The repeal of much of Wisconsin’s collective-bargaining law with regard to many of Wisconsin’s public employees has not been adequately explained. This repeal will do more to improve the quality and lower the cost of Wisconsin government than anything else we’ve done. There are approximately 275,000 government employees in the state of Wisconsin. About 72,000 work for the state, 38,000 for cities and villages, 48,000 for counties, 10,500 (full time equivalent) for technical colleges, and 105,229 for schools. Only half of state employees are unionized, but almost all school employees are.
As you can see, the biggest impact will be on Wisconsin’s schools. Since my office has received the most complaints from school teachers, let’s look at how collective bargaining affects both the cost and quality of our schools.
Under current law, virtually all conditions of employment have to be spelled out in a collectively bargained agreement. Consequently, it is very difficult to remove underperforming school teachers. It may take years of documentation and thousands of dollars in attorney fees to fire a bad teacher. Is it right that two or three classes of second-graders must endure a bad teacher while waiting for documentation to be collected? Just as damaging is the inability to motivate or change the mediocre teacher who isn’t bad enough to fire. Good superintendents are stymied when they try to improve a teacher who is doing just enough to get by.