No doubt any readers of my blog are aware that some of our state lawmakers have gotten in trouble because they have used taxpayer money for their campaign efforts. While I have not followed these stories with any zeal, I think I know the basics of the case against these lawmakers, which have included our very own Bonnie Ladwig. If an elected state representative is using their staff or other resources, paid for by taxpayers, to campaign for reelection, then the state representative is, in effect, using taxpayer money for personal political gain. This is stealing from the taxpayer. Presently, Brian Jensen faces jail time for this offense.
Moving right along now, let us consider the recent news concerning the RUSD teachers contract. It has been reported, and not denied by anyone, that Racine Education Association President Betsy Kippers may be released from her duties as an employee of RUSD for a full year while she tends to REA business. Taxpayers would pay for her salary, of roughly $57,000, as well as her benefits, which can easily exceed $20,000 per year. The REA will pay for a substitute teacher, who would only make roughly $26,000 per year with no benefits. Essentially, this would involve a transfer of cash, from taxpayers, to the REA, in the amount of roughly $50,000.
RUSD CEO Dr. Hicks was the primary negotiator for this contract. He has approved the transfer of taxpayer resources, in the form of cash, into the coffers of the REA, which uses money to further their own political agenda, much as the state representatives used taxpayer money to further their own personal gain.
I have two questions. Is there a substantial difference between state lawmakers helping themselves to taxpayer resources, and Dr. Hicks and the school board offering cash to the REA? And if there is not a substantial difference, should Dr. Hicks and the school board members see jail time?