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.

11 comments:

  1. My hope is that you don't go away, but continue to reveal the real consequences of Act 10.

    Great blog and great summation. I would welcome your contributions anytime if it comes to that. What's happening to education around the nation and here in the state must be exposed as often as possible.

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  2. Good stuff. I shared on Facebook. Hope you can continue to speak out. The First Amendment still applies even to Wisconsin teachers, the last I knew.

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  3. I hope you don't go away....we appreciate your perspective.

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  4. Thanks for your blog essay. I hope you will continue to inform us readers about your experiences.
    What I find most disappointing is the hostile parents. They evidently can't see that they harm their own children by demonstrating such a contemptuous attitude toward teachers.

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  5. My husband's school district is implementing many of the same things that you wrote about. After seeing his first paycheck of the school year, it was quite depressing. Please hang in there and keep blogging. We need your voice!

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  6. Great blog. And you tell what is actually happening. This is not just in your school district. Our only hope is to recall Walker and soon. My salary also went down over 10% and with all the new restrictions and limitations I probably will not see that number recover - ever. Most sad are the people we serve and our family members who continue follow Walker's rhetoric. I only hope someday teachers will get the respect they deserve.

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  7. Cheers for a very good post. You have given me satisfaction to every post i read here. Hope you keep on sharing relevant information to all your readers. I've learned a lot and it gives me courage and inspiration to do well. Thanks! :)

    Dallas Property Management

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  8. You know, the people who pay your salaries would like a few things also. They would like to know that when their representatives negotiate with YOUR union it will be on an even table. Until this governor got into office YOUR union has been donating to the very people with which they had to negotiate for those benefits you value so much. Additionally, the people who work hard and struggle from day to day in order to pay the exorbitant taxes they have to pay in this state would like a little assurance that what they are getting for their hard earned money is quality and not someone who has a job just because YOUR union has been able to protect him or her from being fired for work that would have ended careers in the private sector. I would also ask what makes you so special that you should be exempt from contributing to your health insurance and retirement the way the rest of us do?
    Here’s what it comes down to: there are a number of different careers out there and different states in which to teach. If you think that you are being mistreated here in this state and feel that sorry for yourself maybe you should pull up stakes and move to a place that will appreciate you as being as special as you think you are.
    As for me and most of the people I talk to, some of which are teachers, we are getting a little sick and tired of hearing about how badly you were abused when it was us, the taxpayers, who were getting the short end of the stick at the hands of YOUR union and those we trusted to represent us. We are willing to change that and the last election was all about just that.

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  9. Poco, thanks for the viewpoint.
    Some quick points: As you know, I pay the same taxes as do you.

    Yes, my union lobbies for particular policies, as does the GOP, the Koch Brothers's organization, and the corporations for which people work.

    I don't say I'm special because I'm a teacher. As a matter of fact, when I was downsized from my private sector job, I held three jobs and went back to college to get my teaching certificate. Yes, the benefits have been nice in the field. I'm thankful that I had the talent, dedication and opportunity to earn such a job--obviously that's something many people won't or can't do.

    And the election wasn't about this at all. Walker himself testified under oath that he never campaigned on the issue of collective bargaining.

    We'll just have to see what happens in the upcoming months with the recalls (but, if I was a Walker-backer, I wouldn't be holding my breath...)

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  10. hello thanks you for the helpful information

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  11. Teacher In Cheesland...
    Keep up the good work in the classroom and on the Blog.
    As a former School Board member over a decade ago of a suburban area school district(hint.... the one composed of two separate municipalities with east Madison in between), I clearly understand how Walker and the Repub's have really
    put our K-12 education system at risk.
    On the one hand, Repub's continually advocate for local control of the K-12 system as well as other gov't activities but on the other hand when in control at the State Gov't level they conviently forget their principles and DICTATE everything.
    "Hope" is around the cornor, as Walker's time as Governor is soon coming to an end....when WalkerGate indicts him on multiple felonies.... I think within the next 4-6 months. Thanks for hanging in there and doing what all teachers do... even under adverse conditions....focus on the children's education. It's one of the most noble vocations world wide, even though some parents here and in your locality, don't appreciate your efforts.
    Badger Red

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