Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Wisconsinites witness collapse of Public Education as Walker flails in reelection bid.

The chant said it perfectly, “Stop the cuts, and fund the freeze.”

Walker's Tuition Freeze Failure: It's still one of Scott Walker's biggest bragging points; the simple-minded "tuition freeze." Sure, as a parent with a kid in college, what's not to like? But Walker didn't counter that freeze with state funding. That freeze is now starving one of the states biggest sources of revenue. As the UW Stevens Point paper The Pointer...pointed out:
This threat has been announced openly. In 2015, Governor Scott Walker tried to change the universities’ historic mission by eliminating its commitment to the search for truth and improving the human condition, substituting instead the far narrower goal of meeting the state workforce needs.”
Out on the front lines defending higher education was gubernatorial candidate Andy Gronik, a Democratic businessman who's out there framing the issue for every candidate running for office:
 “UW-Stevens Point is at ground zero. What we’re seeing with eliminating 13 majors is really the effect of Scott Walker, due to a $250 million cut and freezing tuition. When you take out the revenue side of the equation and the only thing that you’re focused on is cutting costs, this is the tragedy that happens.”

Gronik, speaking on his experience hiring employees with backgrounds in the humanities for his business. “As a guy who built a business I can tell you that when I interviewed on campuses, which I did all the time" ... students with majors in English, foreign languages and philosophy were valuable as communicators and critical thinkers in his company and helped him to establish an international business. “It’s short-sighted to imagine that a university system should be without those kinds of majors and it’s not the Wisconsin I envision for the future.”
"Rural School Leaders: Schools in Wisconsin are Unequal": That's the title of gubernatorial candidate Sen. Kathleen Vinehout's latest press release, focusing this time on K-12 education under Walker. The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding got this kind of feedback recently from 20 rural districts when they visited Southwestern Wisconsin.

Walker quietly let referendums increase taxes while he could around the state bragging that he personally never raised taxes. So I thought this comment struck at the heart of the rural school problem:
Superintendent Doug Olsen of Kickapoo Area School District pointed out that rural Wisconsin has many farmers who are struggling financially. “As you have heard, Western Wisconsin leads the nation in lost farms due to bankruptcy and farmer suicide. In which community does a referendum to override the revenue limit have a better chance of passing?”
Brutal "Funding" Reality Ignored? But that's just one problem snowballing out of control under Walker. Behind Walker's "more money than ever before" facade (that purposely ignores the inflation rate), are a number of other education dominoes ready to fall:

Superintendent Nancy Hendrickson of Highland School District explained "With school aid tied to the number of students and, with a declining rural population, aid is dropping faster than the cost to educate children.
Administrator Jill Underly of Pecatonica School District affirmed that school segregation still exists. “It may not be based on race necessarily, but it is still to an extent based on income inequality… Public schools, a cornerstone of our democracy, were supposed to equalize opportunity. It shouldn’t matter where you go to school, but in Wisconsin, let’s be honest, it DOES matter.”

Superintendent Doug Olsen of Kickapoo Area School District: "Our district consistently serves an economically disadvantaged population that comprises over half of the student body … only 48% of poor students are ready for school at age 5, compared to 75% of students from moderate to high income families. From vocabulary and pre-literacy skills, to numeracy, emotional regulation, and trauma, kids in poverty are more at risk to come to school less prepared.”

Rural schools did not recover from deep cuts made in Governor Walker’s first budgets. Across the state, school funding, in real dollars, for this school year is less than a decade ago. Without resources, buildings and systems maintenance is deferred. School districts see fewer applicants for vacant teaching jobs, a shortage of substitute teachers and problems with a flattening pay scale for teachers making it hard to keep veteran teachers.
Referendums, Local Tax Increases symptoms of Growing Problem: In Walker's Wisconsin, red flags like these have to be ignored so the ideological goals can be met:
Cost for basic services, i.e. transportation, utilities, electricity are increasing. New costs are added including technology, school safety, testing. Legislative leaders decided if schools need more funding, voters should decide through referendum. 

Superintendent Doug Olsen of Kickapoo Area School District pointed out that rural Wisconsin has many farmers who are struggling financially. “As you have heard, Western Wisconsin leads the nation in lost farms due to bankruptcy and farmer suicide. In which community does a referendum to override the revenue limit have a better chance of passing?” 

The situation is made worse when GOP leaders bypassed the funding formula and gave wealthy suburban districts the same money as cash-strapped rural and urban districts. 

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