07-30-2011, 11:43 AM
Who Wants to Talk About Wisconsin’s Economic Mirac
| Hey, Who Wants to Talk About Wisconsin’s Economic Miracle? |
The death of collective bargaining saved the state overnight.
Over the past six months, Wisconsin has been nothing short of a miracle. Newly elected Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans in the majority in Madison got just about everything they wanted during the past legislative session, and a state facing a projected $3 billion budget shortfall with no end in sight now has a projected $300 million budget surplus. The amazing successes in Wisconsin have emboldened the legislatures and political leaders of other states, who have seen the wonders resulting from a little political backbone and fiscal common sense.
After being held hostage by 14 AWOL Democrat senators, Walker succeeded in passing his budget repair bill, “Act 10,” which instantly fixed the $137 million deficit by requiring public employees to contribute just a little bit toward their pensions and health care, and by limiting their ability to collectively bargain. Wisconsin also ended the ludicrous automatic pay and benefit increases for public employee unions each budget year — closing a cash sinkhole which is eating states like California and Illinois alive. Last month the Wisconsin legislature passed its biennial budget, which Governor Walker promptly signed in a no-frills ceremony.
The repeal of much of Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law has already improved the quality and lowered the cost of Wisconsin government exponentially. There are approximately 275,000 government employees in the state of Wisconsin. About 72,000 such employees work for the state, 38,000 for cities and villages, 48,000 for counties, 10,500 (full time equivalent) for technical colleges, and 105,229 for schools.
While only half of state employees are unionized, virtually all school district employees are unionized. Until recently, almost all conditions of unionized public employee employment had to be delineated in a collectively bargained agreement. Consequently, it was very difficult to remove bad teachers and to reward good teachers. It took an Act of Congress to remove even the worst teachers, and doing so could cost a community millions in attorney fees. A high school teacher in Cedarburg was fired for viewing porn at school while working on his school district computer, in violation of the high school’s computer use policy which strictly prohibited “accessing, sending or displaying offensive messages, pictures or child pornography.” (Among other images, Robert Zellner had retained photographs of female students of the district wearing bikinis while on a school-sponsored trip to Hawaii that Zellner chaperoned.) Zellner was a union activist, so the teachers’ union dug in and resisted the personnel change, filing suit in federal court and taking the matter all the way to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The union eventually lost, but in its nearly three-year effort to keep fired teacher Robert Zellner from returning to Cedarburg High School, the school district spent roughly $267,000 on legal expenses — enough to pay the annual salary and pre-Walker benefits of four teachers.
Collective bargaining is harmful to schools and students, costs an exorbitant amount of money, and lowers the quality of education. Even some of the most liberal organizations who otherwise support collective bargaining agree that it hurts not only teachers, but students, and our education system as a whole. |
If one listened to the violent rhetoric of the public employee unions, one would have expected today to be a dark day for education in Wisconsin. “This is a disaster,” said Wisconsin Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller in February after Governor Scott Walker first proposed Act 10. Miller predicted catastrophe if the bill were to become law, a charge repeated thousands of times by his fellow Democrats, union officials, and protesters in the streets. Now the bill is law, and we have evidence of how wonderfully it is working. Instead of a catastrophe, it is a day of miraculous optimism, balanced budgets, educational improvement, and fiscal recovery.
Last edited by EmptyTimCup; 07-30-2011 at 11:48 AM.
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