There is a striking (if you'll pardon the pun) dichotomy taking shape in the Wisconsin public school system right now, and it's one that should hardly be surprising to anybody who was paying attention to this spring's labor union reform struggles. Said dichotomy is as follows:
- School districts that were able to institute Scott Walker's & the GOP's reforms to collective bargaining procedures have generally been able to balance their school budgets for the year without layoffs. In fact, at least one district that was on the verge of instituting layoffs will be able to avoid that.
- School districts that were not able to institute those reforms - for whatever reasons - will not be avoiding layoffs.
The Weekly Standard article linked to above lists Milwaukee (354 teachers fired) and Kenosha (212 teachers to be laid off). The first example is particularly noteworthy because: a), Milwaukee had had to fire an additional 482 teachers in 2010; and b), the Milwaukee school board estimates that it could rehire at least 200 of their teachers if the union simply agreed to instituting employee contributions to their own pensions (5.8%). The union (in the form of its president Bob Peterson*) refused, of course. They're rather defensive about it, too - which is nice; I always like to see admissions of shame and remorse, even if it's just being restricted to subconscious attitudes.
If you're wondering why the schools are having such a dramatic turnaround in their funding**, well, it's not just from having teachers kick in more towards their pension. As I wrote about at the beginning of the month, there's also something called the Wisconsin Education Association Trust (or WEA Trust). The WEA Trust (which was set up by Big Labor, of course) used to be effectively the only health care provider option available to many school boards... and, seeing as the school boards had no choice but to use it, the WEA Trust was utterly indifferent to market forces. But once labor union reform took effect, lo! - school boards in places like Hartland-Lakeside, Pewaukee, and Menomonee Falls are cheerfully switching their coverage - and why the Kaukauna school district has discovered that WEA Trust is now downright eager to match their new competitors' lowest prices. It's amazing how reasonable a seller can get when you suddenly no longer have to buy from him.
I note all of this mostly because there are some recall elections coming up in Wisconsin, and it's important that Wisconsin voters understand the issues involved. They have a choice, of course. They can vote for the party that let teachers fired because there's no money left to pay for them. They can vote for the party that refuses to think and act in the best interests of the schools, the teachers, and (most importantly) the students. They can even vote for the party who is trying to establish a service monopoly on the behalf of a crony corporation that has been inflating prices for years.
Or they can vote for the Republican.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Then again, why should Bob care about layoffs? As president of the union, he's about the only person in it who doesn't actually still have to teach.