Milwaukee Educators Demand and Win Additional Planning Time

This is what solidarity looks like: Milwaukee educators pack a Milwaukee Public  Schools Board meeting.

This is what solidarity looks like: Milwaukee educators pack a Milwaukee Public  Schools Board meeting.

The evisceration of collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin three years ago has been felt all the way into the classroom. New limitations and mandates have deprofessionalized the teaching profession. Despite the repressive restrictions, however, educators in Milwaukee are ending 2014 with a significant victory that helps them turn back the hands of time and begin to reclaim their profession.

In October, more than 300 educators and members of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) proved that collective action is not lost. Struggling from the effects of Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 Act 10 law, which stripped their professional autonomy, educators, donning Kelly green t-shirts emblazoned with the MTEA logo, packed a Milwaukee Public Schools board meeting to reclaim more time in their work day.

Educators had been pressured to meet the demand of new state-mandated systems and initiatives—all of which were time consuming.

Bob Peterson, president of MTEA, says that members were trying to comply with the new mandates, but didn’t have time in their workday to learn new programs or found that the professional development they received was less than adequate. Moreover, in an attempt to fulfill their professional responsibilities associated with the mandates, quality teaching suffered.

“After we lost our contractual rights, we also lost the ability to determine how to best use our time for the benefit of our students,” Peterson says, explaining that non-student contact time was controlled An MTEA survey of more than 1,200 members found that administrator-directed time prevented them from developing high quality lesson plans, contacting and meeting with parents, and working with students. Instead, most educators spent more time in meetings than what was necessary.

“While some meetings are essential,” Peterson says, “when all your time is taken up, other important tasks are left undone—there needed to be a balance.”

After mobilizing members for more than a year and using the survey results to prove its case, MTEA persuaded the school district to convert the majority of administrator-directed time to teacher directed, returning some professional judgment back to its rightful owners—educators.

Additionally, previously scheduled professional development became an individual prep day for completing training connected to the mandates. Educators also were given the opportunity to engage in a meaningful way with the state’s teacher evaluation system and complete quality report cards on time for parents.

These changes may seem like small victories, but Peterson says they provide immediate relief for teachers who have demanded time in the workday, adding that it also shows the power of collective action in a state that has seen more restrictions than any other right-to-work state in the country.

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  • L.E.Ruth

    How come the people of Wisconsin just re-elected him? How is he overcoming taking away teachers and public employees rights and still being re-elected? What is he offering or bringing to the table that people vote for him? I’m just asking because I want to try to be able to battle this type of attack in my state?

    • Vince Czahor

      He did many things that convinced the people in our state that he was the most ambitious governor in years. Here are some reasons he got re-elected: Our state budget got balanced (albeit on the back on public employees), he saves school districts money via Act 10, but at the same time cut public schools the most in our state’s history. He is a slick politician, he called that giving school districts flexibility. Here are the main reasons he got re-elected: he lowered property taxes, he lowered state income taxes, he passed voter ID (popular, but wrong), he passed concealed carry law, he was clearly pro-life and religious groups love him, and he is seen as the gem of the conservative governors…getting all of this done in a state that leans liberal.

  • OKAY. So all the reasons you gave are for FISCAL responsibility and so-called “conservative” family values.
    Apparently more of those folks voted then others.

    It sounds like the teachers in this one School District came together (important to show unity with presence not just a dues deduction) and presented a reasonable solution that was approved.

    Sounds like democracy in action.

  • BTW he didn’t take away “rights”, didn’t the law (voted on by legislators, not a result of executive action) merely limit the amounts that could be negotiated?
    I’m a public employee but I don’t want the public to be forced to pay more in taxes for pensions agreed to by politicians who enjoy the power but don’t have to be responsible for their promises.
    It sounds like the people of Wisconsin have got what they voted for both in the past and now.

  • disqus_WLiIgIU6Th

    Educators in the state of Wisconsin pay for pensions. This was misconstrued by Governor Walker.