The Corner

Why Is There No Public School in Wisconsin Today?

Chris Rickert of the Wisconsin State Journal explains why Wisconsin’s schoolkids are all sitting home today:

Why, you ask, are classes canceled on this entirely unremarkable Thursday the week before Halloween? On a day not set aside for any national holiday, nor part of any traditionally recognized vacation season, nor beset by record-breaking snowfall or some other natural cataclysm?

Well, because historically, a couple of consecutive weekdays in October have been something of a Wisconsin public schools-recognized holiday — the traditional time for the annual convention of the statewide teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

I know what you’re saying: “Don’t be ridiculous. Teachers have two and a half months in the summer to hold their convention! Why wouldn’t they have it then?”

And I hear you; an October teachers convention does defy logic. Yet, that’s been the case until this year, when things managed to get even more illogical.

This year, students are off even though the convention was canceled in April, apparently too late for some districts to update their calendars and schedule classes, assuming they wanted to. Many still have Thursday and Friday blocked off for the convention on their online calendars.

So Wisconsin kids will lose two days of instruction so their teachers can attend a union convention … that isn’t occurring. Instead of learning math and spelling, my two kids are currently sitting at home arguing about who gets to be Harry Potter for Halloween. (My four-week-old daughter is still bald, so in honor of the season finale of Breaking Bad, I was thinking she could be “Baby Heisenberg.”)

As to Rickert’s question about why teachers hold their convention in October: First of all, they do it simply because they can. (Thank you, collective bargaining!) But secondly, these conventions generally serve as campaign rallies. In even-numbered years, they occur a week before statewide elections for the state legislature, Congress, governor, etc. — and Democratic politicians flock to the WEAC convention to rally their troops. Holding the convention in, say, August, wouldn’t have the same effect.

— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.