- - Thursday, February 11, 2021

Megan Sampson was named the Outstanding New English Teacher of the Year in Wisconsin. She was an exciting new educator who connected with her students in an urban district that could use dynamic leaders. 

Not long after learning of her recognition, Megan received a different notice. Her school district gave her a pink slip. How could they lay off such an extraordinary teacher?

Well, prior to our reforms, union contracts demanded seniority. In 2010, when Democrats controlled the state government in Wisconsin, they cut aid to local governments and schools. As a new teacher, Megan was one of the last to be hired, so she was one of the first to be let go.

The reforms we enacted 10 years ago in Wisconsin got rid of that broken system. Now, schools can hire teachers based on their individual skills and pay their staff in accordance with how well they teach. That means they can hire and retain the best teachers out there, like Megan Sampson.

Sure, our reforms in Act 10 helped solve the fiscal crisis we faced a decade ago.  Since 2011, state and local governments have saved more than $13.9 billion, according to a report from the MacIver Institute.  

Public employees now pay something toward their health insurance premiums and something for their retirement. Still, most are paying less than their friends and neighbors in the private sector. Before our reforms, many school district employees paid nothing for their health insurance premiums, and most government workers paid nothing for their retirement contributions. Our reforms just restored some fairness to the process. 

Prior to our reforms, most school districts had to acquire health insurance from a union-affiliated company. We gave local governments the ability to bid out their health insurance, and they saved millions of dollars — money that can now be used to fund students in a classroom.

These successes are a night and day difference from protesters’ claims a decade ago that our Budget Repair Bill would decimate public education. Students in Wisconsin still rank among the best in the country, and Wisconsin’s graduation rate is one of the best in America.

In the end, the real issue for the union bosses was power. We took it out of their hands and gave it to the hard-working taxpayers of Wisconsin — and the people they duly elected to run their schools and local and state governments. 

The protests originally started with hundreds from within the state. Once the national union leaders and liberal groups got involved, they got 14 Senate Democrats to leave the state to stall a vote, and the protests swelled to tens of thousands. Eventually, 100,000 occupied the state Capitol and surrounding square.  

The occupiers were there for weeks. Eventually, a court ruling had them removed from the Capitol. Once they heard a vote was coming up, they stormed the Capitol building. Protesters broke windows and crawled into the building, took the hinges off of doors and crashed through, and overran Capitol Police officers.  

During this time 10 years ago, I received numerous death threats—as did my family and state lawmakers. One message said they’d “gut my wife like a deer.” Another mentioned where my wife worked, my kids went to school, and where my father-in-law lived.

State lawmakers had to be evacuated through a tunnel in the basement to avoid angry mobs. Many lawmakers were harassed at their homes and in their communities. Instead of condemning these actions, most Democrats were silent, while some even encouraged and supported it. 

Some liberal legislators even opened up their windows on the ground level when angry mobs rushed to enter the Capitol. Imagine if conservative lawmakers had done the same on Jan. 6? Yet, Nancy Pelosi and a long list of other liberals expressed their support for the masses occupying the state Capitol in 2011. 

Early on, I was so eager to fix things that I didn’t talk much about it.  It quickly became clear that the media was fawning over the protesters and we had to counter their misinformation campaign. 

I started holding a live press conference every day at the start of the 5:00 p.m. news. The crowds got so loud that one of the national reporters asked me if the protesters had a right to be heard. I said yes. In America, anyone should be able to speak out against their government without fear of retribution. But I noted that the howls of the protesters, many of them not from Wisconsin, should never drown out the voices of the 1.5 million citizens who voted for me to be bold.  

Our reforms worked. They saved local taxpayers more than $13 billion. More importantly, they now allow school districts to keep great teachers like Megan Sampson. We went big and bold, and the people of Wisconsin are better off because of it. 

• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at swalker@washingtontimes.com or follow him @ScottWalker.

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