If you haven't heard what's happening in Wisconsin, you need to get out more. Wisconsin's largest school districts shut down last week because teachers unions organized widespread sick-outs. Thousands of protesters flooded the State Capital in opposition to the budget-repair bill. Fourteen Democrat Legislators fled the state to avoid a critical vote. Why all the commotion?
The answer is really quite simple. We have a Governor whose backbone is composed of steel.
Governor Walker's budget-repair bill (the bill heard around the world) does essentially two things. It forces government workers to contribute more to their health care and pension plans; and it strips most public-sector unions of the power to negotiate with local governments over benefits. More specifically, Walker wants public sector employees to contribute 12.6% to their health care premiums and 5.8% into their pension plans.
Walker's bill also strips most public-sector unions of the power to negotiate legacy items, which would potentially delay the budget-balancing objectives of local governments. So when crap hits the fan and shared revenue is cut by the state, local governments can consider something other than worker lay-offs.
When Democrats gained control in 2008, President Obama told the nation that "elections have consequences." He was right. During the 2010 mid-terms, Wisconsin experienced the biggest "consequence" in state history changing her entire government from a state of blue to red.
Democrat leaders in Wisconsin knew they didn't have the numbers to block Governor Walker's budget-repair bill, so they took flight to Illinois to postpone the process. Just beyond the reach of Wisconsin's State Troopers, Democrat lawmakers made themselves cozy at a water-park resort in Rockford. Their end-game? They admittedly didn't know, but delaying the vote a few extra days would give international unions more time to mobilize their troops.
What appeared to be an initial PR nightmare for Wisconsin Republicans reversed itself overnight as Wisconsin media began to show agitation toward MIA lawmakers. The state's largest paper - not known for being a conservative ally - called what Democrats did "a mockery of the democratic process." Yes, elections do have consequences.
A Need for Education Reform Many school districts closed as thousands of school teachers were instructed to call in sick by their unions. The media called it a "sick-out," but it really amounted to an illegal strike. Unions continue to execute a choke-hold on Wisconsin's largest school districts starting with Madison and percolating throughout the state.
The first day of protests featured 800 students from Madison-East High-School, who allegedly organized by their lonesome. When I called the Madison-East school principal to inquire, she left a message saying student participation was not facilitated by teachers. Yet some students said on camera that their teachers brought them. Other students indicated their teachers used the protest as a primary topic in their classrooms while explaining their attendance at the protest would not be considered an absence from class.
Although the Milwaukee school district closed on Friday, Milwaukee's Choice Schools remained open. St. Anthony's School in Milwaukee, the largest voucher school in the state, sent a bilingual mailing to their parents saying "St. Anthony's is open for business." For those who are unfamiliar, it was a play off Governor Walker's slogan that Wisconsin was open for business. Zeus Rodriguez, President of Hispanics for School Choice, issued a statement on the organization's website saying,
"We believe that the majority of Wisconsinites do not agree with teachers protesting while kids are forced to stay home. This is a great example of why it's important that parents have the right to choose where they send their children to school."
There is an important point to make here, and the timing couldn't be more perfect. Parents whose kids participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program exercised their right to choose this week. They had the right - as parents are supposed to - not to be bullied by teachers unions. As union members paraded their signs this week stating they were protesting for our children, teachers in Choice Schools were actually instructing them how to read and write.
Times are tough in this country, and Wisconsin's private sector is hurting. Governor Walker doesn't have an easy road to travel; but in order to get Wisconsin on the right fiscal path, he has to ensure that local governments have the power to balance their budgets in a timely fashion without worker layoffs.
Soon, the realization will set in that no job is secure against the peaks and valleys of a free market economy. Wisconsin is bigger than the public sector; they work for us, we don't work for them. It's time our citizens unite and build a Wisconsin where our children can prosper for generations to come. We have a Governor who is willing to stand up against the unprecedented powers of special interests, so let's give him a hand and keep Wisconsin open for business.