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April 16, 2012

1)  Working Conditions Are Terrible for Teachers in [Nearby City]. Since there's a recall going on, it won't surprise you to learn of a stink between the Wisconsin Education Association Council and Gov. Scott Walker. I'll let the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel explain:

At issue is a statewide survey of superintendents conducted by the Department of Public Instruction and the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators in the fall of 2011. That survey produced results making the state of schools appear better now than in years past, at least in comparison to results of anonymous surveys the union collected from superintendents before Walker took office.

WEAC no longer stores the old surveys on its web site, and the governor's staff thinks the union is trying to hide something. As political disputes go, this isn't much of one. I doubt you'll find a survey of public employees conducted by other public employees that reveals everything is great, there's more than enough money to go around, and we are a damn happy group of individuals. So comparing them isn't going to provide any substance.

But in researching the history of this battle over the surveys, I came across something much more illuminating and - let's face it - entertaining.

When the governor first began making his claims of improved schools last fall, WEAC reacted in the traditional manner - by drawing up talking points. One memo, dated November 29, is still posted on the web site of the West Allis-West Milwaukee Education Association. It's not unusual, until you get to the sample statement/press release that locals were supposed to use as a model. I repost it here in its entirety - warts and all:

Governor Walker Is Hurting Our Schools and Students


The facts are clear, based on the release of a state survey of superintendents showing that the governor's extreme cuts to schools has resulted in larger class sizes and cuts to important programs for students.


"Clearly Governor Walker's $1.6 billion-dollar education cut is having an adverse impact on our schools and students across the state," said [name, title/role with school and union position].


"Wisconsin has had a long tradition of valuing our public schools and supporting our students. Even in times of economic hardship and state budget problems, we have prioritized our schools and our kids," [he/she] added.


But now, Governor Walker and the Republicans in the state legislature have cut 1.6 billion dollars from public school funding. These cuts have had a profound impact on public schools and students across the state. "Across the state there are 1,655 fewer teachers, 765 fewer aides, 776 fewer education support professionals - the result larger class sizes, fewer opportunities for students and less help for students who are struggling." Important programs in art, music, and physical education have been cut back or eliminated in 47 percent of the state's school districts.


Governor Walker claims that the cuts to public school teachers' benefits have improved our schools, but we see in our schools every day that that is not true. "You cannot cut $1.6 billion from Wisconsin public schools and not hurt our students," [last name] said.


(Localize the following paragraph - if the local union leader is unable to be quoted with a statement about what's happening in their district - consider quoting the UniServ Director for this section)


According to [name/title], school districts are feeling the pinch at a local level. In [district], the special education department has cut four teachers. In [Nearby City], 2nd grade classes now have 35 kids with no aides to help students who are struggling to understand key concepts. In [Small Town] art has been eliminated for all elementary students. Teachers are doing their best to do more with less, but with cuts of this size, students are being hurt.


For more information about what's happening in school districts across the state, visit SpeakOutWisconsin.


# # #


The [local name] proudly represents dedicated public education employees in [community] by amplifying their voices to ensure [district] maintains highquality public schools.

Running various phrases through Google, it doesn't look like anyone took advantage of this education policy Mad Lib for a press release. But keep your eyes open, [name of Wisconsin reader]. The next time you see published remarks from [local union officer] in the [daily newspaper] of [Nearby City], they may just be the parroted words of some [adjective] [adjective] [noun] at WEAC headquarters.

In the meantime, if you ever find yourself in Nearby City, enjoy your stay.

2)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from April 10-16:

*  NEA "Disappears" Warren Buffett's Secretary. Screaming headlines vanish...

Last Word from NEA on Buffett Story. ...replaced by "clarification."

Education Jobs Rank in Middle of Pack. College-educated. Underpaid. Overworked. One of the worst jobs in America. Yes, we're talking about... newspaper reporters.

*  West Virginia Education Association Tries to Hire House Speaker. Why not formalize in West Virginia what's all-but-formalized in Wisconsin?

The Inside Poop at NEA HQ. Bullies and bellies.

3)  Quote of the Week #1. "I can get the signatures internally. I can go to the unions. I don't even need to go out to the streets." - Nevada AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Danny Thompson, explaining his plan to place a business profits tax initiative on the state ballot. (April 10 Las Vegas Sun)

Quote of the Week #2. "Pechthalt says that 'very few' of the signatures for the more progressive measure were collected by volunteers - rather, almost all came from paid signature-gatherers." - Reporter Josh Eidelson, quoting California Federation of Teachers president Joshua Pechthalt about the union's millionaire tax initiative. (April 9 In These Times)


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