This column by WEAC President Betsy Kippers was printed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Saturday (June 14, 2014)
As Wisconsin teachers graduate another class of students into the world of work and career, it’s a good time to reflect on how things are going. For our public schools. For our state.
Under the sitting governor, Wisconsin is at the top among states cutting funding for public schools and at the bottom of those adding jobs to the economy. Wisconsin is not better off under Gov. Scott Walker.
In fact, when it comes to the damage Walker has inflicted on Wisconsin, it’s hard to come up with a short list. And no matter how much money out-of-state billionaires pour into TV ads on his behalf, working people see for themselves the mess he’s made of things.
Under the guise of “flexibility,” the policies over the governor’s two terms were — and continue to be — instead aimed at tearing down the strongest advocates for public education: teachers.
Under the mask of a “budget deficit,” the governor has slashed funding for public schools while slipping tens of millions of dollars to those bent on privatizing education, along with handouts to businesses and the wealthy.
What has this gotten Wisconsin? We are ninth out of 10 in job creation among our neighbors in the Midwest, and we’re on the path to creating a structural deficit that could serve as the smokescreen for the next manufactured crisis to further gut essential community services.
From the viewpoint of educators, we’ve seen the fallout in our classrooms from bad budgeting in ways such as larger class sizes and fewer student opportunities. Public school students are getting the shaft.
Act 10 and the policies that have followed it were never about the money. It’s time to call Walker’s bluff.
A governor who cares about working people couldn’t say with a straight face that the blank checks to his political buddies will stimulate the economy. A governor who cares about the future of all of us wouldn’t drain resources from neighborhood public schools and then turn around and give the resources to a handful of unaccountable private voucher schools.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Wisconsin values strong families and strong communities. We need a leader who does, too.
The divisiveness and polarization caused by Act 10 and the policies that followed are proof positive that it’s time for a better Wisconsin, one that puts the best interest of working people before a wealthy few.