By Steve Gunn

MADISON, Wis. – It’s obviously re-election time for Wisconsin schools Superintendent Tony Evers, because he’s busy firing up his base.

In his annual speech on the state of public education Thursday, Evers claimed teachers are being unfairly targeted for public criticism and deserve more respect.

Evers, a Democrat, will be up for re-election next spring. He’s a Democrat who counts on the state’s teachers unions for a big part of his support. So of course he’s saying things that will please the unions and maximize their enthusiasm for his campaign.

Evers told his audience that Wisconsin residents should be alarmed when teachers are not valued in their communities, according to a story published by the Green Bay Press Gazette.

“No other profession deserves more respect,” Evers was quoted as saying. “No other profession is more responsible for securing our economic future.”

Certainly teachers deserve respect, in Wisconsin and across the nation. But if teachers in the Badger state have a public relations problem, they have nobody to blame but themselves. They’ve allowed their state and local union leaders to call the shots for too long, and the unions have demonstrated very little concern for the financial health of school districts or the academic fate of students.

In early 2011 thousands of teachers from all over the state abandoned their students to join the union march on the state capitol to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to limit collective bargaining. By doing so they demonstrated that their commitment to their unions was stronger than their commitment to their students, and the entire state noticed.

The teachers unions wasted millions of state dollars by forcing the June recall election against Walker, less than halfway through his first term. Voters backed Walker in the election and undoubtedly resented the union’s self-serving effort to remove an effective leader from office.

Wisconsin residents also remember how the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers unions, pressured local school board to purchase overpriced employee health coverage from WEA Trust, an insurance company owned by the union itself.

Schools wasted millions on the WEA Trust monopoly until Walker ended union domination of the school insurance industry.

There are thousands of great teachers throughout Wisconsin, but until they ditch their unions and negotiate for compensation like independent, degreed professionals, they will never get as much respect as they deserve.

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