Monday, February 21, 2011

Sick Of The Walker Budget Crisis Yet?

Well, I must say that I'm a little bit surprised.

What I somewhat expected from Walker was something my father insisted would probably happen. Namely, that Walker would first oversell his cuts, and in so doing get a compromise deal through which would balance the budget. Sure enough, he got his compromise offer. State unions are willing to grant all budgetary cuts, provided they retain their right to collectively bargain.

Walker says no.

Ooooohhhkay? Really? You could have a balanced budget today, and you say no?

That betrays what Walker's really up to.

But before anyone jumps to any conclusions about what that "up to" really is, please understand it's not what you think. Walker, in a very poignant interview with a WTMJ-4 reporter, was eloquent, decisive, and gave his reasons rather clearly. He's not the kid I assumed he'd be. But he let us all know what he's doing. The interview in question is here:


Walker is directly asked by Charles Benson, whether the concessions offered by the unions would be a deal, he said no. The reasons? First, he lists the number of municipalities and school districts -- impressive, but irrelevant -- and states that he won't be able to balance future budgets if the collective bargaining is not removed.

Okay, bullshit. Collective bargaining isn't working when it gives additional money for public schools, particularly MPS, because the structure is flawed, meaning it won't matter how much money is given, the kids educations won't improve until the rules of MPS are restructured.
If Milwaukee Public Schools are not allowed to hire outside the city (and right now they're not) then Walker's cuts will result in a school system which is already hampered in its ability to be able to hire quality teachers to be hampered even further. Meaning fewer quality teachers than we have now, and the inability to hire quality teachers in the future.

Nationally, the Powers That Be are seeing this as a post Citizens-United fight. Now that big corporations are allowed to glut funds to Republican political campaigns with all the money they can scrounge, the only entities capable of threatening them are unions. So, target them and break them, and no Democrat will ever be able to raise enough money to challenge a Republican ever again. Personally, I think that issues and public opinion should decide elections rather than which candidate has the bigger purse, but that's just me. In point of fact, I'd cut out all public funds and PAC donations to politicians altogether. Politicians should go out, glad-hand, stump, and burn some shoe-leather to get elected. But that's another blog post. In the meantime, this fight has national implications.

But Walker doesn't see it that way. He probably doesn't give two hoots about the Citizens United decision at this point. What he really wants is to get back at the unions who blocked him time and again as County Exec. This is what he wants more than anything. This is payback. This is what he ran for governor to do - get revenge on those assholes who, in his view, kept him from doing his job time and again for eight long years. This is vendetta! Especially for the schools.

I can forgive Walker his misunderstandings. Under-performing public schools have been a bug-bear for all of us for way too long now. And school teachers shouldn't be abandoning their charges to go off and do a protest rally. A day or two, I can maybe forgive. But a week or even weeks on end? That's too much! So I can understand why people are pissed. MPS has had its funds increased again and again, and improvement in education hasn't happened. Not even school vouchers did much good in improving the education quality, either here or in D.C. (and that deserves a separate blog post). So Walker and his ilk assume that money isn't the problem, and decide to slash funding, as if that's somehow going to help the public schools, either. What we'll get is public education which will go from bad to complete hell.

Money wasn't ever the problem. The problem is the underlying structure.

Forgive me for going off on a tangent, but how do we REALLY fix that underlying structure? Not by hauling off and slashing funding without a plan, that's for damned sure! Here's how to do it right:
1. END THE RESIDENCY RULE!!! Shit, I'm so sick of this one I can't even say. Get the best teachers into Milwaukee's schools! I don't care if they come from Timbuctu!
2. END THE DRUG WAR!!! I have to keep harping on this until it happens. Drug dealers prey on kids in schools because they get lesser juvenile sentences in courts, thus making law enforcement less able to get them off the streets while dealing. By ending the drug war and legalizing at least cannabis, we cut the gang-lords out of our schools. Instead of cutting the incomes of teachers HOW ABOUT WE CUT THE INCOME OF DRUG LORDS?!?!
3. INSTITUTE RESULTS-BASED PAY!!! A teachers pay really should be commiserate with how well the student has learned, and there's no other way to evaluate that than to see how they do on standardized testing before and after the school semester.

Walker will find that with these reforms, money spent on MPS will come down on its own, even with collective bargaining. Now, if THAT's what Republicans were willing to start riots for, I'd be totally on their side. Instead, he's trying to break the unions for breaking the unions sake, because of old injuries. Well, fuck that.

The well-meaning are about to enact some pretty damned severe unforseen consequences. So don't say I didn't warn you. The good intentions that pave the road to hell have constructed an eight-lane highway. Whether we go down that road, is up to us.

Eric

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