If anyone truly understands how harmful Walker’s union busting plan will be on employees in general, they are most likely feeling angry, irritable, frustrated, nervous and understandably uncertain about the future. The teaching profession seemed to everyone the most unlikely target imaginable. I still can’t wrap my head around it. It was so easy to manipulate an angry, backed into the corner frightened public.
Think about it, if it was so easy to turn the public against those caring individuals who chose to teach our children, how long will it be before someone decides you’re not part of their plan either?
After my recent rant on the devastating exodus of so many demoralized great teachers, I ran across this heart crushing story in the Progressive:
The Progressive: Jeri-Lynn Betts, an early childhood teacher in the Watertown, Wisconsin, school district, died on March 8 of an apparent suicide.
A colleague says she was “very distraught” over Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on public sector workers and public education. Betts, 56, was a dedicated teacher who was admired in the Watertown community.
“She was definitely very distraught about it,” said one of her co-workers … “She was feeling a lot of stress about the legislation that was going through.”“She was concerned about the cuts teachers would have to take,” said another … Betts’s colleagues acknowledged her anguish about the governor’s policies in their discussions after her death.
But the report from the Watertown police gives some clues. A police offer took a statement from Susan Kemmerling, who worked with Betts as a special education paraprofessional for the past decade.
“Susan advised me that Geri had a long history of depression,” Officer Jeffrey Meloy wrote in his report. “Susan stated that the last several weeks had been ‘stressing her out’ due to the protests and the introduction of the budget repair bill and the uncertainty involved in the teaching world, as far as who was going to have jobs and what services were going to be cut. . . . Susan stated that Jeri truly loved her job … everybody had noticed, however, the last few weeks since the introduction of the budget repair bill that Jeri was having a lot of difficulty.”
Officer Meloy also interviewed Bonnie Lauersdorf, a physical therapist who worked with Betts for the past 25 year years and had been friends with her “for most of her adult life,” the report says. She told the officer that Jeri was concerned about “the uncertainty of what the budget was going to do to her retirement” and about “cuts to the school districts and possible cuts to the special ed program.” Lauersdorf added that “Jeri felt like she was being ‘forced out,’ ” the report says … teachers are worried about class sizes going up, increased workloads, and not being able to “develop curriculum material around the individual needs of students.”