Sen. Kathleen Vinehout: “I Don’t Have a Clue” School Play Mirrors Confusion in Assembly Education Committee (UPDATED)

From my email inbox comes the latest newsletter from Democratic State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.

“Edgar: All right, everybody; back to the scene of the crime.

“Ella: New clues?

“Carol: What clues?

“Bob: What’s the next clue?

“Carol: I don’t have a clue.

“Norman: (At the window box, dramatically.) Guys, the body’s gone!”

So goes the hilarious comedy written by Craig Sodaro and performed by Alma students. The play begins as a murder mystery dinner invitation and ends wrapped up in an international smuggling ring.

Students spent the last three and a half months practicing lines and preparing costumes. Play Director Tom Brakke coordinated a cast of roughly a quarter of Alma’s Middle and High Schoolers with precious few resources. He even directed students to buy up half-priced dresses and police uniforms at After-Halloween-Sales.

The work shows. The fast-paced comedy pulled in record crowds at the rural high school. Teens of all ages delivered their lines flawlessly and kept everyone entertained.

I took in the show on a brief break. I couldn’t help but see parallels between the confusion of the dinner guests and the lines delivered at a recent Assembly Education Committee hearing.

While the students were putting final touches on the performance, the Assembly Education Committee was considering how to turn local public schools into ‘independent charter’ schools.

In what was described as the “worst run hearing in Capitol history”, the author of the bill began by saying he was changing it but he didn’t know exactly how. The bill’s main component – an unelected, unaccountable, politically appointed board – would not be in the final version.

Nevertheless, the chair was committed to quickly passing the bill through the full Assembly. Committee members were incensed a bill that didn’t really exist was being rushed and asked if there would be another public airing before its final vote. The answer was ‘no’.

The bill was numbered Assembly Bill 1 to signify its importance. Proponents explained the bill would force schools to be ‘accountable’. Critics, and there were many, described the bill as ‘stripping powers from locally elected school boards’, using different tests for public and publically-funded private schools, reducing aid for every public school, and creating a board with power to decide if schools should be converted to privately run charter schools operated by a company headquartered in, say, Texas or California.

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) testified there have been no fewer than 7 laws passed in the last 6 years requiring schools to test students and publically report performance. The DPI testified the bill would “trigger sanctions” on roughly one of every 8 state students and move about a sixth of state aid away from public schools.

A day before the “I Don’t Have A Clue” hearing, the Senate Education Reform Committee Chair released another version. This bill created 2 unelected, unaccountable boards to run schools – one housed in DPI; the other, for taxpayer funded private schools, housed in the Department of Administration (yes, they administer things, but schools aren’t yet on their list).

All this makes no sense unless you understand that private school interest groups, not good public policy, are driving the agenda. Some legislators try to appease the many private school groups. Instead, we should look at what research tells us about high-performing schools and how they got that way.

First, there is no consistent evidence that converting a public school to an independent charter school will produce superior results.

Second, top-performing schools got that way because of an investment. Across countries with well-performing schools, needy students and remote locations garnered more resources. Schools followed a rigorous curriculum; paid teachers and educated them well; tests were tied to the curriculum and measured critical thinking; and everyone – students, teachers and parents, took school seriously.

I spoke with a local school board member about the Assembly hearing. “I felt hopeful,” she told me. “There are so many grassroots groups all over the state and this [threat] could pull them together. We need community conversations about public schools. We need to start now and keep the conversation going.”

That’s good advice. We certainly don’t want our next generation waking up one day asking, “What happened to our local schools?” and hearing, “Guys, the body’s gone!”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this response to Sen. Vinehout’s latest newsletter, courtesy of longtime commenter Duane Dubey.

Senator Vinehout, I cry out to the Heavens, “Stop the meddling and educational abortion or abuse of our children by the Wisconsin legislators and a Governor Doe!”

I am sick and tired of ignorant and inept, politicians attempting to be “educators.” We have a constitutionally mandated DPI with a publically elected superintendent accountable to Wisconsin citizens; not the Koch brothers or any other profiteers, or outside political interests. The education of our children is too important to to be determined by political bullies; leave it to parents and concerned citizens on school boards at the local level and trained educational professionals in accordance with DPI standards and oversight for the education of our children guaranteed by our State Constitution. My deep concern includes that for my thirty grandchildren!

If not, we need some recalls and/or lawsuits to curb the abusive and intrusive behavior by political and incompetent meddlers. If they hurt my family members, they hurt me!

Sincerely, Grandpa Duane Dubey


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8 thoughts on “Sen. Kathleen Vinehout: “I Don’t Have a Clue” School Play Mirrors Confusion in Assembly Education Committee (UPDATED)

  1. Well you are right on the unelected boards, those are not just useless but dangerous. but, something has to be done. The Left has run schools the last 50 years and despite tripling spending, way over the inflation rte things are worse. MPS kids in tenth grade cannot read. we have a very intelligent group of kids so the ACT and SAT test well, but their reading, science and math scores are not where they should be. Do the world wide research and see what happens. What is the left answer for their failures?

  2. Visit their site to support your DPI, or offer suggestions for improvement; they are there for the public education of ALL children of Wisconsin as provided in the State Constitution.

    Thank God for the wisdom of those authors who placed education above politics.

  3. Makes me wonder yet again why so many Democrats stayed home in November. Education was a pretty clear differentiator between Burke and Walker. You’d think Wisconsin Democrats might’ve mustered enough interest to get off their butts and vote for their kids at least. Now what’s coming is coming.

  4. Yes, @EmmaR, I’ve gotten very discouraged with the Wisconsin voting culture. Wisconsin culture these days requires that one be disgruntled with “Big” government–specifically “Obombma”– Public school teachers or administrators and taxes of any kind. And if you don’t go along with the snipes at “Obombma”, school boards and “welfare recipients, not to mention Homo-loving politicians, you’re just not a member of our suburban tailgate club and your kids have no business in our “Murican” schools, or at our Sunday School picnics.

    Where did all this incontinence come from? How does it pervade the public so much that we’ve elected a snake oil salesman and his minions bent on following the Koch brothers to do list and destroying public oversight everywhere in Wisconsin– and soon, the entire USA.

    1. Cat Kin,I too am dismayed by the ignorance of some who vote against their interests or not at all. The problem is too many are struggling economically with husband and wife working leaving little or no time to examine the issues of the day. In addition, their kids, recreation, and other social necessities take precedence over politics.

      But we must not despair. I keep a saying on my desk by one of my heroes who in the darkest days of WWII urged his countrymen to “Never give up, never, never, never, never…” Winston Churchill.

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