I follow Scott Walker on Twitter, not because I am an admirer, but because I want to see what messages he is trying to convey to his devotees and to the state at large. And I recently noticed an inexplicable number of visits to public schools – you know, those schools that he would just as soon see slide into the dust of past civilizations, being public, for one, and staffed by union members for another.
So I spent a few hours reviewing the @scottkwalker and @govwalker Twitter feeds for the months of March and April.
And wow, has Mr. Walker been turning it on in terms of paying attention to public schools. Not because he wants to know what’s going on in them, but because he wants to deliver a message, via public school students, and at taxpayer expense (these visits are paid for by us, after all), that his budget proposal—which returns to the schools merely one-third of the funding they’ve lost since he took office—will cure the ills of Wisconsin’s workforce.
Since March 9, Walker has visited 22 schools, all but one of them public. He also declared April 25th to be Fab Lab Day, and another 21 school districts received $500,000 in grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to establish or expand fabrication laboratories in the schools. His message at the schools, as delivered through Twitter:
- Visited Shell Lake High School to discuss our proposal to invest $649 million in new state aids for all K-12 schools in WI. #StudentSuccess
- Visited Antigo High School to highlight the success of the #WIFabLab grant program & announced nearly $500,000 in new grants! #WIWorking
- Highlighted how the #wibudget will support rural schools at North Lakeland Elementary School #StudentSuccess
- Enjoyed stopping by Abbotsford High School for a tour & to discuss how #StudentSuccess grows WI’s workforce
- Visited Pecatonica High School to highlight how we are supporting #StudentSuccess& K-12 public education throughout WI
- Great visit to Neenah High School to discuss our $649 million in new state aid to WI K-12 public education!
- Great visit with students & staff at Fennimore Elementary School. Glad to see great support for our investments in K-12 edu. #StudentSuccess
Scott Walker’s message, though, is not one of interest in the schools themselves, or of interest in their problems or successes. Rather, his is the message of a self-interested, boastful person, conveying false impressions. Walker doesn’t differentiate among the schools, except insofar as they are represented by different people in the legislature and covered by different media outlets. Looks like campaigning to me — on our dime.
At every school, Mr. Walker is getting great photo ops. Many of the local newspapers cover his visits. But he is there only to deliver the words – this is what I am doing for you, while ignoring the fact that he was responsible for cutting funding to the schools in the first place. He falsely presents the $649 million proposal as “new” state aid to the schools. No, this aid only replaces what was lost many years ago, under Scott Walker’s push to punish public schools and teachers’ unions.
Mr. Walker also ignores the fact that through the referendum process, school districts and taxpayers have been approving huge increases in local school spending to make up for loss of state funding: more than $2 billion in the last year and a half alone.
To top it off, that $649 million remains only a proposal, not a done deal. With Wisconsin’s current revenue picture decidedly murky, if not downright scary, and with Walker’s insistence on district compliance with certain Act 10 measures, no school district is guaranteed that it will see much of the promised increase.
The repeated use of Wisconsin public schools — for which Scott Walker demonstrably has little regard – as a backdrop for his reelection campaign is cynical and offensive. We must call him out for each of these fraudulent appearances.