From here to Madison, Merrillites protest budget repair bill
It didn’t take long for Merrill area residents to get swept up into the wave of protest that has descended on Madison in the week since Governor Scott Walker introduced his budget repair bill last week. Teachers and other area labor groups – including members of the Merrill Fire Department – headed to the Capital to add their voices and bodies at the statehouse that reached nearly 70,000 strong on Saturday.
Over 50 Merrill High School students took 30 minutes from their lunch to picket in front of their school last Thursday in support of the teachers (see story below). And despite an effort by Merrill Teachers Association leaders and MAPS administrators that evening, enough MAPS teachers called into work for Friday to force the closure. For the safety of the students due to the absence of 40 percent of the teachers, MAPS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Snyder said she had no choice but cancel classes. (see story, page 2).
The closure of Merrill Schools on Friday was by far the largest local impact on the flood of people into Madison from all over the state and country to, for the most part, protest the budget repair bill that the governor said was needed to close an estimated $136.7 million deficit in the current fiscal year’s budget. Several other school districts in the area and state were closed for as many as three days because of teacher absences.
Assistant MFD Chief Steve Hintze said that while Merrill firemen have been in Madison, all have done so on their own time. Even though a couple firemen have been at the capitol building a couple days, staffing levels are at their normal levels at both stations.
While many MAPS teachers did report to work on Friday – including MTA President Tom Andreska – a large contingent showed up Saturday when the crowd in and around the statehouse reached nearly 70,000, according to an official estimate. Among those there Saturday was Tom Tourtillott, a history and government teacher at MHS, who said even though the matter is important to his future, being there also had significance for the subjects he teaches.
“This is something that I will be teaching in the future,” Tourtillott said. “This is history unfolding.”