Word is out today on the number of layoffs issued by my employer, the Milwaukee Public Schools, and it is a large number indeed: More than 500 positions total, including 354 teachers. (Updated to add, there's a workshop for laid-off teachers July 21 [pdf].)
Let's be clear about something: When the MTEA, our union, settled the teacher contract with MPS last fall, we did so making nearly $50 million in concessions. That is significant sacrifice to this point already, and, as I have noted before, that $50 million in concessions was enough to mean no (or very, very few) layoffs based on a reasonable projection--even a slightly pessimistic projection--of what the 2011-2012 budget would be.*
Scott Walker laid a budget on Wisconsin's schools that was nearly a billion dollars short of what schools were expecting. All districts, all over the state. Even though MPS and its union had bargained an agreement that left MPS on sounder footing than usual, particularly given the layoffs of last summer, Walker and the Republicans in the legislature tied the hands of MPS by cutting nearly $80 million from its projected budget. After MTEA conceded $50 million--worth nearly 500 teachers--suddenly we were expected to sacrifice more.
Which is not to say that we couldn't have. As I argued on this very blog and privately with MTEA leaders, there were things we could give up that would not mean significant additional hardship but that might save some of our colleagues' jobs. The Board and MPS are not the problem here, and pretending that they are doesn't help; taking a stand to draw attention to the damage being done to the state's educational system by the Walker-Fitzgerald regime doesn't keep my class sizes down.
But the point of this post is simply this: Everyone who says MTEA didn't try to save its teachers is a bald-faced liar. A pants-on-fire liar. And vilifying the wrong people.
* The "School Zone" blog post linked above does not mention this negotiation or the fact that MPS was on relatively sound footing before the massive budget cut from the state was announced. We'll see if the full story in tomorrow's paper, or any of the sure-to-be sensational coverage on TV, addresses the previous concessions. We already know talk radio is pretending it didn't happen.