When I was a junior in college I sat down one day and tried to figure out how much longer it was going to take me to graduate. I had been going along at a pretty good clip, taking 15 to 18 credits per semester--enough to allow me to graduate with a B.A. in four years. However, I had recently enrolled in the school of education, and was having to take additional courses not only in broad field social science, but also in teaching. Much to my chagrin, I realized that with these additional courses, as well as a semester spent student teaching, I wouldn't be done with school for another 2 or 2 1/2 years.
Whatsmore, the classes I was taking (Introduction to Education in particular) didn't make things seem any more appealing. I distinctly remember our professor telling us, "You won't make much money, you won't have any control over the curriculum you are teaching, and some kid's gonna call you a "mother****er." How are you going to deal with that?" That was in 1991.
At this point (though I believed I could, perhaps, have been a good teacher) I decided to drop out of the program. I decided I didn't need all that aggravation in my life. I decided I was becoming burned out on school, and didn't want to slog through it for another 2 years, only to enter a field that would be a perpetual slog for the next 30 or so years. It was a decision I have, at times, regretted. But, knowing my personality, it was probably the right one.
The point of bringing up my own personal anecdote is this: anyone who thinks that teaching is easy, that teachers in this state are somehow overpaid, that they are not dedicated or self sacrificing, really has no idea what he or she is talking about.
Teachers spend about as much time getting their degrees as doctors and lawyers, yet they are paid a fraction of what these professionals make, even with the benefits they receive. Whatsmore, teachers often go out of their way to help students on their own time, time they are not paid for. Teachers also have to spend countless hours both before and after school developing lesson plans, creating tests, grading papers, reading outside material, and (for many) working on extracurricilar activities.
Whatsmore, teaching just may be the most important profession in our society. Neither television, movies, the internet, video games nor even most parents or religious institutions are capable of teaching children the skills they will need in order to survive in our complex society. It falls almost solely to the teachers to mold young minds with potential into able, productive citizens.
Yet, at a time when the demands of our struggling economy are beginning to outstrip the skills of our workers, we, in Wisconsin, are cutting the legs out from underneath those who could most help us prepare. When mammoth economies like China and the European Union are investing more in infrastructure and beating our kids in math and science scores, we, in Wisconsin, are pulling back.
Scott Walker cut 800-900 million dollars from our education system in the next two years. Cuts, he said, he needed to balance the budget. Yet he also somehow found enough money in the state's budget to hand out $212 million in corporate tax breaks.
He also nixed a 1.2 billion dollar plan to build clean energy wind turbines in the state by imposing the strictist regulations on residential building in the nation. However, we have jumped headlong into a yet-to-be-proven-safe practice called "fracking," in which highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals are blasted into the ground to break up the rock and release the natural gas imbedded in it. The Obama administration has recently demanded that the mining industry inform us just what these chemicals are--all 150 of them. Judging from past accidents caused by oil drillng and mining companies, we can hardly rest assured that this method will not cause serious environmental damage to our state.
Walker also recently overturned a law that would make it easier for women to sue for equal pay. This, at a time when women are increasingly the main bread winners in their families.
To his credit the governor did balance the budget and preside over an increase of over 30,000 jobs statewide. Or did he? As FactCheck.org points out, Walker used the cash accounting method to justify his claim that he balanced the budget. However, "using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) accrual accounting methods, there is a $3 billion deficit in Wisconsin’s budget in each of the next two years." Whatsmore, according to PolitiFact.com the governor used two different sets of data--a small monthly sample and a larger yearly sample (that has yet to be confirmed) to put the best possible spin on the job numbers and present it as "fact" in his political ads. In truth, however, we won't know for another year how Wisconsin's true job numbers looked at the time of the recall.
One thing that has been confirmed is that Wisconsin lost 14,200 jobs in 2011, the worst performance of any state in the nation.
Another claim that the Governor makes is that he solved the budget crisis without raising taxes. However, this isn't entirely true, either. Again, I quote FactCheck.org, "The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau labelled two tax credit reductions as tax increases. One measure reduced the earned income tax credit for people with two or more children, a change projected to net the state an added $56.2 million over two years. Another reduced the homestead tax credit, bringing the state $13.6 million over two years." While these were not tax increases, per se, they have the same effect--decreasing the amount of money Wisconsin families take in, while increasing the state's revenue, something that republicans are supposedly against.
Furthermore, Walker is disingenuous when he slams opponent Tom Barrett for his performance as Milwaukee's Mayor since Walker, himself, served as Milwaukee County Executive from 2002 to 2010. Whatever decisions were made and the resultant consequences are on his record as well. And, though it may not seem like it from the political ads, Milwaukee's unemployment rate did perform better under Barrett than the nation's as a whole.
As a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, I have come to have a great appreciation for my home state. We have a great tradition of protecting the environment: from Aldo Leopold, to Gaylord Nelson to the Sierra Club, we are a state that is deeply concerned about conservation. We are also a pioneer in the field of women's rights, having been one of the first states to sign the Equal Rights Amendment, and the first to ratify women's suffrage. In addition, we have a strong educational system in the state, constistantly ranking among the best in the nation.
Yet Governor Walker (in only a couple years) is unleashing policies that threaten to unravel all of the progress we have made over the last century and a half. It is much easier, it seems, to destroy than to create.
Creation takes time, it takes patience, it takes faith that hard work and doing the right thing will reap its own rewards over time. It is not unlike the investment we make in our children (nieces and grand nephews in my case). We want the best for them. We want them to have the all the opportunities that our state, nation and world can offer them. And yet, if we make it less and less appealing for people to want to become teachers, what will happen to them? Who will be there for them? Who will prepare them? How will they acquire the skills necessary to compete in an increasingly competitive economic environment? In short, who will teach the kids?
For Further Reading: