My klout score is higher than James Wigderson's, so I suppose I could just let this slide and try to sleep tonight with an asploded head. But instead, let's catalogue the ways he gets wiggy with the facts instead. (A primer on this fisking can be found in this post.)
- [W]hen MPS asked the union to make concessions in the pension plan to mitigate the loss of state and federal aid, the teachers union refused.
False. The district knew federal stimulus funds were drying up, and they predicted that a likely Republican majority in Madison would trim the expected increase in per-student funding. So they asked the union to make concessions and we did.
- Protecting the benefits of the union’s most senior members will result in the unemployment of 200 of the union’s members with less seniority.
False. It is the near trillion-dollar gutting of public education--and shared revenue and other programs--by the GOP that is resulting in pink slips all over the state.
- Last October, at the height of the race for governor, Thornton and the teachers union reached a tentative agreement on a contract through 2013. [. . .] Due to the health care contribution and a freeze in teacher pay for the first year, the estimated savings over the next two years was $50 million.
Again, a mangling of the facts. Base pay was frozen in that contract for two years, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. The savings over 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 will be nearly $95 million. And in expectation that the federal money will end, a lot of positions funded by that were set to be eliminated. That's part of why there were 1000+ positions eliminated, but only about 500 announced layoffs.
- [T]he contract agreement was at a time of a great fiscal crisis at the state level.
Additionally false. It has been pretty well documented that Wisconsin is not, in fact, broke. If we were broke, why would Scott Walker and the GOP be offering
hundreds of millionsbillions in tax breaks?
- Now the school board and Dr. Thornton find themselves asking the teachers union to agree to the same pension contributions asked for by Walker. These contributions would be at the same level WEAC President Mary Bell said were never a problem, 5.8% of the teachers’ salaries. Of course the MTEA said no to Thorton’s request.
First, let's dispense with the newspeak. It's not a new pension contribution--the pension contribution doesn't change, as it is set by state law at 11.6%. (The state likes to guarantee minimum income to its top-notch pension program.) It's a 5.8% salary cut, is what it is, and I won't call it anything else. It says something about what Wiggy and his ilk believe about their own position that they lack the guts to come right out and say they think teachers are paid too much. Man up, James. Just say it.
But second, the union did not say no. The union said it would be happy to negotiate a salary give back once the power to negotiate was restored by the legislature.
For as much as Wiggy insinuates that unions should have known collective bargaining would disappear, he forgets that, you know, we were all watching, and it wasn't that long ago. No one, not a single legislator or administration employee, said a single word about making collective bargaining between public employees and their employers illegal. Period.
Further, when Mary Bell and other union leaders said unions would agree to the salary cuts, they said that's why you don't need to eliminate collective bargaining. If unions are allowed to sit down with employers and hammer out a deal, they will. Instead, the GOP ignored Bell and others making that offer--we'll agree to cuts so stop the attack on bargaining--and now they and Wiggy expect unions to still fold. There is a response to that I'd like to offer, but this is a family blog. (Though I will say, Wiggy is Gop in the puppy story.)
- In the case of the Milwaukee teachers union, this is the same union that in 2010 was willing to let 480 teachers go rather than switch health care plans.
Switching health care plans would not have saved the kind of money the simple-minded media suggested it would. In addition, almost every single one of those teachers was recalled, after Dr. Thornton took a look at real needs and the actual budget available. He stood up for teachers when his predecessor would not.
- This is also the same teachers union still fighting to get taxpayer-funded Viagra included in their prescription drug plans.
This is just a bald lie.
- Surely some teachers [sic] jobs could be saved if they privatized food service, painting and other services and cut down on the Administrative bloat, for example.
False again. MPS food service runs a surplus, for example, and the budget this year makes larger cuts to administration, relatively, than to teaching.
- Or, maybe MPS will see this as a good reason to sell off a few empty buildings.
What, does Wiggy not check the daily? Is his Bing broken? MPS is well on the way. In addition, the cost of those excess buildings is a pittance--barely ten teachers' worth.
Oh, and the title of Wigderson's piece:
- Most MPS layoffs could have been avoided.
Why yes, yes they could have. But Wiggy's looking in the wrong place for blame. The GOP misdirected voters for an entire campaign season about their intentions for schools, for unions, and for the middle class in Wisconsin. He can't bring himself to be honest about that, either.