ICYMI: WILL Vice President for Policy CJ Szafir and Research Fellow Collin Roth have published an op-ed in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal about the impact of Act 10 on Wisconsin after 5 years of implementation. It references a recently released WILL study on the subject, which can be found here. A summary of the op-ed is below and the co-authors are available to answer any questions or comments.
Critics of Wisconsin’s Public-Union Reforms Keep Firing Blanks
Five years later, evidence piles up that Scott Walker was right. But that won’t stop labor’s attacks.
Five years ago this summer, Wisconsin’s budget-repair law, better known as Act 10, went into effect. The legislation, which significantly curtailed collective-bargaining rights for public employees, was a signature part of Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to close the state’s $3.6 billion budget deficit. It sparked chaos in Madison: Tens of thousands of protesters occupied the capital. Fourteen Democratic state senators fled across state lines in an effort to stop the bill from passing. When it became law anyway, opposition culminated in a failed effort to recall Gov. Walker in 2012.
Looking at the law’s results half a decade later, it is safe to say that it was worth the trouble. Wisconsin’s example ought to embolden reformers everywhere: It’s possible to reform spending on public employees without damaging the quality of services.
Act 10 has saved taxpayers $5 billion since June 2011, according to the John K. MacIver Institute, a free-market think tank in Madison. Local school districts, government agencies and municipalities have acquired more affordable health-care plans, allowing them to put money into classrooms and critical services. Even Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Gov. Walker’s opponent in the 2012 recall election, used Act 10 to save his city nearly $20 million.
Because the law’s financial benefits have always been indisputable, Democratic lawmakers and teachers unions instead claim that Act 10 has led to increased class sizes and teacher shortages. A 2011 attack ad from a union-funded group claimed, without evidence, that the law was “so devastating that students are without chairs and a government survey found 47 kids in a classroom.” This earned a “false” rating from an independent fact-checker, but similar arguments too often go unchallenged. The top Democrat in the state senate, Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, claimed only days ago that the “sun is setting on public education.”
A new study from our organization, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, disputes that conventional wisdom. The Institute’s Will Flanders, along with Marty Lueken of the Friedman Foundation, conducted a comprehensive survey of Act 10’s effect on teachers’ age, experience, salary and benefits, as well as classroom size. Using data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the U.S. Education Department, the authors found that dire claims about Act 10 are greatly exaggerated.
For instance, the report shows that the number of students per teacher in Wisconsin has kept pace with surrounding states. Between 2009 and 2013, the ratio in Wisconsin increased by only 0.4 students per teacher, compared with 0.6 in Michigan and Iowa. The average age of Wisconsin teachers dropped 1.7 years between 2011 and 2014, and their average experience declined by three-quarters of one year. Hardly a radical undermining of the Badger State’s public schools…………………..click here for full article.