Thursday, March 10, 2011

Budget Bill Effects

After writing my initial entry about Governor Walker's budget repair bill, I keep thinking about it and feel the need to talk about some more of the direct effects that it will likely have on Wisconsin. Obviously, the majority of you know that I'm involved in higher education, so the impact the bill has on teachers and state employees is very near and dear to my heart. After doing quite a bit of research on the subject matter, I found what I believe to be a pretty credible source about the anticipated ripple effects of this ridiculous bill. Feel free to check it out here, but I'll also give a bit of a summary.

Those in support of this bill are running on the assumption that the cuts to public workers will somehow magically not have an effect on the rest of Wisconsin's residents. Wrong. As this article so eloquently explains, "At a time when Wisconsin is trying to grow the economy, cutting the disposable income of state, local and school district public sector families undermines purchasing power, the most crucial element in economic recovery and growth." If individuals lose money and can't afford to buy the things they normally buy, then those other businesses will undoubtedly see a decrease in sales, thereby having a negative and harmful effect on their ability to stay afloat.

If Walker's plan manages to do everything it claims to do, then here are the shocking results of what he's proposing, according to the above article: For state employees (i.e., my colleagues), there'd be approximately a 10.9% reduction in total employee income ($429 million). For local employees, there'd be approximately a 7.0% reduction ($335 million). For school districts, there'd be approximately a 3.9% reduction ($230 million). Add it up. That's almost a billion dollars in cuts. If this sounds like foreign language, just think about what you make per year and then calculate how much you would lose if you took any of these pay cuts. Full disclosure here. I only make $28,000 per year. Not much given the fact that I have a Master's degree (not trying to toot my horn or anything, just stating the fact). That's a whole different issue that frustrates me - so many people in support of this bill think that people in education make a ton of money and are "spoiled" by the benefits they receive. I challenge you to find an administrator or educator who makes an outrageously large amount of money. And if you do find one, I guarantee you that person is the exception, not the rule. Anyway, if I were working at a public institution (i.e., UW-La Crosse), and I was making the same amount of money that I make now, you could essentially take my salary and reduce it by 10.9% to understand the effects of this. So, if I thought I was scraping by with $28,000, after this bill, I would potentially be making a mere $24,948 (before taxes, mind you) per year. In no way can I find the justification for this. How on earth does this HELP the economy? As stated in the above article, "Attempting to right the economy by slashing compensation for public sector workers is like trying to save weight on an overloaded boat by tossing the motor overboard. It just doesn’t help in getting you where you want to go."

Given what I just said above, it should come as no secret as to how this will effect Wisconsin's educational system. By eliminating collective bargaining, educators have very little control over a lot of things, one of those main things being class size. It has been proven time and time again that the smaller the class size, the better the quality of instruction. If a teacher has 20 kids versus 60 kids in a class, one could imagine why the larger class size would make it far more difficult to teach effectively. It's no secret that Wisconsin's public sector workers receive some pretty great benefits. No one is denying that, and in fact, those benefits are one of the main reasons Wisconsin has been able to attract such quality candidates in the past. That being said, I also have to address the individuals who keep saying, "Well, if all teachers are concerned about is their pay and their benefits, then it's time for them to find a new job because it should be about the kids, not about the money." I agree, but to make that argument right now is ridiculous. The vast majority of educators ARE in education for the right reasons, and to imply that them simply wanting decent pay and benefits is somehow selfish or immoral is beyond me. Keep the following points in mind. Wisconsin public sector workers are paid quite a bit less than many of their equal counterparts in other states. If you want to attract quality candidates, you do have to provide them with some incentive to come here and even more incentive to stay. I don't care who you are, in ANY job, you're at least going to consider different options if another job will provide you better pay and benefits. Why wouldn't you? Just because people would like a job that provides some security and some decent benefits doesn't mean they are terrible people who are only looking out for themselves. In fact, if you want to talk about people like that, look at Scott Walker. I'm genuinely afraid of the potential implications of this bill on education.

Okay, I'm sorry. I could seriously go on about this forever (obviously). I'm just very passionate about it and absolutely hate seeing how much one person has divided the state, and the entire country for that matter. I just want to make sure that we can make a positive difference for the state of WI when it comes time to get these misguided politicians OUT of office. Nothing would make me happier.

***I should also state that while much of this is based on facts, some of it is also my simple, heartfelt opinion. In no way am I trying to imply that I'm right or that I'm not open to hearing different viewpoints. This is simply my way of expressing my personal beliefs and discontent over what is currently happening in Wisconsin.***


casey said...

Renee...I think this is WELL said. I don't claim to much about what's going on in this situation but I feel like you made a ton of valid points!!!

Renee said...

Thanks, Casey! I don't claim to know too much either, but I thought it was worthwhile to share what I've been learning. Thanks for taking the time to read it! :)