ST. CROIX FALLS, Wis. (WCCO) — Wisconsin teachers in the St. Croix Falls school district went before the district’s school board Tuesday night to defend their decision to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed collective bargaining cutbacks in Madison.
St. Croix Falls Superintendent Glenn Martin said the district made the decision to close the schools after 50 to 60 percent of the teachers called in sick Friday to protest in Madison. Martin said the decision was made late Thursday night after the district realized it couldn’t find enough substitute teachers to make up for the absences.
“We come before you guilty as charged,” said eighth-grade language arts teacher Chris Wondra, who spoke on behalf of all the teachers Tuesday night.
The teachers stood behind him in solidarity as he spoke before the board about what he called a difficult decision that divided the school.
“This is a fact that weighed heavily on our hearts that day, still, we are not sorry that we went,” said Wondra.
Wondra said instead of staying comfortable in St. Croix Falls, teachers protested to stand up for all their students, and to teach by example.
“This is collective bargaining, this is negotiation: what we teach our students to do every day,” said Wondra.
Shawn Gudmunsen, a middle school music teacher, said he went to Madison to fight for his students, family and all public workers.
“Fifty years of Wisconsin history erased in one week,” said Gudmunsen.
Walker said as many as 1,500 workers could lose their jobs by July if his plan isn’t enacted, and has said that layoffs could begin as soon as next week if protesters and politicians don’t come to an agreement.
The reality leaves livelihoods and emotions at stake. Many of the teachers cried during the board meeting. Some gave standing ovations when parents and citizens spoke in support of the teachers. All seven people who testified before the school board supported the teachers’ decision to protest.
“These teachers stepped forward and did a magnificent thing,” said Loreen Clayton-Morrell, of St. Croix Falls. She urged the board to pass a resolution in opposition of Walker’s plan.
The board went into a closed session to discuss possible disciplinary action against the teachers for calling in sick Friday. A decision has not been made. The school board says it plans to consult legal counsel before reaching a decision.