'WEAC back to drawing board'

Published on: 11/24/2012

The morning Journal Sentinel had a front page story titled “WEAC back to drawing board” with a sub-title of “Union ponders role in post-bargaining era”.

Among some of the more interesting points is the fact that at least a third of WEAC’s members have left the organization.  Also featured was the comment about the loss of the automatic deduction for its members.  All this causes one to wonder if the damage done to WEAC isn’t actually greater than would be suggested if a third of members left the union.  What isn’t spoken is how many of those who are still counted as members are also paying their dues on a regular basis or maybe at diminished levels.

But, the item that piqued my interest most was the fact that WEAC has called a ‘special assembly’ to decide just how WEAC fits into the future, if it fits into the future.  The last time such a ‘special assembly’ was held was in 1972.  The union, since that special assembly, has been focused on “bargaining for hours, wages and working conditions that are favorable toward teachers”. 

Given the effect that Act 10 has had on the workplace, the union is trying to determine how best to reinvent itself and is leaning toward scrapping the ‘top down’ approach where it forced its ideas on the state legislature and the school systems through its network of lobbyists and union officials.  It is now thinking that it will only survive if it can prove itself to be in favor of a ‘grassroots’, or bottom up approach.

This suggests that a ‘one-size fits all’ strategy finally may well give way to an approach that permits communities to determine, with their local educational boards’ and teachers’ input, what really is desired for and will work best for the students in that community.  In that regard, the Milwaukee Teacher’s Education Association president, Bob Peterson, has been pushing his plan to “re-imagine the MTEA”.  He is also on record as wanting to make best use of the judicial slow walk now going on to gain as much as is possible through negotiations with the board, reminiscent of the recent MATC deal struck between all-too-willing partners since the union controlled that board.

Maybe, just maybe, the students will be the real beneficiaries of Act 10 along with the educators and parents of each school district if we see a true ‘bottom up’ approach utilized where curriculum and teaching approaches are decided at home rather than in Madison, and if that means further diminishment of WEAC’s role, so be it.  That would then be paired with the compensation approach determined by each system to best reward the capable professionals in each system while also permitting the release of those who prove to be less capable.  A one-size-fits-all compensation system simply does nothing to reward those who are best at what they do.  Instead, those who are truly stand-outs ought to be recognized with something more than a pat on the back for those jobs well done.  The socialization of compensation structures through a top down approach has done nothing for educational quality nor has it done anything to reward the best teachers.  It has served to protect the mediocrity that almost certainly exists in most systems to one degree or another.