Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is facing a recall election on June 5 because of the law he signed last spring to limit the collective bargaining power of public employee unions--a reform his opponents said would be a "disaster" and destroy public education in the state. Walker's Democratic challenger, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, acknowledged this morning that the collective bargaining issue was the "flame that started this" recall election, but Barrett couldn't point to a single public school that has been harmed by Walker's reforms.
Here's a transcript from a press conference at Barrett's campaign headquarters in Milwaukee Wednesday morning:
TWS: On collective bargaining, mayor, the governor and his campaign have pointed to a number of... schools across the state that heave benefited from the reforms in Act 10. Which school districts have been hurt in particular, in your view, by Walker's policies and his reforms? Are there any that stand out in your mind?
BARRETT: Well, I support the restoration of collective bargaining rights. And that's what this is all about--whether you support workers' rights. And I support workers' rights.
TWS: But are there any school districts in particular, though, that have been hurt by Act 10?
BARRETT: I have talked to prison guards, I can tell you that, who are concerned about their own public safety because of the changes in the law, and I'm very concerned about that as well
TWS: But no school districts—
BARRETT: We can do an analysis and get back to you on that.
An email to Barrett's campaign asking when that analysis might be completed (the election is in 6 days) has not yet been returned.
School districts big and small have used Walker's reforms to balance their budgets without layoffs or painful program cuts—see the stories, for example, from Kaukana, Brown Deer, Wauwatosa, Appleton, Baldwin-Woodville, Hartland-Lakeside, Pittsville, just to name a few. "Welcome news for local schools" read a recent headline of the Madison-based Wisconsin State Journal.
It's true that the school districts of Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha have laid off hundreds of teachers—but those districts have been operating under contracts in which local unions retained collective bargaining because the contracts were agreed to before Walker's reforms were signed into law. A study by the conservative MacIver Institute has shown that although these districts comprise 13 percent of public education staff statewide, they accounted for 43 percent of layoffs at Wisconsin public schools. In other words, Walker's collective bargaining reforms have actually saved teachers' jobs.
Not only has Barrett been unable to point to a single school district hurt by Walker's reforms, he has been unwilling to say how he would have balanced the budget differently than Walker did. Barrett was also unable yesterday to name a single policy he would pursue to create jobs in the state of Wisconsin.