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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Walker's desire to leave himself an out as governor is smart politics, but it leaves a bad taste. (PHOTO: Gage Skidmore)

No wonder Walker doesn't like contracts


Last week, I got an official-looking envelope in the mail from my employer, the Milwaukee Public Schools. It didn't start with "Congratulations," but it was written in such a way as to make me feel lucky that I am not so sufficiently awful at my job that my teaching contract would be terminated for next year. In other words, kids, I'm still gainfully employed until at least June 2015.

However, I noticed this long and intimidating section of the letter: "In the event the teacher unilaterally terminates his/her employment during the contract term, the teacher will be responsible for paying liquidated damages in the amount of $1,000 if the resignation occurs during the months of July or August. If the teacher resigns between September 1 and the last day of the school year, he/she will be responsible for paying liquidated damages in the amount of $2,000."

In other words, because MPS is willing to put some faith in me for another term of employment, they expect me to do the same and stick around until the end of the contract. If I don't, there are some consequences for me. Not like jail or anything, but enough to know they mean business.

That's the thing about a contract: It holds not just one side to a legally binding set of circumstances, but both. Coming to an agreement is called bargaining not because one side gets a deal (though that sometimes happens), but because of the give-and-take where both sides know they are on a – if not necessarily the – hook.

On the same day I got that letter, I saw the news the Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was refusing to commit to serving a full four-year term if the people re-elect him this fall. He's signing up to do a job that comes with a particular length of contract, and, unlike someone like me who has to serve the whole length of the contract or suffer the consequences, Walker wants to leave himself an out.

This is smart from his point of view, I guess (I hesitate to put myself in Walker's mind or shoes or merely area code for that matter, but there's a certain social, um, contract here between reader and blogger and I won't let you down). People who don't live in Wisconsin keep talking about how Walker is a top prospect for the 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination. At the very least, people say he might be a vice-presidential prospect because President Romney credits Paul Ryan for turning Wisconsin Red in 2012.

Fans of "Veep" or "House of Cards" might be thinking of other reasons why Walker might not serve four years. But that's TV, people.

Sure, Barack Obama didn't serve all six years of his Senate term. And, sure, George W. Bush didn't finish his second term as governor. And, sure, Bill Clinton didn't, etc. The act of leaving mid-term isn't necessarily a poor harbinger. Depending on who you ask, those presidencies turned out okay (I said depending on who you ask. Put the pen down!).

But still, there's something dismissive about the attitude Walker shows here, something that suggests he knows his stay in Madison is temporary and not deserving of his full attention.

In fact, it brings to mind something else about Scott Walker from his days as Milwaukee County Executive. He promised, when running in 2002, to collect a reduced salary from the office. He maintained that promise when running for a full term in 2004.

But then he ran for governor in 2006, and suddenly that sacrifice made sense: He was willing to take a lower salary to score political points on his way to Madison. After he flamed out of the 2006 primary, he started drawing the full salary of the Milwaukee County Executive. It was his right, of course, but it kind of seemed like he was taking a consolation prize.

And here we are again, with Walker talking to us, his constituents, as if we are the consolation prize, as if whatever office he's in now is just a stepping stone on the way to something bigger.

You can't do that when you have a contract. I'm a lowly teacher, not something awesome like governor, and even I know that.

Talkbacks

Scotty1979 | April 24, 2014 at 1:34 p.m. (report)

When I first saw the article I thought "Begel is going off on one of his crazy rants again" I was wrong; we have a new idiot at OMC

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fetlarpo | April 23, 2014 at 5:56 p.m. (report)

Teachers apparently are the new working poor. Let this guy rant as the rest of us pick up a second job to provide for our families and pay our taxes to our beloved public servants.

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AndrewJ | April 23, 2014 at 11:01 a.m. (report)

I'm somewhat amazed OMC is still letting you use their site as a whetstone to grind your axe... So, you did all the dirty work there... Obama, Clinton, Bush, Barrett, etc etc etc. It's a long party-blind list of individuals who left positions early seeking a larger office. Some earned the promotion via victory (Obama, Bush, etc), others did not (Barrett). For all those you mentioned in your article, this behavior was OK. But for Scott Walker.... Ooooooh, that Scott Walker... it's different. Why? No real moral aspect or the likes mentioned... you just don't like his tone. And that, sir, tells us eeeeeverything we need to know about the "social contract" you have, blogger to reader. It's terms are simple: Hypocrisy, highest order.

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emills81 | April 22, 2014 at 3:56 p.m. (report)

A contract is a contract? Ok, An article is an article and a grudge is a grudge. You have shown only one of those here. To go form Governor to President would be a promotion by the people. If you were (heaven forbid) hired as a principle you wouldnt be expected to still teach your class. I hope you dont teach the class on comparisons and metaphors Bitter much?

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TheyThink | April 22, 2014 at 3:39 p.m. (report)

So you sign a contract with MPS and yet are making the leap to somehow include Gov. Walker in some assumed contract that he'll serve out his next 4 years? Would you be equally upset if he resigned because he felt inept for the job? I'm guessing you'd be dancing in the streets. I wish I could get the last 3 minutes of my life back for reading that drivel.

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