Election results posted last week report that just half of the Wisconsin public school unions associated with the largest association in the state have voted to re-certify for another year.
According to officials from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, about 97% of local education unions that tried to re-certify were successful in their attempt. That number accounts for about half of their local unions.
The other half did not try to recertify. They will still be able to exist as unions, but will not be allowed to meet with management or engage in collective bargaining.
The state holds an Act 10 law that requires public employee unions to win a re-certification election each year in order to allow the union to continue to bargain over wage increases. In order for that to happen, at least 51% of eligible voters must vote yes.
“Wisconsin education unions are alive and well, and advocating every single day for the students we serve,” said Betsy Kippers, a Wisconsin teacher serving as president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “In the local associations pursuing recertification, Wisconsin educators overwhelmingly stood strong to emphasize their collective voice. Local associations that chose not to hold recertification elections still exist and influence school culture – they aren’t going anywhere. Remember that recertification only affects a narrow scope of what a union does. The union exists wherever there are educators who want to work together to advance common-sense solutions in the best interest of our students and schools.”
This comes after teachers unions across the state tried unsuccessfully to oust Republican Governor Scott Walker, who had taken several steps to rearrange the state budget and funding for schools.
Walker defended his actions by stating that taxpayers will save $3 billion while also allowing school districts, as well as city and county governments, to hire and fire employees without concern for union contracts or benefits. Administrators were pleased with the move after more than $1 billion was cut from long-term pension obligations of public schools.
Teachers unions across the country targeted several other Republican governors for removal from office, including Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett. Snyder and Scott won re-election, while Corbett fell to Democrat challenger Tom Wolf.
While education is continually considered to be one of the top priorities among voters, the subject typically does not drive the casting of many ballots. This year however, schools saw an increase in voting, even more so in Wisconsin.
The state saw the second-largest reduction in per-student spending in the country at about $1,000 less per student than what was allocated in 2008.
When Walker was elected in 2010 he immediately took to cutting budgets and resisting the power of unions across the state.
Despite their failed attempt this election year, unions say they are not giving up.
“These kids deserve better. With the governor we have, they’re not going to get it,” said Rachel Meyer, a 55-year-old special education teacher in Merton, Wisconsin, who has seen her teaching assistants downgraded to part-time workers without benefits.