Sunday, April 22, 2012

Walker can run from Education Cuts, but he Can't Hide

The Walker folks keep flailing and trying to tell people things are proceeding just fine in Wisconsin schools, despite the $1.6 billion in cuts in state aid over the next 2 years and a lack of property tax flexibility to soften the blow. Well, the Department of Public Instruction put a nice piece of reality to cut up that lie, showing that 1,446 teaching positions and over 2,300 FTE staff were eliminated for this school year. And while Walkergate immunity flack Cullen Werwie tried to blow off the losses by saying they were concentrated in 3 large districts that have not had Act 10 take place (Milwaukee, Janesville and Kenosha), Chris Walker at Political Heat blew that bullshit out of the water by showing that the districts that used Act 10's "tools" also had their teacher losses double for this year.

Among those school districts that lost jobs is a place the Walker folks constantly try to tout as the best example of how the "tools" were working in reducing staff layoffs - the Kaukauna Area School District. Kaukauna's own self-reported data shows that they cut 16 FTE teachers and 8 FTE of support staff for this year, even with the tools. Hate to say I told you so 9 months ago, but I did tell you so.

In fact, the number of districts reducing teaching jobs went up by 20% for this year, with 311 of the state's 424 districts cutting teachers (73%). Also, it's not like 2011-2012 was the first year that Wisconsin was cutting teaching jobs. Take a look at the last 9 years and the reductions that have taken place, and it makes you realize how foolhardy Walker's argument of "teachers haven't suffered losses like the private sector" really is, as teaching jobs were cut by more than 1,800 in the 8 years under Jim Doyle.

Under this context, you see how hazardous it is to make these cuts on top of what had already happened in the past. And outside of a blip in 2004-05 (which may be a data error, according to DPI), public school enrollment hasn't declined all that much in the same time period, only falling 0.4% in the last 6 years that had been recorded (the Blue Book has good info on public and private school enrollment through 2011 if you want it).

This isn't bringing up the obvious adverse selection problem that Walker's cuts in take-home pay and available jobs is causing for the teaching profession. If you're educated and tough enough to want to be a teacher, you also have the ability to take a lot of other jobs, depending on the opportunity. This is the real long-term damage that keeping this disastrous Administration on for one more day past June 5 would be- fewer and fewer highly-qualified people will choose to enter the teaching field, and fewer and fewer people are likely to stay in the field.

I know how this works, because I was one of those teachers from 2003-2005, and I decided to further my education and move back to Madison (my pay was raised by 50% for doing so after getting my Master's 3 years later, by the way). How many others will choose the same path if Walker's cuts are allowed to stand and be built upon? As you can see above, the cumulative effect is even more damaging than any one-year loss, which is why we have to END THE AGE OF FITZWALKERSTAN now. If we don't Walker's huge damage to public education will become a FUBAR situation that turns this state into a Confederate place with low wages, low education levels, and zero hope of attracting people with talent that enjoy a high quality of life.

Oh wait, that IS the Walker/Koch/ALEC goal. Maybe that's why they keep saying "It's working". Because what they want to see work when it comes to Wisconsin's public education isn't what most of us in the real Wisconsin want.

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