15 June 2012
Dear friends (and "Governor Dad"),
A year after writing the letter below, Governor Scott Walker still occupies our mansion. Sigh. Let's hope he and his family have a nice Fathers' Day and that he finally gets that Abe Lincoln tie he's been coveting. Everything I said last year is just as true today, except amplified by the increased fervor with which the governor appealed by name to his sons during the campaign - especially during the debates and that horrifying ad he aired around the holidays where the boys were seething through their role as props at a soup kitchen. The frequency of these appeals, which attempted to evoke the sense that Walker "cared" (and deeply) about public schools and The Future, was as distasteful as their transparent superficiality.
The worst part of being a politician is undoubtedly being forced to manipulate your private life to fit your public persona, and invariably the kids (and spouse) suffer most from those manipulations. As a parent, I don't know how I'd deal with that scenario without hurting my kids, and I don't envy Walker's position. But as a constituent of Fitzwalkerstan, I can only imagine that it must be really hard to be Scott Walker's kid. I just wish the governor would leave them out of it. It's not fair to them - or to us - to be dragged out constantly as "proof" of his connection to our schools and our presumably shared values. Walker talks the talk of Faith, Family and Freedom, but his walk heads down another path: straight toward the bank to cash the checks his out-of-state benefactors. Among them: education privateers like the DeVos family, who famously never contribute any political funds without expecting a return on their investment. What return do they expect today? And how will my kids be paying it tomorrow?
With an indictment looming in the future, I can only reiterate what I said a year ago:
As the head official of this state, the messages you send your children echo down to every child in this state. I am a parent, too. And I have no intention whatsoever in instilling these duplicitous "values" in my own family. But while our values differ, I don't doubt that we care equally about our children, and our hopes for their future. The difference, though, is that you value your (profoundly flawed) ideology above all. And I, above all, would value your resignation.
Happy Fathers' Day!
Here's to resignation. And ties that honor Honest Abe.
Today is Fathers' Day, and I hope you spent yours with your family, doing fun family things and being a good dad. Because you sure are doing a bad job at being governor, so it would be nice if there was an area in which you found you could excel.
I don't pay much attention to your private life, but it does strike me that you make such frequent mention of your kids, so I kind of feel like you're inviting us to see something of your parenting philosophy, which I'd like to visit briefly given the special occasion we're celebrating today. You are on record as saying that you hope your boys take college more seriously than you did, and also repeatedly saying over and over again variations of this:
"I have two sons that go to public high school. The last thing I'm going to do is hurt public education in the State of Wisconsin. I don't want to hurt my son Matt, I don't want to hurt my son Alex. My school district just announced that because of the reforms we gave them, they're going to be able to restore positions that were laid off, and they're going to be able to reduce the tax level. To me, that's exactly what I said would happen."So I'd like to congratulate you for making a gesture toward recognizing the importance of of supporting education and encouraging your children. And also for your hilarious joke about cuts to education and eliminating the rights of public workers being "reform."
But I really wish you'd be a little more honest about what you're really telling your boys (and by extension, all the kids in Wisconsin), which seems, from my perspective (i.e. listening to all the things you say in public), to be the following:
1) Get an education, because people like that piece of paper. But be sure to get a real job when you're done.
It's well-known, since your conversation with the faux-Koch that you don't consider public sector employment "real money," and that your dropping out of college has been defended time and again as you insult those with degrees by talking about how useless they are. Google it if you want sources; I'm not in the mood to revisit the hundreds of quotes, articles, analyses, etc, on this topic. It's not my job to do all of your homework.
2) Public workers are disposable, manipulable, and the least among us. Avoid them. They do not deserve your respect.
You tell your us that your district was able to "restore positions without layoffs" but that's not entirely honest, is it? The district saw deep cuts to personnel and was only able to balance the budget with draconian cuts to pay and benefits:
"The feat was done as Ertl said it would have to be done — not on the backs of children in the classroom but on the backs of school employees through major pay and benefit concessions."
"All this would not be possible without those concessions from our employees," Ertl said. Board member Mary Jo Randall echoed that, with added thanks to Ertl and his administrative staff, saying, "I don't think you can say enough about our employees and our leadership."
3) Don't worry about being honest. A half-truth is as good as the truth.
While you like to use your district as an example of how great your budget bill is for Wisconsin, in fact it's an excellent example of how local communities pay the price for your cuts to everyday programs and education in exchange for the handouts you delivered to your corporate funders. True, your school district was able to balance its budget and even come in under the levy of the previous year, but more careful analysis shows that property taxes will see a spike, and the real cost of these cuts will be felt throughout the the district in the coming years, as taxpayers cover the costs and staff continues to suffer under pay freezes, which the superintendent has repeatedly stated he sought to minimize:
The proposed hike was generally ill-received by the School Board.4) A promise means nothing, but that doesn't make it meaningless. There's nothing more powerful than a broken (or insincere) promise.
Board member Phil Kroner said he is concerned about raising taxes given persistent economic pressures on district taxpayers. He also questioned whether more could be done to limit spending. "A lot of our citizens are having to make cuts in their own budgets," he said. "I'm concerned that not enough effort was made in looking for cuts to try to hold things as low as possible or even to spend less than the levy (limit) is allowing."
Handcuffed by revenue lossesSuperintendent Phil Ertl assured the board that he, Mack and other administrators pored over the budget line by line in a "painstaking process" to ensure efficiency. Mack said the tax increase is caused entirely by state reductions in school funding and is therefore out of the district's control. The district is facing a $2.97 million - or 11.4 percent - cut in state aid. "I think that tells the story right there," Mack said of the numbers.
When the state sets the revenue cap - the total amount of tax and aid revenue a district is permitted to gather - but then reduces aid, that funding hole must be filled by property taxes, Mack said. "I think the misconception that exists out there is that school districts control their levy, and they really do not," he said.
This one is particularly poignant to me, since, again, it involves direct reference to your boys and direct consequences to me and other parents and public workers. Remember a year ago this month, when you were campaigning, and you kept saying things like this as you made a promise to end late-night votes:
"I have two teenagers and I tell them that nothing good happens after midnight. That's even more true in politics. The people of Wisconsin deserve to know what their elected leaders are voting on."
Well, not only did you (obviously) not keep that promise, but you continue to applaud the late-night antics of Republican legislators as they work in the dead of night to introduce new measures and push through legislation without public comment, consent, or full understanding. Very sneaky. Very dishonest. And a very strong message to send to our kids, don't you think?
5) Put yourself first. It's not your job to care for others.
As far as I'm concerned, this is the most important message you're sending your sons, and I applaud your consistency in sending it. So many children today are subjected to ambivalence, soul-searching, and careful consideration of the pros and cons as their parents make big decisions. But you show your boys - and the rest of the children of this state - that such wishywashiness is for losers. Winners act fast, take chances, and make decisions that will benefit the people they know and love. The people they don't know or love can take care of themselves. And that, you've shown us, is the American way.
So congratulations. You seem to be raising your boys exactly the way you feel best. It's a question of values.
As the head official of this state, the messages you send your children echo down to every child in this state. I (as you know, from your reading and taking into consideration of the specific comments of my letters), am a parent, too. And I have no intention whatsoever in instilling these duplicitous "values" in my own family. But while our values differ, I don't doubt that we care equally about our children, and our hopes for their future. The difference, though, is that you value your (profoundly flawed) ideology above all. And I, above all, would value your resignation.
Imagine the headline: Walker Resigns, Sites letter, children, for his decision.
The children of Wisconsin would thank you for it.
And so would I.
Heather DuBois Bourenane
Taxpayer, parent, and comparer of the things you say to the things you do.
P.S. I hope you got an Abe Lincoln tie for Fathers' Day, so you and Grothman can be twins on Crazy Ironic Tie Day at the office.
|Senator Grothman in his (and hopefully YOUR, if your kids know what would suit you!) Lincoln tie, which seemingly inspires him to say things like "The Earned Income Credit is the equivalent of a welfare check" and "The only way [cutting the Earned Income Credit] is a sign of Wisconsin values is if you wanted to promote single motherhood." It's the kind of tie that makes you classier - and oh so eloquent! -just by wearing it! I wonder what it will inspire you to say...something new and true perhaps? It could happen! Image: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=137386319670995&set=a.129811040428523.30747.112526458823648&type=1&theater|