Looking Out for Children in Wisconsin

Lindsey Burke /

Last week, students in several Wisconsin school districts were unable to attend school when classes were cancelled due to thousands of striking teachers throughout Madison and surrounding districts. While most teachers have returned to their posts today, protests continue in opposition to Governor Scott Walker’s (R) proposal to reform collective bargaining and pay down Wisconsin’s $4 billion deficit.

As part of a budget repair bill that has stalled in the Senate, education employees would have to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to cover the cost of their pensions and pay 12 percent of their health insurance premiums. The governor’s proposal would also limit collective bargaining for teachers.

Although most teachers have returned to the classroom, 14 Democratic state legislators remain on the lam in neighboring Illinois in what appears to be a futile game of chicken with Gov. Walker. But the governor has several means at his disposal to try to entice the absent lawmakers to return to Wisconsin. Gov. Walker has suggested that he will begin sending layoff notices to state employees as early as next week if the budget impasse is not overcome.

The firestorm over modest reforms to union power and education employee benefits is spreading to other states that are trying to reform similarly untenable systems.

The Washington Post confirms that Democrats in Indiana have fled the statehouse in an attempt to thwart a bill curtailing collective bargaining power in that state. At the same time, Governor Mitch Daniels (R) has been working on his own agenda for reforming the workforce, pushing to reform teacher tenure. (more…)