Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Quick-Law Governor

Countless sweeping changes have been proposed almost overnight, with no study, no rationale and no known author.

By - Mar 12th, 2015 01:30 pm
Governor Scott Walker Signing Right to Work Legislation (Photo from Governor's Office)

Governor Scott Walker Signing Right to Work Legislation (Photo from Governor’s Office)

Wisconsin has long been a pioneer in research-based legislation. In 1901, the state created the nation’s first Legislative Reference Bureau, the nonpartisan agency which drafts laws and researches their history, and within 20 years, nearly every other state had followed suit. The Congressional Research Service in the U.S. Capitol was also modeled on Wisconsin’s bureau.

Wisconsin was one of the first states to attach a fiscal note (beginning in 1953) to all legislation and its Legislative Council (created in 1947) and Legislative Fiscal Bureau (1967), two more nonpartisan agencies providing intellectual support for the legislature, have also influenced other states.

This history was intertwined with the “Wisconsin Idea,” the idea that university scholars might provide research and insight to help guide state government. As presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson once declared, the Wisconsin Idea “meant a deep conviction that the role of government was not to stumble along like a drunkard in the dark, but to light its way by the best torches of knowledge and understanding it could find.”

When the administration of Gov. Scott Walker proposed eliminating language from the state statutes which created the “Wisconsin Idea,” it was a direct attack on this heritage. Yet we have no idea who hatched this proposal or what its rationale was. It was slipped into the massive budget bill and once it was discovered, Walker claimed it was a “drafting error,” which the Journal Sentinel’s Politifact column labeled a “pants-on-fire” lie.

Similarly, tucked into Walker’s budget bill is a provision that eliminates the protected status of UW-Milwaukee’s Downer Woods. The author of theory behind this change is a mystery. No one at UWM or the UWM Real Estate Foundation requested the change. Walker’s spokesperson Laurel Patrick emailed me to explain that this was about creating a new UW System Authority and “references to the UW must be removed from state statute to allow the proposed authority, if adopted, to create their own policies.” But this answer would suggest the budget bill is stripping all language related to UW from the budget, which is clearly not happening. So what is the real explanation here?

The idea of creating a new UW System Authority is a revolutionary change for the state. It may well be a good one. But it is, once again, an idea slipped into the budget based on no prior study, with no apparent author and little rationale. UW Regent David Walsh called the proposal “fairy dust,” with too many unknowns and unanswered questions. “Until all these questions are answered we shouldn’t support a public authority,” he told his fellow regents.

As Walsh noted, the creation of the UW System, which merged all the state’s public universities into one system, took three years under Gov. Patrick Lucey. It generated all kinds of discussion from all stakeholders, as should this proposal. That’s what the Legislative Council is for; there is long history of legislation created that was first studied by this council, with the participation of legislators from both parties and representatives from the private and public sectors knowledgable about the pertinent issues.

Walker’s main goal here (which can only be guessed given how little he has said) it to cut state funding for the UW System. But are there other ways to accomplish this? Does it make sense, for instance, that the system has three four-year colleges, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout and UW-River Falls, all clustered together within an hour’s drive or less of Minneapolis? This is a massive system with 13 four-year colleges, 14 two-year colleges and countless interconnected parts. The notion that you can rationally reshape the entire system with a few passages in a budget bill is, frankly, bonkers.

Or consider another Walker proposal: “Tucked into… the proposed budget is a massive overhaul of the system that provides long-term care to more than 50,000 elderly or disabled people in Wisconsin,” as Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Guy Boulton has written. The proposal would create a new model “in which the state would contract with large insurance companies to manage both long-term care and medical care,” he reports.

Once again, there way be merit to the idea, but the author and rationale behind this radical change is less than clear. Kitty Rhoades, the secretary of the Department of Health Services, told the JS the idea had gotten discussion over the years, but admitted she learned of the proposal only when the governor’s budget was released.

“No one had any inkling this was happening,” complained Michael Blumenfeld of the Wisconsin Family Care Association, which will be affected by the changes. “We are just scratching our heads,” he told Boulton. Why would you do this?”

Or consider Walker’s proposals for the state Department of Natural Resources. The biggest change, again an item in the budget and again a complete surprise to the head of this department, Cathy Stepp, would strip the power of the board members who have overseen DNR since the 1920s.  The Wisconsin Conservation Commission was a Republican creation, influenced by the ideas of famed conservationist Aldo Leopold (another case of Wisconsin influencing the nation), which eventually became the DNR and has had a governor-appointed board overseeing it for nearly a century, with longtime bipartisan support.

In the past, Stepp has praised the board, saying it’s “a really, really critical part of Wisconsin’s history and it’s something that’s treasured by me. And I know the governor feels the same way.” Not any more.

There isn’t space to describe all the changes tossed into this budget bill, including ending all funding for the bipartisan Knowles Nelson Stewardship Fund, the decimation of the DNR’s scientific staff, reducing the power of the state Building Commission and changes to make the state civil service system less independent and give Walker more power over it.

For all the complaints about the Right-to-Work law, it was at least passed as a separate bill that allowed bipartisan debate on its merits. By contrast, the long list of changes in Walker’s budget bill are meant to get as little discussion as possible, which is why they aren’t proposed in separate bills.

I should note that there have always been policy items tucked into the budget bill and midnight amendments with no one’s fingerprints on them. The sausage making in the state Capitol has always been messier than Adlai Stevenson might have liked. But the number and sweeping impact and barely-explained rationale of Walker’s policy changes make them, in their totality, unprecedented.

The aversion to expertise and well-studied policy decisions that characterizes this administration was suggested by Walker’s decision to turn down the proposed Kenosha Casino. The governor justified this by arguing the state could be successfully sued by the Potowatomi if he agreed to this new casino. This contradicted what the lawyer hired by the state concluded, but Walker referred to a memo by then-Secretary of the Department of Administration, Mike Huebsch, to justify his decision. So we had two non-lawyers and college dropouts, Walker and Huebsch, giving us their legal opinion as a justification for his decision.

I guess it could have been worse. At least Walker offered some explanation, however thin, for his decision.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

52 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Quick-Law Governor”

  1. Dave says:

    Our absentee Governor is a pathological liar and a fool. The damage this little weasel has inflicted upon this once proud state will last at least a generation. I hold those who voted for this clown 3 times responsible and their udder stupidity despite all evidence exposing SKW for the little man he is nothing short of tragic.

  2. Fran says:

    I do not believe anyone comes to this site to indulge in these partisan political opinion pieces

  3. Adam says:

    Fran – Instead of complaining about the “partisan” nature of this article, why don’t you defend the Governor’s actions? My guess is that you won’t even try, since most of his budget proposals (like those affecting the UW System and DNR) are simply not defensible. If they were, then the Republicans would not be so eager to ram them through with as little debate as possible.

  4. Fran says:

    Whatever I were to say wouldn’t appease u so what’s the point? My only problem with his UW proposal was that it didn’t go far enough. Teachers are laughably overpaid, thanks to their union bargained contracts. Hence, why unions have lost so much support from the public(aka the people who pay the bloated salaries). An assistant professor at UW makes 2x more than an assistant public defender in Milwaukee and works 75% of the year.

  5. PMD says:

    Fran do you have a lot of teaching experience?

  6. Fran says:

    In academia, no I do not. But I did go to public schools thru grad school and know what it takes to be a teacher. I respect teachers, I just think they are incredibly over paid.

  7. Fran says:

    Let me clarify by saying “I like to think I know what it takes” Maybe there is some unforeseen toll it takes on an individual to teach that I am unaware.

  8. PMD says:

    That’s what I figured. Attending school is hardly the same as being an educator. Everyone I know who claims teaches are overpaid has never taught a day in their life. Most of them have no clue what they are talking about. They certainly do not know “what it takes to be a teacher.”

  9. Fran says:

    Again, don’t confuse me saying teachers are overpaid with me thinking teachers aren’t valuable. Teaching is one of if not the most valuable professions in a prosperous country. But this is not a discussion on their value. This is a discussion on teacher compensation, which, thanks to too much union power, is absolutely too large. I view teachers the same way I view all State employees, as “pubic servants.” They chose that profession to help the public, not to make high 5 figure salaries with benefits those in the private sector can only dream of.

  10. PMD says:

    If you don’t have any teaching experience, how do you know they are overpaid? What makes you so sure of this? Are lawyers also overpaid? Physicians? Engineers?

  11. Allison says:

    Okay, just my observations here, but I think people take this blog far too seriously. It presents the author’s opinion as fact which can be dangerous and misleading. It is entertainment. I enjoy reading it.

    And, the comments are usually just people yelling and screaming at each other. I guess Bloggers need more clicks and eyeballs, and so constantly writing about divisive politicians is the way to generate more money for the blog. I view this blog as entertainment, similar to a Sykes or a Belling. Nothing to get worked up about. Hopefully people comment less now that weather is better

  12. Fran says:

    Allison, I hope you do not take my comments as yelling and screaming. That is by no means my intent. If anything, I hope that someone presents a contrary opinion which changes my mind. This has happened before and it will no doubt happen again. Articles like these present good platforms for us to discuss issues, be it political or otherwise.

  13. Michael says:

    Saying that you know what it takes to be a teacher because you went to school is like saying you know how to design a bridge because you drive over them.

    Luckily nobody comes to this site to read comments from Fran. Plenty come to read Bruce’s insightful columns though. I may not always agree with everything he says but he does a good job of providing facts and sources for his positions with little to no hyperbole, something you will rarely see from Sykes or Belling.

  14. The governor’s plans to change assessment practices in the state took assessors by surprise as well. There are many examples, as Bruce Murphy has shown. This is a serious shift in our governance, and not a good one.

  15. Homer Jay says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb regarding who the authors are: Club For Growth, ALEC, Americans For Prosperity, etc.

  16. Bill Sweeney says:

    The point of this article, as I understand it, is that the proposed budget by Governor Walker represents a radical change in how Wisconsin has operated in the past. Regardless of whatever political persuasion you or I may subscribe to, we all benefit when the process of debating the merits of proposed legislation is open, transparent, and deliberative. Fran remarks that she has strong personal opinions, but she is open to changing her mind as we all should be. But for that to happen, there needs to be a process that presents the arguments backed by evidence. The fact that the chief administrator of Health Services and the Dept of Natural Resources were not aware of major proposals in the budget that affected their departments is both astonishing and frightening. Who is behind the curtain? Is it lobbyists for the Wisconsin Club for Growth, advisors for Governor Walker’s presidential run, or the Wizard of Oz? Is this what democracy looks like?

  17. Marie says:

    Everything published online is not a “blog.” Bruce Murphy is a highly credentialed journalist. He’s conducting the same investigative journalism here that he’s done in print for decades. Although he sometimes presents opinions he supports them with facts. He frequently breaks stories or presents unique angles. Unlike some talk radio folks, he’s not just responding to headlines and tip sheets, and throwing grenades for ratings.

    With an incredibly shrinking pool of journalists, especially at the local level, we’re all in danger of not knowing what our elected and appointed officials are doing. Democracy depends on not just freedom of the press (and speech) but an active press corps willing and able to report on many topics, but especially government. Hats off to Urban Milwaukee for doing this yeoman’s work. The work of many bloggers is also valuable, especially when they work to fill in gaps resulting from media cutbacks. They include some, like James Rowen or Dominique Paul North, who formerly reported for Milwaukee Journal (or JS), or other media.

    Comments here and elsewhere sometimes wallow in snark. Just as often, reader comments on UM offer new perspectives, thoughtful clarifications, and meaningful dialogue. With Wisconsin’s state government now operating mostly through stealth, thorough fact-based journalism, and easy ways to access it, seems more essential than ever.

  18. tim haering says:

    Impassioned analysis, Bruce. MY guess is these were suggestions by helpful budget shop analysts. IN my day, Pam Henning was one of Chan’s helpful underlings, who later shed anonymity to join the administration at ETF with Stella and Mills. Koskinen of DOR was another from that era. But they are generally a shy buncha wonks. Just a guess. Another noticeable is Walker’s no-degree buddies, like HUebsch. Back in Walker’s backbench days, Joe Handrick was another. If Walker is anything like me, he probably rankled at all the degreed folks lording their opinion over him. I only went to college to prove it was no big deal, and I have a perfectly worthless English degree for the effort. Goody for me. Walker may be quietly trying to prove that folks with posterior initials are no smartier pants than what Brother John at Cathedral used to refer to as “the unwashed.” Quietly, because it would look arrogant and jealous to double-eye doink degreed folks, like Moe on Larry. And looking arrogant and jealous plays against the regular Joe image he is currently cultivating. He’s no regular Joe. And neither is Sarah Palin, also a college dropout. I wonder what her IQ is. But I digress? Ciao for nao, braon cao.

  19. Frank Galvan says:

    Governors Koch spokesman Scott Walker ranks right down there with Joe McCarthy. He is an evil little gremlin actively working to destroy this State. And he’s doing a damn “good” job of it!

  20. NW WI Man says:

    I don’t see the need to attack the northwest UW colleges in this article and suggest removing one or two. All three are needed in the area and offer expertise in curriculum in different areas like agriculture, teaching and engineering/science. You almost hint that perhaps they should go to the U of Minnesota an hour away. Attitudes from Milwaukee/Madison centric people of the state that marginalized the more rural communities are what drove these areas to vote for Walker. I grew up in NW WI but went to UW-Milwaukee and now work here, so I understand how both areas feel generally. Walker used this “divide and conquer” strategy into surviving 3 elections. We need to work together as rural and urban in this state to regain worker’s rights and keeping education a high priority.

  21. Bruce Murphy says:

    NW Man, I was merely offering an example of the sorts of issues an in-depth study of the UW System might look at. Another would be the variable cost of each four year institution. Another would be how the two-year colleges and voc-tech system feed into and work with four-year colleges, and whether overlap could be reduced. And the note about Twin Cities was merely a short-hand way to locate the colleges for readers (thought I think an in-depth study would also want to look at how many MN students attend these three colleges).

  22. steve says:

    it is interesting to read an article about a quick – law governor, using no study or rationale, that obviously had no study and used no rationale a all in the article. you can always tell when an article is written by, or any comment made by, a liberal – there is no basis, and no sense to it. liberals always play to “feelings”; which the weak minded always fall for.

  23. CJ says:

    Fran…”high 5 figure salaries”. Tell me what you think is a high 5-figure salary for educators? I attended the same 4-year college that a Registered Nurse attended who makes as much as twice my salary. I attended the same 4-year college as a Business Analyst attended who also makes as much as twice my salary. I began teaching music to inner-city schools, fresh out of college, making less than 30,000 a year in 2001. Often times I paid out of pocket for study material, instruments, and music because our public schools are underfunded. You are ignorant in the purest definition of the term. Perhaps you should re-attend Graduate School, and have that same conversation with your Professors, and see how easy it will be for you to graduate, again. How dare you minimize our duties as educators relative to our pay, and how dare you demoralize teaching based on salaries that you think are appropriate. I am sorry if you received a poor public education, but that does not mean teaching by itself should be a low-paying career for educated professionals.

  24. PMD says:

    This nonsensical claim that teachers are underworked and overpaid just drives me crazy. I taught in Milwaukee from 2003-2006. It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done (and I burned out). During the school year it was 60-70 hour weeks. Nights and weekends were spent planning and grading. I also had to spend a lot of time finding resources because the small school I taught at (in what was then called Multiplex North Division) didn’t have its own textbooks. And I worked all summer. I didn’t get summers off (a popular misconception). The last day for teachers was officially in late June. We reported back to school around August 1. Those 5-6 weeks were spent researching resources, creating the curriculum for the next school year, getting the classroom set up, and attending informal staff meetings & professional development events. All for $29,500 a year. I was dead broke those 3 years. I’m not looking for sympathy. I signed up for it (and planned on making it a career). Just attempting to set the record straight. I’ve never worked so hard or been so stressed in my life.

    The same is true for professors I know. When they are not creating their class curriculum or grading papers/tests/assignments, they are advising students, writing articles or books, serving on committees, attending staff meetings, and so on. They are constantly working. And for the record, in today’s paper a UW staff member says that 70% of the system’s professors are either part-time or on a non-tenure-track. So this idea that there are a whole bunch of assistant professors getting paid too much to do nothing, that’s just nonsense. It is flat-out untrue. People who spout that crap have no idea what they are talking about.

    End rant.

  25. AG says:

    Walker has always stood for simplifying government and finding efficiency. I don’t really like the way these things are being pushed forward through the budget process, but at least I understand what the plan behind it is. I know lack of detail causes all the tin-foil hat people to come out saying there is some master plan to undermine the state and help Walker “cronies” but really I think it’s just about making things simpler.

    The UW system has long been asking for more autonomy and now it’s being proposed. County governments have a lot of overlap of responsibilities with state and local municipalities (and even within it’s own systems) and I know the long term care overhaul is meant to address that.

    Bruce admits several times that the ideas have merit. To that I agree… and if many of you step back and look at whats going on you would probably see that too. Perhaps it’s just the manner in which they are happening that is causing consternation.

  26. Bill Sweeney says:

    “The Wisconsin Idea, as it came to be called, was that efficient government required control of institutions by the voters rather than special interests, and that the involvement of specialists in law, economics, and social and natural sciences would produce the most effective government.

    Faculty from the University of Wisconsin, therefore, played a significant part in Progressive reform efforts, helping legislators draft laws and serving as experts on governmental commissions. While advocating for more scientific and efficient government, many of these specialists were equally persistent in their efforts to expand educational opportunities. University President Charles Van Hise, for example, sought to extend the services of the University throughout the state by means of a new Extension Division. The state’s Legislative Reference Library, led by Charles McCarthy, was a similar product of the impulse toward educational opportunity and access. Created in 1901, the Legislative Reference Bureau (or LRB, as it came to be known) assisted legislators in their search for facts on which to which to base improved laws. Providing legislators with fast service from trained research talent, McCarthy’s LRB added a bill-drafting service in 1907 that was emulated in countries around the globe.”-Wisconsin Historical Society

  27. PMD says:

    Didn’t Robin Vos just say hold on a second with the autonomy talk? He seems to really hate the UW system.

  28. AG says:

    The discussion of teacher pay gets confused often by those less informed. They are not overpaid… the issue has to do with unsustainable benefits that are out of line with today’s economy. Fixed income benefits, especially for those who can retire at 55, are extremely expensive and difficult to properly fund. Compound that with teacher unions who fought for agreements that provided for lopsided benefits to themselves (forcing districts to use the union insurance for example) further exacerbated the problems.

    The problem was in the messaging. Over simplified talking points made teachers into the enemy. It’s unfortunate that it happened and it’s unfortunate that so many people blindly follow the talking points instead of fully understanding the system and it’s problems.

  29. PMD says:

    AG do you think the same is true of benefits for police officers? How do their benefits compare with that of teacher’s?

  30. Bill Marsh says:

    CJ – 2013 BLS data shows elementary and middle school teachers have a mean salary across the country of $56,420 compared with $68,910 for registered nurses. But that is not an apples to apples comparison. Teacher benefits far outweigh those for nurses- 9 month work year v. full work year, defined benefit pension v. 401K, lavish medical coverage v. ever more expensive medical coverage with large deductibles (thanks Obamacare), extensive holdiay schedule v. working holidays and weekends, and retirement at 30 years v. retirement at age 65.

    On top of all this, RNs in many types of medicine are required to remain knowledgeable, through continuing education, of constantly changing technology and science. And finally, in some areas of medicine you can throw in dealing with dying patients and grieving families.

  31. AG says:

    From the JS, Vos said, “..the reason that I have always supported the idea of an independent authority for Madison and then the university was because I thought the regents would stand up and say we’re going to become the experts, delve into the topic, understand what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s got to be fixed, where the university needs to be for the next 50 years. And what I read in news reports was basically a bunch of people who said we don’t want to change anything.”

  32. PMD says:

    Bill please read my post. Teachers do not work 9 months a year. I worked year round. So did every teacher I know. The teacher work year is not limited to the school calendar. Teachers don’t have the same schedule as students. Do you really not get that?

  33. PMD says:

    Also, I worked holiday breaks. Christmas break, Spring break, Thanksgiving break, etc. You can’t just stop prepping and grading because there’s no school. Man some people are ignorant.

  34. AG says:

    PMD, I’m not completely familiar with most police benefits… although if I remember correctly the average milwaukee police salary + benefits is around 70k while an MPS teacher average salary + benefit is around 100k.

  35. PMD says:

    I know Sykes said that about MPS AG. Is it accurate? I did find that the average starting salary is nearly $10,000 more for MPD than MPS ($49,700 versus $41,000).

    I’m not saying teachers don’t have good benefits. I did and they do. But the stuff about overpaid (as you acknowledged) is just total BS.

  36. Bill Marsh says:

    PMD- Oh please. I know several teachers- I do recall one that went to Europe each summer, another that had a pretty good golf handicap from summer play, another that was a tennis pro at a club during the summer, and…..

    But PMD, I do have to say, young teachers that I know of do put in more time to build their personalized program for their classes. But don’t tell me teachers are working a full year- go to a school parking lot in July and count the cars. And if you say they are working at home, maybe they should come into work the full year if they are going claim they are working the full year. Until then I’m going with the 9-month work year. Also, I would love it if some enterprising journalist would explore how heavily school administrators are working during the summer.

  37. bruce Murphy says:

    I wrote a in-depth series on government benefits for the Journal Sentinel and have written many times about them. No deal compares to what the police and fire get (with the notable exception of the outrageous Milwaukee county backdrop) They typically get a higher annual multiplier for retirement than any public employee and thus retire can retire very early. This makes sense for those doing physical work (beat cop, fire fighter), but they could be transitioned into desk jobs.

  38. PMD says:

    If you want to be wrong Bill, be my guest. Ignorance is bliss. But 9 months is total BS. That would mean having all of June, July, and August off. The last day of the MPS school year this year is June 10, so there goes that theory. And as I already explained teachers work the holiday breaks. A parking lot in July proves nothing. Sometimes we had off-site meetings. Sometimes we had professional development seminars off-site. Sometimes we did work from home. But we worked those 5-6 weeks between the last day of school for staff (not the same as the last day for students) and the first official staff day around August 1. I’m sure there’s a teacher or two out there who’s been doing it for a long time and takes a summer trip to Europe. But that does not mean you’re right Bill, because you’re not. But hey you’re not the first person with no teaching experience to claim to be an expert on their work schedule.

  39. Marie says:

    What this article points out is that whoever is doing the backroom work on legislation, it’s all carefully orchestrated and designed to serve Walker’s ambition and a “divide-and conquer” GOP agenda. Now, concerned citizens and dedicated academics and civil servants throughout the state must scramble to try to first unearth what budget-bill havoc may affect them, and then try to minimize the potential wreckage. The attack on UWM’s Downer Woods protection is just one small, intentionally obscured example.

    Walker, Vos & company are using this budget to treat Wisconsin’s public institutions and resources how Romney-type corporate-takeover folks treat businesses they buy and then chop up and maybe dissolve. In today’s JS article that PMD mentioned, Assembly Leader Vos rants against the regents for not agreeing to dismante all existing power structures within the UW system, before regents supposedly will be granted approval for a “quasi-public authority.” Sounds like same MO as forcing a company to bust a union or fire scads of workers as part of a takeover deal. As Bruce wrote, no deliberation, no planning, just “do as we say, or get out of the way.” It’s beyond scary.

    And much of this was inflicted by policies such as cutting taxes at the top to please big campaign donors and businesses. Minnesota did the opposite in the past four years and now they’re debating over what to do with a billion-dollar-plus surplus. And they’re thriving on every level. At this point, GOP has votes to be the bull in a china closet and no one is publicly sounding any alarm. But even Republicans and their children will suffer. Those who can afford to do so may just flee our under-siege state, becoming economic and cultural refugees.

  40. David Nelson says:

    I have to wonder what motivates comments like those of Bill Marsh. Sure, there will always be individuals who work more or less than their coworkers. However, I have met teachers from all over the state of Wisconsin, and most work as hard as PMD claims. I have also met dozens of teachers who spend their own money on school supplies because the school can’t or won’t provide what is necessary for learning. I really wish Bill would at least acknowledge the parts of PMD’s argument which are easy to verify, like the fact that Summer break is much shorter than three months. With conscientious investigation, the truth of this matter would emerge.

    Teaching is not a willy-nilly process if you do it right. In a best case scenario, a dedicated teacher needs approximately three semesters to craft a solid curriculum for each specific course (or three years if courses are taught once a year). Then they should be able to reduce prep time significantly, if they keep the same classes and the material doesn’t change much in the meantime. In recent years, teaching methods and curriculum have been subject to change due to political motivations thereby complicating preparation for many teachers.

    I also question what Fran has written. Most teachers make nowhere near six figures. Fran seems to equate college professors with public school teachers. Their jobs are similar in some ways, yet very different in others. More importantly, the individuals in these jobs vary. Knowing a few people who act like the stereotype of an overpaid teacher does not say much about the rest of them. It’s similar to judging someone by the color of their skin.

    I would guess that Bill and Fran are both intelligent people who have worked hard in their lives. I wish they had the character to not assume that teachers and professors are nearly all lazy and overpaid when there is little proof that this is true. Somewhere down the line, politicians decided to scapegoat teachers, and instead of questioning what they’ve heard, the supporters of these politicians just accepted the idea. How does that help the average citizen?

  41. AG says:

    David Nelson, I think it’s the media, pundits, and talk show hosts that have made things more into an attack on Teachers (and is blindly followed by many on both sides). I don’t remember hearing any politicians actually saying teachers as a whole are overpaid or lazy. Although nothing would surprise me these days…

    Regarding teacher salary/benefits being 5 figures, I’ll back that one up.

    Still, even if Teacher benefits have gotten too lucrative, Bill and Fran are misguided in their perception of most teachers… and it’s unfortunate that narrative is being spread.

  42. Bill Marsh says:

    My motivation in making my comments was to counter the claim by CJ that a registered nurse makes twice as much as him/her. That may be true in CJ’s comparison, but the idea that teachers have a raw deal is false.

    I do have a problem with public employees being able to retire in their fifties (especially for white collar, non-physical work) with a fixed benefit pension plan and with lavish health care benefits, while at the same time the federal government is making private sector employees work longer to receive social security benefits, and is forcing private sector people into Obamacare, which is clearly inferior to public sector health care insurance. At some point there will be pressure to make private and public sectors more equitable. We are just beginning to see the squeeze. Maybe one way to start making the system more equitable is to put public employees into Obamacare. My guess is that most public employees and their unions support Obamacare. Let them have it.

    PS-I never claimed teachers are lazy. As to a 9 month work schedule. Wisconsin requires 180 school days. That comes out to 36 five-day work weeks, which equates to 9 months. Sure, I will give you that teachers have to be at school one or two weeks before the year starts, and maybe a few weeks after the year ends. By my math that comes to 10 months. So I give you that it is 10 not 9. Now please refute all my other comparisons between teachers and RNs.

    PPS-As to teachers spending money on supplies while MPS spends over $14,000 per student- this is due to too much money being spent on administration and lavish benefits.

  43. Gerald C. says:

    It says in the byline “Countless sweeping changes have been proposed almost overnight, with no study, no rationale and no known author.” All of these statements regarding the provenance of these sweeping changes are incorrect. No study? They were studied (and crafted!) in detail with loving care and clear intent by Republican/Corporatist think tanks, like those funded by the Bradley Foundation, and it’s elder cousin ALEC. No rationale? Plenty of rationale. Make more money for the corporations while sh*tting on regular people. No known author? That contains a grain of truth. No specific author is named, and that is very deliberate…with no specific target, no blame can ever be attached, and accountability goes out the widow, because there’s one to hold accountable, no anchor, only vapor. This is the essence of Walker’s regime – no accountability to the people he’s ostensibly serving. But again, the source of the legislation is known, even if not attributed in the bill (again, by deliberate and obfuscatory intent).

    It is disingenuous in the extreme for the esteemed author to highlight the existence of all of this while pretending he doesn’t know what’s really happening here. And allows the discussion to proceed on frivolous and distracting tangents.

    But I don’t entirely blame the author, because speaking truth to the Walkerite steamroller results in not only getting flattened, but then having said steamroller back up and roll over you multiple times, because Mr. Walker is a vengeful S.O.B. At the very least, you get compared to an Islamist fundamentalist terrorist who needs to be “taken care of”.

  44. PMD says:

    You are inching closer to reality Bill.

  45. DDW says:

    We the people are losing our voices….slowly, steadily, methodically….

  46. CJ says:

    Choosing to work 9 months as opposed to 12 months does nothing to an educators salary. It stays the same because we can choose to spread the salary over 9 or 12 months. Teachers are also required to maintain credentials in their respective disciplines similar to that of a Registered Nurse. The Teachers who worked Summer School did so to make ends meet. Bill, while citing salaries, did you just completely ignore that fact that Teachers also pay significant amounts of money out of pocket for supplies? RN’s do not…RN’s do not take their work home every night – Educators do. RN’s have almost FREE Health Care – Educators do not. Odd how anti-Educators fail to remember these simple differences. I would highly welcome you to visit my classroom at your convenience, then make another assessment against Educators.

  47. David Nelson says:

    Bill: Whatever the reason for schools lacking supplies which teachers often end up providing, nonetheless, they do provide. As far as their salaries being a drag on school economies, I don’t begrudge a good teacher their salary. As mentioned before, many teachers put in considerable hours a week in excess of 40, so that salary works out to a lower $/hour than some think.

    Have you noticed in the discussion about teacher public employee benefits, the benefits of the private sector are rarely figured in. There was a study done a handful of years back (I don’t have the reference with me now) that compared public sector jobs to private sector jobs with similar job descriptions and that required similar skills/education. After figuring the value of benefits in dollars and adding that to the salary, private sector jobs showed an advantage of approximately 5%. One advantage of a public job can be in the form of greater job security. So let’s call it even. Frankly, there is a lot of waste and corruption associated with both public and private jobs. It’s part of the human predicament. So why pick on public employees? It’s just easier to criticize people who you’ve been told are the enemy.

    The other element of this is the decreasing ability of the poor and middle-class to improve their situations. No matter what side of the liberal/conservative divide one finds themselves on, this should be clear. Times are getting tougher, but corporations and the wealthiest are getting wealthier. Trickle-down economics is not working. In order for this to continue, the most powerful elements of our society need to disempower the average American, and any group which tries to aid them. Teachers are so far down the list of problems, it is ludicrous to target them instead of addressing the most pressing issues such as creating good long term jobs which provide reasonable benefits.

  48. Justin says:

    The comments on this article should be REQUIRED reading for every young teacher in Wisconsin, especially those still in college and those with less than 10 years of teaching experience. The comments in this section just confirm the existence of nearly universal ANIMOSITY directed towards teachers in Wisconsin, often degenerating into outright HATRED by a majority of Wisconsin residents.

    I am in a position to advise many younger teachers in Wisconsin schools. Since the election of Governor Walker and the imposition of Act 10, through many public speaking engagements, I have advised every teacher in Wisconsin to find a way to LEAVE Wisconsin as soon as possible. Young teachers do not realize the breadth and depth of the HATRED that exists towards them and their families, HATRED that will be directed towards them for their entire careers in Wisconsin. As I talk to these younger teachers, I show them the many examples of Wisconsin citizens ripping into teachers, calling them parasites, moochers, lazy fat pigs, degenerates, etc… that populate the airwaves and printed media in Wisconsin. I have already captured several of the most denigrating comments in this article, to be used in my speaking engagements scheduled in the next few weeks.

    Fran and others of her ilk are likely pleased to know that most teachers under 30 years old in Wisconsin will never earn more than $50,000 in today’s dollars at anytime in their careers, IF THEY STAY IN WISCONSIN. I especially enjoy speaking to young teachers of math, science, special education, and technical education-all areas with severe shortages of teachers. Teachers in these subject areas are FLEEING the hatred towards teachers in Wisconsin, often to Minnesota and other states where school districts are actively recruiting them.

    Just a few hours ago, I was working with a group of young technical education & STEM teachers. All were earning under $45,000 per year teaching in suburban Milwaukee districts. When I showed them that they would earn a minimum of $1,000,000 to as much as $1,600,000 more over the next 25 years by moving to Minnesota, Illinois, or Iowa, they were all smiles at the prospect of escaping Wisconsin. Most of these younger teachers have no “roots” such as home ownership or close family holding them down. As more and more young teachers realize the benefits of leaving Wisconsin, the floodgates of teacher exodus will really open up. Bet Fran and her ilk will be REALLY HAPPY then.

  49. Observer says:

    @CJ RN’s do not have almost free healthcare. Working in healthcare got me very high rates that increased yearly more than my salary did. This was accompanied by lower benefits and higher co-pays. Perhaps you want to use healthcare CEO”s as your example; you’d be much more accurate.

  50. Jim Rowen says:

    A fine piece, and props to the headline writer, too.

  51. David Nelson says:

    From The National Center for Education Statistics website at

    Average wage for a K-12 teacher in the U.S.: $56,383
    Average wage for a K-12 teacher in Wisconsin: 55,171

    Neither of these numbers suggest that most teachers approach a six-figure income. No, you don’t get to add in benefits to this salary. not unless you are willing to do so for private workers with equivalent training and education. This information also does not support the idea that teachers are overpaid. When considered in light of extra hours worked unpaid, preparing curriculum during summer weeks etc… Who here is ready to cut teachers a break?

  52. Pat Eulberg says:

    I wonder what Fran and others here think a teacher or public employee should make. Is 40K good enough? 30K? 20K?

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