KENOSHA, Wis. – Kristi Lacroix is one of those rare public school teachers who has the courage to say what others privately think: Organized labor has been bad for education.
She first popped her head up from the trenches in 2011, as union teachers from all over Wisconsin were flooding the statehouse grounds in Madison. They were angry about Act 10, a new law signed by Gov. Scott Walker that took away most of the collective bargaining privileges their union had been abusing for decades.
But Lacroix didn’t join the protest. Instead she filed a legal amicus brief in support of Walker and Act 10. A few months later she appeared in a statewide television ad supporting the governor’s policies.
“I was upset that the union was spending my money on political activity that I did not agree with, and I was not receiving any answers as to the distribution of funds,” Lacroix told EAGnews. “I became a fair-share member (of the union) and asked for a copy of the union’s audited budget. I was given the run around.
“I contacted the National Right to Work Foundation and asked them if they could help me. I also asked them what I could do to speak for myself regarding the union’s lawsuit against Walker and Act 10. Walker’s people must have heard about this and they asked me if I would be willing to appear in a TV ad.”
That appearance prompted hundreds of angry union members to send ugly emails to Lacroix. An absurd rumor was published on a left-leaning website claiming she had been a featured speaker at a Ku Klux Klan rally.
Online publications have accused her husband of “extorting money,” even though his job doesn’t involve the handling of funds. Others have posted the names of her children, her address and phone number, basically inviting more harassment.
She’s read online postings from teachers in her own building, referring to her as “Judas” or a “scab.”
But LaCroix has shrugged off the abuse. If anything, it’s made her even more determined to let Wisconsin residents know that all teachers don’t think alike.
She agreed to be interviewed in a recent EAGnews documentary titled “Anarchy 101: How Wisconsin’s Left Embraces Chaos.” The video explains how the Wisconsin Education Association Council and other public sector unions have happily joined forces with radical left-wing figures in their effort to recall Walker and overturn Act 10.
Lacroix also appeared on Fox & Friends, the Fox News national morning show, to describe her feelings about the union and the negative effect it’s had on Wisconsin public schools. And she recently began publishing a weekly online newsletter called “Freedom from Teachers Unions,” which has been catching on all over Wisconsin.
She ends each newsletter, “Kristi Lacroix, Kenosha teacher, forced WEAC fee payer.”
She has a Facebook page, too, and you can like it here.
‘I don’t like what I see’
Lacroix is not afraid to address specific issues regarding education and teachers unions. She speaks from the point of view of a teacher who feels misrepresented by her union. But she also speaks as a parent and taxpayer who is not impressed by the state of education in Wisconsin.
“My own end game is … I’m a mother, and we need to reform education,” Lacroix said. “I don’t want my kids stuck in classrooms with bad teachers.
“There are other teachers that are like-minded, they just need the courage to come forward and stand up to the union.”
Lacroix is a dedicated activist for children and freedom. She simply believes public employees should have a choice of whether or not to join a union. She hasn’t suggested banning unions – she simply believes membership should be optional.
She has spoken out on issues like teacher tenure, and the unfortunate protection it provides to some teachers who should not be in the classroom.
“It’s not about me, it’s about what’s best for these kids, and I don’t like what I see,” Lacroix said. “The idea that you can’t fire a bad teacher is concerning.”
Lacroix is also frustrated by local unions that refuse to accept a few contract concessions to save the jobs of younger teachers or preserve student programs. A perfect example comes from the Kenosha district, where she’s employed as a high school English teacher.
The Kenosha union has repeatedly rejected requests to for concessions to help the school district erase a $30 million deficit and avoid more staff layoffs and program cuts.
“(The district) is losing losing over 250 employees because the union is hell bent on not paying into health insurance and benefits,” she said.
At one point published reports suggested that Lacroix was depressed about the abuse she was taking and was thinking about leaving her profession. She says nothing could be further from the truth.
“I would certainly never quit my job because of the bullies,” she said. “If anything, I may leave teaching someday to have a more active role in education reform.”
Support coming from everywhere
Lacroix once received an email suggesting that she was “alone in the wilderness” and that her “liabilities will outweigh her assets.”
That’s obviously not the case. Lots of people in Wisconsin have to come respect her courage and condemn the harassment she’s endured from union members throughout the state.
She even discovered a sympathizer among her 9th grade students.
The class had been assigned to write an essay on bullying, in conjunction with a novel that they were reading at the time. And in case anyone suspects Lacroix of coaching her students, think again. She’s completely opposed to the idea of teachers sharing their personal political beliefs with children.
As Lacroix put it, “My students are there to read literature and become better writers – not hear about my personal politics.”
Despite the ban on political talk, one of her students penned the following essay, which Lacroix published in her statewide newsletter:
“In the past, present and probably future, teachers are being bullied. Those teachers who are not a part of the unions have been bullied for speaking out. They may not be physically bullied, but they are mentally bullied. They may try to speak out or encourage others and then someone from the union will show up and just completely destroy anything that the person from the non-union group just said.
“This happens all over America and the union people seem to try and dominate everyone else. Some teachers that are not in the union that speak out have lost their jobs. Then the Principal is asked why the teacher was let go and they say, ‘Because he caused too much trouble.’ This kind of stuff is actually happening and it does not seem fair to any of these non-union teachers.”
Lacroix has also learned that many teachers share her feelings about WEAC. Her newsletter has prompted many to email her, sometimes with their signatures, sometimes anonymously.
Here’s an example of the type of message she’s been receiving:
“I am a retired educator and know exactly what you are feeling. For years, not one dime of my dues ever went to a political candidate I endorsed. I was a union co-president in my district years ago and went to all the WEAC meetings and was so excited to serve the teachers in my building … until … I realized they were all for ‘keeping the fire burning’ and nothing about improving my profession to help me help kids. So proud that you are so strong to stand up for what is right for our children of Wisconsin and for you and other teachers, not to mention the taxpayers. Hang in there … you are doing the right thing and you will be rewarded!”