the Democrat Senators out of the State. They are replaceable, you know. We’ve got Ed. Majors working in our Manufacturing because they can’t find jobs.

      I gave up on Wisconsin and moved out back in 1980, but it was headed downhill then. If Walker and the Republican party make decent headway, I may go back when I retire.

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  11. Nice post. I can’t help but wonder whether those students have their permission slips in order for this field trip.

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  12. What the fuck.

    I had seen the pics of all the teachers picketing…. but schoolkids?!

    Are there no truancy laws in Wisconsin?

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    • Oh, and welcome to the group, Kirsten!

      [where did the “about us” page go?]

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