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State Union Refuses to Represent Teachers in Wisconsin
posted by: Alix | July 25, 2011, 05:05 PM   

Wisconsin has been education and labor reform "ground zero" since Governor Walker swept into office in January. Promising big changes, Governor Walker eventually passed a budget that ended forced-unionism, curbed union power, and ultimately led to a nationwide battle to balance state budgets and rein in union monopolies. Despite union-led efforts to recall elected officials over these changes, Governor Walker is now moving forward with an initiative to create a new state-wide accountability system to replace requirements under No Child Left Behind. Despite the bipartisan call for a plan, the state's teacher union has rejected an invitation by Governor Walker to collaborate on a plan, effectively refusing to represent the teacher voice in the state.

The union is making waves over their refusal to work with the administration on a bipartisan, multi-organization task force, citing Governor Walker's budget provisions as a reason not to "trust" him. "We simply do not have the necessary trust or confidence," WEAC President Mary Bell said of Walker and two other Republicans on the panel — Sen. Luther Olsen and Rep. Steve Kestell. "Our decision is based on experience with the governor and these legislative leaders over the last four months."

While the Walker administration understands that they don't have many friends among WEAC leadership, according to reports, Governor Walker had hoped that they would come to the table to represent their members' views. In establishing an accountability coalition, Walker joined forces with State Superintendent Tony Evers, who also opposed his union plan.

"Improving education isn't a partisan issue," Walker Spokesman Cullen Werwie said of the controversy. "We'll continue to put aside disagreements on other issues to collaborate with education leaders and improve Wisconsin schools for our children."

Currently the task force includes the American Federation of Teachers, the School Boards Association, and district administrators. Despite the diversity among the organizations, WEAC made it clear that they would not be participating.

In a statement, Bell elaborated that prior precedent is enough to convince WEAC leadership that collaborating is ineffective. "Our members wanted to sit down and talk with the governor, they wanted him to hear them out on the reason collective bargaining was so important to our schools, but he refused," Bell said. "Actions speak louder than words, and through the state budget process we saw that public schools are not a priority with the governor and those who follow him."

Seemingly, because President Bell and WEAC leaders did not get their way in the budget proceedings, they feel it is necessary to check-out on this bi-partisan task force. If not for "representation," what makes membership in WEAC worth upwards of $1,000 a year? Their incompetence and inability to present a professional voice in dealings with elected officials only hurts the teachers of Wisconsin in the long run.

What do you think about WEAC's decision to reject Governor Walker's invitation?
Comment below.

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