By Cynthia McCabe
UPDATE: Watch Brad and Heather Lutes’ interview with Ed Schultz below.
There are families on the other end of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s hasty attempt to slash the benefits and labor rights of teachers in his state.
For them, the talk of calling out the National Guard and hiking public servants’ pension and health insurance costs isn’t just the stuff of political expedience. It’s their very livelihood when a teacher is bringing in one of the salaries in the household.
In the case of the Lutes family of Sun Prairie, Wisc., it is a double hit. Brad and Heather Lutes are both teachers, and if the governor’s so-called budget repair bill passes this week, they will take a combined $13,200 paycut. It’s a disheartening and scary proposition for the parents of two young children.
“Having to explain to an 8- and 10-year-old that the governor of your state basically wants to take money away from dad and mom? It’s just really, really frustrating,” said Brad Lutes.
That this particular attack comes specifically because he and his wife are teachers — both for 13 years — is galling. Walker’s budget bill goes after K-12 teachers, higher education faculty and staff, nurses, and government workers. Police, firefighters and the National Guard are exempt. The state’s firefighters have declared public support for those hit by the governor’s plan and have attended protests throughout the weekend.
(Keep abreast of the latest developments on the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s website.)
“I think everybody understands we’re in a bit of a fiscal crisis in our country but I don’t think any one group has been the cause of it,” Lutes said. “Why we would just target one group and not figure out a collective solution is beyond me.”
The mood at the elementary schools where the Lutes are physical education and health teachers has been grim since Gov. Walker announced his intentions last week.
“Everybody I talk to is really down in the dumps,” he said. “It’s been a real emotional hit. People are trying to figure out why. I don’t know what the answer is.”
The Lutes family scrambled this weekend to calculate the impact on their finances. What they don’t know is how, with what amounts to a 13 percent paycut, they will handle their $1,700 mortgage, their car payment, utilities, and a credit card bill started to pay for repairs after the state’s recent flooding damaged their home.
Then there’s the matter of the costs associated with their son and daughter’s extracurriculars. Swimming, baseball, basketball and soccer participation doesn’t come cheap. Their daughter’s desire to take piano lessons is now even more in jeopardy.
Brad and Heather are doing their part to take a stand against Gov. Walker’s dangerous proposals. Brad worked the phones this past weekend, mobilizing colleagues in the Wisconsin Education Association Council to call and email their legislators, and to attend rallies at the statehouse Wednesday and Thursday.
You can join them, to make a difference for Wisconsin educators, in just four quick steps:
1. Send a quick e-letter to Wisconsin legislators telling them you won’t stand for Gov. Walker’s so-called “budget fix.”
2. Join the thousands of people amassing on Facebook today telling Gov. Walker ‘No!’ in this important cause.
3. Sign up with to become a volunteer activist on EducationVotes. You’ll be a key player in the fight for public education!
4. Want to help but don’t live in Wisconsin? Sign our national petition to support educator and worker rights!