The warning signs are starting to pop up with regularity these days.

They are beginning to show just where Gov. Scott Walker and his GOP-dominated Legislature are taking Wisconsin in the not-too-distant future.

Unfortunately, those signs aren’t painting a pretty picture.

But let’s face it. You can’t take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the public schools or make the middle class pick up the slack for lower business taxes or curtail local governments’ ability to make their own decisions or reduce the pay of already-struggling wage earners and not have an impact on the economic, educational and cultural health of the state.

Only a couple of weeks ago, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the exodus of high-profile school superintendents in Milwaukee area suburban districts. The unusually high number deciding to call it quits is being attributed to state legislation that has not only changed the power structure in the school districts but reduced the resources available to superintendents to effectively run them.

Then there’s the story out of Janesville, where 17 veteran teachers — with between 10 and 43 years of experience — announced after Christmas they’re leaving at the end of the school year because they face the loss of benefits on July 1 when their union contract expires. Janesville is just the latest of scores of school districts across the state that have lost quality employees since the Walker “reforms” were enacted. They may indeed be saving some money with lower pension and health insurance payments and beginning teachers at entry-level salaries, but it’s coming at the cost of losing some of their best staff members.

Not all local governments, though, are necessarily saving money. There’s the news, for instance, out of Ozaukee County, a hotbed of Walker support. Turns out the county sheriff’s department is being forced to pay thousands of dollars in overtime each week to cover vacancies brought on by the sudden departure of seven deputies late last year. The seven quit because of the changes in their fringe benefits.

Apparently inspired by Walker’s cutbacks in pension and health care coverage for all non-law-enforcement public employees, the county decided to cut back on the deputies as well. Now it turns out that it’s having to pay overtime every day because the vacancies have yet to be filled.

The chairwoman of the county’s public safety committee told the Ozaukee Press that she was saddened by the loss of some very good people and a lot of experience.

Meanwhile, there are also growing concerns that the gap between the rich and poor in Wisconsin, which has historically been not as bad as in most of the nation, is starting to spread here as well. Billions more in wealth are ending up in the hands of the top 20 percent of incomes in the state while billions less are accruing to the bottom 80 percent.

On top of that, the Walker legislative juggernaut slashed the state’s longtime earned income tax credit, which gave a break to those considered to be in poverty. According to one study, that resulted in a 23 percent tax credit drop for a single-parent family.

What’s more alarming is that this all bodes ill for — of all things — the future of the state’s economy and job growth. Even though Wisconsin has had a reputation for higher-than-average taxes, its quality of life, its education system, and its well-maintained parks and infrastructure attracted businesses and workers to the state.

Turns out many people are willing to pay a little bit more for quality.

Yet we may well be standing on the brink of a rush to the bottom, where workers earn less, spend less and their children learn less as middle-class families fall further behind. Yes, they may pay a little bit less in taxes, but so do the citizens in many other states where the wages are low, poverty is high and schools and infrastructure are in shambles.

Last I looked, this isn’t where a once-proud Wisconsin hoped to be.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.

(48) comments


It must be something in the culture of Lee Enterprises. Editors, even the lofty "Emeritus" types, feel the need to pick and choose statistics and weave together unrelated items to arrive at bogus cause and effect conclusions.

It would take the rest of the week to unwind this twit's comments. How sad.

Former subscriber.


Walker and Huebsch were courageous to adjust the WRS Employee retirement contribution to it's original/intended employee/employer split. Which they deserved. Nobody is able to print or voice a knowledgeable figure of what that will save WI for the first full calendar years. But I will tell you it will dwarf $498 million, quickly. Then we take the money out the well lit front door, and almost immediately shove it back in the the poorly lit back door, again. It was inexcusable to allow police, fireman, court, etc employees to be sidestepped in this Adjustment. It is also inexcusable for our WI Politicians to put in 6 years of part-time work and reap near $1700 per month retirement. A pox on both sides of the aisle.

Mind of Minerva
Mind of Minerva

Um, court employees or etc. employees were not exempted, only police and fire mainly because they are Republican sacred cows and they donated to and endorsed Walker's campaign.

Check your facts.


I was told Judges were exmpted?


Nutjob, where in my post did I mention ALEC! It was all about the school board.


Nutjob, where in my post disni

Mind of Minerva
Mind of Minerva

...but why do these threads always devolve to the point of attacking teachers?

While government workers can't complain about paying for their retirement benefits being unfair (nobody will listen to that argument), why must the other side continue to berate them after Walker is done with them. That is just as childish as the whining in my mind. Both sides need to give it up and move on already. The rest of us already have.

Mind of Minerva
Mind of Minerva

I have a feeling it will be awfully hard to convince most people that Walker is bad for the state. He cut spending, lowered property taxes, created a budget surplus in his first budget. In his second budget, he is planning on restoring at least some funding to schools and lowering income taxes with that surplus. If the economy turns around and jobs are added, there will be very little left to point fingers with.

I think it could have been done differently instead of attacking unions, dividing a state along political lines, turning everyone against all government workers, and demoralizing those that work directly and indirectly under him. You may not like how he accomplished these things, but it will be hard to argue against the positive results he may deliver in return. He did make a spectacle of himself and our state on national scale, but what will most people think if Wisconsin reverses course and suddenly is better off than most other states in the next couple of years?


Interesting, isn't it. All Walker has to do is change the accounting system used to prove he is operating at a surplus. In fact, if we look at the previous 5 decades and use the same accounting formula, Walker has a 2.21 Billion Dollar Deficit. This same accounating formula used with Gov Doyle had him with a 2.12 Billion Dollar Deficit. This is the same deficit Walker used to ridicule Doyle (then Barrett) during the campaign. Unfortunately, now Walker has everyone believing in Wisconsin that he has a surplus . . . simply because he changed his accounting methods.
Walker is a joke! He used the GAAP report against his opponents (Doyle in 2010 and Barrett in 2012) and uses the Cash Budgetary Basis accounting method to the public.
Look close at the 2 numbers comparing apples to apples and you will find that Walker has a greater deficit than his predecessors. People in Wisconsin, and expecially here in Western Wisconsin, need to understand that Walker is a liar, a cheat, and a fraud.


Dave I read a lot of complaing in your article, but like most, very few solutions. It's easy to sit there and say we should do this and that, and we should give more money to education and the poor, but you fail to mention just where the money should come from.

Taxing the rich only goes so far. California is finding our that rich people can move.
Wisconsin is already one of the highest taxed States in the country.
I really doubt raising taxes overall is much of an option.

The old ways of borrowing and kicking the problem down the road is starting to have real consequences. Probably not an option either.

Why not be productive, and state for every dollar Walker spend, where you recommend he make cuts and why. Then maybe you'll get some creditability.


Walker put the state on the wrong path? The GOP has put the entire country on the wrong path:

"Are Republicans the 'stupid party'?"

"The Louisiana governor, a likely contender for his party's presidential nomination in 2016, said a number of Republicans had "damaged the brand" by making "offensive and bizarre" comments."

""We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping," he says. "We as Republicans have to accept that government number crunching - even conservative number crunching - is not the answer to our nation's problems.""

"I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it." - John Stuart Mill


why would you take your kid our of school to go on vacation? Pathetic!!


Because I am their father and I can do that. My daughter’s teachers miss more school than my girls do. And traveling during the week is cheaper and far less crowded. I also take them out of school for 2 days to go to the Dells in the winter. The waterpark all to ourselves, and it is great. Missing a few days of schools is not going to kill them. Quality time with the family is a good thing. Plus I don't get the time in the summer to go on vacation because it is busy season for my business. Look at it like this, I take winters off and vacation with the family and teachers take summers off and vacation with theirs. And plus IF their teachers actualy knew what their lesson plan was my girls could have done their homework while we were gone. But it didn't work out that way.


BTW OH holier than thou, where is YOUR outrage for the teachers walking out on our kids and leaving them teacher less? Where is your outrage at the teachers going out shopping during this walk out?

And again this is not hatred for the teachers; this is anger from going deaf from all the whining that comes from their mouths. Teachers work no harder than the rest of us and people continually put them on a peddle stool. And before you go all "they mold our kids" and all the other diatribe, go compare ACT scores from homeschooling compared to traditional schooling. Teaching is not hard and parents across the country without college educations are proving that. I want good teachers that are held accountable for their jobs, not continuously allowing sub-par collect a paycheck "teachers" who deprive our kids of a good education because of their lack of motivation. Pay the teacher’s well I say, remove the one's that cannot do their jobs.


Capital Times is a Democratic rag. What else would you expect to hear from the old retired editor? Cap Times has NEVER seen the light of day.


Celticman, maybe YOU work 60 hours a week but many do not. My children are in 5th and 10th grade and we went on vacation last year for over a week, we asked both teachers for the homework for that time and the BOTH of the teachers answered "they do not have the lesson plans for that time". WHY? For my 5th grader especially homework is sent home in a form of a standardized worksheet that takes NO prep time for the teacher. In fact it is the same exact worksheet that my 10th grader got when she was in 5th grade at the same school and even with the same teacher. The funny thing is, who do you think is grading the papers while in class? The TA. See Celticman, we don't hate teachers at all, we are just tired of hearing about your sufferings and how you are overworked. I bet a lot of us know some teachers, and the ones I do are NOT working 60 hours a week and stressing about the next day’s class. And a couple I do know have been awarded your wonderful "teacher of the years" awards


Hey Nutjob - if you and your Teabag buddies aren't happy with the school board members, then find someone to run against them in the next election. The majority of board members run unopposed every time. I would be surprised if you even voted.


Funny, the TEACHERS will only vote for school board members who will do what is in the best interest of the those very same teachers. A person who has the best interests of non teacher tax paying citizens has NO chance of winning the election. Teachers get to vote for the very people who "negotiate" and rule on school matters for them. Must be nice to pick your own bosses.


Yeah Baby!!! Ditto

Rational Independent

PLEASE read this La Crosse Tribune news atricle in detail before responding. I think there is a math class that some of you have missed. Opinions and emotions often drive these types of discussions, but the math remains.

Rational Independent

Oops....forgot to include the link....sorry!


In all of your ranting and raving against the teachrs, I think the operative word here is 'NEGOTIATED'. The contract was not a one-sided document or dictatorship. And if you used half of your brain, you would realize a teacher's day is nofinished at 3PM. Who does the correcting of papers, leson planning for the next day/week, who buys supplies when there is no money left in the budget, where do the pencils come from when the student forgets to bring his/hers? Get a clue and stop defending Walker. He like Tommy Thompson are so anti-education/teachers they are about to destroy Wisconsin's education system.

Connie L. Troyanek, President

2726 Shelby Road
La Crosse, WI 54601
(608) 788-0670

As a result of Governor Walkers ACT 10, Onalaska school district saved over $800,000 after switching from the teacher union owned WRS Trust insurance to Gundesen Lutheran.

Yet Dave wants you to believe that Governor Walker put the state on the wrong path.


YUP, and the West Salem school district saved a MILLION bucks and promptly gave half of that to the teachers in the form of bonuses. Yet, they didn't have the money to fix the school district owned pool heater so they passed the 20 grand repair bills on to the taxpayers. NICE!!!!!


celtic if you work 55 hours a week and work 2200 hours thats 40 weeks. last time i checked there are 52 weeks in a year 12 weeks off. 4 weeks in a month tell us again u dont get 3 months off


Gee steviekins I guess you aren't very bright. If the guys works 2200 hrs that is a full work year. He does it in 40 weeks. That means he works more than you in your part-time job after mom drives you to the fast food joint. Try an keep up here.


"If the guys works 2200 hrs ...."?

Thats like stating, 'the TIF project produces lots of jobs that otherwise would not be here'? LOL!

How many jobs would that be? Duh?


tower, Funny you bring up the term "bright"?


Lose of experience or dead weight. Time will tell. We spend more money on education than any other country, by a wide margin. Yet our results are middle of the pack at best. We should expect better.

Couple ideas:
- bring in some teachers as contracted employees, and see how they do vs. Union.
- take a poll of graduates 3-5-7 years after graduation, and see how well they think they were taught, and prepared for society. Also ask them to rank their teachers.
- I would like to see a Company like Microsoft or Apple, staff and run a couple test schools nationwide complete with 100% of staffing, and see how their management and results stack up to current union run schools. It would be interesting.


Good letter Dave. Walker is merely an ALEC puppet. Unfortunately, not many people realize this.

Oh noes! ... nots the evil ALEC again Vicky?

What is ALEC?

The American Legislative Exchange Council works to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.

A nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty. Their vision and initiative resulted in the creation of a voluntary membership association for people who believed that government closest to the people was fundamentally more effective, more just, and a better guarantor of freedom than the distant, bloated federal government in Washington, D.C.

Seriously Now
Seriously Now

I checked the LC County list and I see Assistant Principals making over $100,000 a year while teachers are making $40,000 LESS (around $68,000). So it seems, as often happens, that the fat cats are the admins and their are too many of them...these are ASSISTANT Principals, not even Principals...who make even more. So I think this anti-teacher sentiment is wrongly aimed.


Check out how much your area teachers make:


Sorry Dave your arguments don't hold water. Educators have for too long taken advantage of taxpayers to line their pockets with good wages and excessive benefits. Welcome to the real world. People are struggling to get average paying jobs and they continues to complain. The fact that they can "retire" says a lot about the benefits they have. The middle class will always shoulder the brunt of taxes, they are the only ones with money. There are not enough in the 1% club to cover all the entitlements the Democrats have created. Don't expect the poor to pay, they are getting their Obama supplements tax free. Extending unemployment is a joke, there are jobs available, these people do not want to work or they have the selfish perception they are "worth" more. I challenge you to go into any school and observe what is going on, certainly nothing worth $50,000+ and another $30,000+ in benefits. (for nine months of work).

"Yet we may well be standing on the brink of a rush to the bottom, where workers earn less, spend less and their children learn less as middle-class families fall further behind."

So the point of this Walker hit piece is taking money out of private sector workers pockets via higher taxes, to line the pockets of public sector workers so they can be paid more, can therefore spend more and children will learn more. Got it.

So Dave would rather have an enlightened Madison progressive Governor who knows what is best for all of us; raising all of our taxes to redistribute to those that support the stealing from their neighbor.

Why should we in the private sector be the one’s to have any disposable income when it can all go towards taxes?

Let the teachers and administrators in the $100,000 Dollar club spend OUR money on a new 80 inch 3d TV, we are not worthy.

Why should we be the one’s to have a steak dinner, when off brand chicken by-products formed into sliced baloney will provide just enough protein to feed us serfs?

Health care expenses? Well I guess we will have to do without or charge it on a credit card; we simply can’t allow for any public union worker to miss a valuable day of hard stressful work or heaven forbid, face the same health care expenses the rest of us have to endure.

Retirement? Why on earth would we consider NOT working 40-50 hours a week until we die? We serfs need to generate the taxes so the elitist public union worker can retire at 55 with a Cadillac health insurance plan. Because teaching five 50 minute classes a day with 10 minute coffee breaks and only a 3 month paid vacation is just … TOO … DANG … HARD!


I'll try, in the interest of fairness, to answer your ridiculous rant:

1. The gov't, in every country in the world I think, takes money from its citizens in the form of taxes and then uses that money to do things. Some citizens do that work, and, surprisingly enough, are paid for that work. I think this started sometime around the time of the Roman empire.

2. I don't have an 80 inch TV, nor cable, etc., so it would be pointless anyway.

3. You seem to think we teachers are at the top of the food pyramid. We are not. If you make the median income in WI, about $50K, you and I are neighbors on the pyramid. Do you realize that there is another world above both of us? That world is inhabited by Walker supporters (think $500K donations from individuals) who have convinced you that I am the enemy.

4. You seem to think I work less than 40-50 hours per week. I don't. I work more in the 55-60 hours per week range.

5. I don't have a 3 month paid vacation. I work over 2200 hrs/yr.

Seriously Now
Seriously Now

This anti-teacher sentiment is embedded in a scapegoating mentality. Whenever times are tough, those unemployed or underemployed have to find someone to vent their wrath on. I'd bet many of them never paid much attention in school and have trouble making over $25,00 a year.


You see fellas. Those of us around that $33K per capita income have to take the expense out of or Net Checks for dental, working health coverage, post retirment health coverage, and a retirement based on double digit matching gross pay contribution made by all your neighbors. You on the other hand spend your Net Check on what you like. Then have these necessities lumped on top of your Net Paycheck. Nobody buys you mantra, not even your WRS Brothers. County Esecutive Board, School Board? Filled with a majority of Brother WRS Recipients, or spouse of same. FACT! I really think too many after an while n the System feel that they are truly deserving???


Seriously Now- You are Delusional, and a Recipient.


You spend so much time writng your comments that it seems you don't work as many hours you claim. Doesn't compute. Now get back to work.

Q.) Why are some school districts struggling, while others are prospering?

A.) Many school boards rushed to EXTEND teacher union contracts to beat Governor Walkers ACT 10, costing taxpayers MILLIONS of dollars that could have offset any future shortfalls. We have WRS brothers, sisters and spouses that are members of the school boards that supposed to represent the taxpayers in negotiations negotiating with their WRS brothers, sisters and spouses in the teacher unions. In La Crosse school district we have board members that signed the recall Walker petitions, including the school board president, it’s a club!

Q.) Why are teachers and other public union employees leaving BEFORE their contract expires?

A.) To get all the goodies those in the private sector would never see that were negotiated in the contract such as early retirement health insurance. Where else but the public sector can one retire at 55 with a Cadillac health insurance policy?


How about industry CEOs? How about Wall Street executives? How about any place where the workers are allowed to negotiate with their employers? Is this really Nestor under yet another name?

So your saying two wrongs make a right? Got it.

We have WRS brothers, sisters and spouses that are members of the school boards that supposed to represent the taxpayers in negotiations sitting across the table negotiating with their WRS brothers, sisters and spouses in the teacher unions.

In La Crosse school district we have board members that signed the recall Walker petitions, including the school board president, it’s a club!

Connie L. Troyanek, President

2726 Shelby Road
La Crosse, WI 54601
(608) 788-0670


Nutty a very good post. But you should have placed quotation marks before and after.


He takes more time, types better. and makes less mistakes.

But! Your argument Celtic makes no sense. In private business where you dance to a Profit God, it is none of your business. Unless you own stock and then you may go the way that ADM went with their board Members. Otherwise and again, it is none of your business.

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