System failings on display

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They might be right about turnips and blood

By Jeffry Gardner

The failings of America’s public education system are, I suppose, clearly on display in Wisconsin.
In recent weeks that state’s governor, Scott Walker, has found himself embroiled in a battle that, given the merits of the case, seems to fly in the face of common sense.
Wisconsin, like New Mexico, like Illinois, like California, like Indiana – ay yi yi, we could go on, yes? – is basically broke. In the red. Still, thousands of public employees have stormed its capitol in Madison and demanded more.
This is a very simple summary of the battle between Wisconsin public service unions and the governor. More specifically, between Wisconsin teachers who, in essence, are holding parents and children hostage until they get what they want.
To understand the situation Walker is in, one needs only take a peek at what’s going on right here. Gov. Susana Martinez inherited a budget shortfall. (I don’t pity her much, of course, because it wasn’t a real secret, and she spent a long time fighting to get the job.)
Looming was the prospect of teacher layoffs. Martinez, like Walker, has danced about trying to avoid that fate.
But in Walker’s case, saving teacher jobs hasn’t been enough. Apparently, the notion of sacrifice is foreign to public employees. (Remember in April 2010 when Albuquerque city workers filled City Hall to protest a 3 percent pay cut – a cut created by Albuquerque’s mayor in an effort to save jobs? No good deed, eh?   
It’s politic to say teachers aren’t the problem, union bosses are. Yet, precisely how many union bosses does Wisconsin have? The mobs storming the ramparts in Madison indicate at least a couple of teachers think extorting the public is fine.
What is even more curious is that the group most affected by Walker’s attempt to change the collective bargaining rules work at the University of Wisconsin.
Help me out. When you hear of unions rushing to the rescue, one pictures 12-year-olds, shackled to Singer pedal sewing machines, laboring through a New York City summer, a spoonful of water every four hours, perhaps.
I’m guessing the University of Wisconsin buildings have water fountains.
Truly, from what I’ve read, though, there is something to the “union bosses bad” argument. One of the changes Walker’s trying to implement would be to end the automatic deduction of union dues from state or local employee paychecks.
Heh heh. Stroke of genius there.
Just imagine if federal taxes weren’t automatically taken out of your check. What if you had to stand in line, pick up your check at one window, then walk to another window at your company and write a check to pay your taxes? Think that would change your mindset about government entitlement services?
Of course it would. So much so, that it’s against the law for employers to do just that.  
So partly what has union bosses upset is the thought that members – teachers, let’s say – might realize they’re funding programs or political agendas they don’t support.
A Heritage Foundation study found that public school teachers’ average salaries roll in at $53,000. Private school teachers average $40,000.
We’re routinely told that public education is failing because salaries are too low to attract quality teachers. Yet, the majority of Americans, teachers included, would donate body parts to give their children a private education.
Public employees enjoy far greater benefits today than private sector workers. Part of the fight in Wisconsin is due to Gov. Walker’s desire to have public employees begin contributing to their own benefits in the same way private sector workers have forever.
Look, the nation’s in hock and most states’ budgets are in deep trouble. Yet public service workers seem not to care that we’re turnips.
They just continue to squeeze. Something is going to give.  Soon. When it does, I fear it won’t be pretty.
Jeffry Gardner
NM News Services