COON VALLEY — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker likened compensation in the teaching profession to free agency in the National Football League during a visit Monday to Coon Valley.
Walker held an invitation-only listening session at Coon Valley and afterward gave a couple of interviews focused on education, rural roads and the use of state recreational land along the Mississippi River.
When asked whether he would encourage a relative with a teaching degree to seek employment in Wisconsin or Minnesota, Walker said Wisconsin.
“They don’t have to wait 20 years to be able to succeed,” Walker said. “If they’re a great teacher and they’ve got great incentive to perform they can get a high-quality teaching job anywhere in the state of Wisconsin and they can get rewarded for that and not have to wait to build years of seniority.”
Walker said school districts can set pay based on performance and hire based on merit.
“It’s about putting the best and the brightest in the classroom,” Walker said. “If someone is an exceptional talent and wants to go into education, they can be rewarded for that.”
When asked whether he thought such incentive-driven salary programs would be a hindrance to allowing school districts to keep quality teachers, Walker compared teaching to being a player in the NFL.
“If the Green Bay Packers pay people to perform and if they perform well on their team, (the Packers) pay them to do that,” Walker said. “They don’t pay them for how many years they’ve been on the football team. They pay them whether or not they help (the Packers) win football games.”
Walker said Wisconsin school districts can pay either a fresh college graduate or a 25-year veteran based solely on performance.
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“Most businesses outside of government, that’s how they operate as well,” Walker said.
Walker said improving Wisconsin’s rural roads is an issue for future budgets.
“The big thing we’re going to focus on in the next budget when it comes to transportation is safety and maintenance,” Walker said.
He said when he came in as governor, he inherited a state budget fund that had been raided of $1 billion and a constitutional loophole had to be closed so it would never happen again.
Walker said the state has too many big transportation projects underway in southeast Wisconsin. In the next budget, that will change, he said, with less focus on new road projects in the Milwaukee area.
“Going forward we’re not doing new projects down there,” Walker said. “We really need to not focus on big new projects in those urban areas, but just on maintaining the system we have. Not just for the state highway system, but we’ll put more money, a higher amount, into local... road aids.”
Walker said there is no definitive answer to properly address increasing the access Wisconsin residents have to recreational lands that lie west of railroad tracks lining the Mississippi River.
BNSF began strict enforcement forbidding railroad crossings except at marked crossings last year. That has cut off people who hunt and fish from thousands of acres of recreational land along the Mississippi River.
“There’s incredible liability for railroads if something happens, if God forbid someone were hit, there’d be big meetings saying ‘why did the state allow this to happen?’” Walker said. “Conversely, I’m a hunter, I hunt further down in Bagley. I get people’s concerns, when they say, “I want to get over there to hunt or fish or whatever.’ What we’re trying to find out is there a good, reasonable solution that allows certain places to cross that protect people’s safety at the same time.”