Revisiting Wisconsin

100% of WI teachers have a higher education th...

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Many different special interests are busily crafting narratives about the Wisconsin battle that promote their agenda.  I’d like to add my thoughts to the mix.  In my opinion, what we are really talking about in Wisconsin is the governor’s attempt to force a pay cut on public employees.

Governor Scott Walker likes to speak in terms of the teachers “paying their fair share” of the cost of their benefits. Consider, however, that in any job Total Compensation = Salary + Benefits. So when Walker speaks of them “paying their fair share” for their own compensation; he’s really talking about a pay cut. His words are just a euphemism for them giving back part of their own compensation.

He likes to talk about how Wisconsin is broke and can no longer afford to pay its teachers. So he wants us to believe that his insistence that teachers take a pay cut is necessary to balance the budget. Yet he is scheduled to announce today a new revenue limit that would require a $500 per-pupil reduction in property taxes. Strange move for a guy trying to balance the budget, wouldn’t you say? If Wisconsin is so strapped that it can’t afford to pay its teachers, then why is it a good idea to reduce revenue from property taxes that help pay teachers?

The answer is pretty simple. Scott Walker is interested in “starving the beast” rather than being fiscally responsible. The beast in this case is public education in Wisconsin. He wants to remove the right of teachers to bargain collectively so that the government can strong-arm them into accepting pay cuts. The reason we allow groups like teachers to unionize is so that there is a balance of power when it comes to negotiating compensation. The fear is that without collective bargaining, the government will use its power to exploit teachers. Scott Walker is the poster boy for why unions are needed for those who work in the public sector.

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  • Jim Wheeler  On March 1, 2011 at 4:20 pm


    I have written a post on this item on my own blog at this link:

    But, there is more. I have a fellow blogger of the liberal variety who called me on one misleading sentence in my blog, wherein I claimed that the Wisconsin teachers were paid more in benefits than their private-sector counterparts. That led to the below reply, which in the context of my blog post is, I submit, pertinent to this discussion.


    I found the item on politifact and you are, as usual, correct. When you factor in the education requirements the WI teachers are a little underpaid compared to their private sector counterparts who have comparable educations. So my statement, sans clarification, was wrong. If When wordpress gets fixed I will correct this.

    However, there is a worm in this apple slice of knowledge. As the father of a teacher I’m sure you know that the profession in America is structured on the premise that teaching skill can be improved through formal course work, and therefore compensation is generally linked to punching those tickets and getting higher degrees. To that extent the profession has become a cannibalistic machine which feeds on itself. (My perception, unconfirmed, is that this applies more to graduate than undergraduate teaching.) I believe this results in a closed profession which generates its own internal jobs and trades ticket-punching for security, locking in good and bad teachers alike. Part of my opinion on this comes from getting my MS in business (management engineering). I was exposed to several of the same kinds of courses that education majors take, such as the psychology of group interaction and I found the stuff to be arcana of little utility in real life.

    I’m not saying that taking courses and getting degrees isn’t costly and doesn’t take effort. Of course it does. In fact I still recall plowing doggedly through some of those management courses, memorizing obscure and abstract terms, and all the while thinking, what does this crap have to do with real life? [Other courses, such as math and statistics, had some utility.] But I punched the tickets and got the sheepskin in return. But I am saying that most advanced course work has little to do with making better teachers. As I said somewhere before in this string, I think good teachers are mostly born that way. I think they would acquire the additional knowledge they need on their own without a lot of the courses the profession requires of them. (I wonder what your daughter thinks of this issue?)

    Thanks for working to keep me honest. I am a work in progress.


    • jwhester  On March 2, 2011 at 11:57 am

      Thanks for adding your two-cents, Jim. I am delighted by the way the events in Wisconsin are getting people to really start considering what’s actually going on in Wisconsin. I believe it is, like many issues, one that is more complex than the sound bites do justice.


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