Wisconsin Teachers Protest Ed Budget, Union Cuts

Governor's proposal would strip teachers of their union bargaining rights

ByABC News
February 17, 2011, 1:58 PM

Feb. 17, 2011— -- Thousands of students across Wisconsin have the day off, again, as teachers continue to protest Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to limit their union bargaining rights.

Roughly 30,000 protestors gathered in Madison on Wednesday and thousands continue to pour into the state Capitol today. At least 15 school districts across the state cancelled class Thursday as teachers threatened to stay home or called in sick.

"We've seen student walk outs, faculty teach-ins, citizens setting up camp overnight in the rotunda. Since Monday, spontaneous rallies have popped up in every corner of the state, denouncing Walker's extremist agenda," the president of the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin, Bryan Kennedy explained.

"The people of Wisconsin are crying out for democracy - democracy in the workplace, and democracy in the halls of our state capitol. Let's hope our legislators have the wisdom to listen," he said.

Walker's proposed changes, which are part of a budget repair bill introduced on February 11, would strip workers of the right to bargain over anything other than wages, which could not rise faster than the Consumer Price Index. Teachers and other state workers would also no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits.

Walker defended the bill on Wednesday, posting on Twitter. "This is all about balancing the budget."

The Republican governor put forth the bill in an effort to curb the state's budget shortfall; Wisconsin is facing an immediate deficit of $137 million for the current fiscal year which ends July 1.

"We must take immediate action to ensure fiscal stability in our state," Walker said when he announced the bill last week. "This budget repair bill will meet the immediate needs of our state and give government the tools to deal with this and future budget crises."

The bill passed the legislature's budget-writing committee just before midnight on Wednesday with no Democratic support.

The biggest teachers' union in the state, however, claims the legislation will strip away the rights of workers.