Hey, Who Wants to Talk About Wisconsin's Economic Miracle?
Under collective bargaining, any changes in the teaching schedule are not determined by the employer, but rather must be agreed to by the employees -- the teachers' union. If a school district wants to change their schedule to match private schools and save money on bussing costs, the union must first sign off. Seventy-page contracts may also require that a teacher is entitled to 13 paid personal days -- this for employees who may only be required to work 190 days a year in the first place.
The cost savings to Wisconsin school districts are already producing miraculous stories of fiscal recovery and educational improvement. In New Berlin, the school district went from a $3 million deficit to balancing its budget, and actually lowered school property tax by one percent. New Berlin's director of financial services, Roger Dickson, says that the changes to collective bargaining gave schools the "tools" to plug most of the $3 million hole.
In Kaukauna, Act 10 has allowed the school district to hire additional teachers, and to reduce projected class sizes: 26 students to 23 students at the elementary level, 28 students to 26 students at the intermediate/middle level, and 31 students to 25 students at the high school level. In addition, time is now available for staff to identify and support students needing individual assistance through individual and small group exercises. Act 10 has allowed the district's projected operating budget to improve from a $400,000 deficit to approximately $1,500,000 in the black. Earmarked in the operating budget are $300,000 related to merit pay, a program being explored for all staff for the 2011-2012 school year. To top it off, Kaukauna is planning to hire more 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.
There is a lot of speculation as to what the fallout will be in the wake of these conservative successes. Wisconsin residents witnessing the miracle may well vote to keep the state solidly conservative. And with other states witnessing the miracle in Wisconsin, states across the country could begin a reformation which will not only tilt the political momentum in other states to the right, but perhaps even serve as the template for Congress and become instrumental in saving a nation on the brink of insolvency.
ALSO SEE: Smart Girl Summit: Lessons from Wisconsin, Taking on Public Sector Unions And Winning