Short meeting, short report.
I got there 15minutes late, a very sparse crowd, maybe 4-5 people who weren’t there in a professional capacity, more reporters than citizens. Strange.
I got special dispensation to testify and spoke briefly thanking staff and the Board for doing well under difficult circumstances and given the underlying structural issues, asked them to keep open minds on the use of the potential additional $10 million in revenue authority and identified a couple of places they should consider (addressing mobility and making supplemental allocations based on equity measures real again). I was told that three people testified; I’m not sure if that included me.
They wrapped up and that was it, over by 5:30. I ran into three friends afterwards who were on their way to the hearing. I told them they had another chance on Sunday.
I think there are a lot of factors at play in the lack of attendance and interest. Here are some:
- Everyone understands that their actions are constrained by state matters. In some way this is a victory, because not too long ago we heard a lot of “don’t whine about the state, there are local mismanagement issues that are the problem.” In some way this is a loss also. By far the biggest factor in the fiscal situation is a broken system of state finance aggravated by cuts in state aid and diminished local authority, but there are choices on many things in the Budget that are local and I believe some of these choices are problematic. When people rallied to protect their favorite programs or to keep their school open, they also became aware of and involved in these choices. I think that was good.
- They have generally done a good job under the circumstances.
- There is no “cut list” to excite interest.
- One friend said to me that “everyone I know is doing state stuff.” See number 1.
Like I said in an earlier post, I think there are still things worth advocating on, worth getting excited about.
There was some excitement around Ed Hughes’ proposal in the media today. Despite pleas from Dave Blaska this excitement did not translate into cyber-warriors actually bothering to attend the meeting and testify. As of now 116 comments on the Wisconsin State Journal story, most of them ill-informed and hostile.
The odd thing about so much of this that Ed has been a Board Member who has repeatedly pushed back at the Unions. Most of his new critics don’t know the history and don’t care to. Ed gets that there is a tension between the adversarial and collaborative aspects of the Board/Union relationship, and has on occasion pulled toward the adversarial more than I think is good. I’m not privy to the nuts and bolts of negotiations, but that’s the impression I have and certainly his budget amendment last year calling for a freeze in pay for non teacher MTI affiliate members backs up this impression.
Read these posts by Ed (1, 2, 3, 4) and his responses to Blaska at the above link to learn a little more about where he is coming from. He is not (as Blaska characterized) “cowed” by the Union, but he probably does have “conflicting emotions” because he understands the tensions and also understands that the district staff is the most important factor in fulfilling the mission of providing quality education to all students.
To me this amendment was a nice gesture. It doesn’t change much, it certainly doesn’t make up for the financial hits district staff are taking, but nice. It isn’t the kind of thing I’d propose, but it is something I could support.
I think it is sad that a relative few knee jerk anti-Union/anti-Teacher/anti-Public Education/anti-Public Sector trolls and flamers can create an atmosphere where a proposal like Ed’s doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Thomas J. Mertz