Capitol Police are bracing for another round of protests in Madison this week--as the Legislature begins debate on the new state budget. Missing from the groups of drum-beaters, chanters and epithet-hurlers will be the Wisconsin Education Association Coucil--the state's largest teachers union. WEAC President Mary Bell says her group has no plans for organized protests this week.
What is incredibly interesting is the reason why WEAC won't be bringing busloads of teachers to the Capitol. According an interview Bell conducted with reporters last week, teachers "have already committed to part-time jobs or have gone back to school themselves"--and therefore don't have time to protest.
Now that you have stopped rolling on the floor laughing, let's take a closer look at that statement. First off, the claim that many teachers have started their part-time jobs. I'm sure Bell mentioned that looking for a bit of sympathy--"teachers need to work during their two-and-a-half month break from the classroom just to make ends meet" is likely the underlying message. But let's keep in mind, these are people who left their full-time jobs back in March--forcing some districts to shut down for as many as four days. Not to mention they found UW Madison medical instructors willing to write them fake sick notes in an effort to avoid punishment by their employers. Now you're telling me they feel a responsibility to stay on the job for their part-time employers? Isn't everyone "Standing with Wisconsin's working families"? I would think those private-sector bosses would be encouraging to their educator employees to take as much time off as they need to make sure their "rights" are preserved.
As for the second part of Bell's excuse, that is just a big ole' middle finger in the face of families with kids in schools. It's great that teachers spend their summers improving their educations--but isn't it ironic that those who took off to protest back in March denied the children the same opportunity? Kind of makes the "it's all about the kids" argument ring even more hollow than it did before.
I guess none of this should come as a surprise, since WEAC is the union that cancelled its annual convention next October--because without the hammer of collective bargaining, it couldn't force districts to include two school days off for teachers to "attend". Apparently, it's difficult to be "passionate" on your own time.