Kids? Forget the kids! It’s all about the union members

Someday, when I update JFK’s book Profiles in Courage, I’ll add these names: Tommy Thompson, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, and Jeff Waksman.

Jeff who?

Jeff Waksman. This young man is the brave mastermind behind the unveiling of a new billboard tomorrow (Friday) on the Beltline Highway on the south side of Madison at Rimrock Road.

Its message is a hard slap of Mennen’s After Shave against the most powerful special interest in Wisconsin, the statewide teachers union, aka the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC).

Picturing a young girl student, the big poster quotes iconic national teachers union boss Albert Shanker. “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, I’ll start representing schoolchildren.”

This strong dose of reality goes up just in time for Tuesday’s Madison School Board election in which insurgents Mary Burke and Nichelle Nichols are hoping to unseat the teachers union’s handpicked candidates. But the $3,500 billboard buy is independent of any candidate or political party. It is the work of an organization called Reforming Education and Demanding Exceptional Results in Wisconsin (READER-WI).

Its website,, goes live tomorrow as well.

I’m on the steering committee along with economist Larry Kaufmann. But Jeff is president of the group and the real brains of the outfit. His guts, his glory.

Jeff attended the public schools back East. At Columbia University, he took a bachelor's degree in applied physics, which he explained to me was something like interpretive dance. He minored in economics. He came to UW-Madison to pick up two master’s degrees, one in nuclear engineering, the other in physics. He is finishing up his doctoral work in the latter.

Jeff says he came by his interest in education reform while experiencing the “perverse incentives” of public high school. “Nobody seemed too concerned with helping struggling students catch up, or helping advanced students push their education further. It was a one-size-fits-all system that treated students as interchangeable widgets on an assembly line. Each year, education spending goes up, and yet education results never improve. … It's time to try something new.”

Feckless politicians + recalcitrant unions = failure

The Shanker quote can be found in a cover story for the June 2011 edition of The Atlantic magazine. Under the heading, “The Failure of American Schools,” Joel Klein, the eight-year chancellor of New York City Schools, berates “… feckless politicians, recalcitrant unions, mediocre teachers, and other enduring obstacles to school reform.”

“Teachers unions consistently rank among the top spenders on politics,” Klein writes, with the result that “firing a public school teacher for non-performance is virtually impossible.” Just for props, Klein is no one’s coat holder. In his previous life as a prosecutor, he sued Microsoft, Inc.

Klein relates the familiar litany of failure: our nation’s high schools graduate only seven of every 10 students. We rank 48th among nations in math and science education, according to the World Economic Forum, even though the U.S. has doubled spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) on K-12 public education in the last 30 years.

Klein is just one of a growing list of Democrats and liberals who have embraced school reform. Others include the late Steve Jobs; Davis Guggenheim, producer of the searing Waiting for Superman documentary film; Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan; educator Geoffrey Canada; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Madison Urban League president Kaleem Caire; former Milwaukee Schools Supt. Howard Fuller; and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

All Jeff Waksman and his confederates are doing is putting their message right where Madison can see it. Will we hear from the goon squads?

Public Sector unions ARE the Democrat(ic) Party

If you don’t get Imprimus, the publication of libertarian Hillsdale College in Michigan, mailed to you free of charge, you can fix that here. In a recent Imprimus, William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal writes: 

“… public sector unions have become a vanguard movement within liberalism. … As public employees unionize, their dues — often collected for the unions by the government — fund a permanent interest constantly lobbying for bigger government. To pay for this bigger and more expensive government, they advocate for higher taxes on those in the private sector.”

No wonder the unions picketed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appearance Wednesday in Milwaukee at a fundraiser for Mayor Tom Barrett.

The Madison teachers union beat down Urban League president Kaleem Caire’s proposed charter school for at-risk minority youth. Teachers unions have become the reactionary defenders of a failed status quo. Kathleen Falk, remember, is their candidate for governor.

Feingold’s good government group scores Falk

Turns out that Walker was correct about out-of-state union bosses.

Eight of the nine operatives for “Wisconsin for Falk” have out-of-state cell phone area codes, according to Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who is all over the story. Of course, the public employee and teachers unions are bankrolling this Falk Super PAC.

And how does a supposedly independent campaign committee manage to record a television spot that has The Kathleen looking directly into its camera without the candidate’s cooperation? They’re not using recycled news footage.

Independent political expenditure groups, as WI for FK is supposedly, are not supposed to coordinate their campaigns. Falk’s official campaign organization, by the way, is “Falk for Wisconsin.” Yeah, its mirror image.

Russ Feingold’s group, Progressives United, is saying, “Wisconsin for Falk undermines the recall effort.” 

“The impact it will have on the recall election will almost certainly be to undermine, not bolster, the chances of successfully replacing Scott Walker as governor. By funneling out-of-state special interest money to support Kathleen Falk’s campaign, Wisconsin for Falk muddies what had been absolutely crystal clear waters in the recall effort.”

Live by the sword … 

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