A Republican Teacher Responds to Governor Walker’s Anti-Union Attacks

So…you want to know what Scott Walker’s budget repair bill means to me. Well, it means that I’m thinking about retiring from a job that I love. I’m a music teacher in Wautoma, WI. Our school district has about 1500 students and today I got to direct about 350 of them in our spring musical. Many times I find myself thinking in terms of song lyrics. One of our songs was called “The Worst Day All Day Long.” For those of us in Wisconsin the last two months has felt like a year!

When we received the call to action we really stepped up for the fight of our lives. As a member of the Republican Educators’ Caucus I work with Republican legislators on bipartisan legislation to help our students. I voted for Governor Walker, but I now feel that he has ignored the fact that out of the 3.2 million National Education Association members, 1 million of them are registered Republicans. Is he trying to tell me that I can’t be a teacher and have Republican values? I don’t teach Democrats or Republicans. I teach the children!

My students need experienced teachers in their classrooms as well as new teachers with fresh ideas. There is a political ad running here in Wisconsin that tells of a young teacher who is described as one of the best teachers in her school, but she may have to leave Wisconsin to teach elsewhere because she doesn’t make as much as the “poor” teachers. This ad totally distorts our salary schedule. The reason she makes less money is because she is young and starts at the bottom of the salary schedule. It doesn’t mean the teachers above her on the scale are “poor” teachers it just means they have more experience in that district and have been loyal to the community and have made their lives there.

It’s these kinds of distortions that have really hurt the morale of the teachers in our district.

My thanks to all of you who have supported us in Wisconsin. We really appreciate it!

Pat Schmidt is a music teacher in Wautoma, Wisconsin, and a Republican member of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

Comments (38)

  1. I am glad people are speaking out, but I keep coming back to the fact that Walker did not hide the ideology that influences his decisions. Anyone looking at his record could see the sort of actions he had taken against public sector workers. Yet, they voted for him anyway. This is a perfect example of what happens when people vote for or against a party lable rather than actually taking time to see what the candidate stands for (and I mean what you can see through evidence of previous behaviors, not the sound bites that come out of their mouths.) what is even worse is those that don’t vote because they think all candidates are the same. Hopefully the nation will learn from Walker and the others of his I’ll how important it is to take the time to find out about the candidates. I sometimes think we spend more energy researching a roofer to work on our house than on the people who will govern us.

  2. I support public education and the civil right to unionize and belong to any social, religious, or political organization I choose. Public servants in many categories have contributed to the quality of life we have enjoyed- from power and water collection, creation, and distribution, road construction, to military, fire and police protection. And I feel the intimidation fostered by the anarchist Tea Party, just as I did with the later stages of the Moral Majority; wondering if I’m the only one frightened by their tactics. Although I’ve been preaching for years for a smaller government that will provide economic stability, protection (strong military), justice (non-partisan court system). and a fiscal responsible balanced budget; I now sign off as a proud RINO Barry Goldwater liberal/conservationist. One who has generally voted Republican at the local level, but is more apt to act like as an independent, especially for national offices. Thank you. North central WA

  3. Ooh…ooh…let me guess!
    Retire @50k+/yr FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
    Move to Florida cuz of the suppressive taxes on WI
    …how am I doin so far?

    • I have 30 years of experience in Michigan and get a huge $1466.00/mth pension.Wow I can live like a king! Plus medical…….. but that may be cut back and I pay $156.00/mth to have it. So with a masters plus 25 hours I will be making with SS almost $32000/year. Steve you are living in a dream world cultured by some elite millionaire to make you hate anyone who is making more or has more benefits then you. Shouldn’t we all not worry about how we will get along after retirement? Lets work together to make the nation a better place for all instead of a few! Stop killing people in war and start making the world better to all.

    • Not sure where you got your numbers, I am (being forced) to retire in Ohio after 25 years and my retirement will NOT be 50k. I pay more money in to my pension plan than my husband who pays in to social security and works in the private sector. His pay raises have always been more than mine and oh yes, he gets bonus payments. One other thing, he gets vacation pay, I get paid for the actual days I work–there is no such thing as vacation days for teachers. Stepping down from my soapbox!!!!

    • Not even close Steve–I know this teacher and you will not find a more dedicated one!! She is over the retirement age (in wisconsin it is 55 years of age) and our students will sorely miss her. She will not move to Florida or any other state as tied to the community as she is. The fact that you refuse to believe is that teachers are dedicated professionals—not a bunch of bomb throwing “private sector” workers that do not have a clue of what it takes to teach. Do your research and you will soon find out that the Republican talking points on education are all a bunch of false statements to get all of the “private sector underprivileged” workers all work up. We need to make life better for all of us by building people up and providing a truly livable wage instead of dragging people down just because “I don’t have it.”

    • Where are you getting your figures, Steve? I’m retired and not making near 50 K…

    • PRETTY POORLY!

    • Steve-this teacher has taught for 35 years and given the school district hour and hours of her time. She mentors young teachers and stays many many nights to help these young teachers with technology questions and problems along with doing her own work. She has worked to make her school district a better place for the students and the staff. You showed your ignorance by making the comments you did. She will not retire to Florida, but may need to take a job to help supplement her retirement income she has worked for, for 35 years. Just because we are teachers doesn’t mean we are rich or have great retirement packages. Many of us work long hard hours at school, at home and at second jobs to make ends meet and do our best for our profession and our families. Stop spreading the hate when you don’t know what you are talking about.

    • Your point is? Oh, yeah; just to be rude. Ooh ooh my bad.

    • I’m from California – a state touted as paying high salaries to teachers. I retired last year and am receiving a fabulous 1/2 of my annual salary in retirement pay. Add to that the expenses that I have to maintain my own medical, dental and vision coverage, and I am barely able to pay my personal expenses. I would LOVE to be earning 50K/yr for the rest of my life.
      I know the public views teachers as highly-paid, lazy babysitters — which couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, I have spent my career on a job from which I retired as a “poor teacher” who makes too much money due to the ministrations of a union who have no interest in seeing children educated.
      My salvation is the frequent messages I receive from the children I taught in the past 25 years thanking me for the impact I made on their lives. They know what I did for them — not some idiot in Washington who sends his children to private schools and wants the US taxpayer to help him pay that bill.

  4. Thanks for your comments Pat. I’m sure that like you many others believed that things could never get as nasty as they have. Right now it seems the Republican agenda has more to do with what’s best for the corporations and moneyed interests than for the well being of our nation. Public employees and teachers across the country are being stripped of their collective bargaining rights, and public employee unions are being asked to go through various hoops to collect dues in the hopes that there will be little energy or money left for political action for 2012. But we know that public employees and teachers raise their voices and will be there in force to vote for what’s right!

    Peggy Fullmer

    • Thanks for commenting Peg. It has been amazing to me that all of this has happened so quickly. Standing together is what’s keeping us strong. Hope to see you soon!

  5. Pat, thanks for the message!

    You would be welcome to join those of us that are fighting for your rights…as well as mine. I have recently lost my job, but was able to take retirement, so I have been very fortunate.

    I have been proud of the fact that Wisconsin allows us to vote either Republican or Democrat at every election and every issue. Because of the actions of Scott Walker and his cronies as well as the threats by those like the Koch Brothers I am now a card carrying Democrat. I will never vote for another Republican as long as these people do not care about the PEOPLE of the great State of Wisconsin and these United States.

    • Thanks for the comment Diane. This has been a hard time for me because I have worked with many fine Republicans. I resent it that this fight has again polarized us and the children are caught in the middle.

    • Diane, what threats “by those like the Koch Brothers” are you talking about? Also, who are “those” people?

      I’m a teacher, and I’m sick of hearing comments from liberal teachers. I’ve heard it all: name calling, propaganda with absolutely false statistics, and claims of entitlement. I have lost respect for some teachers who used to mentor and inspire me.

      I’ve been a teacher for eight years, and I can’t afford to buy a house. Why? It’s not because houses are too expensive right now. It’s because property taxes are too high.

      I applaud Paul Ryan and Scott Walker. Finally, local municipalities will be able to balance their budgets and begin to move toward fiscal responsibility. Teachers will be able to CHOOSE whether or not they want to join the union, and I will be able to use the money that would otherwise go toward my union to dues to help pay for my expensive property taxes.

  6. I understand you are feeling attacked. The governor is not attacking people directly, he is attacking financial problems which in turn indiscriminately hurts people. Your group is hurt the most because your group has not policed itself for decades. You need to fight within your union for equal pay for equal work. After a probationary training period all teachers doing the same job responsibility must be paid the same. Equal work for equal pay with small kicks for education achievements and yearly bonus for results. The younger teachers should be paid more and the older teachers should be paid less. This will eliminate the need for tenure because it will no longer be cheaper to get rid of an older teacher. And without tenure we can fire bad teachers. This is a start for your group to proof to us value and fairness, then the voting mass would not be against you. If you are a good teacher please stay and fight your own union and evolve it to somthing great.

    • Whoever you are…….no profession in the United States do you get paid less for your experience as you progress in one’s career! There would be no incentive to stay. In education, the experienced teachers lead the way in developing new and innovative changes in delivering curriculum and discipline techniques. Yes, new highly energized teachers bring new ideas and techniques but they learned those from older masters of education in colleges. Lets invent new ways to intregate those new teachers with the background of the older generations. 50% of new teachers quit because they can’t keep with with the students or the “old” teachers!

    • I appreciate your viewpoint. I just want to clarify that tenure does not mean that a person can’t be fired. All it means is that a school/district must show cause as to why they want to fire a teacher. Prior to tenure (anywhere from 2-4 years, typically), a teacher can be let go for any reason at all, with no explanation. After the probationary period, there needs to be a solid reason, backed by data, and a teacher needs to be given time to improve. If the due process is followed, then a teacher can be fired. This is all in the hands of the administrators. If they do their job, then there wouldn’t be a “bad” teacher anywhere.

    • Maybe you could learn to spell before your next comment!

    • Are you kidding?! Are you actually saying that older teachers should take a DECREASE in pay as they continue to work and gain experience?! In what job in this country does anyone expect to have a decrease in pay as they demonstrate loyalty and continued commitment to their career? That makes absolutely No SENSE! You sound like a complete idiot.

    • Tenure. What is tenure? We in education in Wisconsin do not get tenure. We can be fired at any time for just cause. As for your belief that the older teachers should get paid less. What? This does not happen in the private sector. Employees who have been with a company for a longer period usually earn more as a result of their expertise and longevity. They are often the employees that have opportunity for advancement. Why should a younger, less experienced teacher earn more than someone who has made a commitment to his or her employer. And yes, the governor is attacking educators and other public employees directly, and he is trying to mislead the people about his true intentions.

    • Thanks for commenting. As you suggested I am hoping to continue teaching and work to make WEAC even better. I think we are going to need experienced teachers in the fall as all of these changes will be overwhelming.

    • Why should someone who has worked for a district for 20+ years and carries a master’s degree be paid the same or less just because a younger teacher teaches the same number of students each day? If you work at Wal-mart you would be paid more as you stay with the company. Are you really saying you feel teachers shouldn’t have the same rights as an hourly worker as they stay with a company? REALLY!

  7. Yep. That’s how Ohio teaches feel about Kasich. Hard to know which is worse. Don’t know how the reasonable people of our country have been so misrepresented by some really awful people who are distorting facts and disregarding their constituents.

  8. Pat – I feel for you. Here is someone who you thought shared your values, but has proven that his only constituency is the powerful rich Republicans, not the middle class ones. I am disappointed in someone I voted for, too, but he is mostly trying to make my job harder, not trying to eliminate it. (A difference of degree.)

    This push to do away with older teachers has only to do with weakening the unions by eliminating those with knowledge and experience, saving money on higher salaries and higher medical insurance costs, and dismantling the public schools in favor of privatization (on which some can earn profits). It’s an assault on the checks and balances that unions provide. Keep fighting, Wisconsin!

  9. Pat ,
    You are a great example for the young teachers to follow. If you feel like retiring than do it. I am from Illinois but have a great person,my grandson’s wife, to cheer on. Her name is Marcia Beckett and all this political stuff is not doing her any good. And certainly not helping her students . I also am a Republican and I feel bad for all of you in WI.

  10. Thank you for your years at your JOB as a teacher. Maybe teachers should get paid by HOW they perform their JOB instead of getting paid because the Union says they should get THIS or THAT no matter how they do their JOB.
    There’s many out there that need jobs and I’ll bet they’ll work to do a good job at it.
    I wish you well.
    Being a teacher really has nothing to do with Republican or Democrat…..I think people are putting way too much on this because it is a CHANGE……and there are always some that will be hurt by change, but in the OVERALL scheme of things…………….. might be for the better!

  11. I absolutely love Pat Schmdt. I taught with Pat many moons ago in Wautoma and she was a great teacher. Pat has energy, compassion, and love for her job as a music teacher. Whatever she says is honest and heartfelt. When I first started teaching with Pat, in 1981, I was right out of college with a Masters Degree in Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities. My salary was $10,853 a year. I taught in the basement of the middle school lol. Loved that job, and learned lots. However, I wouldn’t go back in time if I could. Thank you Pat for writing such a great letter.

    • Hey Diane!
      Great to hear from you! Those days at Dafoe surely seem long ago now. The thing that has kept us all going is our relationships and the desire to not let each other down. My best to you!

  12. Experience != skill or talent as an educator. Salary should be based on teaching abilities, not how long someone has worked in a specific district. The problem lies in how teaching ability should be measured.

  13. Public sector employees police themselves all the time, I have a problem with comments without knowledge. Over the past few decades many public sector employees have given up raises in favor of keeping benefits. Now we will only be able to bargain for wages and our benefits are no longer in our hands. We are not “fat cats” living off tax payers, we pay taxes too! Teachers start around 30K and with 15 years of experience, a Masters degree, and 24 additional college credits we can top off around 65K. If we want that nice pension talked about, we must contribute more to it or have another account on the side. We have to renew our licence every 5 years (credits, endorsements, $) and are observed continually. Public sector employees took the cuts asked and on average that will be 4-7K less next year. This means a lot of money not being spent by them in their communities. We are loosing many of our veteran teachers and it will be hard to find replacements-who wants to spend 5 years in college to get paid 25K a year?

  14. Hello Pat,
    I also teach children and have come to realize that Walker and his Republican legislator supporters are more interested in their ideology than the people they claim to represent. How else can we explain what he is doing to children in the public schools, the teachers who teach them, Wisconsin citizens who must rely on Badger Care for health services, Wisconsin citizens who received limited tax credits because of their low income, green programs, and all our future children and grandchildren who will inherit the shambles left by the Walker vision of the world. We need to fight his mean spirited proposals that are aimed at creating in Wisconsin a society of a wealthy few and desperate many and we must fight them at every turn. You have inspired me by speaking out as you have and I can see we need to continue to communicate and organize our friends and working people throughout the state. We must communicate with each other and not allow Walker and the Koch Brothers to turn working people against each other. Even Walker and his supporters must appreciate the irony that their actions have proven the need for unions not just as a means of supporting teachers, but as a force to assure a good education and a just society for all the citizens of Wisconsin. I am with you!

  15. Pat, you are truly the greatest! I wish you all could have seen her elementary school musical this week. Those kids could SING!! And they learned it from her.

  16. My mother has been teaching for over 25 years in Indiana, and our family has long been conservative republicans, but lately I feel like the republican party has abandoned us. She is one of the most dedicated teachers I know. She usually doesn’t get home until 7:00 pm, because she spent the afternoon helping students with their homework or grading papers, and she has to work at least half of the summer getting her classroom ready for the next year, all of which is done on her own time. She is not even part of the union, but the union has stood up for her on several occasions. The thing I hate most about Walker’s bill, is that he isn’t even willing to negotiate it, just like how the democrats rammed through with Obamacare with no negotiation. It wasn’t right when the democrats did it then, and it isn’t right when the republicans are doing it now. Plus many of the republicans are acting like complete jerks to teachers, and are not even willing to have a civil discussion with them. My family and I will still vote republican, at least for the social issues, but we have lost some party patriotism

  17. What’s better than 14 runners? One Walker!!!

  18. I hope you don’t let this make you quit Pat. Ultimately I hope some solution can be found as we fall further behind in global education rankings.

  19. I have been working in education for about 20 years. I have paid my “low wage dues” for the first 15. Due to working part time (saving my district huge as I never had health care), I am now frozen at level 15. Well this means I’ll never see my long awaited longevity reward. My friends all made it. Thanks to Walker, I will have to make 9,000 less a year than them just because I didn’t quite get there. I have to work the next 14+ years and make 131,000 less than my equal counterparts. Hard pill to swallow when you’ve been looking at a pay scale for 20 years and the final reward you are so close to finally getting is yanked. Thanks to Walker, I’ll be taking a 25% pay cut indefinitely starting in 2013. Huge financial loss and completely unjust! With a master’s degree+ and 16 full time years experience, I’ll be stuck making what I made long ago! Just crushing!

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