Sometimes I fear people in Wisconsin have lost all ability to feel shame.
A headline in this week’s paper reads “Teacher cuts offset less aid.” The thesis of the report is that removing union bargaining rights from state teachers has enabled school districts to survive state cuts to education funding.
Wisconsin cut state aids to public education by $450 million last year and also limited school districts’ ability to raise property taxes to cover the cut.
The budget also required teachers to pay a greater percentage of their retirement benefits and curbed union-bargained health insurance benefits. What this meant, is that school districts could budget lower amounts to cover retirement and health benefits for teachers.
According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the reduced retirement and health care costs basically covered the reduction in state aid to schools. And the reduced aid to the schools helped Gov. Scott Walker balance the state budget.
So, it is a win-win situation. The state balances its budget and the school districts are made whole.
It is a win-win situation unless, of course, you are a teacher.
If you are a teacher, you lose.
You are paying more for your retirement benefits, but you aren’t getting better benefits. You are paying more for your health insurance, but your insurance is inferior.
Not only that, but you get to see your government crowing about how it balanced the budget on your back.
Much the same argument can be made for other state employees, but we’re just talking about teachers today. And the question is, just what kind of a society is happy to balance its budget on the backs of the men and women it holds responsible for teaching its children?
Don’t you think that is a shameful thing to do?
You may individually think it is a shameful thing to do but, as a society, we don’t. As a society, we are perfectly willing to tell our teachers that we don’t respect them.
We’re going to pay a price for this down the line.
It’s not just teachers, of course. As a society, people in Wisconsin seem to have lost all pride in our Badger tradition. It is no longer shocking to see national rankings that list us in the same league as Mississippi and Alabama. That should fill us with shame. It doesn’t.
In the meantime, the national press is touting Walker as a serious presidential contender.
I don’t blame him. He just reflects who we are.