Wisconsin: Who’s to blame?

Who’s to blame for the teachers’ crisis in Wisconsin?  Andrew Rotherham has blame to go around.

The liberals want local control in Wisconsin, while Republican Gov. Scott Walker doesn’t trust local school boards to drive a hard bargain with teachers’ unions, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

Indiana Democrats left the state to block a right-to-work bill. Gov. Mitch Daniels said he won’t ask state police to pursue the missing legislators. He wants his fellow Republicans to postpone the bill.

Teachers’ pensions are unsustainable, writes RiShawn Biddle.

Does the conflict in Madison represent “creative destruction” or plain old destruction?  Government workers are in for a painful transition, writes Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest. But the only alternative to improving productivity is seeing living standards decline for all Americans, he argues.

What we’ve got to do here is to deploy technology and aggressive, creative reform and restructuring to health, education and government.  Much bureaucratic work in government is routine; computers are going to have to replace people wherever possible.  Staffs are going to have to shrink in ways that are simply unimaginable to present day government workers and their union leaders.

The educational system is going to change radically, Mead predicts. Students will be “evaluated and credentialed on the basis of what they know, not on the basis of time served.”  That will end the pressure to earn meaningless degrees.

Employees will demonstrate their competence to employers by passing exams in different job-relevant subjects that test real skills; the training for these tests will be provided by entrepreneurial organizations that are likely to rapidly replace many of the inefficient and expensive post-secondary educational institutions around today, once appropriate systems to regulate their practices and monitor their performance can be developed.  (Traditional liberal arts education needs to survive, and it will, but education and training are very different things that require very different approaches.  To promote economic growth and social mobility, and to help individuals continually retool their skills in a changing economy, we need to separate training from education and make training as widely available, cheap and convenient as possible.)

I was a union (Newspaper Guild) member for many years when I worked for a Knight Ridder newspaper.  Knight Ridder, once the second largest newspaper chain in the U.S., no longer exists. My former colleagues have taken wage cuts, unpaid furloughs, “give backs” on benefits and still seen two thirds of the editorial staff laid off.  If your employer’s business model becomes obsolete, workers have to adapt, which means working harder and smarter to replace your laid-off colleagues, finding a new job and learning to live on less money.  “Creative destruction” is a bitch, but it beats destruction.