A Second Chance

Posted in School Reform on by .

NewlifeSome of us remember when the Wisconsin Education Association Council—WEAC—was the 800-pound gorilla of Wisconsin politics.

No, wait. That doesn’t quite capture it. Some of us remember when there was no gorilla except WEAC in Wisconsin politics. In terms of deploying personnel and financial resources to assist campaigns or advance issue advocacy, it wasn’t until the latter 1980s that other organizations—“other” meaning Conservative-leaning or Republican organizations—began to attempt matching WEAC’s muscle and seriously compete.  And it took some time after that for the competition to have a consequential effect.

For veterans of the long, post-Watergate, twilight struggle when Republicans had no credible hope of winning majorities in the Wisconsin Legislature, a story that appeared last week is nothing short of astounding.

The former 800-pound gorilla and the smaller American Federation of Teachers – Wisconsin say they might undertake a merger in what can only be considered a bid for survival.

Collective bargaining reforms—thank you, Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans—have given teachers an actual choice as to whether they want to join a union and the result is the disappearance of approximately one-third of WEAC’s membership roster and closer to half the AFT membership.

We seldom hesitate to criticize teachers for knee-jerk Liberal tendencies, so let’s give credit where it’s due: Very large numbers of former WEAC and AFT members have demonstrated that they do believe in freedom.

Of additional interest is the emergence of a new organization, the non-union Association of American Educators. Said to be gaining members in Wisconsin, this small group emphasizes professional development, insurance and legal services.

Once upon a time it was thought Wisconsin teacher unions might focus on professionalism instead of adopting the United Auto Workers model that spawned WEAC.

Who says there are no second chances?

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