Tuesday, November 15, 2011

MPS still would have lost teachers due to Walker budget cuts (despite Act 10)

Implementing "reforms" would have resulted in a net number of layoffs due to Walker's budget

A recent survey of school districts across the state shows that the budget cuts implemented by Gov. Scott Walker hurt schools more than helped the fiscal situation in Wisconsin (especially given that $1.6 billion in cuts were made against education while $2.3 billion in tax giveaways were granted to corporations across the state).

Most districts responding to the survey said they had to make cuts to both programs and personnel. More than 4 in 10 elementary schools in districts across Wisconsin said they saw higher class sizes as a result of the Walker budget, and 7 in 10 said they had to cut at least one program (some more than that) as well.

But many are critical of the survey -- some, including the Walker administration, place nearly all the blame on districts that approved teacher contracts without using the controversial measures implemented through the budget repair bill (which ended collective bargaining rights for state workers, including teachers). While many layoffs did come from those districts, losses in teachers and larger class sizes are still the fault of Walker's budget bill, not their choices to keep collective bargaining intact.

Let's take a look at Milwaukee Public Schools as an example. There were initially 334 teachers laid off in that district (70 were later recalled). That district was one that didn't adopt Walker's budget repair bill, meaning they still utilized collective bargaining agreements to create their contracts.

But that doesn't mean that teachers didn't budge on issues, didn't give up anything in their contracts -- on the contrary, teachers acquiesced to $94 million in concessions over the next two years, including agreeing to a pay freeze and additional contributions to their health plans (which was part of the budget repair bill anyway).

What MPS teachers chose not to do was contribute more to their pension plans. Had they done so, the district could have saved 200 teachers' jobs within the district.

That gives a hefty argument to the pro-Walker camp, who insist that adherence to the budget repair bill would have fixed things. However, anyone with basic math skills surely noticed one important thing: even if the teachers had implemented those changes, and 200 jobs were in fact "saved," there would still be between 64 to 134 teachers laid off within MPS.

So had teachers done everything Walker had demanded of them, the actual budget cuts to MPS would STILL have led to less teachers in the hallways, and thus larger class sizes overall.

Of course, one would assume cuts to the tune of $54 million this year alone (what MPS is dealing with) would result in a loss of staff in some way or another. But it appears that this type of logic goes past what the Walker administration can handle. That the rest of the state, too, is seeing losses in teacher numbers isn't so surprising either.

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