About 75 Whitefish Bay High School students walked out of class this morning to protest against Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, which would strip teachers and other public employees of the bulk of their collective bargaining rights.
The students walked down Marlborough Drive to Silver Spring Drive to Port Washington Road and back, carrying signs and chanting, “kill the bill,” while some cars honked in support. Students said they skipped their fourth hour class at 10:30 a.m. and expected to return after lunch.
Whitefish Bay School District Superintendent Mary Gavigan said students were excused from school if their parents contacted the school district and gave notice.
“The vast majority of students who participated did so with parent approval with an excused absence,” she said.
Gavigan said high school administration is still following up with a few students about whether their absence was excused or not. She said unexcused absences will be handled in accordance with district policy.
While other districts have shut down due to teacher absences, Gavigan said the absence rate at Whitefish Bay schools has not varied much in the past week.
“We have not had teachers calling in sick to go to Madison,” she said.
Gavigan said the district has not ordered teachers to stay in school, but instead has expressed appreciation to staff for their professionalism and dedication to students.
One student, Whitefish Bay senior Emma Binder, said the teachers deserve a right to have a voice in the budget bill.
“It’s not that we don’t understand Walker’s points and motives, but we are against the fact that he seems so resistant to try to compromise and negotiate with the unions,” she said. “(Walker is) just imposing his power and trying to silence the middle class and take away the voices of the workers and the unions and they don’t deserve that…”
Although Whitefish Bay teacher contracts are up for negotiation at the end of this school year, Gavigan said it is too early to tell what Walker’s budget repair bill and other proposals, such as changes to state aid formulas, could mean for local schools.
"There is so much speculation out there," Gavigan said. "Once we have accurate, reliable information, we will be responsive and forthright."