Editorial cartoon (9/14/2016)

Scott Walker is sticking to his guns that his plan to restore some of the cuts he and his legislative allies made to public education six years ago will be limited to school districts that require their teachers to pay at least 12 percent of their health care costs.

His rationale? He wants to make sure that the extra $200 per-pupil education dollars "go into the classroom where they're intended to show student success."

So, making sure teachers are adequately paid has nothing to do with student success?

What's so bogus about Walker's micromanaging what should be the prerogative of local school districts is that some local districts have actually saved money without raising the percentage of health care costs paid by their teaching staffs by changing benefits, coverage levels, insurance companies or various other means. Walker's 12 percent is an arbitrary one-size-fits-all figure that ignores the differences among school districts around the state.

Northeastern Wisconsin school districts, for example, complained at a recent Joint Finance Committee hearing on the proposed state budget that Walker's requirements would place an undue burden on their own operations by making it harder to attract staff.

The governor's real motives are exposed once again. Act 10 was all about requiring teachers and other public employees to shoulder the burden of closing state budget shortfalls. Teachers and others took up to 17 percent pay cuts in 2011 by being forced to contribute more to retirement and health care while wealthy taxpayers and many Wisconsin businesses got big tax breaks and have never been asked to help share in the pain. Meanwhile, Walker's administration boasts of reducing taxes. For working people, those minimal tax reductions pale compared to their lost income.

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But the most ludicrous aspect of his stubborn insistence to require some districts to make further reductions in teacher compensation is the assumption that fairly compensated educators make no contribution to a school's success.

Employees who feel appreciated bolster any workplace. And if we want good young people to aspire to the teaching profession, we had better make up our minds that we need to pay them fairly — Scott Walker notwithstanding.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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