Saturday, February 26, 2011

Is uncertainty really the problem?

I found this AP coverage of possible teacher layoffs in Wisconsin rather confusing. Here's how the author, Patrick Condon, opens the story:
Wisconsin school districts are warning teachers that their contracts might not be renewed as Gov. Scott Walker's plan to cut nearly all public employees' collective bargaining rights remains in limbo.

The proposal took a concrete step forward Friday when Republicans in the state Assembly abruptly approved the bill and sent it to the Senate after three straight days of debate and amid confusion among Democrats. But with all 14 Democratic state senators still out of state, another stalemate awaits the measure that Walker insists will help solve budget deficits and avoid mass layoffs.
Condon makes it sound like the reason for the layoff warnings is uncertainty, which has been created by Democratic senators leaving the state. Gov. Walker's proposal to strip the unions of collective bargaining rights, conversely, is portrayed in this story as the way to avoid the layoffs. Condon then continues,
The legislative gridlock prompted the Wisconsin Association of Schools Boards to warn districts that they have until Monday to warn teachers of possible nonrenewal of contracts. That's because if Walker's bill becomes law, it would void current teacher collective bargaining agreements that lay out protocol and deadlines for conducting layoffs. [Emphasis added].
Okay, now it sounds like the layoff warnings went out not because of uncertainty, but because if the governor's proposal becomes law, teachers will lose their job protections and school districts will lose funds to keep them employed. That's how one teacher interviewed for the story sees it:
Despite the uncertainty created by the absence of the Senate Democrats, who fled more than a week ago to block a vote on Walker's bill, Marshfield kindergarten teacher Jane Cooper said she blames Republicans.

"They are trying to bust our union," Cooper said. "That is huge."
Negotiations are difficult to cover, since different sides will interpret events differently and try to spin reporters. But this article doesn't seem to know what it's saying.

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