I am writing this on the morning of the last day of school in Greendale, so excuse me if I get a bit nostalgic or emotional. This past Monday I attended the end-of-year celebration in my son's kindergarten class in which dozens of moms, dads, grandparents and even great grandparents squeezed our adult-sized butts into tiny plastic seats as we listened to our children read a poem and receive an award from their teacher. But the last and most emotional part of the celebration was a ten minute video that my son's teacher had put together highlighting the best and most memorable parts of their first full year of school.
Children cried, parents sniffled, I even think the teacher might have had a tear (even though she's been saying "goodbye friends" to groups of children for more years than Justin Bieber has been alive). One little boy, whose parents could not make it really broke down and cried. Who came to sit with him on the floor and hug him and rock with him and tell him that everything would be all right - that he would see his friends again next year? His teacher...
During the video that we watched there was a segment that showed each of our children, individually, with their eyes looking towards the sky and a finger on their chin in deep thought as they pondered the question: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" There were a couple of oddball responses, funny answers: "horse-rider" and "grass-cutter". One child chose "dentist". Another said "scientist" while one more said "doctor". But none of these chosen professions of the future received more than one vote.
The overwhelming majority of students chose to be a "policeman", "firefighter", or "teacher". When the first student chose "teacher" she received a holler and a whistle from mom and grandma and a round of applause from the audience. My son's school is producing future public servants faster than it produces methane gas on taco day - and I'm damn proud...If you were in that classroom with me, you would know that this is not hyperbole.
If kids are one thing - they are honest and they can see through B.S. like Superman can see through walls. And they hero worship. By a vast majority, the heroes of the children in that kindergarten class are the people who serve us every day: Teachers, policemen, firemen (okay, and "professional baseball players too). Not one kid wanted to sell insurance or loan money - they wanted to be heroes.
So going into election night on Tuesday I was hopeful. I thought maybe the tide had turned - maybe at the end of the school year mothers and fathers might see teachers for what they really are to all of us and take a stand against Scott Walker and an agenda that at best, was misguided when it reduced funding to our school district by $814,000 this year alone.
After that emotional classroom celebration I had to head back to work, so I hopped in my car and turned on 620 WTMJ to see what was being said about the upcoming election on Tuesday (I usually listen to public radio, but they were not talking politics at that moment) ... so what did I hear? I heard that a win for Governor Walker and the Republicans was a repudiation against the "Greedy moochers" who teach my children. I heard that the teachers were the cause to the whole financial crisis that the state (and Nation I suppose) finds itself in because of their "extravagant" salaries and benefits.
I didn't believe what I was hearing. "Greedy", "Moochers", "Extravagant" are adjectives that I would never use to describe the women and men who teach my children - otherwise I would not entrust my children with them for seven hours a day. The adjectives I would use to describe my kids' teachers: "kind", "sweet", "caring", "dedicated", "professional", "smart". I assumed no one who drops their kids off at a public school could have such feelings for someone whom they entrust their children with every day. I assumed that in Greendale, where we always have had one of the best public school systems in the nation, parents were smart enough to see past those lies and misgivings that are constantly being shouted at us on conservative radio.
But apparently I was wrong...
The "good" people of Greendale voted to keep Scott Walker in office by 61%. We voted to save $30 bucks on our property taxes instead of properly funding our children's education. We had a chance to take a stand against an agenda that de-funded public education by the largest percentage ever in state history, but gave tax breaks to billionaires like Diane Hendricks from Beloit, who paid NO state income tax despite being on Forbe's list of top 500 billionaires. She paid no taxes, but donated $500,000 to Walker's campaign. There is money for education, but it's sitting in some mansion in Beloit instead of going towards books, teacher aides computers, music programs and instruments.
A vote to keep Walker in office was a statement of agreement that teachers are "Greedy, lazy thugs who only work seven hours a day". Anyone who has ever worked in the profession or volunteered in the schools knows this to be a lie. The current administration in Madison has demonized the entire teaching profession. - Just ask your kid's teacher how they have felt over the last 16 months - pretty God Damn unappreciated I bet.
Scott Walker and the Republicans made scapegoats out of teachers in a capitalist system gone wild because of actions taken by Wall Street, not teachers, nurses or social workers.
Scott Walker and his administration may have saved each home owner an average of $30 in Greendale (myself included), but what did we lose?:
- We lost $814,000 in state aid to the Greendale School District.
- We lost four times the average number of teachers to early retirement.
- We lost a computer lab because our district office can no longer afford to move out of my school.
- We lost funding to the UW system, which caused a 5.6% rise in tuition - meaning that if you send you child to Madison, it will cost you an extra $560 per year in tuition.
- We saw drops in DNR inspections to hazardous waste by 32%, storm-water runoff by 26%, solid waste and landfills by 18% and air quality by 16%. Employment within the DNR dropped by only 4%.
I may have saved $30 on my property tax bill, but now my children will have less computer time, be taught by less-experienced teachers in a larger class, drink dirtier water, breathe filthier air and graduate from college in more debt than they would have if they state could have kept my $30 bucks...
...Today my children and I will thank our teachers by giving them gift cards from Half-Priced Books, a handshake, and maybe a hug - small compensation for just having taken away their rights, reducing their salary, raising their cost of health care and calling them "greedy thugs" for the last 16 months.
I don't want a $30 break on my property taxes - I want my computer lab back. I want to re-gain the conference room in my school. I want a full-time nurse in my school. I want iPads in the high school. I want free parking for all students at the high school. I want clean water and air for my kids. I want college tuition to be affordable for everyone. I need a properly funded public school system. I need a Governor who values education and doesn't look down upon teachers like they are blood-sucking leaches.
I don't need $30. I don't need to carry a gun to feel like a "man". I don't need to tell homosexuals that they can't have the same rights that my wife and I do. I don't need to tell the poor, elderly and the crippled to beg family and friends for a ride to the DMV to get an updated ID. I don't need to tell women that their body is my business or that they should make less than me. I don't need to demean and demoralize the entire teaching professional.
I love my public school and all of the teachers within - My Governor, who is under investigation by the FBI, not so much...
On June 1, 2012, the MJS broke the story that Milwaukee County prosecutors were forced to move from a regular investigation to a secret "John Doe" criminal investigation more than two years ago after being stonewalled by the County Executive's office. Court records released in the trial of one of the defendants showed that prosecutors said Walker's office had been "unwilling or unable" to turn over requested records, citing sources with the U.S. Justice Department's Public Integrity Section.
This new information contradicts Walker's repeated claims that he has been "fully cooperating" with the investigation since the start. As of today, this ongoing criminal investigation has resulted in six indictments, 15 felony charges, and two convictions. At the moment, five people are awaiting trial.
The MJS has also reported that investigators are looking into bid-rigging charges related to the county's decision, when Walker was County Exec, to move the Wisconsin Department of Aging from a public facility to a private facility using a bidding process. The Sentinel has also reported on a private email exchange between Walker and Hiller, his long-time campaign treasurer and realtor involved with the potential county real estate contract that has been described as a "bombshell" in the investigation, but has not yet been released to the public.
So if you voted for Walker simply because you think recalls should be used only for misconduct - well, we have our misconduct don't we...
If you are a Greendale parent, or a parent of any child who attends a public school in the state and you voted for Scott Walker - you have been duped.
My son's teacher deserves an award for her years of service and dedication for doing the world's most difficult job. My Governor appears to deserve an orange jumpsuit and state-issued flip-flops for his criminal actions.
I thought we were better than this. I thought Greendale valued its educational system and our teachers. I thought we trusted them to have a voice. I thought we were less greedy and less gullible.
I was wrong.