Two-Teacher Wisconsin Family Hit Twice by Governor’s Plan


By Cynthia McCabe

UPDATE: Watch Brad and Heather Lutes’ interview with Ed Schultz below.

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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!

Reader Comments

  1. Did everyone this is affecting really think that it Couldn’t happen in this climate? We have 3 children and two years years ago around christmas time my hours were cut in half after 18 years. my husbands workplace had to lay off approximately half the staff to keep their heads above water. The only thing that saved him was the fact that he had been there for 16 years. After that he was 4th from the bottom so the next round would certainly include him so we battened down the hatches. We ended cable cell cut grocery bill paid off credit and poitioned for the worst. Friends whose son is serving overseas lost their jobs and eventually their home. It’s terribly scary to live in uncertain times and I truly feel for the families as I have elementary school teachers and retired professors in mine. I just don’t understand the surprise…

  2. My husband and I are both teachers, We have three kids and my husband works a second job. We also have a daughter at UW Madison! We feel your pain. I guess more houses might go to the bank! We have been driving older cars and eating from a brown bag like most teachers who don’t have the time to go out to lunch because a child is waiting for her help. Most of our friends that we went to college with are all making more than us. Most teachers would be making 90,000 plus if they were paid hourly, Scott has put a pretty grim light on being a teacher. My daughter who is excellent in math and science has decided not to be a teacher. She wants a career that is respected by her community. A babysitter makes more hourly if you break down the ratio.

    1. NEA Board Members, and alternates, are not paid, although they are reimbursed for travel expenses and may receive “sub pay” if they are required to miss work.

  3. We also have a daughter and son who are teachers and two granddaughters who attend public schools. They will be forced to seek other kinds of employment, out of state and take the grants that support their work with them, if their needs are not considered. Everyone can understand a budget crisis but the lack of respect for the important work that is done by our educators is appalling. On behalf of our family, which is filled with teachers and support staff, and also the many friends and neighbors who labor to improve the quality of life in Wisconsin stand up against the governors proposals.

    1. Oh gee, isn’t it too bad that the residents of Wisconsin finally get to stop footing the bill for the teachers who have not paid a dime into their pension fund – you must be kidding me. In Missouri, teachers pay 14% of their salary into their pension fund – that is $1100 a month – and you people think it is ok for you to save nothing and then when you retire, the state pays you – you people are a joke – plus your governor is only asking you to pay 5% which is not even a third of what most teachers in most states pay – when will you stop asking other people to support you????? You teachers are not any more important that any other hard working citizens in this country and you have been getting a free ride at the Wisconsin taxpayers expense!!!!!

      1. In Florida, we are being asked to do the same. Pay into our retirement. The issue here is…we are one of the lowest paid in the country (I think 37th of 50). We have always been told that the state paid into our pension fund because of the low pay. Now with insurance costs going up, no raise in three years and having to pay into our pensions….I am taking a serious pay cut!!! My husband is also a teacher…so it’s double! I am a tax payer, too! I don’t want to see money wasted either. No, teachers are not any more important than any other hard working citizens in this country. However, we are responsible for the most precious and fragile of our citizens…our children, their education and the future of this country.

        1. Isn’t it too bad when folks who don’t support teachers’ cause feel it necessary to use derogatory and patronizing language like “oh gee” and “you people are a joke” to get their point across? Thank you, Dee, for keeping your temper in check and responding in a civilized and eloquent manner!

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