Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Darkness is Rising in Wisconsin

It's not often I will publicly say someone or something is evil. I don't even like to use the word because it often portrays the person or idea as hopelessly wrong.

But that's just what the MPS layoffs are.

And this morning's Journal reveals a lot of villains in Wisconsin.

MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton yesterday announced 519 MPS layoffs in ADDITION to not filling 514 other jobs. That means over 1,000 jobs in MPS are going to be cut because of the current budget crisis.

This includes 554 teachers. 

For context, according to MPS, there are 10,396 full-time equivalent positions in MPS, including 5,576 teachers. That is over 10 percent of the entire teaching staff of MPS. Class sizes, which directly affect the quality of education, will continue to rise. Any class size over 25, in my long-time experience as a teacher, reduces the time I get to spend with individual students to help them.

It's terrible. It's evil. It's wrong.

This affects an entire generation of kids.

And there are plenty of culprits to go around, plenty of people who should take direct responsibility for the evil that has occurred in this city.

1. MPS. Thornton has asked the teacher's union MTEA for significant salary package concessions. Yet Thornton and his administration have not offered to do the same. What an incredible gesture it would be if Thornton would tell the teachers, "Hey we all need to share the sacrifice. I'm going to give up the same as I'm asking you to give up."
    But I haven't heard that from him yet.
    (On a separate but related note, one also has to wonder why there are nearly 5,000 non-teacher employees in MPS.)

2. The MTEA. The teacher's union, once again, is refusing to any change in the contract. MPS has asked the teachers to pay 5.8 percent of their pay toward pensions to save about 200 jobs. The MTEA has said no, once again protecting its veteran teachers at the expense of younger energetic teachers.
   And yes, it is that simple. We obviously live in a time of brutal economic reality. We need to accept that reality.

3. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the state Legislature for passing a state budget that cuts over $800 million from education. Clearly, Walker and the Legislature's priorities are business over education of our future.

4. The citizens of Wisconsin. We should all be alarmed enough at the long-term ramifications of this kind of budget cutting to be roused to action in some kind of education revolution. We have to be able to say that it's okay to pay a little more in taxes to directly fund education in this state.

5. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Today's layoff story was on B1. Even on the website, it is buried. This should have been a screaming front page headline, and an above-the-fold story with multiple sidebars about what this means for the children of Milwaukee.

In all the argument about budgets, the adults continue to neglect the effect of their actions on children.

Yes, the sky is beginning to fall. Yes, this is dramatic. When a school district cuts 10 percent of its entire teaching staff, it's a disaster.

Yes, MPS teachers will continue to cope as best they can. But we're asking them to do an impossible task.

The Mohawk Indians, who I used to report on when I was a full-time journalist, tried to steep all their decisions in the long-term. How will this decision affect us in seven generations?

If we do not fix the slide we are on in this state, we will be seeing the effects of these decisions much sooner.


  1. whoa. once again, would love to see this published in a wider circle, expand your audience. consider sending it in as an editorial to JSOnline, or the actual paper, or all of the papers? please?

  2. I would like to mention that veteran teachers bring energy too. In fact, veteran teachers bring a wealth of experience, strategies, ideas, and confidence. That is not necessarily a bad thing.