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February 18, 2011

A Texas Teacher Looks At Wisconsin

I’m a teacher.

I love being a teacher.

For most of my adult life, teaching has been my goal and my vocation.

As a result, I look upon the current goings on in Wisconsin with dismay.

Teachers are engaging in illegal strikes – and forcing the shutdown of entire school districts – in order to disrupt the function of the state government and overturn the will of the people as expressed last November at the ballot box. What’s more, they have propagandized students and paraded them as pawns for political purposes as a part and parcel of their protests. They have also engaged in the sort of rhetoric so recently condemned as “caustic,” “vitriolic” and “tending to promote violence” in an effort to force more money out of the taxpayers of the state – not to mention the explicit threats of violence and death they have directed against the governor of the state. No, their actions are shameful – as are the words and actions of President Obama and the DNC in aiding and abetting this political circus.

Especially because of the alleged “evils” that they are protesting.

You see, Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature want them to start contributing to their pension fund at the rate of 5.8%. What’s more, he wants them to start paying 12% of the cost of their insurance, for which they currently pay nothing or next to nothing. And he wants to guarantee that no one is forced to pay a kickback to a private entity – in the guise of union dues – to a private organization for the privilege of working as an employee of their own government.

And why does he want to do this? To close a budget gap that exists in the state. To provide tax relief to all taxpayers. And to avoid having to layoff some teachers in order to pay for the cushy benefits for those who stay employed.

The teachers of Wisconsin call Walker’s plan slavery. I call it fiscal responsibility – and a wake-up call for those in education (all public employees, really) that the pot of money cannot expand infinitely and wages and benefits cannot increase at a rate far above inflation and the rate of increase in the private sector. And since workers in every other sector of the economy have seen a retrenchment of benefits, it is only reasonable that public sector employees – those who are the employees of those taxpayers who have already experienced just such cuts in their benefits packages – to experience the same sort of sacrifice.

I understand that there are some teachers who don’t want to work under the conditions that the state of Wisconsin is prepared to impose. That is, of course, their choice – and, by the way, proof that they are not the slaves that they claim this proposal makes them. They can find work in a state where the pay and benefits are better – or leave public education entirely and work for one of the many fine private schools in the state of Wisconsin. They can even find work outside of education if they so choose. But if they take any of those options, they are likely to find that the pay and benefits are not as good as what they will be making under the Walker plan – and that they will be expected to pay at least as great a percentage of their salary towards insurance, retirement, and other benefits as the new system will require.

Speaking for myself, a teacher in Texas that in a district that is generally employee friendly, I can’t see what they are complaining about. After 15 years in education, I still make below the average salary in Wisconsin. My contribution to my pension program is approximately a full percentage point higher than that which will be required of Wisconsin teachers. And as for my insurance, let me just say that being expected to cover only 12% of the cost sounds mighty generous to me in comparison to what I pay. Indeed, my gross pay would increase by about $4000 if I were to move to Wisconsin – and my net pay would increase by over $5000. Even with the state income tax, I’d still see an increase in take-home pay in that state – which ranks in the top half of the nation for teacher salaries – than I do down here where we rank in the bottom third in terms of teacher pay. So if someone with the school district in Kenosha (a mere 30 minutes from my teenage stomping grounds) wants to send me a firm offer to come to work for the district under the terms of the new Wisconsin plan, I’d be inclined to consider it favorably. I suspect that you would find a lot of teachers around the country who would say the same thing.





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Comments on A Texas Teacher Looks At Wisconsin

Wait, you're bragging about being a tool?
That's not how we roll in Wisconsin.
We have dignity.

|| Posted by J. Burns, February 18, 2011 04:43 PM ||

No, I'm bragging about being a professional, not a union thug or drone.

But hey, if you want to bankrupt your district and your state, go for it -- just imagine what it will be like when you reduce it to the economic status of some of the former Soviet republics. Your pension will be worth crap then, when the state defaults on it.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 18, 2011 05:09 PM ||

After 31 years in public school I make about half of that state Wisconsin average. Even so, it will be a cold day in (Buna, Texas) before I walk out on my students.

Further, encouraging students to demonstrate along public streets is child endangerment, and anyone who does so should be prosecuted as the criminal he is.

|| Posted by Mack Hall, February 18, 2011 07:32 PM ||

Yeah, right. Wisconsin is bankrupt like a former Soviet Republic.
Check our SAT/ACT scores vs. yours.

Professionals get professional salaries. Professionals raise youngsters who understand the value of labor and the wealth of knowledge.

Sounds like you are raising children to serve wealth as a master and to be happy with less.

Demand what you deserve. Dignity. Tough concept for Texans to understand, it seems.

And the students here... they are smart enough to figure out when to demonstrate when it's in their own interest. We don't need to tell them the score. They already know it.

|| Posted by J. Burns, February 18, 2011 10:19 PM ||

In California I pay 8% into my retirement fund, and while my own health insurance is paid by my district, I have to pay 100% for my son's.

I hope California gets its fiscal house in order. My retirement depends on the fiscal solvency of this state!

And JBurns? Way to be classy and go straight for the name-calling.

|| Posted by Darren, February 18, 2011 11:21 PM ||

demand what you "deserve"?! demand it. go ahead. but you will find reality is a hard master and when people tire of shelling out for your cushy feathered unsustainable salary and benis they will vote with thier feet and move to another state.

and I would say what you and most of the leaches demonstrating "deserve" is an asswhupping.

|| Posted by rumcrook, February 19, 2011 12:08 AM ||

Friend Texans, you are only being presented the half of it. As it happens, the wage and benefit concessions described have already been conceded to Walker. Walker refused to accept those concessions, because the real intent of the bill is to remove the majority of collective bargaining rights from most state and local public workers--with the exception of police and firefighters, the two unions that coughed up money for Walker's campaign. Yes, there are school districts shut down because so many teachers called in sick (which, I might add, they are entitled to do, whether you or I agree with their choice), but alongside the teachers there are, for instance, county direct-care workers who make $8.50 an hour, have *no benefits* whatsoever, and work on weekends, so they had those days off anyway. They, also, are targeted by this bill.

The bill also significantly changes the governance of the Medicaid program, and rather than bore you with details, I'll give you the short version: the bill removes all legislative oversight of the program and puts it into the hands of a a council appointed by the governor--which is a bad idea all around, as a too-conservative governor will decimate the program, and a too-liberal governor will bloat it.

But that sort of thing doesn't sell well. People don't pay attention to "thousands of people protesting loss of collective bargaining rights."

"TENS OF THOUSANDS OF TEACHERS ENGAGED IN ILLEGAL STRIKES OVER LOSS OF BENEFITS!!" however, will sell a lot of papers.

It just won't tell you the whole of the story.

I'm a private sector professional, myself, and I fully support the protests. As you don't live here and so do not have full exposure to the whole of the problem, I would suggest that you withhold your judgment.

|| Posted by Verita in Wisconsin, February 19, 2011 01:48 AM ||

Verita in Wisconsin is telling you the truth. Try getting your info from some place other than Fox News.

BTW Texas Teachers, are you aware of this?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1349343/US-states-allowed-declare-bankruptcy-reduce-pension-bills.html

Texas has a 27B structural budget shortfall mainly as a result of Perry's irresponsible Tax Reforms. Some are trying to blame spending on Texas education/raises to teachers, etc. as the cause of the Texas structural budget deficit.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/blogs/burkablog/?p=9353

If you allow WI workers rights to be taken away, YOUR Rights will be next.

|| Posted by Karen, February 19, 2011 04:09 AM ||

1) When the unions coordinate a case of "blue flue" in numbers sufficient to shut down entire districts, that constitutes a strike. And given that teacher strikes are illegal under Wisconsin law. . .

2) I've not been getting my news from Fox. I don't watch Fox. Instead, I've been reading reports from a variety of sources -- including, you might be surprised to learn, several Wisconsin papers, including those from Madison and Milwaukee.

3) I'm quite aware of the budget situation here in Texas as we prepare a budget for the next biennium (you are aware that the deficit in question is over a 2 year period, not a single year, aren't you? Wisconsin is facing a $2.2 billion dollar budget for the 2012 budget year, which puts it at close to the same dollar figure per capita as Texas is facing when one factors in the likelihood of Austin tapping the rainy day fund). Indeed, I wrote about its impact on Texas education three weeks ago.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 19, 2011 05:00 AM ||

Yes, there are school districts shut down because so many teachers called in sick (which, I might add, they are entitled to do, whether you or I agree with their choice)

They are entitled to call in sick if they are sick. They are not entitled to strike, and that's what they did.

|| Posted by Matt Bramanti, February 19, 2011 12:43 PM ||

Texas' ACT and SAT scores are just fine. Texas has a huge and uncontrolled international border, and thus must provide educational opportunities for masses of immigrants, legal and illegal, many of whom arrive in our schools without any educational background in any language or culture. Our schools are open to all, and we encourage our students to try for post-high school education without any restrictions.

|| Posted by Mack Hall, February 20, 2011 08:13 AM ||

I'll concede that my school's SAT & ACT scores are not where we'd like them. Then again, when compared to schools with similar student bodies -- over 90% minority, over 75% of free/reduced lunch, over 35% classified as having limited English proficiency -- we compare favorably. Still, we are seeing overall improvement -- and where the averaged have dropped, it is related to the increase in the number of students taking those college tests (and especially AP tests). After all, we' are expanding our college prep programs -- I have twice as many AP students as I did two years ago, just as an example, and the same is true of my colleagues teaching AP.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 20, 2011 09:29 AM ||

Sounds like you are raising children to serve wealth as a master and to be happy with less.

Spare us. It sounds as if you're one of those all-too common teachers who believe it is your duty to indoctrinate children to your personal political philosophy instead of presenting all the facts and letting them make up their own minds.

Put down the Paulo Freire. It'll make you sound a lot less like an idiot.

|| Posted by Hube, February 20, 2011 09:42 AM ||

Hube, I let that particular bit of nonsense go, but am glad that you brought it up.

Isn't it interesting the guy who is demanding MORE MONEY claims that his opponents are teaching children to serve wealth as a master.

Seems to me that he's out to teach children that the demands of special interests for a bigger piece of the taxpayer's paycheck are paramount to the right of the people to keep their own money.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 20, 2011 12:30 PM ||

As I said on the Confederate Yankee, bear in mind that Wisconson's cost of living is about 10% or so higher than yours in Texas.

If you consider that and then add the cost of union dues on top of it, I'm unconvinced that you would be better off there.

I think I'd rather live in Texas just because I like warm weather and freer economies. (I actually live in Florida, which is quite similar in that regard - from what I understand better in the weather but a bit worse (but not much worse) in the freedom.)

D

|| Posted by David H Dennis, February 20, 2011 11:58 PM ||

@Mack Hall:

I would dare say we've been pretty successful at that if a walk around the community colleges in San Antonio is any sort of indicator.

|| Posted by Drew, February 21, 2011 09:29 AM ||

What I don't understand is why some feel the need to vilify teachers and public employees. I've seen them called "thugs", "lazy", "parasites", etc., etc. I sure don't think the people who teach my children, provide fire protection, emergency health care services, and protect me from someone harming me should be vilified. I've always respected and admired these individuals and consider them worthy of our respect.

|| Posted by Karen, February 22, 2011 04:42 PM ||

I've not called public employees thugs. I've called those who put their own interests above the interest of the taxpayer thugs. They don't deserve an ounce of respect -- and ought to be summarily fired if they are determined to have participated in this illegal strike.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 22, 2011 07:06 PM ||

I am not a teacher. I do not live in Wisconsin.

I do work in the private sector. I do pay a HECK of a lot for my medical benefits--and it still costs me $100 to go to the ER, $30 for a doctor visit, and only minimal savings for prescriptions. I need to pay into a 401k, where my employer has dropped the matching 3% it used to give.

I am paying out my wahzoo for all these things but the average teacher in my school district makes as much as I do, works a lot less hours, has LESS stress (no matter what you teachers say), don't have to worry about being laid off (especially when they are older), and I could go on and on. And my costs and stress (especially about losing my job now that I am over 50) goes up each and every year.

Why do teachers "DESERVE" health insurance benefits like many are getting? Our district teachers pay 0.8% for their insurance, which includes $0 deductible for ER and doctor visits. They also get a FANTASTIC pension.

All this is paid by ME and my neighbors.

Let me also add that the average teacher salary is just under $74,500 and the average taxpayer makes just over $47,000. (And the vast majority of taxpayers have at least a BS degree.)

Where is the fairness in all this? Please tell me? Show me where an average public employee sacrifices more than the average "Joe" out there? Why do all the average "Joe's" need to pay the way for their public counterparts? How do the public employees add to the GNP of a township, a city, a county, a State, or the nation as a whole? (Real numbers, please. Not some nonsense like Joe Biden saying "We saved x-number of jobs." because that is not quantifiable.)

Thank you.

|| Posted by busbus, February 22, 2011 07:51 PM ||

Very well said. What is going on there is an absolute embarrassment and a crime.

|| Posted by Michael Haltman, February 23, 2011 06:06 PM ||

The average wage for a Wisc. teacher is $47,000divided by 180 days divided by 8 hours equals $33 per hour...add in about25-30% for benefits and the hourly wage is $44-47per hour. And don't tell me you spend your own time doing lesson plans.....you negotiated 1/2 days off from school for "teacher prep time". Course you socialistic trained school workers will say that I hate you or I hate kids or I hate the progressives ideal.....actually, I hate the way you socialists think! Get a grip. The state of Wisconsin has a budget shortfall....and you toads are partly to blame....you and that dick head Doyle. No wonder he quit. He knew this problem was brewing. I don't understand how you teacers can continue to whine for more money when the people that are payng your salaries ARE HURTING!
ASS holes!!!!!

Stve

|| Posted by Steve, February 24, 2011 07:48 AM ||

Actually, Steve, reports I've seen put the average teacher salary -- not including benefits, at $8-10K MORE than the number you quote.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 24, 2011 04:46 PM ||

I think WI needs to tax those greedy rich people more. I live in Florida and every time states like WI raise taxes on the rich the rich move to Florida. We can use all the rich people we can get.
:-)

|| Posted by Jim, February 24, 2011 10:08 PM ||

Hey rymes with right, You just go on and keep licking that boot that kicks you. It looks like you have been trained well to do that anyway, so this shouldnt be much of a chore for ya.

|| Posted by Rymes with Left, February 28, 2011 08:14 AM ||

Got an actual argument to go with the insults, or is the insult simply an indication that you lack a factual basis for your position and the intellectual rigor to make a rational argument if the facts were on your side?

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, February 28, 2011 04:12 PM ||
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