Tosa Teachers React to Budget Repair Bill

East teacher Barb Murray and Milwaukee Public School teacher Kathleen Hansen display their signs during the “Pack the Overpasses Friday” event on Friday, February 25th, 2011.

Following the school day on Friday, February 25th, approximately 40 Wauwatosa teachers, staff members and union supports lined the Center Street – Highway 45 overpass as part of a coordinated “Pack the Overpasses Friday” protest against Governor Walker’s 2011 Budget Repair Bill. Undeterred by brisk winds and temperatures, protesters held signs against the bridge fence pressing their cause. Traffic slowed and protesters were met with a wide variety of reactions – from honking horns, thumbs ups, and obscene jesters.

One teacher said, “It’s been a really tough week for public workers” and they need to “know that people care.” He saw his protesting in response to Walker’s Budget Repair Bill as a way to “change public perspective [and] to show that there is a hidden agenda, beyond the budget.” Sandy Nass, the executive director of Wauwatosa Education Association (WEA), said, “Our hope is the government will sit down with the senators and deal with the budget bill.” In addition, “the government needs to listen to the people,” she expressed with concern.

Despite the cold each protester felt the need to express his or her discontent, especially after the Budget Repair Bill passed in the
state Assembly on Thursday, February 24th. One teacher stated, “As a teacher, I’m concerned about union rights. As a mother, I’m concerned about schools. As a Milwaukee resident, I’m concerned what [the bill] could do the entire city of Milwaukee’s school system. We can’t afford Milwaukee to turn into a Detroit.” Another teacher responded with, “It’s scary how far these changes could do to the strength within our state’s education [system].”

Yet the individuals each had something they believed was most dangerous about the Budget Repair Bill. Sandy Nass articulated her disapproval for “all of the non-fiscal times [meant to] solely destroy unions.” A teacher singled out the “the right to negotiate” and made clear “it’s not about the money.” Another teacher recapitulated, “We are fighting for increased health care, pensions, things every American should have.” Another point was made a school staff member who brought attention to the Koch brothers involvement with Gov. Walker. He stated,“Buried in the bill is the option to sell all power plants in Wisconsin. Guess what the Koch brothers are interested in.”

Julia Robles – reporter
Emily Hoffmann – photographer