Friday, May 05, 2006

Johnsons Baby

Let us not kid ourselves. The Johnsons are heavily involved with Racine Unified. From the experiment with Dr. Hicks, the insurance offerings, financial support for their board members, referendum support, and board management policies, Johnsons have been right there, though not always fully visible. Is it working?

It is always a delicate subject when you talk publicly about the Johnsons influence. So, for the record, I will share my view of the Johnsons and their companies. I have personally benefited from their generosity, and I still do. It is obvious that they have a great company that brings wealth to Racine. I presently enjoy a terrific relationship with the folks at Johnson Bank. Basically, I have no axe to grind with Johnsons or their businesses. In fact, I have great respect for their many contributions to Racine.

But, as I see it, I have no obligation to agree with the public policy preferences of the Johnsons or their company spokespeople. My obligation, with respect to education, is to advocate for policies which would benefit children. It is my view that many of the policies presently being pursued by Johnsons, and others, are harmful to our children and to our community.

Interestingly, the public pursuits of Johnsons, with respect to education, are incongruent with the way they run their private companies. If I am not mistaken, the Johnsons resisted the efforts to unionize their employees. This was obviously the right move, as evidenced by the growing list of failed unionized companies. Yet their present policies with respect to RUSD appear to be very accomodating of the demands of the REA.

Perhaps they are just trying to be practical. After all, the teachers unions are very powerful and they are a fact of life. They have tremendous power over our politicians. It could well be a losing battle to directly take on the union power.

There is another way. The Johnsons could advocate for school vouchers. This would involve a monumental battle with the REA, to be sure. But it is a battle that can and has been won, in Milwaukee at least. My hope is that the Johnsons will soon realize the futility of improving RUSD in any meaningful way.

I look forward to the day when I can work with the Johnsons for better education in Racine.

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