By Jeff Simpson
Recently, on Purple WI, I called out Mr. Esenberg and his right wing organization, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty(WILL), for filing a frivolous lawsuit against the Madison Metropolitan School District and the good people of Dane County.
After a personal insult, Mr. Esenberg took exception to shining the light on his organization and motivations. Mr. Esenberg called me out on what he felt were some inaccuracies in my story. I am not one that likes inaccuracies, so I appreciate the attempt to clear up anything that might not be correct. Unfortunately Mr. Esenberg failed a few times.
Let's shine a light a little bit brighter:
1. 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.
First off Mr. E, maybe we should start off with the definition of libertarian.
Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association and the primacy of individual judgment.
I am not sure where suing a duly elected school board that you have absolutely no connection to, fits into your libertarianism but politics in Wisconsin have been bizarro world lately anyway.
I also did not know that you were a "non-profit", so I did some checking. Bradley Foundation has given you at least $1,750,000, and by your admission of 35% that puts your operating budget north of $3,000,000. Which puts you approximately 3 times more of an operating budget than our local Domestic Abuse Intervention Services(DAIS) in Dane County.
An even closer look shows me that you made approximately $210,000from WILL alone. To stay with our theme, the Executive Director of DAIS makes less than $64,000/yr. Also as an aside, average teacher salary in Wisconsin is approximately $52,000/yr.
As the great Maya Angelou used to say - "When people show you who they are, believe them!" Its interesting with so many charities and non-profits struggling in WI, the Bradley Foundation makes sure this one does not.
As for Michael Grebe telling you what to do, doesn't he do that when he donates such massive amounts of money? While $1,750,000 might not be a vast amount of money to you, it is to much of the rest of Wisconsin. As Upton Sinclair so keenly observed "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.".
2. A quick look at the facts, you were not going to settle until the board changed. Americans for Prosperity, came in and helped two new right wing board members get elected to the board. Once they were in they quickly settled with you in a 4-3 vote. One of those votes, arguably the deciding vote, was cast by the plaintiffs step father. Those are facts, NOT opinions.
3. You need to take up your wording issues with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Patrick Marley and the Journal Sentinel:
The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday kept in place - at least for now -
a lower court's ruling striking down parts of Gov. Scott Walker's union
law as unconstitutional.
I did not go to law school, but I think I know what striking down parts as unconstitutional means.
4. Now you are really out of your league, when touting the "wonders" of ACT 10.
* one of the things that we like about Act 10 is that it permits school districts to treat teachers like professionals
- You are treating them like professionals by NOT allowing them a seat at the table?
* It allows them to use bonuses and merit pay to reward good teachers.
- Merit pay has proven to be a massive failure in many aspects of business and it absolutely does not and can not work in a school setting. Would love to hear how you think it would. How exactly will we decide who gets the merit pay? Details please!
* 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.
- UGGG!!! Where to even begin here. Madison Teachers already contribute 7% of their wages to their pension. Which to many teachers meant a solid $5-600 month pay cut. Madison Schools have the ability, via Collective Bargaining to charge employees yup to 10% of the premium of their health insurance but to date have chosen not to.
MTI and MMSD collectively bargained during the last four years a total of 1.75%. The last four years have brought us a Cost of Living increase of 8.33%. For those scoring at home, that means the members of MTI, under the Walker administration, have taken a 6.58% base salary pay cut(not including health care/pensions). Thank you for all you do.
As for your other baseless claims, schools have always had the ability to get rid of non-performers, you just needed to document it and have just cause. Now Schools can get rid of anyone for anything. The only people who we have a hard time getting rid of for non-performance is politicians!
The "agency fee" claim is also ridiculous. If you are having a hard time with the union, you have two options, run for union representative, or get 50%+1 signatures on a card to end the union and its ended immediately. Unions are democracy in the workplace and you can get active or end it if you get enough people to join you. If not then you have to pay for the benefits they give you.
But Wait there's more:
* If I want my school district to cut taxes, fire incompetent teachers or teach the classics and improve STEM education,
- Ummm, Mr. E. We live in a Constitutionally Limited Democratic Republic, we elect representatives to "represent us" in their local areas. If you want your school district to cut taxes, fire incompetent teachers, teach the classics and improve STEM education, you have two options. Run for your local school board OR get someone elected who believes in the same thing. Just a quick aside, you can not do all four of those things at once.
* 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.
- Who do you think comprises the membership of the teacher's union? Hint - it starts with a "T" and ends with "eachers". So yes they are synonymous.
* 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.
- I can speak to my district specifically, we have CUT over $5,000,000 from our budget in the last five years. That means we have not had a "real increase" in as far back as I can remember.
- We do spend more on K-12 Education than just about any nation on earth BUT that is because we are the only industrialized country in the world that does not have a form of universal healthcare. If you take healthcare out of the equation, and we drop to the mid twenties in terms of spending on our K-12 education.
- We do not want to reduce spending? Tell that to our Governor who cut spending on education more than anyone else in our history! I would hate to see what would happen to our public schools if he wanted to reduce spending.
I could go on but that is enough for now.
PS: Mr. Eseneberg, since you asked, what I think about ACT10. I know it sucked almost $3 BILLION dollars from our economy which has seriously hampered our recovery from the great recession. Politifact agreed with me.