MADISON, Wis. – It wasn’t difficult to understand that the “school” fights in Wisconsin in early 2011 had nothing to do with children or the type of education they receive.
They had everything to do with the power that labor unions have traditionally wielded over the public education system.
When Gov. Scott Walker proposed his budget repair bill in 2011, curtailing collective bargaining privileges for government employees (including teachers), unions and their radical left allies saw it as an opportunity to make an example out of the governor and cement their power.
When they failed to get their way in the legislative process, they gathered by the thousands on the grounds of the state capital, creating a chaotic situation that was difficult for police and capital security to control.
Protesters crawled into the windows of the capital building when it was closed to the public. Many had to be dragged out of the building by police, kicking and screaming like children.
Many schools around the state were forced to close for several days, because thousands of teachers abandoned their students to join the mass protest.
Union members also lowered themselves to threatening state lawmakers who supported Walker’s reforms.
After the capital protests ended, the unions used the courts and the state recall process to try to punish Walker and other Republicans. Their antics separated the state into two hostile political camps for months.
In response to all the chaos, EAGnews produced a video documentary called “Anarchy 101: How Wisconsin’s Left Embraces Chaos.”
The piece features State Sen. Alberta Darling, a Republican and Walker supporter, explaining the death threats lodged against her. She had to have a police escort to the Capitol restroom. The sheriff’s department patrolled near her home.
She told about how protesters surrounded and began rocking a bus full of legislative staffers in Madison in an effort to tip it over.
And the union leaders denounced none of this violent nonsense. On the contrary, they fueled and fed off the chaos all in an effort to protect their political and collective bargaining power.
Like Walker, Darling survived a union-led recall election.
The Wisconsin protests best exemplify organized labor’s impact on education: It has successfully centered the debate around adult issues. Pay. Benefits. Work rules. Union privileges. That takes the focus away from crucial academic questions, like teacher quality, rigorous instruction and a student-centered system.
Organized labor and public education are a very bad fit, and there are decades of painful examples to illustrate that point.
To read more installments of “The Other Labor History: What Kids Won’t Learn,” click here.