Below is the full verbatim interview of veteran teacher Meg Farrington. The Somerset School District took a collaborative approach in their educational policy over the past couple of years. The school board not only included administrators and the public in their decision-making, but teachers as well when they were no longer required to do so by law. Her story is a stunning tale of a community pulling together in a crisis.
Stephanie Kline resigned from her position as an 8th grade math teacher at New Richmond Middle School in Wisconsin. Her last day of teaching is June 6, 2012. A final straw for Kline came when her 5-year-old son was refused services at her New Richmond Clinic for an outstanding medical bill accrued this past year. Her medical deductible increased $3,500 coupled with a salary decrease of $2000 in the 2011-2012 school year. The decreasing ability to support her family, along with stress, uncertainty, and lack of communication has pushed her out of the teaching profession. Her story may resonate with many workers around the state who have experienced changes in their profession due to public policy choices. However, Kline’s story is a personal one. She states several times throughout this interview that she is “only speaking for myself, and not other teachers.”
Kim Wojchik is the Executive Director at Turningpointin River Falls for victims of domestic and sexual violence. They served 797 people in 2011 who came to them from either Pierce or St. Croix County [Western Wisconsin]. She has seen government funding to her facility decrease by 15% over the past few years, and funding for the sexual abuse program has been eliminated entirely. However, with hard work and tremendous help from the community, Turningpoint has been able to “stabilize” for now. In order to do that, they needed to make tough choices that were previously not desirable. For example, Wojchik has increased the time that families can stay in the shelter form 1 to 3 months because they “literally don’t have anything to leave to…where 3 years ago they did”.
WIvoices.org has removed this statement at the end of this article: “According to Farrington, this has come to fruition as every couple of weeks “there is no food left for the backpack program…so the teachers (help with) that.”
Farrington was referring to the recent across the board state cuts affecting the backpack program, not to specific cuts to her school district. Furthermore, teachers use their own time and money to offset the cuts. WIvoices.org is responsible for all the information in this article.
Meg Farrington (29-year veteran teacher from Somerset, WI) explains that some students are struggling with hunger in school and how teachers have “stepped up to the plate” to bridge the gap and fill the need in the community. Farrington said “because of Governor Walker’s cuts” at the state level, consequences in policy choices have become reality for the most vulnerable children in rural Wisconsin.
For instance, public school districts have a cooperative agreement with social services to feed hungry children through a “backpack program” in which children are given food to take home over the weekend. I contacted Duana Bremer (local Director of Social Services) for comment, “the demand keeps going up and everything is more difficult”. Her crew packs over 900 backpacks/week for hungry children and issued a press release detailing the need in the community. Before this backpack program, teachers and nurses reported that some children were “begging” for food, experiencing stomach issues, and were “agitated” and unable to learn due to hunger related issues. The backpack program eliminated these issues; however, due to budget cuts the program is now threatened.
WIvoices.org previously interviewed Bremer, on July 30, 2011 about this issue. At that time, Bremer worried that the backpack program would suffer due to the cuts at the state level.
Well into the evening, I met Bob Beglinger and his wife Sheryl after they had been on the road for several days. Bob is a member of the citizen’s group called POWRS Committee (Protect Our Wisconsin Retirement System). He has been busy traveling around the state speaking to concerns that the state government may be taking steps to alter the fully-funded system, which serves 572,000 Wisconsinites. The WRS has been copied by innumerable entities, both foreign and domestic, so Bob questions the motives behind changing such a coveted system. He is not only an advocate for present and future retirees, but after serving the public for 34 years as a state worker, Bob is a WRS member himself.
This is the 3rd (and final) part of a series of interviews from the Walker recall kick off rally in Madison, WI, November 19, 2011. Read the first part of the series HEREand the second part HERE.
These bagpipers from the firefighter’s union have not missed a single Madison rally. In the crowd of 40,000, I was fortunate enough to make my way right up next to them as they circled the Capitol. I captured this inspiring bagpipeaudio. As you listen, it feels like you are right in the crowd, eavesdropping on side conversations and struggling to hear over the cheers of bystanders. The crowd followed, sang, and played makeshift instruments along with them at times.
I randomly interviewed people in the crowd. I was surprised by the number of people who were at the rally primarily supporting other people. Being minimally affected themselves by recent public policy changes, some people were advocating for the preservation of the legacy of Wisconsin.
UPDATE #2: March 6, a Dane County Judge placed a temporary restraining order on the Voter ID bill, calling it the “single most restrictive voter eligibility law” in the United States. Local elections all over the state on April 3, 2012 operated under the previous law. A second judge placed a permanent injunction on the law. A trial on whether to grant a permanent injunction is scheduled for April 16. This issue is expected to reach the WI Supreme Court.
Now that photo ID’s are required for voting in Wisconsin, Jennifer “Rita” Platt and John Wolfe drove 45 minutes from Osceola to the nearest Dept. of Motor Vehicles office in Hudson, only to be turned away. Governor Walker and state Republicans recently passed the “Voter Photo ID Law”, or Act 23, which has many Wisconsinites scrambling. Rita and John brought social security cards, current pay stubs, and driver’s licenses from Iowa, but it wasn’t enough. They need to pay for certified birth certificates, and wait for them to arrive in the mail, in order to secure a free Wisconsin ID card issued for voting. To complicate matters further for the couple, the computers at the DMV were down and unable to process their request.