When you have to flee the state to avoid State Troopers, then you're probably not doing what's right. On Thursday, fourteen Senate Democrats fled Wisconsin to avoid voting on Governor Scott Walker's Budget-Repair Bill. Democrats understood they don't have enough votes to stop the passage of Walker's bill, so they took a page out of the "Texas handbook for Democrats in the Minority" and took a mini-vacation to another state. There is at least one thing that absentee teachers do have with Democrat lawmakers; they think neglecting their jobs will get them what they want.
After the November elections, Wisconsin had the biggest political shift from blue to red of any state in the nation. Democrat leaders of both Wisconsin legislative chambers lost their re-election bids while voters elected a Republican Governor. It was a very clear message sent to Wisconsin Democrats that government spending and growth needs to be kept under control.
But nobody gave that memo to Wisconsin's unions. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, Teachers Unions organized a statewide "sick-out" effectively closing schools in Dane County and other cities across the state. Milwaukee Public Schools stayed open primarily because Superintendent Gregory Thornton preemptively threatened disciplinary action against teachers that participated in the sick-out.
In Madison - at the belly of teacher umbrage - teachers coordinated a walk-out with students. They didn't exactly tell students to skip school in protest, but they were clear with the students that they wouldn't be marked absent for deserting their classes. At UW Madison, an English professor told her class they would be marked absent if they didn't attend the protest at the State Capital.
Somewhere in the wake of teachers protests, sparked an idea among Senate Democrats to coordinate a sick-out of their own (okay, more of a skip-out). Fourteen Senate Democrats filed onto a bus and left the state of Wisconsin. No worries though, we were reassured they would come out of hiding soon enough. Freshman Senator Chris Larson - one of the only State Senators with a known history of shoplifting - secretly communicated to the media through his Twitter account that they may be gone, but they were still standing with the people.
According to Larson, he said when you're on the wrong side of the Archbishop, the President, and the Packers, you should reconsider denying rights. Yet, Archbishop Jerome Listecke didn't side with the unions. In the Archbishop's statement, he said "It is especially in times of crisis that 'new forms of cooperation' and open communication become essential." But how can cooperation and communication occur if Senators flee the state and only communicate secretly from their Twitter accounts?
Late Thursday evening, news media found the fugitive Democrats at a resort in Illinois. Lawyers are unsure if anything can be done to force Democrat Senators to do their jobs at the State Capital. In theory, Illinois State Police could arrest the lawmakers, but they would have to show a crime was committed.
As it stands, the only crime they appear to have committed is to state voters. Newbie Senator Larson, for instance, was elected in a moderate district with conservative sectors in Oak Creek, South Milwaukee, and Cudahy. It took no less than one month before Larson was wanted by State Troopers from neglecting his job.
It is understandable that Democrat Legislators want to protect the union institutions that continue to pour money into their election campaigns, but they cannot stop the inevitable. There is no other state in the country where the voters spoke more loudly and clearly they were tired of business as usual.
Tuesday and Wednesday the teachers unions sent the public a powerful message that they, not government, determine when our children go to school. Yet they also showed the public the sort of power and resources they can whip up to block education reform. It should be noted that nowhere in the state did a Choice School have to shut down because teachers partook in a sick-out. It's something to think about as lawmakers consider expanding the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.