Saturday, February 19, 2011

Democratic Governance at Stake

My son went to school this week. All week. His teachers were there too. All of them. This has been going on week after week and year after year.

This continuity and predictability would not ordinarily be worthy of comment. But this has not been an ordinary week.

As we all know, thousands of public school teachers throughout the state left their jobs this week to join a protest. Meanwhile, thousands of private school teachers did their jobs this week.

Those private school teachers don't make as much money as their public school counterparts. Their health care plans are nowhere near as lavish. Neither are their pensions, assuming they even have them. But they showed up for work this week.

What's more, they seldom seem miserable or disgruntled to me. Now I don't think for a second that all is blissful behind the scenes of your average private school. Certainly some teachers feel that they should be getting more pay or better benefits. Some may think they are not recognized properly for their accomplishments. Some in management might be buffoons. Always there are problems and challenges.

The difference between the public sector and the private sector is how these problems are handled. At my sons school, they are handled one at a time and behind the scenes, with, I suspect, a guiding document such as policy manual. Egregious departures from policy would leave either party, management or labor, to answer to a board of directors.

The system seems to work pretty well. Despite not being able to offer as much money, benefits, or job protections as their public school counterparts, the school is always well staffed with dedicated professionals. Some teachers move on, some are nudged along, and some pushed, but a large number seem to stay for a long time, an indicator of general contentedness in my view. The same is true of the administrators.

At the end of the day, all the parties involved, and that includes parents and students, are working toward a common goal of educating children. If teachers don't perform, they improve or move on. If children don't study or behave adequately, they improve or move on. If administration makes too many poor decisions, parents send their children to another school.

There is a proper balance of power between the parties involved, without which the school would fail. If management gained enough power, for example, to pay themselves lavishly, tuition would increase beyond the level acceptable to parents, and they would stop paying. If any of the interested parties were empowered sufficiently to put their interests above the others and to the detriment of the mission, the school would decline and ultimately collapse.

Decline is well under way at our public schools and collapse may not be far in the offing. The reason is an imbalance of power and insufficient means to check said power.

Do parents have the power to reform public schools? In a word, no. At the end of the day, the school will still be in operation because their funding source is Madison, not parents. The school system needs to keep politicians happy. Politicians are kept happy with campaign contributions.

Does administration have the power to reform public schools? No. Obviously and at a minimum, reforming a school system would require an efficient way to remove elements detrimental to the mission of educating students. No such efficient means exists because of the successful collaboration between and the teachers union and politicians.

The school system simply can't reform itself. The balance of power is skewed heavily in favor of the teachers union. Parents are powerless. Administration is powerless and co-opted in any case by the teachers union agenda. The same is true of school boards. And arguably, especially evident this week, the Democratic party itself is a de facto arm of the teachers union.

But alas, the public at large can act as a check on the power of the teachers union and their allies. We have elections for just this purpose, among others. As it happens, we recently did have an election. The people of Wisconsin voted. They voted to empower the Republicans. Said Republicans are attempting to curb some of the power of government unions. They are doing so via the powers established by the people of Wisconsin and the constitution that we enacted. In short, they are making laws based on a democratic process agreed upon by all Wisconsinites.

All Wisconsinites...... well, except for the government unions and their allies on the extreme left. Unhappy with the results of an election and impending changes, they have enlisted their pawns, Democratic state senators, to flee the state and avoid a legitimate debate and vote on a critical matter to the state and, it now seems, our nation.

At issue for Wisconsin and indeed our country is nothing less than the survival of our system of governance. Will we keep our established system of governance or will it be government by mob rule?

I am hopeful that our Republicans have the strength and courage to withstand the pressures of the mob and to vote to curb the powers of the government unions, assuming that we still adhere to old fashioned notions like voting.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't send my dog to a private school whose teachers are not state certified.

Denis Navratil said...

In state we trust, eh anon?

Eric said...

Anon 3:55, better pull your kids out of the public schools then, they've used non-certified teachers as subs for years and will no doubt be using quite a few subs during this period of unrerst, BTW most of the teachers at the private school Dennis speaks of are now or have been state certified, and far more of them possess advanced degrees than the gang in the union

Anonymous said...

Not paid as lavishly? You are one stupid person. Everyone has a right to protest, in that right, in every right people have sacrificed for. My children aren't complaining, and neither am I. If that's how they'll get noticed, I would have done the same.

Denis Navratil said...

Anon 9:26, of course it is all right to protest. It is not OK in my view for the Dems to flee the democratic process. And it is disappointing that they seem to have the support of most Democrats. It is ironic that many Dems prefer the mob to the vote. You should be ashamed of your party but I am certain you are not.

Anonymous said...

if unions to blame for state budget issues why aren't police and fire unions also a part of this bill? Police and fire salary and pensions account for over half of all city budgets in the state of wisconsin.

@ anon 7:31, every public school district in the state of wisconsin requires all instructors of any kind, to be licensed and certified to teach on any grade level. Even gym teachers, librarians, art teachers are required to be licensed.

Also, over 60% of RUSD teachers have master's degrees.

Anonymous said...

in the city of racine, police & fire salaries and pensions account for 70% of the city budget! AND their union gets to negotiate more increases!

Denis Navratil said...

Anon 11:52 and 11:55, I would have preferred to have the police and fire included, but this is still better than nothing. I prefer consistent policies but I recognize that sometimes politics is the art of the possible. Maybe they can be next. We all need to sacrifice some even though we would rather not.

Sean Cranley said...

Denis, Since you're upset about the dems taking advantage of a procedural to stop the rapid ramming through of this politically motivated measure, then I'm SURE that you are outraged at the unprecidented use of the filibuster by the GOPsters over the last two years, essentially subjecting every single bill to this procedural tool.

Anonymous said...

then if the police and fire unions are not included, the rhetoric of reigning in the state budget is a farce. Walkers motive is purely political and ideological.

Wangaard is a recipient of these ever increasing pension payments that us taxpayers continue to pay for.

Denis Navratil said...

Interesting and mistaken, even claptrap-like use of the word "procedural" Sean. Fleeing a vote is to procedure as a teacher lying and skipping work is to teaching. Opposites in other words Sean. The Dems behavior is a violation of procedure which is why your heroes had to flee the state to avoid the actual procedure of being hauled back to work by the police. Only a word twisting lefty would be shameless enough to call this a procedure.

Denis Navratil said...

Anon 2:59, I wouldn't call it a farce. I would call it a good start.

Anonymous said...

if any private business had a variable cost that constituted 70% of the operating budget, would it be safe to assume that that particular expense would be looked at first to reduce as it consumes so much of the budget?

Denis Navratil said...

Anon 3:27, I agree with you and look forward to you leading the charge to include the police and fire unions in the new reality, just as soon as the current bill passes.

Anonymous said...

Police and fire unions are not going to be exempted forever - they know it's coming.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:55 PM,

I, like Dennis, send my children to private school. And we are proud to say that they are getting a great education. Seems that your "state certified" teachers, graduate on average about 50% of the student body, while our "uncertified teachers" graduate about 90%, which by the way, also seem to fair well when they go to college.

Anonymous said...

Why can't walker include the police and fire unions in this current bill?

Anonymous said...

Anon, ur absolutely correct. Balancing budget means eliminating rights of ALL unions, union busting means eliminating rights of just the unions that republicans dont like.