Wisconsin Union Has Its Claws Deep in State Government

Kyle Olson

3/3/2011 12:01:00 AM - Kyle Olson

In the ongoing battle between public employees and taxpayers, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has cited WEA Trust, a company that specializes in providing health insurance to school employees, as the number one reason why collective bargaining must be reformed.

As Education Action Group pointed out last year, WEA Trust is controlled by the Wisconsin Education Association Council – WEAC – the state’s largest teachers union. EAG produced an in-depth report revealing how the teacher unions use the collective bargaining process to demand that WEA Trust be used as their health insurance provider. WEA Trust is typically the most expensive insurance on the market, but no matter. The union’s insurance company gets a fat contract, and the taxpayers are left with the bill. It’s a clever scheme, that’s for sure.

Even more evidence of the cozy relationship between WEAC, WEA Trust and Wisconsin politicians (especially Democrats), can be found in the 2009 election of Tony Evers as Wisconsin’s state superintendent.

For whatever reason, Wisconsin doesn’t hold its state superintendent election with all the others. Instead, it is held in the quarter following a presidential election, when most voters aren’t paying any attention. Such off-off-year elections are prime opportunities for the special interests to come out and play. So when the election for the state superintendent post was held in spring 2009, the special interests did some serious playing.

According to the left-leaning Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Evers spent $228,419 on his campaign. In contrast, WEAC spent a whopping $564,993 -- nearly two and a half times what Evers spent.

Bless their hearts – it must be that the union cares so much about the welfare of students, right?

But a curious thing happened about a year later: Evers gave his “Friend of Education” award to – wait for it, wait for it – WEA Trust!

Was Evers attempting to insulate WEA Trust from the fight that was coming down the road? Or was the award Evers’ way of thanking his biggest campaign supporter? Whatever the reason, nonsense like that has the effect of destroying the taxpayers’ faith in their government.

Gov. Walker has said publicly that if Wisconsin school districts could move away from WEA Trust, they could save upwards of $68 million a year. That would certainly help fill the $3.6 billion budget gap.

So who is looking out for taxpayers? Scott Walker or Tony Evers? And who is the real “Friend of Education?” Scott Walker or WEA Trust? I guess it depends on what the intent of the system is: to educate children or to keep the adults happy.