Northwest Montana recently was visited by a governor of note: Mr. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Gov. Walker was in the Flathead stumping for Republican Rick Hill, who is running against Steve Bullock for governor of Montana. Whereas, having noteworthy politicos from other states stumping for candidates for public office is commonplace, Scott Walker's presence is instructive.
Walker spearheaded what could be defined as a revolutionary movement against public employees in his state. Public employees had wages and benefits reduced and their right to bargain for better wages and benefits eliminated. Thousands of teaches and public employees lost their jobs, their retirement, their seniority and most of all, their dignity. Thousands of school teachers that remained are now making from $2,000 to $5,000 less because of the policies instituted by Walker. At the same time teachers were losing their jobs, Walker guaranteed tax breaks for big corporations. Some districts have 30 to 40 students in a classroom after teachers were fired without due process. Classrooms are so crowded in some districts that teachers don't have enough room to move around to give individual attention to students.
Wisconsin public employees are required in some instances to adhere to a policy handbook that require women teachers to wear skirts or dresses that are below the knee or define what teachers can do on their personal days. Teachers can even be dismissed from their teaching job if they get a speeding ticket. Public employees have borne the brunt of a systematic plan to privatize all state services.
Wisconsinites' reaction was swift and overwhelming: 100,000 came to Madison to protest the draconian austerity program. Walker was unfazed. In fact, he has become a cause célèbre to many Republicans like Rick Hill, and Walker brought his plan with him to the Flathead. It is the plan that Hill appears to have in mind for Montana.
Rick Hill calls Montana teachers the "second worst in the nation," and yet, Montana students are doing fairly well (according to Hill), performing in the top third to 15 percent in the nation. He has emphasized spending your tax dollars on subsidizing private charter schools, such as Stillwater Christian School.
What Rick Hill is promoting is nothing short of an attack on public education—a system dedicated to educating every student from every walk of life. What Hill and those that support his education "reform" fail to realize is that student working conditions are also teacher working conditions.
If you care about our school children, then one needs to be concerned about the attacks on public education by privately funded groups with deep pockets, such as Americans for Prosperity, which sees public education as a money-making enterprise under the euphemism "education reform"and by the snake oil salesmen such as Scott Walker and Rick Hill that these groups support and that do their bidding.