MADISON (WKOW, AP) -- The latest in Wisconsin's budget battles comes Sunday as the sixth straight day of protests continues at the state Capitol.
The Wisconsin teachers union head called for teachers to return to classrooms on Monday and Tuesday rather than continue being absent to protest, which has shut down several school districts.
Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said during a conference call on Sunday that it was time for her members to return to work. For districts that do not recognize Monday as the President's Day holiday, she said teachers should go to work. Others should report as scheduled on Tuesday.
Madison and Milwaukee schools shut down last week, as have several other districts, while teachers protest a bill that would take away their ability to collectively bargain for their benefits and working conditions. Many called in sick.
Bell says teachers will continue opposing the proposal.
The following statement was released this afternoon by Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. It can be attributed to Ms. Bell:
"It's clear from the turnout at events here in Madison and in city after city across Wisconsin that there's a movement afoot to fight for worker rights. Thus far, we have easily heard from more than 200,000 Wisconsinites who stand in support of teachers, nurses, EMTs, firefighters, correctional officers and public employees across our state.
"We have been clear – and I will restate this again today – money issues are off the table. Public employees have agreed to Governor Walker's pension and health care concessions, which he says will solve the budget challenge.
"But Governor Walker's bill goes too far and he has chosen polarizing rhetoric. He refuses to come to the table to discuss the issue our members care most deeply about: protecting their rights, as they are a voice for Wisconsin's students and their schools.
"Citizens have come out in force to support public workers in the battle to preserve their rights. Six days of events in Madison – where crowds have snowballed. The events have spread from the capitol to communities across the state where rallies, demonstrations and public forums are in full swing to enable citizens to voice their support.
"A fire has started – and we need to remain active in these efforts to have the voices of the people heard throughout Wisconsin. We will not be silenced and though we move to the corners of our state, our intensity grows.
"In my message today, I want to reinforce a fundamental fact: that the men and women of our union – the Wisconsin Education Association Council – are committed to serving their communities, schools and students. Our members are a voice for Wisconsin students and schools.
"Tomorrow they begin again in their schools and classrooms. Their voices will remain strong – and they will continue to be heard wherever and whenever they can. To educators whose contracts do not recognize Presidents' Day, we call on them to return to duty by day – and find ways to be vocal and visible after their workday is done. To those whose contracts recognize Presidents' Day as a holiday, we call on them to return to Madison. We send this message to Wisconsin's educators and parents as a show of good faith.
"We appreciate the solid show of support from Wisconsinites over the last week. It's has been heartening and inspiring – and I want to be very clear in that this fight isn't over. We will continue to be active and visible at the capitol and in towns across this state because we are passionate about preserving the rights of workers. We're continuing our call to all Wisconsinites – not just the workers directly affected – but our friends, neighbors and families – to look into their hearts and act to be sure that we have the Wisconsin we want to call our home – not just today, but tomorrow and well into the future. It is time for legislative leadership and an open dialogue in search of solutions, not division of our state. It is time for Wisconsin to move forward."