Friday, June 8, 2012

Savings From Wisconsin Governor Walker's Union Reforms Enabled Schools To Reduce Class Size And Add Programs

From The Wall Street Journal, "Scott Walker's Education Victory: Union reforms have freed more money for classrooms in Wisconsin. And not only in Wisconsin." by Kimberley A Strassel:
The [Wisconsin Governor Scott] Walker breakthrough was to integrate education into the broader fiscal and structural dispute. His argument: Wisconsin is broke. We can continue to pour money into the public-union monopoly, forcing us to cut further from priorities (namely, education). Or we can enact broad structural changes, the savings from which we can use to better our state (notably, schools).
Unions and liberals have argued that education "reform" is really about starving public schools of money and resources. Mr. Walker's budget victory has shown that structural government reform is the surest way to put more dollars into kids.

It's resonating because taxpayers see it working. In addition to limiting collective bargaining, the Walker reforms let schools competitively bid on health insurance, asked employees to contribute to health and pension plans, and introduced merit pay. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates the pension provision alone will save schools $600 million over two years, while competitive health bidding is already saving $220 per student per year.

Places like the New Berlin school district, with its 4,700 students, have already reduced health-care costs by $2.3 million, retirement costs by $1.25 million, and other liabilities by $15 million. The district hired new staff, reduced class sizes, and added programs. The Shorewood district saved $537,000 simply by bidding out its health contract (previously run by a union outfit), and also reduced insurance premiums for its teachers.

Parents are also seeing the alternative via liberal school districts that rushed to lock in contracts prior to the reforms. Among them were the Milwaukee, Kenosha and Janesville districts, which this year reported the largest number of teacher layoffs in the state. Those districts accounted for 40% of the state's teacher firings, though they educate only 12.8% of Wisconsin kids. [Emphasis Added.]

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