Gov. Scott Walker says the changes he has rammed through the Legislature will give school districts and local governments “the tools” they need to withstand the severe cuts in state aid his budget will deliver. What he doesn’t get into is how the tensions caused by his agenda will divide the members of these bodies, as they have the state as a whole.
One example of this is the Madison school board, where disagreements over the impact of Walker’s actions have spurned an ugly exchange, in which school board member Lucy Mathiak lobbed an F-bomb at a fellow board member, Marj Passman.
The exchange happened yesterday, March 14. Passman was contacted by a Madison school teacher who felt Mathiak had been dismissive of the teacher’s concerns, urging her to “get over yourself.” Passman, who allows that board members have been deluged with angry emails, says she expressed to Mathiak that she agreed this response was a little harsh.
Suzanne Fatupaito, a nurse’s assistant in Madison schools, is fed up with Wisconsin Physicians Service, the preferred health insurance provider of Madison Teachers Inc.
“MTI uses scare tactics” to maintain teacher support for WPS, Fatupaito recently wrote to the school board. “If members knew that another insurance [plan] would offer similar services to WPS and was less expensive – it would be a no-brainer.”
WPS, with a monthly price tag of $1,720 for family coverage, is one of two health coverage options available to the district’s teachers. The other is Group Health Cooperative, costing $920 monthly for a family plan.
During the past year, the Madison school board has reached agreements with other employee groups to switch from WPS to HMO plans, with most of the savings going to boost pay.
In December, the board held a secret vote in closed session to give up its right to seek health insurance changes should negotiations on the 2007-09 teachers contract go into binding arbitration. (The board can seek voluntary insurance changes during negotations.)
Lucy has been a long time friend and I have long appreciated her activism on behalf of students, the schools and our community.