Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The troubles here are pretty public. The threats include reducing state workers' pay (in practice) and busting state workers' unions.

The paycuts will also affect K-12 teachers across the state through their access to pension funds (and health care?), as well as by weakening unions, even though they aren't actually state employees.

The PTB don't really care about messing up the schools and university system, so they can propose some pretty outrageous legislation (including splitting off the flagship), which would cost the state a lot more money, all in the name of supposedly cutting costs.

The vilest proposal (though union busting is a close second) is deciding that "limited term employees" will lose access to health insurance and pension benefits. A little time and you'll realize that the majority of such employees are women, and that they often provide the only insurance for their families.

Did I mention that the PTB also want to cut the state funding for medicaid. So the families that will lose insurance through employment won't even have access to medicaid for their children.

There's some bluster on both sides, of course. But the bluster of state workers is so much less effective. I was thinking about how ineffective our bluster is.

And here's what I figured out: our problem is that we actually care.

We value education and care about educating our students.

We care about doing jobs we think are important enough that we take less pay than we'd get in the private sector (it's in the news, not just some opinion I have).

So we aren't going to mess with students or do less work.


I'm really worried about the direction this state is moving. We compare our self to a nearby state, and always complain about the differences. The other state has higher employment rates, higher average wages, and so on. It's also consistently made the decisions over many years to pay taxes to support solid K-12 education and state universities. This state, at least in the 10+ years since I've been here, has tended to make very different decisions.

And now we're going further in that direction.

I'm pretty close to despair right now.


  1. There are similar things afoot in the state I'm temporarily residing in (where my partner works, also at a state institution), but I don't think they're as organized or unified against the union-busting, etc., as you guys are.

    When I'm very pessimistic, or perhaps very optimistic, I think the only thing that might possibly change the way certain states treat education is for them to see its spectacular, non-negotiable collapse: suddenly, a once-great state university is gutted, its star faculty fled; suddenly, a state can't meet payroll for 1,000 teachers.

    I don't want anything like that to to happen, obviously. But if this long slow crisis hasn't brought about change, a monumental, shaming, and very public implosion might be all that can.

  2. Anonymous10:53 AM

    As someone who hails from your state, Bardiac, and is a product of the K-12 public education system, has relatives and friends who work in the public sector, and as a progressive, I just want to shake my head in shame. Though I haven't lived in that state in the past decade, I am appalled by the lack of empathy that these lawmakers exhibit, though sadly not surprised.

    That said - the protests and the rallying of the troops that I can observe from my FB perch do give me hope. At the very least, we are not alone.

  3. It's worthy of despair. Even from your native state, I am despairing. (And no one in education at any level here wants to think about what happens if the state doesn't pass the taxes that Brown has proposed.)

  4. this has gotten a lot of notice. and, what susan said.

  5. Thanks, Bardiac. As Anonymous says though, it's heartening to see the outrage and protests. I live in a state that's looking at similar dire cuts to K-12 and again whacking the unis in order to balance our budget, but I just can't see all teachers and professors massing on Denver they way they've rallied in Madison lately. But the Madison example might ignite some other fires in previously phlegmatic states and localities.

    I hear exactly what you're saying about support for education and prosperity: as if these things can be reasonably decoupled! Fortunately, despite all of the rhetoric beating up on teachers, the vast vast vast majority of the public like and appreciate the work of their children's teachers past and present, whereas there's nowhere near the same level of support for most politicians.

  6. Like anonymous above, I am also a product of Wisconsin public education and am appalled at what the state government is doing (though I can't help but be amused that the Dems are in hiding out of state).

    I am excited to see the protests in Madison and other towns across the state (some, at least) national news coverage (even though I did just read a description of the wide disparity between national and local news framing of what's going on). I'm appalled by the government and encouraged by at least a decent segment of the population. I do hope the state turns itself around.

  7. I am pretty close to despair right now too, although participating in and witnessing the demonstrations has helped. I feel like the progressive tradition of our state is being destroyed and am not sure where to go from here. I am a teacher educator at our flagship institution. What am I supposed to tell my students, our future teachers? How can I ethically encourage them to enter the profession at this point?

    By the way, a LOT of professors here do not agree with the plan to split off the flagship.