Friday, October 03, 2014

Thanks for spelling my name right, but get your facts straight.

I noticed that Purple Wisconsin has added Jeff Simpson as a blogger.  I suspect that this won't end well, but I have no other public comment.

Mr. Simpson has decided to attack me and the Wisconsin Institute for Law &  Liberty. I have no problem with that. Getting attacked by lefties is not bad for business when you run a conservative/libertarian non-profit and, in any event, everyone should be willing to face criticism. I am not going to respond to his points about Act 10 or the merits of our cases (mostly because he doesn't make any beyond asserting his disapproval), but there are a few - well, actually more than a few - errors to correct.

First, he says that WILL receives the "vast majority" of its funding from the Bradley Foundation. This is not quite right. We began operations in June 2011 with start-up funding from Bradley, so most of our money did come from the Foundation in 2011 and 2012. We needed a record of accomplishment before we could raise much money from others. Now that we have that, Bradley will account for only about 35 % of our revenue in 2014 -  which isn't even a "majority." Last year, it was about half which strikes me as decidedly "unvast."  The 2013 numbers are in the public domain. If he wanted to know about this year, he could have asked. I'll talk to most people.

And, for the record, the Bradley Foundation - or Mike Grebe - never tells us what to do. They find out what we've done when they read it in the paper.

Second, Mr. Simpson misdescribes the lawsuit we brought against the Kenosha Unified School District. It was not at a "standstill" or "going nowhere" until the composition of the school board changed and we were somehow "handed" victory. The judge had already ruled that we had a substantial probability of success on the merits, i.e., we were likely to win. There was no dispute that the contract between KUSD and the union violated Act 10; only whether Act 10 was constitutional. Last summer, the Supreme Court - like the Seventh Circuit before it -  upheld Act 10.  In other words, we were right. The school board acted wisely in settling and cutting its losses. (Actually, the union is still fighting, but that's another story.)

Third, in describing our lawsuit against the Madison School District, Mr. Simpson says that Act 10 was "stayed" at the time that the district negotiated non-Act 10 compliant contracts with its unions. No, it wasn't. There was only a declaratory judgment which was ultimately reversed. That did not "stay" or "enjoin" the law.

The district and union are arguing that, by bring a lawsuit that they ultimately lost, the union is  entitled to continue to implement two illegal contracts - including one that will not not even go into effect until the beginning of the 2015 school year. That is an extraordinary proposition and someone ought to test it in court.

Fourth, Mr. Simpson seems to believe that we think the problem with the Madison contract is that it gives teachers a .25% raise. Not at all. If school districts comply with Act 10, we have no objection to larger raises. Indeed, one of the things that we like about Act 10 is that it permits school districts to treat teachers like professionals instead of interchangeable cogs in a machine. It allows them to use bonuses and merit pay to reward good teachers - something that unions have traditionally resisted. So, yes, raises - even large ones - for those who deserve it.

In any event, Mr. Simpson ignores the fact that what makes Madison's contract out of compliance with Act 10 is not the size of the base pay increase. It is the provisions for health insurance and pension contributions - both of which cost taxpayers quite a bit of money. It is the negotiation of work rules that protect non-performers and impede flexibility. It is the coerced "agency fee" payments - exacted from teachers who do not wish to financially support the union.

Act 10 limited the circumstances under which the general public could be placed at a disadvantage vis-a-vis public employee unions who could compel secret negotiations with public bodies subject to arbitration in the event of impasse.  If I want my school district to cut taxes, fire incompetent teachers or teach the classics and improve STEM education, I don't get those advantages.

Finally, Mr. Simpson says we are "attacking public schools." That would be true only if "public schools" were synonymous with unions and the adults who run the schools. They are not. He wants us to stop wasting "our children's money." (No, I'm not going to razz him for misspelling children. That's tacky and, besides, glass houses and all that.) What we are trying to do is ensure that "our children's money" is well used. Public schools in Wisconsin - and in the US generally - have enjoyed substantial real increases over the past 30-50 years. We spend a lot more on K-12 education than we used to spend and more than just about any other nation on earth. Yet we have not seen corresponding increases in educational attainment or outcomes and we do not compare well with other countries - all of whom seem to do more with less. We don't necessarily want to reduce spending. But we do want to get more for what we spend.

I could go on but I think that's enough for now.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.


Anonymous said...

Does the Shark have a thin skin? Methinks he does. Isn't funny how uptight a rightie gets when criticized.

JM said...

Jeff Simpson was removed from a committee in Cottage Grove in 2011 for his childish behavior. It's pretty bad when the Village wants nothing to do with your antics, and votes unanimously to expel you.