How Republicans ruined Wisconsin’s education system while you were sleeping

Last night Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee voted along straight party lines to put forward an education budget that will do immeasurable harm to Wisconsin’s children for years to come. While I wanted to recap exactly how awful the Republican-approved education budget is, Monologues of Dissent does an outstanding job of explaining how awful the Republican-approved education budget is, and it’s an absolute must-read for anyone who cares about what Republicans are doing to our state.

I don’t know if you were following what happened at the Wisconsin Capitol last night, but here is a summary:

The Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines to put forward an education budget that will harm our kids into perpetuity. There IS increased funding (as opposed to the $150/pupil cuts the Governor wanted), but the increase is illusory; expansion of vouchers and changes to the funding formula mean that it’s difficult to tell how much of the “increase” will actually go to public schools. Waiting for the fiscal analysis of that. In the meantime, here’s how Wisconsin schools were sold out from under you while you were sleeping:

The budget includes the worst of what thousands of parents, school board members, administrators, advocacy groups, and grassroots local citizens spoke out against in droves at the hearings and in writing over the past months. In the guise of giving an increase to the public school budget, it creates a new, complicated, confusing & unwanted way of “accounting”
for private voucher school students that allows voucher money to be laundered through the public school budget. Districts that do not have voucher schools will lose even more money than they already do, and the voucher money will continue to come “off the top” as the program is expanded statewide. All over the state, communities will be forced to go to referendum and raise taxes to fund local schools. Many of these referenda will fail. The JFC voted against its constitutional obligation to fund public education at a level that allows uniform instruction at all schools. We are a state of haves and have-nots, and the “haves” got a shiny new gift last night.

It also includes two unconscionable and highly controversial measures:

  1.  Inclusion of the Special Needs Vouchers that every single disability rights advocacy group in Wisconsin opposes and that are the heart of an ALEC/AFC campaign to get more public money into private schools by taking advantage of our most vulnerable kids. Private schools do not have to follow federal regulations and discriminate regularly against kids with special needs. They are also not required by the bill to use the vouchers to meet the needs of the children they’re intended to serve. It is the ugliest of entitlements and it was slipped into the budget at the final hour, with no public hearing, because it is the weakest chink in their armor and they knew that public outrage would be widespread, as it was in previous years when the proposal failed on every attempt after much dissent.
  2. Inclusion of a proposal to “phase in” takeover of the highest poverty, lowest performing Milwaukee Public Schools by revoking local control – a few schools at a time, more each year. This is a perverse, unvetted, ill-considered idea that has virtually NO local support, involved NO local leaders, and was given NO forum whatsoever for public input or community engagement. It will bankrupt MPS. It is the most paternalistic “we know best” of ideas and doomed to fail, as it provides no funds for the “wrap around services” it claims it will provide, and essentially hands public property over to privateers despite their having no track record of greater success in working with high-need schools, and despite the failures of similar takeover programs in Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans & Philadelphia. The kicker for the rest of the state, who will pay the tab for this, is that the language of the bill allows for replication of the program in other large cities – Racine and Madison will be next. Under the plan, public schools will be “managed” by an appointed czar and the local
    community/democratically elected school board will have no say in their governance as they’re converted into a charter or even a private school, though a provision demands no tuition can be charged. Constitutionality is questionable to say the least. In the meantime, the bill would “help” just a few of the schools that most need help and the budget does nothing to meet the needs and call for fair funding and much-needed services and staffing for high-poverty schools. It is both a slap in the face of Milwaukee and a message to the rest of the state that local control and democracy have no place in the “business” of the school privatization movement.

Finally, the 51 items in the Omnibus Bill included all sorts of other things that will boggle your mind. Like allowing people with a bachelor’s degree and “experience” to become licensed teachers. And a Jim Crow-style Civics Test that will be required for graduation (despite the fact that we already have a civics requirement in Wisconsin). And changing the current school “report card” system to a star rating system (not joking). And allowing charter and voucher schools to take different tests than the ones required for public schools so that all of these measures can be used to cook the books and feed the hoax that our beloved public schools underperform the schools that are stealing their funding. And much, more more. Read the whole thing here:

I just hope everyone gets the message from that civics test: democracy means you vote. And elections sure do have consequences.

Education is not a partisan issue.  That was brutally clear when citizens of every stripe testified at the JFC hearings, and school districts and boards all over the state spoke as one to let the JFC know exactly what they need and want to keep our schools great.  It’s brutally clear in the latest polls that show public education is the #1 issue for Wisconsin taxpayers and  78% oppose cuts to schools.  For the first time ever, a majority would rather see a raise in taxes than cutting funds to schools.

Given the climate of bipartisan consensus in the state, it was shocking to see party line votes on a budget that so clearly is deaf to the will of the people last night.  Every single person in this state, regardless of party or politics, should be outraged at these attacks on local control and the democratic process.

Be prepared to fight these things tooth and nail. Organize locally.  Speak up and speak out and speak loudly.  They’re not law until the governor signs the bill.

There is hope — when we speak as one, we cannot be ignored. 

Our children have never needed us to speak up more.


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10 thoughts on “How Republicans ruined Wisconsin’s education system while you were sleeping

  1. Heather is right.

    Vote Democratic. Find your family, your neighbors, your candidates, and your child’s teacher while he or she still has one. Make sure these people know the candidates. Support your candidates – It is expensive and tiring to run for office.

    The Democrats are the party that cares about public education and about science.

  2. This will probably be the last nail in the coffin for many teachers. They have now been disparaged and despised for over 4 years. Have seen their take home pay diminished substantially and have no hope of pay increases beyond 1% of inflation and now will be asked to teach along side someone with no teaching credentials. They will be forced to demonstrate their effectiveness by a mandated statewide test while the private/voucher and for profit schools can choose any method they see fit to demonstrate their supposed accountability for the students they teach! A career in teaching is no longer viable for those who truly care about the learning of children in Wisconsin.

  3. Tell me, tell me, what percentage of Wisconsin lawmakers were educated through Wisconsin Public Schools…
    What worked for them then that they want to eliminate now? Are they being paid to stamp out public education by wealthy men who do not want a broadly educated population… Ask the questions–find the answers.

  4. I have previously raised the suggestion both to my state Senator and here that it seems to me that these budget measures are a blatant challenge to and disregard of the Wisconsin Constitution on the right of every Wisconsin child to have a public school education. Equally worse, it reveals Walker’s and the GOP legislators are bypassing the office and rightful authority of an elected official, the State Superintendent of Public schools.

    It is time for legal action or a just “revolution” against the un-educators.

    They are killing our children’s future!

  5. This is an outrage. An outright outrage. It is just plain outrages. I’m struggling to comprehend how the people that make legislation could have made legislation such as this. With all the legislative language and word-speak it is hard to understand if they even understand what they are legislating for.

    I would guess that within 10 years of this legislation moving forward Wisconsin will have no children left. Literally this measure will lead to the mass death of all of our children. That, or all of our children will have to leave the state of Wisconsin due to the lack of teachers or something along those lines.

    I’m flabbergasted and befuzzled. Due Republicans realize that if they allow poor black children, and EVEN poor white children the opportunity to educate themselves in the manner that their parent or parents seem fit that they may in fact get educated? WHEN has that ever been a goal of Republicans to actually educate poor folk.

    This I’m sure is sexist, and anti women. I’m not sure how it is racist, due to the fact that a majority of children that take advantage of school choice currently are black. BUT I’m sure it is RACIST as well.

    Damn You Republicans!!! You also included an INCREASE in school funding!!! WHAT!?!? Doesn’t that go against your plan to destroy the lives of every teacher in Wisconsin. I bet in the future when a position is posted only 500 people will apply versus the 550 that apply now.


    1. jharp, the entertainment doesn’t stop when you comment on education. Of all the errors you made, “Due Republicans…” was my favorite.

  6. Children can not learn from people who don’t have a teaching degree. That has been proven, it is science. THE only way you can effectively teach anyone anything is if you have four year degree in teaching. I’m befuddled by this push to allow experts and leaders of industry to perhaps try and teach. Who do THOSE losers think they are.

    Just plain stupid.

  7. John is on to something…BAD!

    Using his false, or at least zany, logic and prejudiced politics, we don’t need doctors with a BS or any degree. And the same for dentists, nurses, and others in the medical profession? How about electricians and other skilled trades requiring licensing? Who needs a driver license as long as they learned how to use a bicycle? And on and on.

    I suggest the internet require licensing of trolls to eliminate those such as john and his stupidity attempting to address serious issues.

    1. Huh? DUANE12

      You make no sense. Last time I checked the republicans were not going to let random people in to teach computer programming to our students. But hey if Bill Gates wanted to drop by, I’m sure he could take a go at it WITHOUT a teaching DEGREE. Clearly you are just being ignorant to suggest that some of the greatest minds in the world would need a TEACHING degree in order to TEACH. Einstein, Gates, Jobs (RIP), countless amazing inovators that you would rather not see teaching if they so choose. Brilliant!!!

      1. jharp,

        You wrote: “Huh? DUANE12. You make no sense.”

        No, but since you raised the issue, you have a tough time writing any statement that’s complete, accurate, or true.

        jharp, you wrote: “Last time I checked the republicans were not going to let random people in to teach computer programming to our students.”

        Thanks for not capitalizing “republicans.”

        1. When did you last check?

        “Scott Walker proposes way for ‘real life experience’ to qualify for teaching license”

        “…The proposal would expand the non-traditional routes available to become licensed without an education degree. But many details weren’t disclosed Thursday, including whether it would call for any preparation for teaching, which is required in many of the current ways to get a teaching license without attending an education school.

        Under Walker’s proposal, people with experience in fields they intend to teach could get licenses as long as they have a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate “that he or she is proficient in the subject or subjects that he or she intends to teach,” according to Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick.

        The renewable license authorizes the individual to teach only in grades 6 to 12 for three years, Patrick said.

        The proposal would be similar to nontraditional routes already available. Patrick said there are differences that will be outlined in the budget, but was not specific.

        Currently, school districts may hire candidates with an emergency teaching license for high-need subjects. Someone with a bachelor’s degree also could obtain a teaching license by completing a teaching preparation program at a state college or university, or may receive a license in a subject area they majored in that has a shortage of teachers.

        It’s unclear if Walker’s proposal is intended to specifically address those shortages.

        2. Gov. Walker’s a little short on details. How does his plan differ from what we do now? Please be specific and bring a link.

        jharp, you wrote: “But hey if Bill Gates wanted to drop by, I’m sure he could take a go at it WITHOUT a teaching DEGREE.”
        Clearly you are just being ignorant to suggest that some of the greatest minds in the world would need a TEACHING degree in order to TEACH. Einstein, Gates, Jobs (RIP), countless amazing inovators that you would rather not see teaching if they so choose. Brilliant!!!”

        Putting Einstein in with the other two (and thanks for misspelling “innovators.”) confirms just how little you know.

        “When Steve Met Bill: ‘It was a kind of weird seduction visit'”

        “Their meeting was in Jobs’s conference room, where Gates found himself surrounded by ten Apple employees who were eager to watch their boss assail him. Jobs didn’t disappoint his troops. “You’re ripping us off!” he shouted. “I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!” Gates just sat there coolly, looking Steve in the eye, before hurling back, in his squeaky voice, what became a classic zinger. “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

        If you knew anything about “computer science,” you’d know that Gates stole Xerox’s gui (graphical user interface), which became Microsoft’s “Windows.” At least Jobs created his own, but, as Gates pointed out, he was working off Xerox’s template.

        Everything in the iPhone, stolen. It was already created by government research paid for by taxpayers.

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