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Sep 11, 201408:08 AMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for too long

(page 1 of 2)

Teachers are some of our most dedicated public servants. Many inspiring educators have changed lives for the better in Madison’s public schools. But their union is a horror.

Madison Teachers Inc. has been a bad corporate citizen for decades. Selfish, arrogant, and bullying, it has fostered an angry, us-versus-them hostility toward parents, taxpayers, and their elected school board.

Instead of a collaborative group of college-educated professionals eager to embrace change and challenge, Madison’s unionized public school teachers comport themselves as exploited Appalachian mine workers stuck in a 1930s time warp. For four decades, their union has been led by well-compensated executive director John A. Matthews, whom Fighting Ed Garvey once described (approvingly!) as a “throwback” to a different time.

From a June 2011 Wisconsin State Journal story:

[Then] School Board member Maya Cole criticized Matthews for harboring an “us against them” mentality at a time when the district needs more cooperation than ever to successfully educate students. “His behavior has become problematic,” Cole said.

For years, Madison’s school board has kowtowed to Matthews and MTI, which — with its dues collected by the taxpayer-financed school district — is the most powerful political force in Dane County. (The county board majority even rehearses at the union’s Willy Street offices.)

While government employees at the state, county, and municipal levels across Wisconsin — and the great majority of school district employees statewide — contribute 12% of their health care premiums (compared to 20% to 25% in the private sector), Madison Metro School District employees contribute nothing. This lapse in prudent and fair budgeting costs Madison taxpayers $6.6 million annually.

Of 423 school districts, MTI is the only union to have contracts for 2014-15 and 2015-16. That collective bargaining agreement continues payroll union dues deductions, fair share, work rules, layoffs determined by seniority, education and tenure compensation, etc. — all in violation of Wisconsin Act 10, which has been upheld by the state Supreme Court and a federal court.

It is time they were reined in, it is time they obeyed the law, it is time for a cowed school board to lead, which is why I brought suit in circuit court Wednesday, Sept. 10. I am represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. (The complaint can be found here.) I am prepared for the attempts to personally intimidate me. But enough is enough. This is a case that MTI and the school board have been inviting for years.

  • MTI unilaterally closed down school for five days in the spring of 2011 so that its members could occupy the State Capitol for a political demonstration. Members falsified doctor’s excuses in an attempt to get paid for playing hooky.
  • At the union’s insistence, the school board killed the Madison Urban League’s proposed public charter school focused on improving Madison’s scandalous minority academic achievement gap — one that is worse than Milwaukee’s.
  • For years, the school board drove up taxpayer costs by acceding to the union’s demand for the highest-priced health insurance plan from the company in which its executive director served as a director. 
  • Unprofessional, coercive, and confrontational. The MTI union boss once called a newly elected member of the school board, Ruth Robarts, “public enemy number one.” Ironically, Robarts had once led the statewide nurses union.


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Comments, page 1 of 3 1 2 3 Next »
Sep 11, 2014 08:39 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

As Madison's total revenue is capped by state law, eliminating the contract may change how the MMSD distributes its money, but it would change Blaska's tax rates. Its a little hard to see how he has standing. And, since districts without contracts are now having to spend the "savings" on higher salaries to attract teachers (something the generous benefits used to do), its not clear that there would be ANY savings to the district at all. Its become clear that the contracts allowed districts to pay less for teachers because the contracts, job security and benefits made the jobs attractive at lower salaries- Act 10 is going to cost the taxpayers more in the end.

Of course I don't expect Blaska to understand event he basics of school funding in Wisconsin, or basic economics at all.

Sep 11, 2014 08:48 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

About 250 years ago, Samuel Johnson famously labeled patriotism the last refuge of scoundrels. His biographer, having personally heard him say that, explained that Johnson had no beef against actual patriots, but only disliked miscreants who wrapped themselves in the flag. Today we can say the same about unionism. It's no doubt a great thing, properly deployed, but the MTI situation is out of hand. Under color of union righteousness, it's become an arm-twisting instrument for squeezing cash out of taxpayers. It needs to be stopped in its tracks. So- way to go, Dave. Hope you enjoy great success. Ah, to be a fly on the wall at the MTI offices.

Sep 11, 2014 09:34 am
 Posted by  Anonymous


Sep 11, 2014 09:39 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I believe the contracts were signed before Act 10 was ruled constitutional or at least during the period when Act 10 was stayed or not in effect. Thus how could their contracts be a violation of Law. Are you saying because the law changed those contracts signed before the change are now invalid? Are you saying that the Talgo train contract that Walker canceled wasn't a valid contract because Walker didn't like it. In your view when is a contract a biding legal agreement?

Sep 11, 2014 10:46 am
 Posted by  John

I love how Anon @ 8:39 displays the taxaholic mindset: Because a MAXIMUM revenue cap exists for the District, District revenues (taxpayer costs) can never be less than the maximum. (?!?) Wow. Never even considers that District cost savings might be passed on to the hardworking denizens of Madison.

The median Madison household makes about $100 more per year than the median Wisconsin household, but pays about $1,800 more in property taxes. Thanks for standing up for us, Dave.

Sep 11, 2014 10:51 am
 Posted by  coolkevs

Good luck Dave!

Sep 11, 2014 03:17 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

The Unions had their place at one time but in this day and age they are outdated. I agree with you Dave. Thanks for challenging them in court.

Sep 11, 2014 04:13 pm
 Posted by  Mr. C

It isn't a question of Unions having had their time and are now outdated. MTI and Matthews are thugs and it's about time someone called them out. Thanks Dave. You are one courageous dude.

Sep 11, 2014 04:57 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Union contract or no, Act 10 is no panacea.

Act 10 enables school boards to prioritize student needs over the demands of the school's union employees, BUT, it can't make them do so.

Which is to say: what's to prevent Madison's school board from continuing to run the District under the same, old, tired union rules- even if the union can no longer demand they do so?

(Yes, I know: the electorate can prevent that, if it so wishes. Does it?)

Sep 11, 2014 07:39 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Now if only someone would bring suit against Dane County for their CBA's as well....

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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