Wisconsin protests grow as teachers balk at proposed legislation

The governor insists the concessions he is seeking from public workers—including higher health insurance and pension contributions—are necessary to deal with the state’s projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall and to avoid layoffs.

Thousands of teachers have joined the protests by calling in sick, forcing school districts—including the state’s largest, in Milwaukee—to cancel classes.

“The get-tough-with-teachers policy that many politicians are pursuing is counterproductive and will only anger educators and hurt children. We are seeing the first examples of this in Wisconsin,” said Joseph DePierro, dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University.

“None of the reforms being proposed around the nation—school choice, merit pay, tenure elimination—have ever been linked to improved student performance. We keep looking for the silver bullet, but we will never find it because it does not exist,” he said.

For more on school labor-management relations:

ED to unions, districts: Can’t we all just get along?

How to raise student achievement through better labor-management collaboration

Editorial: Public school employees under attack

For more on school reform:

Expert: Federal school reform plan is wrong

School Reform Center at eSN Online

“This isn’t the Wisconsin we want,” said Mary Bell, president of the 98,000-member statewide teachers’ union. “We want a voice in the process.”

The protests have attracted as many as 25,000 teachers, grade school children, college students, and other workers over four days. The demonstrations have been largely peaceful, with only nine people cited for minor acts of civil disobedience.

Jacob Cedillotootalian, a 27-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student and teaching assistant, said Sunday was the third night that he slept in the Capitol as part of a union representing teaching assistants and he didn’t see an end coming anytime soon. He said he was worried about paying more for his health insurance and tuition, but what kept him protesting was the possibility of losing the union.

eSchool News Staff

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