Saturday, September 17, 2016

Listen to Superintendent Evers. Stand up for public education

As many state agencies officially submitted their budgets to Gov Walker’s office on Thursday, State Superintendent Tony Evers used the day to say he would plan to ask for more funding to deal with the gaps that are widening in many districts around the states. Superintendent Evers included a statement to the press along with his speech in the Capitol rotunda, and he pointed to the demonization of “union thug” teachers and defunding of public education as two developments in Wisconsin that must end in order for K-12 to get better in the state.
“To promote excellence for every student, we cannot ignore the critical staffing shortages many of our districts face. To put it simply, not enough of our young people are considering careers in education,” Evers said. He recounted his experience as a member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents while dining on college campuses. “Not once in eight years have I sat down for lunch next to someone who told me they were pursuing a career in education,” he said. “Data to back up that anecdote shows graduation and enrollment in Wisconsin educator preparation programs is down when compared to 2009 levels. On ACT’s survey of test-takers, fewer students are indicating that education is their preferred field of study.”

To address staffing shortages, Evers adopted emergency rules in August designed to reduce hurdles for districts without sacrificing the quality of the teaching profession. He noted that additional changes will require long-term solutions that address the status and pay of educators. In his budget, he will be seeking additional resources for rural schools to compete on a level playing field for teachers. “But one strategy is free and we can do it today,” he said. “We need to end the negative rhetoric surrounding the teaching profession. Teachers teach because they care about kids. We ought to treat them with respect and pay them as professionals.”

The issue of educator pay is intrinsically linked to how we fund our schools. From 2009 to 2014, Wisconsin ranked near the bottom for change in teacher pay according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a 2.4 percent decrease in take home pay over six years. “When the founders of our state crafted a system of public education, they put great value on the idea of an equitable system,” Evers said. “I believe the public is with us on the need to address funding reform. In the past five years, passage rates for referenda have drastically increased. Today almost 80 percent of questions asked are approved. Citizens are voting to raise their taxes because the state is not pulling its weight. Polling also continues to show that the public favors adding more funding for our schools. But for every eight districts that can pass a referenda in today’s environment, there are two that can’t. That creates a system of haves and have nots—and it is not acceptable.”
I’d call that a serious throwing of the gauntlet by the usually mild-mannered Evers (who is up for re-election in April 2017, by the way), and I think it’s badly needed. The current ALEC-owned crew at the Capitol is not going to do anything to help these gaps or improve the ability of public schools to excel, because they’d rather get campaign contributions from race-baiting jackwagon Scott Jensen and his buddies in the voucher lobby.

Evers ended his address by telling district superintendents that they have to step up and go public with the many challenges that K-12 schools are facing these days, and after having that conversation, move those talks into action.
I want to close by asking something of each and every one of you. It’s not small, and it won’t be easy. We desperately need broad support to achieve excellence for each and every child. We also need people who are willing to be honest; people willing to talk to each other about inequities; people willing to find strength in the diversity that makes Wisconsin, and America, great. I am convinced that if we can speak up together with candor and without fear, solving our problems around school funding and school staffing will come. It will come for every kid in Wisconsin.
Superintendent Evers is right on the money, but I will also add that K-12 officials need to understand that working "behind the scenes" and thinking the current WisGOP Legislature can be of any assistance with is simply not true. If you care about stabilizing and improving public education in Wisconsin, and know that it is the key to maintaining our economic competitiveness, you must remove all Republicans from the Legislature anywhere you can, and make sure Tony Evers defeats his voucher lobby puppet next April.

Sure that's being partisan, but it's being partisan on the side of quality of public education that all Wisconsinites deserve to have available, and to benefit from. That shouldn't be a matter of party politics, but as long as Scott Jensen and the ALEC crew are calling the shots for the Wisconsin GOP, it is. KNOW THIS.

For more on this, listen to a guy who I'm going to see in Madison in 2 weeks- Lewis Black (of course, the language is NSFW).

"It all starts with education, that's where it starts. You fuckin' look for great teachers, you don't fuck around, and you pay them. It just that simple."

1 comment:

  1. He also stood up for faculty as a member of the Board of Regents. He is a tireless advocate whose heart is just where it needs to be when it comes to the public good.