being a teacher, education reform, government

Dear Scott Walker

I can’t afford to be a teacher anymore, at least not if what is proposed here in Wisconsin gets passed.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not a teacher because of the money, I am not a fool after all, but if I lose 17% of my already insanely low salary, I cannot afford to remain a teacher.

I cringe at saying those words aloud, but the facts remain, if I want my child to go to daycare so that my husband and I can work to pay for our bills, then teaching does not let me do that.  We speak of wanting another child, yet know that on my salary today, it would be a far stretch with extra hours picked up wherever possible.  If my salary is cut, there will be no second child, no house mortgage and certainly nothing extra.

So the debate within me begins; can I give up what I so passionately believe that I was meant to do?  Do I even have a choice anymore if my salary is reduced and frozen?  I have been willing to sacrifice almost all of my social life to dedicate myself to the craft of teaching, but at some point, the realization hits that it will not just be time I am sacrificing but the ability to pay our bills.

So dear governor of Wisconsin, you may think that you are solving the problems, but who will you get to teach the children?  Who will have the luxury of being a teacher when they cannot afford to anymore? You speak of us as if we are using the system, stealing money from children who need health insurance, while you cut taxes for businesses.  Who will educate the future workers of Wisconsin?  Who will buy the goods of all those companies you lure to our state at the promise of less money taken from them?  Who will want to raise their children here when we slash funding and stifle the voice of teachers.  We do not have a lot, but what we have, you want to take away.

So that is where I stand.  Blamed for the deficit, blamed for why we cannot beat China in test scores, and blamed for why America is slipping in its world rankings.  One teacher with all the blame at her feet.  I wonder what will happen when the teachers cannot be blamed anymore, who will be next?

27 thoughts on “Dear Scott Walker”

  1. This makes me very sad. I hope the state legislature has a few Republicans that will not just rubber stamp this foolishness. I don't have much hope. I know that I'm not going to consider having any children for a long while after my pay is cut. (I'm support staff in a Wisconsin municipal job.)

  2. Well said PR. This is unbelievable. I am a principal and I look at all the hard-working people at my school and just feel terrible for all involved. Many of my staff chose education instead of other higher-paying jobs, because they wanted to make a difference for kids and families. They knew that going into education would not be a high-paying affair, but they could take care of their families with the good benefits that are part of the compensation. Many times, union groups would forego wage increases in order to keep benefits. Sad, sad, sad.

  3. I am so sad to read this letter. I have been teaching for 15 years and have no desire to do anything else. I am good at what I do and I am determined to continue….but at what cost? You are so correct when you say that he acts as though we are stealing from others. How much of his own salary and benefits has he cut? Why do the businesses get all the tax cuts?

  4. I'm right there with you. I have two children and our day care bill per week is unreal. I have no clue how we will afford life if this is passed. You are an outstanding writer, and I wish I knew you as a colleague. I teach English at Watertown High School.

  5. Thank you each and every one of you for reading this. I am not trying to be dramatic but only honest in the financial situation my family would be placed on if I lost more of my income. So to those people who think that we as teachers only work 9 months out of the year and have it so easy, why don't you ask a teacher what their life is really like?I am saddened that one man can take away so much from so many people and hide it under the pre-tense of saving our budget. I know I am not alone in this fight for our rights, our voices must be heard in a way that does not harm our students and yet helps us protect our rights. I encourage you to reach out to the governor and tell him how you feel.

  6. Anyone interested in going to Madison to attend peaceful rallies on Tuesday and Wednesday can contact their area representatives in the link below to arrange a free bus ride there and back on either or both days. The point of the rally is not to protest Walker or even to express concern about wages and benefits. It is solely to peacefully express concern about this proposed bill taking away the right of workers to bargain collectively. Everyone is welcome, but teachers and state workers, the call is really out to you to bring your families and show your support for worker's rights. It's your chance to participate in something that matters to many of your friends and neighbors and hopefully to you to. Your area contact is in the link below if you want to arrange to ride one of the buses. These are free rides. get involved. They are voting on this next week and if it passes it will chance labor rights in our state forever.

  7. This makes me sad to hear. It is a shame when those who are passionate and willing to do what it takes to make a difference can't afford to do it. In some parts of the world teachers are so well respected – parents and communities value what they do and recognize that financially and with a great deal of honour and respect. Why it this not true in North America? Why are we viewed so disposable? We are educating the entire next generation? That's a great deal of responsibility! But i'm not sure I can't find the answer for the string of "Why"s that exist here.I work in Canada, so I'm not sure how teachers salaries compare in the US. Is it like this in every state?

  8. This is coming to every state. First they will threaten you with reductions in pension, increased employee contributions, and pay freezes. The unions will go to bat to save what is important. The bargaining chip the legislatures will throw out is to get rid of tenure and make evaluation a "value" added measure. Just watch.

  9. The problem is that people blindly vote along party lines. We're about to be in the same boat in KS, due to the fact that we're a 'red' state. The sheep go to the polling stations and put their checkmarks next to any 'R's they can find. Then they go home and watch some more Fox news.

  10. What's equally sad about this situation is that it doesn't happen to every educator. There are some districts in the US where teachers make almost a hundred thousand dollars! Talk about educational inequality.I am so glad I work in a part of the world where teachers are valued for their work, and paid appropriately.I recommend joining those rallies and seeing if you can organize parents & students to do the same.

  11. Agreeing with Anonymous about voting along party lines. Several of my friends/staff voted for Walker because they always vote for Republicans, believing that they are the party that best represents them in terms of anti-abortion, pro gun rights, religion, the Constitution, less taxes. In my opinion, these issues are all very minor for the GOP, who seem to be all about pleasing the wealthy. These issues are just a way to get support from the middle/lower class in order to get the votes they need to push the agenda of the greedy millionaires. (An important aside: Not all millionaires are greedy. I know of some right in my own community who gladly support our schools and other worthy causes/institutions.) My GOP friends were truly shocked by last week's announcements and you could sense their dismay about the man they supported and voted for. Sadly, Walker is following through on what he said he'd do.So what to do now? Contact your State Senators and let them know what this could do to your schools, students, staff, and other public employees. There are Republican Senators who listen and care about our concerns. Senator Kapanke from my district is a good man and I have heard from many educators about Senator Luther Olson. Speak up people and don't let everything fall to the lobbying efforts from WEAC. Real voices from real people will have the biggest effect.

  12. Please give me a break!!!! Welcome to the real world!!! One where you are expected to carry your end of the deal, pay your fair share. You work less than 9 months out of the year yet you are compensated for a full year!! I would love a gig like that!! You don't like your compensation package? Go find something else to do then!! I have no problem paying good qualified teachers what they deserve and cut the slackers loose.You have the best insurance package available, and yet you complain about having to pay a little bit more for your coverage? As I said before, don't like it? Find a different area of work, you can and will be replaced by someone who would appreciate and love a chance to teach.I agree that it takes a talented gifted and special person who loves gives and loves to give of themselves to be a teacher. My father taught in the MPS for over 30 years. Yet he never complained or whined like the teachers do now. He saw it as a chance to change lives and to sow into them knowledge and a good sense of morals and values!!!If this is how you feel I would feel better off if you were not in the classroom teaching my children.

  13. Does anyone understand that most people function with out benefits of any kind? We pay our own pensions if we have them. A huge amount of people in Wisconsin work for minimum wage if they have a job at all? I know of teachers that work for 1/3 of the wage that unionized teachers make. The state of Wisconsin is 3.6 Billion dollars in debt! What do you suggest to cut costs? Cut 1,200 workers in the state is another solution. Or why don't we just cut medical benefits to the poor children living in poverty instead? Its not like you still can't negotiate a salary of like 40 or 50 thousand dollars. Give me a break! Like you can't pay a pension and healthcare with that. At 6 and 12 percent for those as proposed that would be like 5K. Get Real. Most of us are living on 15k a year period.

  14. I think it is incredible how hateful people can become, and the fact that the myth persists that teachers get paid for a full year of work. No we don't, we get paid for 180 days of work. And yes, there are any talented people that would love my job, unfortunately with what our governor is proposing he is going to be pushing people away from wanting my job. I have no problem paying more for healthcare and retirement, what I have a problem with is my pay not keeping up with those requirements. so while the real world gets to have proper compensation packages we are just expected to pay more and more, not get raises, and lose our collective bargaining rights? Like said, once this is pushed through, who is next?I love comparisons to older times, you cannot compare the two; they didn't face the same blame or money difficulty as teachers now do.I am saddened that people will continue to blame union workers or teachers for all of our financial difficulties. I support raising taxes, raising the sales tax and closing business loop holes and in the long run I think those are much more viable solutions than what the governor is proposing. If you do not realize what unions have do for all labor, then you, are indeed, the fool.

  15. I have a 2 daughters. One teaches 2nd grade and another who is in college and hopes to teach high school if there is even a job for her. They both could have done anything with their lives, but they were passionate about making difference in a child's life. My daughter who has a job stays 2 1/2 hours extra every day because they have no planning time during the day and she goes in every weekend for 3/4 hours. She is not alone because there are many more like her. They get home at night and spend even more time correcting papers. Those people who think teachers only work 9 month do not get it. They put in a year's worth of work in that time and they still must continue to take additional classes.These teachers are not whining but should they just sit back and let one man take away what they have worked for. How does it seem fair to take away their bargaining rights by breaking the union. Who will stand up for them then. What has happened to freedom of speech when he talks about readiness of the National Guard. You have got to be kidding. Perhaps they need to look at where the real waste is. Do we need 99 assembly men, do we need stuff that is paid for with grants, do we need all the millions of dollars of earmarks.We need to dig deeper and not allow teachers to be the sacrificial lambs.g .

  16. Dear Padovano'sI could see you got very excited over this! One comment strikes me as very interesting; you would gladly pay good qualified teachers, but that is exactly what is not happening here. Don't you see your own contradiction? So while I am pretty sure I will never teach your children, I hope that they do get great teachers that can afford to remain teachers after our rights are stripped and our pay cut even more.

  17. There are 2+ sides of the camp, and you clearly have stated that you are for higher taxes, biz taxes, more regulation etc. Well, “your side lost”, as your leader has said.Well, clearly “tax and spend” will not work for much longer. Working people pay 30%+ of their incomes in taxes. Most companies pay way over 50% of profits in taxes. We have 10% unemployment. $14Trillion of debt means your child has inherited tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. The fiscal situation of this nation simply cannot support more spending. Cuts have to be made, and unions & previous admins did nothing to curtail the spending. If you want a second child you will need to work summers and holidays. You are legally correct in that you work ~180 days. That leaves another 180 days for working. Your second child is a choice YOU have to make based on your resources. Taxpayers aren’t responsible for you having more children, nor for your mortgages, etc. If you want a dozen children, do I have to pay you ten times your salary? Why shouldn’t YOU pay for my second child? If you lose 10% of your pay, that seems a good deal compared to 10% layoffs. Most unionist would prefer the layoffs as long as they get their 10% paycheck.You have a lousy attitude, but unfortunately your attitude has pervaded this country.

  18. Maybe it is time for the contra-T-bag movement. We need to mobilize and make sure that no more republicans (small r on purpose) are elected to office. They are truly unAmerican: no workers right just like Russia! No more middle class…only small group of very wealthy and very large group of very poor.

  19. It is sad to me that the divide and conquer politics are working. This is not public vs private, but all workers together. There has been no hiding from the recession, all of us have had to tighten our belts or even worse. This is not "fair" as Gov. Walker says,it is union busting. I work extra jobs already for those of you who are wondering but I am also wondering where all of these extra jobs are located that I am supposed to work? Lord knows we could use some here in Madison. It is most interesting how people keep arguing that public workers need to start paying too, like we haven't been. Of course we have, we have taken pay cuts, less funding, and less benefits already. One thing is asking for concessions through mutual bargaining, another things is to dictate it and then take away all rights to bargain. The big issue here is stripping unions of power and if you fail to see how this will affect everyone, public or private sector then you are sadly dislusional.

  20. All….are you KIDDING me?? I am currently un employed. My husband has to pay a hefty sum for our insurance, plus we pay out of our pocket in addition to that…neither of us gets to do any kind of bargaining.We certainly don't get "work days" to do our work without interruptions, we dont get two weeks off at Christmas, a week at Easter and various "convention" days which are optional….It is time for the public workers of Wi to realize they are not really under paid. Start taking surveys. We are all in the same boat and I don't appreciate paying others to get automatic raises no matter if they are good at their jobs or not and for them to get crazy good insurance and pensions when many of us can't even find a job.We all have to pitch in during these tough times. It may not be nice, but it is reality!Do you all want to pay in excess of % of your wages in taxes? If social workers or CNAs did this who would take care of our eldery or troubled people???Concerned Cathy

  21. When the economy is down people in the private sector struggle too. We've been dealing with economical problems including health care and 401k long before now. If you would rather get laid off that would work for the state too; what's your decision?

  22. a good percentage of the public workers voted for Scott walker because they backed the tea partiers and were against health care reform. The public workers did not have to pay for their healthcare it was paid for by wisconsin tax payers. it seems hypocritical to me that the americans who have healthcare are against the reform. You thought your benefits were protected and you voted Republican. Next time vote democrat…I live florida iam a democrat and i look around and see people whining about our Republican governer and i tell them you got what you deserve…

  23. I find myself both violently agreeing with you and feeling guilty. About three weeks ago, with looming budget cuts, I withdrew my highly-capable daughter from public school and placed her in a private Catholic school. And we are not even remotely Catholic.I think de-funding trained, talented educators is nuts. Normally, public school teachers bear 99% of the effort to educate the next generation. And the next generation are the future teachers, physicists, mathematicians, police, doctors, lawyers, researchers, psychiatrists, CEO's, software engineers, politicians…Some families (a very small minority, as far as I can tell, even in my high-net-worth neighborhood) actually contribute to academics after school. Most do not. I know what teachers use collective bargaining rights for. Smaller class sizes, newer textbooks, more training days, more planning days, more funding, and by the way a cost-of-living increase. These things keep clases learning. I would disagree if a district used teacher union seniority as a *sole* basis during layoffs, but I don't believe they do.I took my daughter out of public school, and feel guilty that my local school has one less student to count for funding. But, with class sizes potentially pushing 40 next year, stripping union rights, eliminating planning days… I'm going to have to make the decision to spend her college money *right now* or risk the chance that I'll never spend it because she won't be eligible to go. So, I'm behind teachers nine million percent. If the teachers ran the school funding and education, it would be a no brainer.But, now… I can't trust my Washington politicians about education – not any further than i can spit a Buick.

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