Shock among educators regarding Gov. Scott Walker's proposals to gut collective bargaining rights for teachers has given way to anger regarding what the changes will mean to individuals and families.
Madison Teachers Inc. broke its silence saying in a statement that Walker's proposal would cost the average Madison teacher a loss of $5168 each year, and would tie future bargaining for any increase in salary to the Consumer Price Index (1.5 percent, last year).
According to MTI, there would be significant additional impacts on teacher working conditions. For example, hours of the school day and days of the school year would be unilaterally set by school boards. Termination could be for any cause, without recourse, according to information sent to union members today.
Both Madison Superintendent Daniel Nerad and State Superintendent Tony Evers also weighed in against Walker's proposal to eliminate bargaining rights for public employees except when negotiating salaries.
"On behalf of our 25,000 students and 6,000 staff members, I urge you to use a different approach to resolving the deficit in the current state budget. Those we serve deserve to know that the key leader in our state used all means in the resolution of our significant problems before excluding key partners. This is basically what is happening through your budget repair bill," Nerad wrote in a letter sent to Walker Monday afternoon.
And in a letter sent today to legislative education chairs Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Robin Vos, Evers expressed concerns over provisions in the proposed Budget Adjustment Bill that would result in immediate salary cuts of up to ten percent for teachers and other public employees throughout the state. "We need to make tough decisions, but we must be careful not to abandon fairness and a sense of decency in the name of boldness. Strong measures are needed, but we are better served by reasonable reforms than by radical reactions," Evers wrote.
In a message to 98,000 teachers throughout the state, Mary Bell, president of WEAC, the state's largest teachers union, said WEAC's offices had been flooded with messages from anxious teachers ever since Walker's budget proposals were announced on Friday. Teachers were not only upset by the impact of the Walker plan, but they were also frustrated that they could not get through to legislators or to the governor's office because calls were not returned and email boxes were full.
"Beyond the financial impact, educators are worried about the consequences of not having a voice in teaching and learning issues such as class size, school safety, scheduling and due process rights," the release from Bell said. Bell reacted angrily to Walker's proposals in a video many WEAC members saw over the weekend.
Tuesday and Wednesday there are a number of rallies throughout the day scheduled in Madison to support public employees, including after school at the Capitol. Union officials are encouraging teachers to participate in the late afternoon rallies. Students at East High School are planning to walk out of their school in support of teachers at 11 a.m. University students plan a Hands Off Our Teachers Rally on Tuesday at noon, and on Wednesday at 1 p.m.
It's likely these rallies around the Capitol will be a sea of folks wearing red, not unusual in a city full of Badger fans. But in this case, public employees and their supporters wearing red will signify something else, writes MTI's Matthews. "Red - the sign of angry men [and women]," so goes the song from 'Les Miserables.' "