Last week, I attended another heart wrenching school board meeting (in Amery this time) where, yet again, people mustered their courage and voices to publically support those that nurture, teach, feed and care for our kids during the day. I don’t teach in Amery, but I felt compelled to support those who do.
Held in an auditorium for the hundreds of people attending, the speeches to the Amery school board were honest impassioned and . . . becoming way too common. Three years later, more fallout from Walker’s failed Act 10, another painful meeting, and another community torn apart.
The messages to the board that night all had a common theme: If there is indeed no money and you must continue to cut educator’s wages and benefits, please at least do so in a way that is respectful and empathic. Please at least protect for these people their dignity. Please talk with them. Listen to them.
We know. New laws no longer require our public education officials to do this–to talk to their employees. But these are real people, living real lives, with real families to support and plan for. Many are actually quite brilliant, creative and flexible—but the deep cuts combined with the punishing way they are being delivered are really hurtful and unnecessary—both financially and emotionally. Public teachers and support staff are not monsters. Really they are not.
As educators on the front lines, we know, as does everyone, that Wisconsin no longer values its schools. We see it every day in the increased class sizes and workload carried by an ever-shrinking number of staff. We know that billions have been cut from the education budget. We know, even with a state surplus, that those dollars will never be restored. We know school boards must continue to cut wages and benefits. We know teaching and learning is only going to get harder in Wisconsin. We know these things.
And we know also that it isn’t only our educators that are hurting in Wisconsin either. As the most recent federal jobs report illustrates again, WI leads the nation in new jobless claims.
Our governor and local representatives are great at breaking unions and tearing communities apart. Terrible at creating jobs though. This from the most recently released federal jobs report:
“The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending February 1 were in Wisconsin (+5,041), New York (+4,830), Pennsylvania (+2,448), New Jersey (+1,853), and Ohio (+1,780), while the largest decreases were in California (-9,631), Georgia (-2,558), Indiana (-2,444), Michigan (-2,411), and Florida (-1,387).”
I know . . .it was the weather. It’s always the weather. Or something. It’s always something.
If we had destroyed our schools in order to create jobs, maybe that would be one thing. I know that was the argument at the time: “Teachers and other public employees, and their unions, are the enemy–the greedy few. Punish them.” But it didn’t work.
All that said, I also know none of it matters. I realize finally, especially at the local level, that we will continue to support our current representatives and their apathetic destruction of our schools and rural communities. I know that nobody around here understands the link between strong schools and strong economies. Strong words, maybe. Still, I had to get them off my chest. Because all I see in Wisconsin these days is weakness.