Wisconsin Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s landmark budget and unionization reform bill, has allowed school districts across the state to balance budgets without teacher layoffs, according to a new report from The Heartland Institute.
“Act 10 virtually eliminated [the state’s] $3.6 billion budget deficit … and provided school districts with measures previously unavailable to them to accomplish spending reductions,” writes report author Maureen Martin, a Wisconsin resident and general counsel and senior fellow for legal affairs at The Heartland Institute.
“Many districts have balanced their budgets for the first time in years,” she notes. “Some even have surpluses and are hiring more teachers and reducing class size.”
Martin’s Policy Brief, “Wisconsin’s Act 10: A Partial Fix for the State Budget Deficit,” recounts how previous administrations typically plugged budget deficits with one-time fixes and illegal diversions of cash from restricted funds. By 2009, Wisconsin’s budget deficit had reached $6.6 billion, the largest in state history. By late 2010, a series of one-time fixes had lowered the deficit to $3.6 billion. Walker, inaugurated in January 2011, proposed Act 10 to repair the budget with fundamental reforms.
Martin discusses the measure’s enactment and subsequent litigation to prevent its going into effect. She also offers a short history of teachers unions in Wisconsin, noting, “The uproar in Madison during consideration of Act 10 is attributable in part to Wisconsin’s long history of unionization.” She considers the notion that there is, or should be, a “right” to collective bargaining.
Finally, the report offers “Act 10 success stories,” reports from school districts that have employed Act 10 provisions to balance their budgets without teacher layoffs. School districts in Kaukauna, Appleton, Hartland-Lakeside, Marinette, West Bend, and New Berlin are profiled. Milwaukee and Kenosha also are profiled, as districts where union contracts block implementation of Act 10 to the detriment of teachers and students there.