All now hinges on the coming recall elections.
Gov. Scott Walker and the courageous state Senate Republicans struck a massive blow for education reform and quality schools by their passage of the restrictions on collective bargaining. Now it will be possible, in Wisconsin, to limit teacher tenure — discharging bad ones and promoting good ones. Merit pay, rewarding great teachers with big salaries, will follow. And, should layoffs be needed, we will be able to keep our best teachers regardless of seniority.
Nationally, Walker's courage impairs the power of the teachers union and undermines the stranglehold it has on our politics. His initiatives, we hope, will spread throughout the nation.
But all will hinge on the coming recall elections. It now appears likely that the Democratic senators will never return to the State Capitol in Madison. They will probably not return to allow passage of the rest of Walker's program, but will focus instead on their efforts to recall the Republican senators and Walker himself.
In turn, the Republicans will file recall petitions against the absent Democratic state senators who have been AWOL throughout. Sometime between July and October, the recall elections will be held, and we will see who wins.
Thus, in effect, Wisconsin is going to put the issue to a statewide referendum through the device of recall elections.
The balance of Walker's program — still held in abeyance — seeks to make state workers pay more for health insurance and pensions, force the union to collect its dues rather than see them deducted automatically and cap collective bargaining agreements at the rate of inflation.
The course of the recall elections will determine the fate of his proposals and the future of such movements across America.
The stakes could not be higher.
We plan an all-out effort to win these recall elections decisively and to drive from office the absentee Democratic legislators. We will work hard to help the Republicans and reward them for their courage in standing up for our children in the face of the teachers unions.
If we win in Wisconsin, we will break the back of the teachers union and the entire municipal employee labor structure, which has dominated state and local government for decades. The financial base of the left wing of the Democratic Party will be in tatters.
But if we lose, other governors will shy away from the confrontation, and the union domination of our schools and local governments will continue, sapping educational quality.
At stake is our ability to hold bad teachers accountable, promote good ones, undertake layoffs based on merit not seniority and let parents choose the schools they want.