As the Cap Times education writer, I've been writing steadily over the last several days about reactions in the education community towards Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill. I've reported on school board members and state and district officials' statements and opinions, and I've written about what's going on in other states with pending legislation on teachers' collective bargaining rights. I've talked with students and heard from some parents, too.
But I haven't written much about what teachers themselves are saying. To remedy that oversight, I'm printing an eloquent Facebook post from Sara Milewski, who teaches a combined 2/3 class in Madison at Glendale Elementary. I met Sara several years ago when I wrote a story about Glendale. At that time I learned she was married to a colleague here at The Capital Times, Todd Milewski. Over the last several years of covering schools, I've been impressed with the Glendale staff and what they're accomplishing in a school where over 83 percent of the children are economically disadvantaged.By the way, Sara is one of those teachers every parent longs for: She's there early and late for her students, accessible to parents and she inspires kids with a love of learning and respect for themselves, their classmates and adults. In short, she's the whole package.
Here's what she wrote:
"Why I'm going down to the Capitol....
Those of you who have known me for a long time might be surprised to hear that I have been hesitating to jump into the fray of the labor protests happening in Wisconsin.
First, a clarification: The public employees and the many, many others who have been showing up and showing support in other ways, are not protesting because we are greedy and won't make concessions to help fix the budget. Our governor didn't ask us to make concessions. He proposed that we eliminate our unions so that he and the legislature could unilaterally eliminate benefits and slash pay as he saw fit. No, the bill does not say "eliminate the unions," but when the ONLY thing unions would be able to negotiate by LAW would be pay increases of not more than the cost of living, that union dues would become "optional," and when things like benefits, pensions and working conditions would become non-negotiable, the unions would be functionally useless. THAT is why the protests are happening.
That said, I have been making myself sick trying to decide to what extent I can participate in the protest activities. I am 7 months pregnant. I have a 4 year old. My husband and I don't have enough of a savings to risk either of us losing our jobs or missing out on pay.
Despite the schools being closed in Madison, teachers must take sick days, without pay, in order to participate in the protests. We need my salary. I need my sick days for upcoming doctor appointments and maternity leave. It is very physically hard on my body to participate in the protests.
But I am going to the Capitol today. Without a union, teacher wages would be so low that I wouldn't be able to remain in the career that I love. Without a union, I wouldn't have the health insurance coverage I do have that has caught and is following a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication. Without a union, I wouldn't have the sick days that I do have. Without unions, maternity leave wouldn't exist. Without my own union brothers and sisters, who donate days to a sick leave bank each year, I wouldn't be able to take paid maternity leave. Without the action of a union, if it were 30 years ago, I would have had to resign my job as soon as my pregnancy started to show.
Believe me, I'd rather be in my classroom today, doing what I love to do: Teaching kids. With the schools closed, that is a moot point. But I will not take pay today by going into an empty school. I am going down to the Capitol to protest a bill that attempts to balance the budget on the backs of teachers and other middle class public servants. I am going down to the Capitol to protect my future in the career I love. I am going to the Capitol to defend the state I love. I am going to the Capitol for my children and my union brothers and sisters who fought so hard before me."