They really outdid themselves. In Wisconsin and across the nation, public school employee unions spared no kiddie human shields in their battle against GOP Gov. Scott Walker's budget and pension reforms. Students were the first and last casualties of the ruthless Big Labor war against fiscal discipline.
To kick off the yearlong protest festivities, the Wisconsin Education Association Council led a massive "sickout" of educators and other government school personnel. The coordinated truancy action -- tantamount to an illegal strike -- cost taxpayers an estimated $6 million. Left-wing doctors assisted the campaign by supplying fake medical excuse notes to teachers who ditched their public school classrooms to protest Walker's modest package of belt-tightening measures.
When they weren't ditching their students, radical teachers steeped in the social justice ethos of National Education Association-approved community organizer Saul Alinsky were shamelessly using other people's children as their own political junior lobbyists and pawns. A Milwaukee Fox News affiliate caught one fourth-grade teacher dragging his students on a "field trip" to demonstrate against Walker at the state Capitol building.
The pupils clapped along with a group of "solidarity singers" as they warbled: "Scott Walker will never push us out, this house was made for you and me."
Hundreds of high school students from Madison were dragooned into marches. When asked on camera why they had skipped school, one told a reporter from the Wisconsin-based MacIver Institute: "I don't know. I guess we're protesting today." Happy for the supply of warm young bodies, AFSCME Local 2412 President Gary Mitchell gloated: "The students have been so energized."
"Energized"? How about educated, enlightened and intellectually stimulated? Silly parents. Remember: "A" isn't for academics. It's for "agitation" and "advocacy." Former National Education Association official John Lloyd's words must not be forgotten: "You cannot possibly understand NEA without understanding Saul Alinsky. If you want to understand NEA, go to the library and get 'Rules for Radicals.'"
Against a rising tide of rank-and-file teachers who oppose their leaders' extremist politics, the national offices of the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers shoveled millions in forced union dues into astroturfed, anti-Walker coffers. According the WisconsinReporter.com, strapped state affiliates also coughed up major sums to beat back Wisconsin's efforts to bring American union workers into the 21st century in line with the rest of the workforce:
"The Ohio Education Association made a $58,000 in-kind contribution May 30, followed a day later by a $21,000 contribution from the Pennsylvania State Education Association. New York State United Teachers gave $23,000 on June 1, the Massachusetts Education Association gave $17,000 on May 31, and a group of unions based in Washington, D.C., poured in $922,000 during the past week." Even the Alaska NEA affiliate pitched in $4,000.
Back in the Badger State, the Education Action Group Foundation caught Milwaukee teacher's union head Bob Peterson on tape this week bragging about how his school district organized bus runs and stuffed flyers into every K-8 student's backpack urging them to vote in the recall election. No, this wasn't a civic, nonpartisan get-out-the-vote effort. It was a purely partisan self-preservation campaign. Peterson preaches that educators must be "teachers of unionism. We need to create a generation of students who support teachers and the movement for workers rights, oppressed peoples' rights." Because, you know, asking teachers to contribute more to their pension plans is just like the crushing of freedom fighters in Iran, Egypt and China.
The progressives' blatant exploitation of bureaucratic authority over the nation's schoolchildren -- at the expense of classroom achievement and fiscal sanity -- isn't sitting well with the public. A new Marquette University Law School poll released on the eve of the Wisconsin recall election showed that "only 40 percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable view of public-sector unions, while 45 percent viewed them unfavorably." In addition, "three-quarters of respondents said they approved of the law Walker signed requiring public employees to contribute to their own pensions and pay more for health insurance, while 55 percent approved of the new limits on collective bargaining for state employees that Walker signed into law."
Uncertainty reigned over Wisconsin as both sides braced for a possible recount on Tuesday night. But from their first unhinged salvos 16 months ago in the state Capitol and right up until Election Day, the union bosses have made one thing clear as a playground whistle: It's not about the children. It's never about the children. It's about protecting the power, perks and profligacy of public employee union monopolies.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010).