When a Wisconsin State Journal reporter interviewed me recently about new GOP proposals to increase the retirement age and reduce retirement payments for teachers and other public employees, I told her the bills are just the latest tactics in an ongoing campaign to degrade public services and insult public employees. They are another kick in the teeth to you and me from the governor and his allies. Everyone I’ve spoken to about the issue agrees with me.
We feel the impact of this teeth-kicking campaign every day in our schools and communities as fewer and fewer young people express an interest in becoming education employees and public servants. Many school districts throughout the state have revealed that applications for open positions are drastically down from just a few years ago. Some districts have left positions unfilled because they had no qualified applicants.
Fiscal concerns cannot explain this interest in messing with the retirement system, because Wisconsin’s retirement system is the envy of the nation. It is fully funded and rock solid. These bills are purely political and ideological.
As if to confirm our worst suspicions, now Republican legislators are introducing a bill to change the way public employees are hired and promoted. They want to replace impartial exams and seniority with more subjective systems that encourage political cronyism, nepotism and all-around bad hiring decisions.
Again, Wisconsin’s civil service laws have stood since 1905 and have been envied and emulated throughout the nation. “Apparently our state government isn’t corrupt enough yet,” Dave Zweifel wrote in the Capital Times to explain the motivation for these proposals.
The political extremists who are now running our state have fantasies of a Wisconsin where there are no public employees, no unions, no public services and no rules for the private, taxpayer funded, for-profit companies that replace them.
We can fight back. We can do some kicking of our own. WEAC’s website has great resources to help us contact our legislators and write to local newspapers. Just as importantly, we can talk to our colleagues, friends and neighbors about these proposals and explain to them why they are such bad ideas. This kind of action has worked to beat back other terrible proposals in the last few years. The Republicans’ legislative majorities do not shield them from public shame and ridicule or the political repercussions that could come with it.
If you want to get these conversations going by getting more involved in your local, talk to your local officers, email me at Region6.firstname.lastname@example.org or call the WEAC Region 6 office at 1-800-397-2287. Tell us what you care about and let us help you add a little kick.
President of Region 6