Saturday, October 1, 2011

Real-life effects of WIS GOP on education

Now that the rhetoric has died down regarding Walker's union-busting here in Wisconsin, here's how it has affected me--a teacher--my students, and my school. 

The moment Walker's Act 10 took effect, my school board froze salaries, changed the upcoming school calendar (which had been agreed upon with the union a couple months earlier), canceled already scheduled, out-of-school-day continuing education for its staff, created a grievance procedure that is, in effect, settled by the district superintendent or a district-selected third party, instituted health care changes without real input from the insured, and, as of yet, six weeks into the school year, has not provided a handbook with conditions of employment to its teachers.

Despite Walker's declarations that districts will save money (despite state funding cuts), our district has eliminated some aide positions, sacrificed some curriculum updating, and reduced staff development opportunities.

As a result of district changes, my teaching time has increased, my prep time has decreased, and there are new policies to provide more and daily information on student progress and lessons (the added "transparency" will take me an estimated 30+ minutes per day, with no apparent link to improving student learning).  There are less services for students requiring additional reading help, and no specific plans or staff for students demonstrating severe behavioral problems.

My salary, including new health care deductibles as well as pension and health care payments, is down about 10%, while new state mandates require more actual work in the classroom including more identification, specific work with, and documentation for students who are below level.

Some parents, now that our state government has led the way in calling teachers (or their representatives) greedy, slobs, and thugs, voice similar opinions.  I documented in an earlier post parents cursing and hurling insults at teachers as we walked down the street in our town in a show of non-confrontational solidarity. When the local parent-teacher group's budget revealed a thank you gift for teachers at Christmastime, one parent rolled her eyes and said, "You've got to be kidding me."

And upcoming changes (should we ever be provided a handbook), will very possibly include a "pool of money" for teacher salaries, from which the subjectively determined "better" teachers will score more than their subjectively-judged "lesser" peers.  For all the district initiatives and admonitions to promote collaboration, pitting colleague against colleague for their wages certainly doesn't seem like a very collaborative or efficient or wise thing to do.

Lastly, I have been advised by a third party consultant that continuing a blog reporting my district's policies or providing criticism of state government policies so ardently backed by the locals--and identifying myself with my real name, background, or photo--could actually come back to haunt me in terms of disciplinary action (now that I may no longer have a union).

And all these individual concerns don't even include the low-income families here that are affected by cuts to programs they may utilize, or those that may not be able/willing to vote because of new voter ID laws, or a government that changes laws to suit personal agendas or kowtow to businesses at the expense of those in need, or changes in environmental policies that affect everyone's quality of life, or the deep and abiding breach of trust between a people and its elected government.

I'm unsure whether I will continue this blog.  If so, it will be under an assumed name (as advised by the previously mentioned consultant).  There are many wonderful blogs out there fighting this good fight, and I have yet to determine, with the added responsibilities and scrutiny of my job, if I have the ability to do this justice.  Until then, my state senator Grothman is still (as I have termed him before) a major d-bag, and my governor is still a liar.

Thanks for visiting over the last year.

And recall Walker.