James Rowen
Op Ed

How Act 10 Hurt State Education

New report shows far-reaching impact of Walker’s “modest requests” for change.

By - Jun 14th, 2018 01:23 pm
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Wisconsin Capitol Protests. Photo by Patti Wenzel

Wisconsin capitol protests during the passing of the controversial Act 10. Photo by Patti Wenzel

Cap Times Editor Emeritus Dave Zweifel‘s current column is a must-read on the many corrosive consequences on students, teachers and the learning environment tied to Gov. Scott Walker‘s signature attack on public policy in Wisconsin known as Act 10.

Zweifel cites a new study which underscores the first-hand accounts many of us have heard since Walker “dropped the [Act 10] bomb” on an unsuspecting public sector workforce statewide:

Among the hardest hit have been the state’s public school teachers. Not only were they required to pick up a significant portion of their health insurance and pension costs, Act 10 also significantly hamstrung local school districts from raising some revenue on their own even as the state cut $750 million from public education while enacting tax breaks for many of the state’s big businesses.

To state the obvious, the act has significantly altered the relationship among teachers, administrators and school boards. Just how big this impact has been was detailed in a study conducted last year entitled: “In the aftermath of Act 10: The changed state of teaching in a changed state….”

[The] researchers…found that Act 10 has had a big impact on the teachers’ relationships with their districts and the way they teach in the classroom and has also contributed to emotions that include feeling vulnerable, indifferent and sanguine…

One of the toughest problems for teachers, the study found, is that because Act 10 took away the requirement that teachers could be fired only for just cause, there’s constant pressure to be extra careful. In other words, you never know when an official will visit your classroom, not like what you’re doing and soon you’re out the door.

The study also revealed that class sizes have increased in most of the districts and there is now seldom enough time to “sit down with kids” and build relationships. The “churn” among the teaching force is significant, many have retired early, and others leave for better and, often, less-stressful jobs.

I’d taken a closer look in September at Act 10’s continuing, negative impacts – –

Walker’s WI Act 10 destroyed the teaching profession

– – and Zweifel’s focus on the study helps add data and context to Act 10 and its endlessly-unfolding trauma.

One thing to never forget is the dissembling Walker engaged in about Act 10, its reach, and goals when he sugar-coated the far-reaching law.

Remember Walker’s assertion at a news conference that Act 10 was a set of mere “modest, modest requests,” as reported by then-Isthmus editor Bill Lueders on February 18, 2011? Talk about must-read/never-forget journalism:

“These are bold political moves, but these are modest, modest requests,” Walker asserted, of proposals that would completely strip public employees of their right to collectively bargain for anything except salaries (and to severely limit their ability to do even this), along with sweeping new rules that will make it difficult for their unions to survive.

And why do I say Walker dissembled? Because his own account of the reach and impacts that hoped would flow from Act 10 were captured in his own, self-serving braggadocio recorded by a Buffalo, NY blogger during an infamous February, 2011 prank call when Walker thought he was talking to heavyweight far-right funder David Koch.

This is how he framed Act 10 for his top advisers, as he explained during that call, and does any of it sound “modest, modest” to you?

I had all of my cabinet over to the residence for dinner.

Talked about what we were gonna do, how we were gonna do it. We’d already kinda built plans up, but it was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb.

And I stood up and I pulled out a picture of Ronald Reagan, and I said, you know, this may seem a little melodramatic, but 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday we just celebrated the day before, had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air-traffic controllers.

And, uh, I said, to me that moment was more important than just for labor relations or even the federal budget, that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism because from that point forward, the Soviets and the Communists knew that Ronald Reagan wasn’t a pushover.

And, uh, I said this may not have as broad of world implications, but in Wisconsin’s history — little did I know how big it would be nationally — in Wisconsin’s history, I said this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history.

James Rowen, a former journalist and mayoral staffer in Milwaukee and Madison, writes a regular blog, The Political Environment.

Categories: Education, Op-Ed, Politics

5 thoughts on “Op Ed: How Act 10 Hurt State Education”

  1. Troll says:

    Suggestions on being careful so you do not get fired. Do not hug students excessively. Two, do not look at porn on state property. Three, do not invite students into your vehicle or residence. Four, be civil to your coworkers.

  2. Mary Kay Wagner says:

    Troll, Troll, Troll, have you ever talked to a public school teacher? You speak out of ignorance perpetuated by Fox and friends. Teachers are getting removed for excessively advocating for their students. They are removed for not teaching district approved content. Even teaching students how to think for themselves can get them in trouble. What’s more, districts are relying on teachers to pay for the supplies they need in the classroom. act 10 was a band aid that addressed none of the real issues facing education in this state.

  3. fightingbobfan says:

    Dragging down the wages of a large segment of the economy, drags down the economy.

    As we found, this was like pulling the brake cord on a train. No wonder the Walker economy is so lackluster.

    BTW — spare us the unemployment numbers. Poverty in this state has grown and the middle class has not.

  4. Mini Me says:

    Dumb people are easy to control. And, with Faux Nuz (much akin to Pravda of the Soviet era) the official propaganda organ of the autocracy . . .

  5. Tom says:

    As a volunteer with Teaching in Wisconsin, we have compiled the details of ill-treatment of teachers in scores of school districts since Act 10. Even the BEST school district in Walker’s Wisconsin is still a poor choice for a career in comparison to the WORST school districts in neighboring Minnesota.

    Even in 2018, teachers across Walker’s Wisconsin are still being non-renewed for the most minimal offenses. Since Act 10 , literally hundreds of teachers have been fired on the basis of ONE parent complaint. Just recently, a school district tried to non-renew a 54 year old teacher who had taught in that district for 25 years. The reason for the non-renewal? Not sufficiently supportive of the policies of President Trump. By terminating him this year, the district was going to screw him out of all of his retirement benefits. Since Act 10, thousands of teachers in Walker’s Wisconsin have been terminated in a similar manner.

    As we speak to college students in Wisconsin and now, across the upper Midwest, we urge talented graduates going into education to run as far away from Walker’s Wisconsin as possible. We share just some of the ugliest stories of teachers losing their careers for the most minor accusations and how Walker’s Act 10 made Wisconsin the easiest state in which to fire or non-renew a teacher.

    Friends Don’t Let Friends Teach in Wisconsin.

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