Backward into the Fog: Wisconsin’s Budget Repair Bill

I live in the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.  Our founding fathers created a Union where someone like me had the right to write and publish a book, post on this blog, and become anything I wanted to be.  Because of these freedoms, I have been able to share my talents and my passion as an educator for 14 years.

I live in a state that has as its motto ‘Forward’.  Wisconsin has been a leader in our great country in terms of education and fair labor.  With the current “Budget Repair Bill” that is being offered by our new Governor Scott Walker, our state is not living up to its motto of ‘Forward’.  In fact, we are allowing our state government to set our labor rights back 100 years.

All of my friends and colleagues in education agree to ‘do their part’ in terms of helping to ‘fix’ the budget in our fine state.  I have often heard arguments from the private business sector that public employees have not done their part to offset the financial ruin burdening our state and country.  Personally, in our school district, we have been doing our part.  Twice over the course of the last 14 years my salary has been frozen.  It has been frozen because we, as a union, chose to do that to sustain our benefits package.  The leaders of our school district joined with our union leaders and negotiated in good faith and fairness to approve of this pay freeze.  As a district, we have been losing teachers either to retirement or the pursuit of other opportunities and our leaders have chosen not to re-hire those positions in an effort to be financially and fiscally responsible.  As a result, in an effort to do our part, teachers have not complained about the increase in our class sizes and the restrictions of our annual budget.  Furthermore, the fact that the public sector is being scrutinized only leads me to believe that the private sector will be next.  To say that employees in the public sector have not been doing their part is wrong.

The fact that our union has had the opportunity to negotiate with our school board has created a healthy environment for our staff and our students.  Teachers come to school each and every day with the motivation to help students make a difference in our communities and to learn the  skills needed to compete in a shrinking world.  I can take a pay freeze again and I can contribute to my benefit plan and pension, but to be stripped of the right to bargain and negotiate is criminal.  The other day I heard a state representative describe this notion as a form of slavery.

I have called my representatives, emailed my representatives, and attended a ‘Kill the Bill’ rally in Green Bay.  I love democracy and the energy I have felt from the great citizens of our state.  I hate the idea of what this Bill will mean in the long term.  I am the proud father of four children, two of which are school age.  What is going to happen to their great teachers?  The best of the best will be looking to share their talents elsewhere.  My children will suffer the consequences of this Bill for a long time.

I have no idea what life will be like on the other side of this Bill, but I do know that if our public employees lose their right to bargain and lose the great working conditions established, the private sector will suffer too.  I know I won’t be spending as much money at my local grocery store, restaurants, and boutiques.  I know I won’t be traveling too far to camp in our state parks this summer or spend money in Door County or Wisconsin Dells.  As a result, my children’s experiences will be limited and they are the true victims in this.

I will make ends meet, but my children will be living in a state with a government that has clearly put public education at the bottom of the list of priorities.  As I drove to school this morning in a thick fog, I couldn’t help but think of the irony.  Today is a black day in Wisconsin; like the fog, the “Budget Repair Bill”  has blanketed the ground, blinded all of us trying to move ‘forward’, and suffocated the breath of our children stifling the newness of growth and life.  Today we have lost a piece of that freedom our founding fathers so tenderly held in their hearts and so vehemently fought to achieve.  Today, in Wisconsin, we have stepped backward.

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About jsteltz

Proud husband and father of four; HS English/LA Teacher; Author - Beyond the Scoreboard and A Sacred Promise
This entry was posted in #edchat, Children, Education, Education Administration, Educational Leadership, Parenting, students, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Backward into the Fog: Wisconsin’s Budget Repair Bill

  1. Miss Matteson says:

    Well said Mr. Steltz. It is so thick with white fog I couldn’t help thinking of the Heart of Darkness. Stubborn beliefs can blind…

  2. JK says:

    I’m a public employee (in a different state) and support what you’re saying wholeheartedly. Wish I could be in WI to support you guys.

  3. Amie says:

    Well said. The panic Governor Walker has derived by introducing the bill and forcing a vote in 6 days without time to discuss and decipher is simpy wrong.
    Thank you, John.

    Amie

  4. Brad Bichler says:

    Yes. I agree completely. I’m a teacher and fear for the education of our future students (and my own children). Class sizes will continue to grow, and nothing positive comes from that.

  5. jrottier says:

    Thanks you for putting together the views of many of our collegues. As an educator I always want to be sure everything is clear and dicussions are had to hear all views and then work toward something that will benefit as many as possible. I can not understand how this bill can even be presented in the manner it is. Thank you for being an informed advocate.-Judy

  6. Stacie says:

    This week has been painful. Many people don’t understand because he changed the law he could take our benefit packages and generate all the $ he wanted and not taken our unions. I still have family and friends that don’t get that those are two separate issues.

    The rush to push it through, the sound bites, the fear tactics, the lies have spiraled out of control!

    There is a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful to work w/ such creative, dedicated, and generous people even if the public seems to paint us in a very different light.

  7. tbloom says:

    Thanks, John. The fog is quite symbolic of today. Keep strong for our children.

  8. Jim Forst says:

    That all sounds well and good but your benefits are still obscene compared to us in the private sector. If I were you I would hope that the corrupt union disappeared. I would be ashamed to try to call myself a “professional” and still be a member of a union. The two are non-compatible.

    As for the fear tactics – they have all come from the union side. The statements that our children will suffer if we get rid of the union and the overly-generous pension and medical packages… If you were so interested in the welfare and education of the children of Wisconsin you would be at your jobs rather than being at the capitol. I guess I know where your loyalties truly lie.

    Maybe to balance the budget we should just cut 20% of all public sector jobs across the board. Then due to the union we would keep teachers based on seniority in the union rather than performance. Good system…

    We the taxpayers of Wisconsin are sick of your whining. If you don’t like it, get out and move to California or some other bankrupt socialist state. It is a free country.

    YES SCOTT WALKER!!!

    • jsteltz says:

      In the public building I work in, 100% of employees are present, accounted for, and helping students of our community today!!

      • Jim says:

        John,

        I find it very disconcerting that I feel compelled to thank you for staying at work and doing your job. Nonetheless, thank you for doing our job. I have NO respect for those people in Madison who abandoned their jobs to leave schools closed and working parents with major daycare issues. To me they are self-centered jerks.

        It is obvious that you are a class guy and I am quite sure an excellent teacher. I apologize for being such a jerk on your blog but I feel it is important that you see some of the emotion on the other side of the coin.

        I do have to say that if the only hardship you have endured in the last 14 years is a pay freeze, you have experienced nothing compared to the rest of us. It really is time for concessions that are long overdue. And I do have to comment on the line about not going to Wisconsin Dells, etc as being a bit melodramatic but I do understand the emotion.

        I appreciate your “fog” analogy. It is right on target. I can see how in all this turmoil you have great uncertainty. One thing I can say is that whenever I experienced great concern and uncertainty in my working life I ultimately ended up in a better situation. I am sure the same will be true for you – not because of what happens with or without the union – but because of who you are.

        That being said I honestly believe that you personally would be better off without the union. I have worked in union shops and non-union shops and the attitude has always been better in the non-union environment. I believe it is because people in the non-union environment have their future in their own hands and have not turned it over to some third party negotiator. Empowerment is a wonderful thing.

    • Heidi says:

      Mr. Forst-
      Speak for yourself and don’t portray your opinion as those of all the “taxpayers” of Wisconsin. I am a taxpayer too and I couldn’t disagree more with your view that public workers are whining about their “obscene” benefits. The issue here is hard working people who provide many of the services that YOU use and benefit from are being stripped of their right to speak and negotiate collectively. As for whether or not they are professionals… I think the manner in which they are conducting themselves in light of what is at stake speaks for itself. Maybe it time to review a little of our great state’s history and reflect on what life was like before unionization. And please explain exactly what “corrupt” behavior you are referring to.
      No one has been exempt from the effect of the latest economic recession. Not even public employees. They have seen wage freezes, reductions in health coverage, layoffs, etc. just like the private sector. And now this particular group is being targeted in order to “repair” the damage that created by many. Who knows what the actual budget proposal next week will include.
      For all of our sake, Mr. Forst, I hope no one follows your advice and moves to California (which is not a Socialist state, please review the actual definition of socialism) because Wisconsin would lose some of the best people we have. People who fight for what is fair and just.
      Maybe, Mr. Forst, instead of ridiculing those who work in the public sector, you should join them. After all you could take advantage of those obscene benefits and overly-generous pensions.

      • Jim says:

        Heidi,

        Early in my career I had considered going into education. I’m no dummy. I can recognize a gravy train when I see one! I ultimately chose a different career path not because of the students (they were great), not because of the lesson planning or the working hours, etc. The reason I chose a different career path was I could not stand the working environment. The time in the teachers lounge was terrible. All you ever heard was one teacher or another complaining about how the kids hate them or how the school board cheats them or how the parents don’t appreciate them or any number of complaints about how difficult their lives were.

        I firmly believe that this victim mentality was completely rooted in the union. A union that instills fear in its members to justify its existence. Going to work each day was like going to the DMV (another union environment). I have worked with many former teachers who have similar stories. I think the union environment already chases away many of the brightest and best from a career in education. After all, why work hard at teaching kids when the guy down the hall who shows movies 3 days a week gets paid more than you because he’s been in the union longer?

        My son had a summer job in a union shop. One day he was threatened in the parking lot to work slower so that he would not screw up the agreed on union production scale. I see similar things occur in education.

        I would rather starve in a free-market environment than become a lowest common denominator in a union. You argue that you are afraid of losing your bargaining rights. You already have when you turned them over to a union negotiator. I would rather have the freedom to negotiate for myself regardless of the outcome.

        That is why I chose not to take advantage of those obscene benefits and overly-generous pensions.

    • Jason says:

      You call the benefits obscene, but they are part of what make it worthwhile to be a teacher. Teaching is one of the lowest paid positions requiring a bachelor’s degree. Take away the good benefits, and how is it worth it to spend 4-5 years and $50,000+ on a degree that will never pay for itself? Most good teachers could easily have gotten a different degree that would have led to a higher paying job in the private sector, but chose to teach (and make less money) because they wanted to make a difference. But it appears it will very soon make ZERO financial sense to invest in a teaching degree. Why should someone take the pay cut just so they can be blamed and held accountable for a problem EVERYONE created? Wisconsin will become a place where anyone that would have made a great teacher will choose to do something else… something that is appreciated. It will be the kids AND the future of this state that suffer.

      • Jim says:

        Jason,

        I am so sick of the standard line that “The kids will pay for this.” Stop holding our students hostage. This is all about you.

        As for why you would go into teaching if it weren’t for the benefits. I would hope that you went into teaching because it is your avocation and passion and not a job you chose because of the great benefits.

        Regarding pay. Teachers salaries are well published and I have worked with former teachers. Your wages are similar to mine – except you work 9 months of the year. Pro-rated you make more than us!

        I pay $158.37 every 2 weeks for my health insurance which adds up to $4117.62 per year with a $4000 deuctible. You pay NOTHING. And if/when I retire I will have to pay for my medical if I wish to remain covered. You continue to pay NOTHING but get coverage forever.

        Regarding retirement. If I wish to have any money in retirement I have to contribute to a 401(k) and hope it grows. With luck I may be able to retire by the age of 65 or 67 or 70. You have a fully funded (by me) pension. Most teachers I know retire in their mid 50’s with their generous pensions and all medical covered.

        And my benefit package is better than many/most in the real world.

        I’m not complaining about my situation. What irks me is the self-righteous holier than thou attitude of the teachers. You get equivalent pay, 3 months+ vacation, obscene benefits and then you complain about how hard you have it. Get over yourself and get in line with the rest of us or the counter-revolt from the taxpayers which has just begun will get far uglier than it is today.

      • Jim says:

        As an addendum I discovered a site that lists teacher’s salaries. Unfortunately the only one on this site that I can identify for sure is John so I will use him as an example. I will compare his situation to mine.

        John’s salary this year: $57,572
        Mine: $47,500 with a potential bonus up to a maximum of $6000 if my company exceeds profit expectations and if I exceed performance expectations by over 125% for a max possible total.

        By the way my degree is in Chemical Engineering and I am employed as a chemist.

        My healthcare contribution annually is: $4117.62
        John’s: Zero of very near zero. Plus full coverage on retirement

        My retirement: Whatever I can put into a 401(k) and IRA
        John’s: Fully funded by the state

        AND MY BENEFITS ARE BETTER THAN MOST IN THE REAL WORLD

        Last year I saved up enough for a 9 day trip to Iceland and apparently John can’t afford to take a trip to Wisconsin Dells. Maybe it’s a money management problem?

        This is a comparison of life in the real world vs life in the coddled world of “teacherdom” Now can you see why those of us taxpayers in the real world are disgusted with the picketers in Madison. You already have more than we do and apparently it isn’t enough. You get NO SYMPATHY from me or anyone I work with.

        Jason, grow up and read a book.

    • chad says:

      Do you really think taking away peoples unions will raise your poverty level or anyone elses. This buget deficit was created by Walker. The 136 mm doller short fall is from his corporate tax brake and the loss of that revenue. Wake up!
      The teachers are willing to take the raise in both pentions and medical. Walker could care less if they said they would pay for all of it out of there pocket. Its about stopping people from having a voice.
      Some where I read,
      of the freedom of assembly.
      Some where I read,
      of the freedom of speech.
      Some where I read,
      of the freedom of oppression.
      Some where I read,
      That the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.

  9. jsteltz says:

    Good Morning John,

    Thank you for posting your comments. I actually received it last night and just read it again. In the spirit of respectful discussion, I would like to comment. I am purposely choosing to post here to your email rather than on your website as not to stir up any more finger pointing or controversy. I fully disclose that I may be ignorant and if so let me know and why. For the record, I am not for or against this bill in its entirety and/or current form. As you know, and what I would want others to know should you decide to post this feedback on your site, is that I am self employed as a real estate Broker and own a small vacation rental company. I am married with two children. My wife Amy is the highschool secratary at the highschool we both gradutated from. Our daughter Allison is a Freshman and UW-Milwaukee and our daughter Sophia is in 3rd grade. I currently am a member of our townships planning commission and serve as the president for our athletic booster club.

    I agree in your entire post but feel that parts of it can be taken very offensively by fellow residents working outside of the public sector. I try to be objective and seek to first understand before making any observations and forming my opinions. I recently spoke to a freind of mine who works for a rather large construction company in Door County. Over the last two years he has taken two pay cuts and pays more into his retirement fund and health insurance premiums monthly – just to keep his job. Personally, I have experienced a 15% decrease in income each of the last two years in my real estate business.

    “Twice over the course of the last 14 years my salary has been frozen. It has been frozen because we, as a union, chose to do that to sustain our benefits package.”
    Using Amy’s current insurance plan offered by our school, we pay about $175 per month for a policy in which we have a $500 family deductable. We feel blessed as I am sure you do, for our respective insurance plans. Along with you, most all residents who work for the public would have no problem if they had to pay a little more for their health insurance policies. Purchased individually, the same policies would cost 3 to 4 times more. My question is, “do public employees want to reach out to the general public through tv ads and demomstrations asking all Wisconsin residents to support them in regards to sustain their benefits package?” I get it, ” I can take a pay freeze again and I can contribute to my benefit plan and pension…” Very well said and I am sure most would agree and be willing to do so.

    “Furthermore, the fact that the public sector is being scrutinized only leads me to believe that the private sector will be next.”
    You may be 100% correct, however, the vast magority of the publice sector beleives that they have been already scutinized well in advance of the public sector – not the other way around. I am not trying to claim which is more acurate – just pointing out that there are two very different perspectives. Have this conversation with someone who is self employed or who works in the private sector where no unions are in place to represent them and have been given a choice to take a pay cut or lose their job and the above statement will surely be met with strong opposition.

    “The fact that our union has had the opportunity to negotiate with our school board has created a healthy environment for our staff and our students.”

    Awesome! This needs to happen! John, is it time to adjust the current model of Union vs Employer? Can we create professional organizations made up of members from both sides to promote, grow and emphasize the healthy environment for staff, students AND employers – in this case school adminstrators and school boards? Unions do serve a purpose. Originally created because in many cases (not neccessarily all) because employees were treated badly by employers. Can we consider adjusting the model – not removing it (the unions) or are we destined to only have the “us against them” mentality without any possibility to change the culture as it exists in many cases today?

    “…but to be stripped of the right to bargain and negotiate is criminal.” (complete remark from above)

    I negotiate for a living. It is always better to negotiate than to eliminate or uneccessarily regulate – in this case strip union members of their collective bargaining tools. To say it is criminal is for someone else to decide (perhaps it will come to this if Senate and/or Assembly do not address it). What is fair to say, I beleive, is that it flat out be wrong and I agree – not what our founding fathers intended. If this bill does pass it will place the burden of responsibility and determination of all school matters other than wages, via policy that is not currently in place, solely on our school boards. Now I am not against school boards, they have their role. But to put the burden on them to basically solely provide the framework and definitions of what a teacher is (good or bad), class room environment, class size, etc, etc etc….would be flat out crazy! No doubt leading to a decrease in the quality of our educators. Common sense tells us that if you have a plumbing problem – call a plumber, and so forth….to take away those in the trenches (classrooms) from participating in these and countless other issues that direclty influence the quality of education would be, yeah your right, criminal!

    Thanks again John! Post this if you wish!

    Respectfully,

    Leif Lautenbach

  10. jsteltz says:

    Leif-

    I completely understand and respect where you are coming from. One thing I failed to mention in my post was that I come from a blue-collar family. My father has been self-employed his entire adult life, his father before him as well, and my brother is in his own plumbing business. My blood is filled with the private sector mentality. I get why people in the private sector are upset with union employees. There seem to be misunderstandings on both sides of this issue. I will confess, I don’t know everything that is involved.

    With your permission, I will post your response. I firmly believe that articulate comments like yours that show empathy but stand on firm ground and beliefs are great!! I really do! I have respect for what you do as this is where I come from. I am proud of my brother and father for who they are as men, fathers, husbands, and hard-working contributing members of our society!!

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Post more!!!

  11. dave steltz says:

    I question the system.
    Is it right that when the economy is rolling along,wages and benefits adjust to reflect the expanding economy?
    Is it also correct to assume that when the economy is failing,that wages and benefits be adjusted?
    I do not belong to a union,but have always stated my appreciation for the working conditions the unions have negotiated,along with wages.I don’t recieve benefits because I am self-employed.Retirement,insurance(of any kind),vacation pay,all of these things,by my own decision,I am responsible to pay on my own.
    All of that being said,I question the way the state is going about this.As I’ve said,why aren’t contracts written to reflect possible trouble? If the economy tanks,contracts opened and revised to reflect economic trouble or expansion?
    Also,I think this covers all unions in the state,doesn’t it?As a plumber,does this also effect the trade unions?What does this do to my wage scale?
    I believe it is your right to be angry with the process,but I also believe it’s time to see the reality of the situation.I feel that the elected officials of this state must be seeing things that they are not telling us with regard to this process.Why else would they be trying to shove this down the union’s throat?
    Maybe the economy is really this bad.
    People we elected put us into this mess.That and living beyond our means.
    We can and should do something about both.

    • Kaye says:

      I live (and taught for 26 years) in New York, and many of the districts in Westchester County have re-opened contracts, taken reductions in pay, changed the percentage contributed to health insurance, etc. Our union negotiators are elected members of the faculty, with representatives from each district school, who meet with a committee of school board members to work out contracts. We didn’t “turn over” any power to some outside negotiator, though we do have access to legal expertise from the state union when needed(something paid for by our union dues.) (The school district/Board of Ed. has their own lawyer, paid for by the taxpayers via the school budget.) When an agreement can’t be reached (which happened twice in my career), the expired contract stays in effect until a new settlement is reached by arbitration. As public employees in NY state, we are prohibited by law from striking. Our only leverage is to “work-to-rule,” which means to fulfill the absolute minimum of time required in the school building, to take our contractual 15-minute break and 45-minute lunch, which we normally frequently use for planning, extra help for students, club meetings, etc. and to refuse requests for additional work at committee meetings, etc., that are called for non-contract days. There are ways of making adjustments through fair, good faith, open discussions. But not by unilateral concentrations of power in the hands of the governor. The other thing a lot of people seem to forget is that public employees are also taxpayers, who don’t like seeing their taxes rise either.

      The real reason the elected officials seem to be trying to ram this down the union’s throat (and also those who depend on Medicare, and other buried provisions like privatizing power plants in a no-bid process) has more to do with the huge financial contributions that supported the election of Scott Walker and the people they came from, like the billionaire Koch brothers. The business tax cuts he pushed through as soon as he was elected helped create the deficit he is trying to solve on the backs of public employees.

      • jsteltz says:

        Kaye-I sense you have the same passion for the same reasons we educators here in Wisconsin have. The most frustrating part is trying to have a cerebral argument with people ‘across the aisle’ who lack the understanding of the whole situation. This is not necessarily their fault, however, Governor Walker’s political rhetoric (out of respect I will avoid calling it flat out lies) has spun the truth about this whole Budget Repair Bill to sway public opinion in his favor. Last evening he spoke for more than 20 minutes in what he titled a “Fireside Chat”, here is the YouTube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu_RQCBA7bA

        He flat out lies about the facts regarding public employees and why they are protesting this bill.

        Thanks for reading and posting thoughtful comments. We will continue to fight!

      • Jim says:

        Now you crossed the line! Calling Scott Walker a liar.

        Boy, one would think that after 8 years of the most corrupt governor this state has ever had – Jim Doyle – you would be better at spotting lies than that! But then again, I understand that after many years in the union, one’s mind atrophies from disuse so that you will “think” whatever your union tells you to think. Such a shame…. Sometimes I think we should just fire everyone who has been in teaching for more than 2 years to let in people who still use their mind and still have their creativity.

        Of course, you are a teacher so your rights matter more than other people’s. It would be just terrible to pass a bill that would allow people who have no use for the corrupt union to have their right to opt out and still have a state job. Your rights matter more than theirs.

        It has become obvious to me why the brightest and the best leave the teaching profession. It has nothing to do with pay or benefits. It’s just they like to think for themselves and not just be sheep to bleat whatever their union tells them to.

        What we should do is pay for your benefits and pension with the funds that the state had set aside for such a purpose. Except that your idea of a governor – crooked Mr. Doyle – stole it to attempt to balance his budget.

        Anyone who believes that the teachers who left their jobs to picket or has ever supported Doyle or believe the fugitive 14 are in the right or thinks the doctors who passed out fake sick notes are heroes should take a few lessons in ethics and civics. But you have the gall to bad mouth Scott Walker – a more honest person than any of those noted in the previous sentence and certainly more honest than anyone associated with the union/Mafia.

        Kaye

        Let’s see if I got this right. Graduate at 22 years of age. Plus 36 years teaching. Retired at 58 I’m guessing? On a full pension plus all your medical covered like Wisconsin? Not a bad gig if you can tolerate shutting your mind down for 36 years to be a union shill.

        Compared to me possibly being able to retire at 67 but with a self-funded retirement and paying for my own medical. But you deserve to retire in your 50’s – after all, working 9 to 10 months a year is so stressful!

        It’s terrible how private sector employees just don’t understand.

  12. Diane Hutjens says:

    Well said! How can we get our legislators to read it also?

  13. jsteltz says:

    John, at 62 and a union member the vast majority of my working life, I wonder if the working class actually understands what has been lost after 60 years of overcoming suppression, abuse, manipulation and greed by the powerful and punishing. Walker bullied his bill through with, once again, ‘fear tactics’ by a party hell-bent on destroying unions and what workers have accomplished… child labor laws, no sweat shops, 8-hour days (overtime), 5-day weeks, health care, sick leave, vacation breaks, wage negotiation, mediation/arbitration eliminating need for strikes, working for womans’ rights in the work place, non-discrimination, collective bargaing, AND agreed to under good faith… on-and-on!

    I’m retired and a proud member in good standing of TWO unions, the IAFF and the IUOE (International Association of Firefighters, and the IUOE, International Union of Operating Engineers). I’m astonished and stunned by what Walker has proposed and apparently accomplished in six days! If he did it to public employees, woe to the private sector; they’re next. Now, non-union has something more to worry about. Unions have propped up wages and benefits; wages and benefits that private sector employers had to try to match to attract recruits. With the politicians on Walker’s side, employers know they have even more leverage.

    I was always active in my union; secretary for over half my years as a Professional Firefighter, Grievance Committee, Bargaining Committee, Executive Board, traveled to Madison about issues… For what? FOR NOTHING! Don’t let those that came before ME and all members 60 years ago who fought for the aforementioned, down. Uncle Rog-mad-as-hell

  14. Concerned says:

    I am going to admit, this may sound like an ignorant question. How does the right to bargain, not for a wage increase or benefits packages, but rather for working conditions, affect the private sector? Affect your plans of a vacation or grocery shopping? You say that a pay freeze is not the stickler but rather your right to bargain. I just don’t understand how the two connect. I enjoy the open conversation here otherwise.

  15. Mike Vuolo says:

    Thanks John!

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  17. Kristine Marie says:

    thanks for that… well said

  18. Jim says:

    Jim :As an addendum I discovered a site that lists teacher’s salaries. Unfortunately the only one on this site that I can identify for sure is John so I will use him as an example. I will compare his situation to mine.
    John’s salary this year: $57,572Mine: $47,500 with a potential bonus up to a maximum of $6000 if my company exceeds profit expectations and if I exceed performance expectations by over 125% for a max possible total of $53,500. And I work 12 months a year to earn that.
    By the way my degree is in Chemical Engineering and I am employed as a chemist.
    My healthcare contribution annually is: $4117.62John’s: Zero of very near zero. Plus full coverage on retirement
    My retirement: Whatever I can put into a 401(k) and IRAJohn’s: Fully funded by the state
    AND MY BENEFITS ARE BETTER THAN MOST IN THE REAL WORLD
    Last year I saved up enough for a 9 day trip to Iceland and apparently John can’t afford to take a trip to Wisconsin Dells. Maybe it’s a money management problem?
    This is a comparison of life in the real world vs life in the coddled world of “teacherdom” Now can you see why those of us taxpayers in the real world are disgusted with the picketers in Madison. You already have more than we do and apparently it isn’t enough. You get NO SYMPATHY from me or anyone I work with.
    Jason, grow up and read a book.

    • jsteltz says:

      Jim-
      I admit what I am about to say is heard 3rd hand so I have no way of proving, right now, of its validity or truth. I heard recently that a rural school district in NE Wisconsin will be capping salaries at $38,000 for ALL teachers if and when the Bill is passed.

      For what it’s worth….

      Like I said, I have no way of proving this (yet), just thought it was interesting to add to this discussion.

      • Jim says:

        John,

        You may be right with that info. I have no way of knowing either. If so, that is unfortunate but those things happen in industry also. For us, if the pay or working conditions aren’t what we want we go somewhere else. From my perspective, teachers are no more sacred than nurses, chemists or butchers. We all provide a valuable service to society. So if salaries are capped at $38,000 (plus great benefits and 3 months off) people should decide for themselves if this is good enough for them or not. When you include the benefits it really isn’t that far from what I make in a non-bonus year plus they do have the option of working those couple of months in summer to make up the shortfall.

        I have held a number of positions in my career so I have seen a lot. I’ve been hourly, salary, management – in both union and non-union shops. I can only go with what I know. My wife used to be a teacher so I depend upon her a lot for her “teacher insights” She is currently in the private sector and although she works her *** off now compared to when she was teaching for $30,000/yr (and very mediocre benefits) she is more content now.

        I just really believe you guys would be better off without the union getting in the way and creating a mentality of victimization and entitlement that it gives many educators. More than anything that sense of entitlement is what irritates people in the private sector.

        I spoke with a relative of mine who works for the state this weekend to get their perspective. Like you, they said the concessions are understandable and that the big question is the one of the power of the union to represent their members. Their stance was that they currently pay $40 every 2 weeks to the union. They have no choice on this. This individual tends to vote republican so they feel that the union “steals” their money to promote the candidates that they ultimately vote against. Is that the union representing their members? Additionally this person has worked with people who have failed time and again to achieve the certification requirements to do their job resulting in more work for them. But these failures are not fired because they are protected by the union. How is that good for any of us? There was a time for unions but it has come and gone. Even FDR said there should never be unions for public employees.

        John, I can tell that you are in teaching because that is your avocation. The whole political thing generally doesn’t interest you. You would do well in either environment. I suspect a part of you is sorry you opened this can of worms to end up with someone like me partially hijacking your blog. I suspect I’m pretty disliked on this blog but I feel compelled to represent the other point of view.

      • Jim says:

        John,

        I know this will not be well received here but I have given this further thought and did some math…

        In a year where my company does not significantly exceed profit expectations and I contribute 5% to my IRA, I make:

        $47,500 – 4,117 – 2,375 = $41,008

        That is not that far from $38,000 plus all my benefits paid forever. Additionally, that $38,000 is for 10 months work which pro-rated is $3800/month vs my $3417/month.

        So if $38,000 per year is a worst case scenario, the overall situation is not that bad…

        That being said, I would hope the taxpayers/school board in that district would find creative ways to bring that number up. As we have learned in the private sector, there is always a way.

        John, I would prefer we could carry on this discussion via e-mail and not in this forum.

        Jim

  19. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for your clear thinking on the repercussions of this bill. If this bill should pass (and I have faith that there are enough citizens realizing that there is too much to lose) I predict that not only will we have a brain drain from education but we will have a brain drain from Wisconsin. This is such a great state–beautiful and thriving–so let’s not let this bill sink us down!

  20. Kaye says:

    “Kaye
    “Let’s see if I got this right. Graduate at 22 years of age. Plus 36 years teaching. Retired at 58 I’m guessing? On a full pension plus all your medical covered like Wisconsin? Not a bad gig if you can tolerate shutting your mind down for 36 years to be a union shill.
    “Compared to me possibly being able to retire at 67 but with a self-funded retirement and paying for my own medical. But you deserve to retire in your 50’s– after all, working 9 to 10 months a year is so stressful!
    “It’s terrible how private sector employees just don’t understand.”

    Actually, Jim, you got it very wrong. I graduated with my Masters of Science in Education from Bank Street College at 32, after 6 years of working part-time and raising two children. (You can’t teach in New York without a Masters’ for more than the 3 years that you are given to earn it if you don’t start with it. Besides, I didn’t major in education as an undergraduate–BA Summa Cum Laude from NYU–so I had to complete my Masters to earn certification.) It took two years to find a job of any kind, even substitute teaching, and finally working in a classroom of 46 first graders and two teachers in the Bronx. How stressful do you think that might have been? How many days of your working life have you spent in a room where you had to interact with 47 other people for 6 hours at a time? Plus, of course, I was also responsible for their safety and their intellectual development, not just tolerating them. I also went home each day to two school-age children at the time, and a husband who worked as a social worker (private sector, but not well paid) in residential treatment for delinquent teens, on call 24/7.

    By the way, in New York, we work 180 days plus 3 or 4 conference days each year. School starts after Labor Day and ends the last week of June. Then the summer workshops and curriculum writing assignments begin. And a lot of teachers spend at least a week re-organizing and packing everything away for the summer, and another week getting it all out and setting it up again in the fall, along with reading all the records of the incoming students. Those things are part of our “vacation.” And those political contributions that unions make? They do not come from union dues. They come from Political Action Committees, funded by voluntary contributions from their members. Have you paid any attention to where Gov. Walker’s campaign funds came from?

    I worked for 26 years, not 36, and I retired at 62, as soon as I could collect a pension without a penalty. By the way, that “full” pension amounts to 2% per year worked of my final three years average salary. That would be 52% of what I earned as a full-time teacher. And I did contribute to that pension for 15 of the 26 years. But, of course, I pay over $100 a month for dental insurance, and another $50 a month for vision and major medical coverage which actually covers very little. I do have the same health insurance I had as a working teacher, but only for three years. Then I have to go on Medicare (if it still exists) as my primary insurer, and my Preferred Provider health care coverage becomes secondary. I also do have to pay income taxes on the approximately $50,000 pension, just like you. No, it’s not poverty, but I did teach about 500 children to read and write and do math and understand that there are many different kinds of people in the world who all see things differently but deserve respect nonetheless. I believe that contribution to society is worth a lot, certainly more than the salaries of professional athletes or bankers and hedge fund managers who risk and lose other people’s money. I also taught them to try to solve problems by listening to each other and talking through their differences and finding a way to compromise. If you think that hasn’t become increasingly difficult in the last several years, given the behavior of the adults around them, you would be very wrong.
    Along the way, I also spent about $6,000 of my own money and too many hours to count to earn National Board Certification in 2004. Surely that must have been because I had turned my mind off in order to do whatever the “union” told me. Actually, the only union people I ever dealt with were the faculty in my own district, all of them thoughtful and hard-working colleagues. Sure, some worked less than others. Isn’t that true in the private sector as well? Our negotiators were colleagues that we elected to serve on a negotiations committee and meet with the Board of Education. They met with us before negotiations started to discuss our concerns and needs and what they thought they could reasonably bargain for. They met with us frequently throughout the negotiations to let us know what the Board was offering and to consult with us on how to respond. I don’t know what you think negotiations are or how they work, but it has nothing to do, at least for teachers, with thugs or outsiders or people who “tell” us what to think or do. WE are the union, and we think for ourselves. Do we get everything we want, or even need? No, but we can’t be fired because a parent disagrees with a grade we gave their child or because someone in the community doesn’t like what we wear or thinks we have been out sick too much. We are on the front line every day, and open to all kinds of criticism. Even with the union, I have known of parents calling the Superintendent and demanding a teacher be fired because she was out for three weeks with complications from a miscarriage followed by a case of chicken-pox contracted from one of her students who was sent to school sick. Because of the union, such a ridiculous action could not be taken. Without our contract, it could have. Without our contract, we could still be back in the 1915 rules for teachers, where women teachers couldn’t marry and had to come to school early in the morning to scrub the floor, carry in the coal, and start the fire.
    It seems to me YOU have turned off YOUR mind to any opinions that differ from yours and any newly-encountered facts that you didn’t already know. Maybe you should take a little time to find out the truth about the people (not just raw numbers) that you are so eager to criticize and dismiss. And maybe it would be a good idea to broaden the sources of your information.
    I left the profession I spent so much time and money preparing for because of the stress which you are so sure couldn’t possibly exist. I could no longer justify spending 12-14 hours a day, six days a week, trying to catch up with all the paperwork and assessments and reports and test preparation I was required to do by the State Education Department; and figure out and train myself on all the new technology introduced every few months, with no dedicated time or training from the makers of said technology (no money in the school budget for training); and write and re-write curricula which I would never have time in the school day to teach. In spite of the union, the administration was able to destroy morale, along with the time to really TEACH children and not just shove curriculum at them, by piling on demands for additional tasks with impossible deadlines, all based on State regulations. In spite of what you think, most teachers are NOT in it for the money. They choose to teach because they want to contribute something of real value to a society that could be a lot better than it is right now.
    About your situation: maybe if you and your colleagues had stood together, or formed a professional association that would be large enough to have an impact on your employer, you might have a lot better benefits than you have now. Too bad so many in the private sector gave up the right to bargain collectively that so many people in the 30’s and 40’s fought so hard for, so this wouldn’t be a country of sweatshops and migrant workers and all the wealth wouldn’t be so concentrated in the hands of so few. Now those who profit from depriving you of a secure pension just find cheap labor overseas, since the private sector can’t get away with significantly poorer working conditions here than the unions have established where they still do exist. Something to think about…

    • jsteltz says:

      Kaye-
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful, well articulated response on this blog! You are a voice of reason outside of the turmoil that currently embodies our great state of Wisconsin.

  21. Kaye says:

    John, I came back to your site this morning to apologize for getting carried away in this last post. It is YOUR blog, after all! Please feel free to remove any or all of it. I realize that the numbers can be counter-productive to your situation, but there are probably considerable differences in cost-of-living and local taxes between the area where I live and at least much of Wisconsin. I don’t apologize for having been paid well, because I think the large majority of teachers earn every penny. Where I taught, many parents made from 3 to 10 times as much as our best-paid teachers, at least until the Wall Street mess came down.

    Please remember that you in Wisconsin are just the first wave of turmoil which threatens to engulf us all. We are standing with you. You might want to look at this page to see how those of us outside of the state are being informed of how to help: http://blog.aflcio.org/2011/02/25/the-battle-for-unions-in-wisconsinhow-you-can-help/

    Hang in there!

  22. maxrahder says:

    To the people who say it’s time for concessions:

    Did you know that due to policies enacted by people like our governor, tax rates for the super-rich are at record lows, and the concentration among the super-rich is at their highest levels since before the great depression. Household income and share of income for the super-rich has soared. But for almost everyone else, income is flat or steadily going down.

    It’s simple — they are not paying their share, and everyone else is being asked to pick up the slack. An added irony is that these billionaire-friendly policies are also responsible for the financial mess we’re in. No regulation, financial markets crash, unemployment soars, yet Wall Street bonuses are up 17%.

    The problem is NOT teachers, public sector employees, unions or any other red herring thrown our way by billionaire-friendly pundits. We should NOT be asked to be the ones making sacrifices.

  23. Jim says:

    So here it is July 5th, 2011. Wisconsin voters have kept David Prosser on the Supreme Court. Many of Wisconsin’s teachers no longer are slaves to the corrupt WEAC. And these same teachers are currently hard at work. Oh wait, it’s JULY. Teachers aren’t doing a damn thing but those of us who they protested against, the private sector taxpayers ARE hard at work today. Hopefully the Prosser vote was just a harbinger of things to come. THANK YOU SCOTT WALKER and GO AWAY WEAC

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