A non-profit organization released a report Tuesday outlining benefits the collective bargaining act had on the state since its implementation last year, but critics said the findings do not give an accurate long-term forecast.
The Education Action Group’s report outlines case studies throughout Wisconsin that show the legislation saved the state money and jobs.
Steve Gunn, the writer and main researcher of the report, said the legislation allowed school boards to take control of their budgets without union interference, allowing school districts across Wisconsin to save millions of dollars.
According to the MacIver Institute study cited in the report, four school districts saved more than $10 million because of the bill. Top savings included $19.2 million by Racine, $15.5 million by Madison, $11 million by Green Bay and $10.1 million by Appleton.
Wisconsin Education Association Council spokesperson Christina Brey said the savings the report cites come from a loss of jobs and reduction of teacher wages. Brey added these types of numbers will not be repeated next year.
“It’s a one-time saving,” Brey said. “They are going to have to cut staff more. There are more cuts next year and that’s not a success story. That’s not going to help my three sons in school; it just means less adults teaching the students.”
Brey attributes the savings to the teacher wage drops and referenced Wisconsin’s national standing for teacher’s pay declined from number 15 to 21.
A memo released with the report by EAG said the reason the act was necessary was because public school districts were spending 75 to 85 percent of their total budgets on labor costs.
The memo said teachers’ salaries had increased from $37,897 to $50,627 between 1998 and 2011 and the average cost of benefits per teacher increased from $13,412 to $27,053 between the same time period.
However, Brey argued the act was never about fiscal necessity, as the educators had already agreed to the cuts prior to the act’s implementation.
“Walker has admitted that the bill doesn’t save any money,” Brey said. “It just takes the voice of the school educators out. The bill was never about fiscal necessity. It is taking their voices out of the picture.”
The report also addressed WEAC campaign contributions to Democratic lawmakers, citing Wisconsin Campaign Finance Information System data that shows $165,673 over the last four years to Democrats and $1.1 million to Democratic PACs.
Brey finds the case studies shown throughout the report “cherry-picked” to promote its own plan. Brey questioned the source of the report as a whole and said this “public relations attempt” fails to show the whole story.
According to Brey, EAG is an out-of-state foundation that is out of touch with Wisconsin’s school districts and finds the group’s self-proclaimed non-partisan conduct to be false.
“This is a national group that has a purpose of bashing education unions and support staff,” Brey said. “They have a very large anti-education, pro-privatization agenda.”