The Madison School District will shut down today, after large percentages of teachers called in sick [#104] to protest Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget bill that would strip them and most other public employees in Wisconsin of most of their collective bargaining rights. Thousands of teachers, students, activists and other public workers are expected to descend on the Capitol this morning for another day of protests against the budget plan [#47]. Hundreds stayed overnight inside the Rotunda, setting up makeshift tents and bunking for the night [#173].
Those who stayed wanted to be heard at the only public hearing on the legislation, known as the budget repair bill. Thousands demanded to speak at the hearing, which lasted at least 14 hours and well into the night [#15]. Lawmakers eventually allowed citizens to register their opinion on the bill on a blue slip of paper but not to make a public comment [assholes]. But many who didn’t get a chance to speak stayed at the Rotunda, as the statements continued in the hearing room.
Madison was not the only Wisconsin town to see protests yesterday. Governor Walker’s home in Wauwatosa had 1,000 protesters out in front of it Tuesday night, blocking traffic on the residential street [#47].
But Madison was clearly the hub for activism yesterday, with reports of up to 10,000 protesters participating. “The vote is planned for Thursday, so we want twice as many people there today and twice as many as that tomorrow,” said Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison. Bottari is also a parent, and her daughter came home with a a note from the school superintendent yesterday afternoon basically explaining that many teachers would be walking out tomorrow. At the time, local schools were still scheduled to be open, but it was clear from the message that they would not be operating under a normal schedule. By last night, 40% of the 2,600 teachers had called in sick, and the school district did not have enough substitute teachers to replace them.
Bottari described the protests yesterday – separate ones at midday, and another in the early evening after teachers got off work – as lively. They included workers from all over the state, including firefighters, who are exempt from the collective bargaining changes under the bill. “They ran buses from parking lots on the outskirts of the city into the Capitol,” Bottari said. A couple Democratic lawmakers in the Capitol unfurled a large banner reading “Solidarity” during the protests [#7].