What will happen with Governor Scott Walker's new budget repair bill? Will collective bargaining really end and voices be silenced for public employees? What's going to happen to our educational system? It's nearly 1am, and I'm still up watching the news...waiting to see if the vote on this bill will happen tonight.
As someone who has taught in Wisconsin's public schools, I'm really appalled at what is happening here. I'm angry, upset, and shocked, but more than anything else, I'm saddened by all of this. It's the total lack of respect for public workers that saddens me the most I think. Public workers are not the problem. They are hardworking people who help run the state and keep it going. They collect your garbage, fix and plow your roads, nurse you back to health at the hospital, manage and clean the parks your kids play at, maintain order at your prisons, and educate you. They serve YOU, the public. They deserve more respect, and it's sad to see that when they've been busting their butts working hard for lower pay than in the private sector, what they get in return is resentment from the people they serve. It makes me feel like the eight years I taught high school were a waste.
People are so hung up on the issue of fairness: "Why should public employees get better benefits and retirement than the private sector? It's not fair." That's what I keep hearing. However, it happened that way because many public workers' unions bargained to have better benefits in exchange for lower pay. The better benefits offset the fact that public workers are paid about 4.8% less than those with the same education and experience. That includes consideration of yearly hours worked. Those in the private sector should be bargaining the same deal if they want better benefits. So if we're going to talk about fairness in an ideal society, one of these two things should happen: 1) Give public employees a 4.8% pay raise and then make them pay more for their benefits and retirement, OR 2) Have those in the private sector take a 4.8% pay cut and donate that money towards remedying the state deficit. That would be fairness across the board in terms of equal pay, benefits, retirement.
The whole issue of pay, benefits, and retirement is not the real problem with me however. If Scott Walker really intends to crack down on the state deficit, I can understand having public employees contribute more towards benefits and retirement. Yes, that makes sense. We're in a poor economy right now, and something needs to be done. But why take away collective bargaining? Doing that is going to be detrimental to our educational system.
That means teachers would have no say and non-educators would be deciding on class sizes, curriculum, planning time, etc. That would be like me playing "architect" for a building when I have neither the education nor experience for it. The building I put together, when built, would most likely fall down. When non-educators decide how teachers should do their job, the educational system will suffer. I wouldn't be surprised if I saw class sizes increase dramatically just to save a little money. Can you imagine 40 or more kids in a classroom? I know I definitely do not want my kids in a class of that size. And the good teachers? They're not going to want to hang around. If they do, I wouldn't blame them if they did a half-hearted job after being made to feel so second-rate. This will deter college students from picking education as their future career. And in a field where many teachers already leave the profession at a high rate, the only people left teaching our kids are going to be unqualified, lousy teachers.
And yet, those who are for this bill don't realize how it will affect their own families, their own kids. It seems all they can think about are their own wallets and comparing their benefits versus that of public workers'. Sad. The nation's watching what happens in Wisconsin with this. Because if it happens here, it'll happen there too.