education

Problems left for the next budget writers

Kathleen Vinehout

By Senator Kathleen Vinehout

“Policy is who pays, who doesn’t pay and where the money gets spent,” said the President of the NAACP in a recent speech.

Policy making was center stage at the State Capitol when the long delayed $76 billion two-year state budget was rushed to passage just days after a majority of lawmakers voted to give a Taiwan billionaire $3 billion in state subsidies.

Budgets are about choices. Budget writers this year chose to leave major problems for the next budget writers.

Education is the most important job state government does. For years, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed the state’s school funding formula was broken.

This budget, there were enough funds to change the formula. Efforts to do so were voted down. Instead, more state dollars were spent on vouchers for unaccountable private schools.

Sen. Vinehout ~ Youth in Government Day Engages Teens

Kathleen Vinehout
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Imagine you could make the laws. What would you change about how things are run?” My question to the students spurred a long discussion about change in our world.
 
Almost 100 high school students recently participated in Trempealeau County Youth in Government Day. The daylong session was designed to encourage youth to become engaged in government. Students visited with county officials and staff about their work running county services.
 
During lunch, I spoke with the students about being a Senator and lawmaking. I encouraged them to think about laws as something they could someday change.
 
Teens told me they often think of the law as permanent. The day at the courthouse taught them things can change. They can be a part of change. The teens offered ideas that reflected their interests and experiences. Some focused on immediate concerns, “Get rid of the school dress code,” said Isabelle. Some had a larger vision.
 
“I want to save the horses sent across the Mexican border for meat,” said Raquel. We talked about the work of horse rescue groups who give time and money to help abandoned horses.

School Visit to the “ARCTIC Zone” Prompts Thinking Anew about Education

Kathleen Vinehout
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Two six-graders recently showed me around their classrooms. Desks were not in straight rows. Students were not waiting their turn with raised hands. I looked around the room. There actually were no desks at all, but tables and different types of chairs.
 
One student was actually writing on a table with a red marker. I must have looked aghast. The table was designed to be written on, teacher Ali McMahon told me. “We use the table as a way to think out complex ideas,” she said. With a white board tabletop everyone sees the ideas and adds to them.
 
I recently visited Northstar Middle School in Eau Claire.

Private School Subsidy for Special Education Raises Concerns About Quality and Cost

Kathleen Vinehout
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“When you write about tax money going to private schools, please tell people about special education vouchers,” a rural school board member told me. “Because of a change in state law, our school district is paying for special education students to sit at home in front of a computer.”
 

Plain Talk: Teacher shortage is payback for anti-teacher attitudes

Dave Zweifel on the demonization of teachers, and the teacher shortage we now face:

There's a verbal war under way over why fewer of our young people are opting to become teachers.

Many in Wisconsin are convinced that the teacher shortage here stems from Gov. Scott Walker's and the Republican Legislature's Act 10, the 2011 legislation that not only made it illegal for teachers' unions to bargain, but required them to shoulder part of the load for their benefits, which resulted in take home pay reductions of up to 17 percent.

Who Will Be My Teacher?

Kathleen Vinehout
Who Will Be My Teacher?
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Who will be my teacher?” my son asked me years ago. For a brief point in time, the teacher was the most important person in his young life.
 
As children head back to school and parents scramble with new schedules, schools are facing their own scheduling headaches. This year a teacher shortage hit many local schools. Around the state, school districts have hundreds of vacancies.
 
Recently, I presented an overview of state education budget issues in Viroqua. At least a dozen local superintendents, school board members, principals and teachers were in the audience. Following my presentation, the conversation turned to the teacher shortage.
 
Educators described an environment in which teachers in certain high demand subject areas move from one school district to another based on the best offer.
 
Two superintendents from neighboring school districts laughed when they realized they spent the summer bidding against each other to snag the same teacher. “Now we have teachers who come back [to our school] and say, ‘I’m getting a $6,000 increase in an offer from another school.’”
 
A staff member paid a $12,000 raise creates problems in districts where teachers went seven years with little raise in pay. John, a local teacher, told the group, “The impact on morale is just horrendous.” 

How voucher schools steal from the public schools

Not that we didn’t already know that Walker/WisGOP policies on K-12 education in Wisconsin show a preference for voucher schools over public ones, but we now have new data which gives numbers behind that favoritism. These figures show that not only are public schools being shortchanged in state aid, but that those funds aren’t being saved, and instead increasing amounts of money are being sent to unaccountable voucher schools.

School Funding Hits Home

Kathleen Vinehout
School Funding Hits Home
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
What’s wrong with school funding? Explaining this to voters is difficult. Try explaining it to a ninth grader who is losing a favorite teacher. The teacher is not retiring. At 53 and after teaching for 29 years, he lost his job.
 
Recently I spent a day teaching high school students about school funding and the state budget. Later that day I presented similar material to staff and school board members. I learned much more than the students did during my day as teacher.
 
Prescott considers itself a suburb of Saint Paul. Only 20 minutes away, folks go to church, shop, and read the newspaper from the Twin Cities. Few hear news from Madison.
 
However, Wisconsin’s convoluted school funding formula is now the topic of conversation.
 
Prescott school district lost a referendum in February. Voters will soon decide another – the 27th referenda in just 15 years!

Referenda Sustain Schools During Time of Decreasing State Support

Kathleen Vinehout
Referenda Sustain Schools During Time of Decreasing State Support
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“School districts these days more or less live and die by these referendums in terms of their ability to sustain programs and staff,” Dan Rossmiller of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) recently said as reported by the Isthmus.
 
So far in 2016, voters approved more than three-quarters of the 85 ballot referenda to raise property taxes to send more local dollars to schools. The nearly 77% pass rate is much higher than a few years ago.
 
People are voting to raise property taxes to keep their schools alive.
 
Recently I met with officials from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to understand school funding trends.  I learned there was a big shift in the success of referenda. Prior to 2011 (and the deep school cuts that year) about half of school referenda passed. In the past five years about two-thirds passed.
 
Historically, communities voted to raise school property taxes to build buildings. Prior to 2011, nearly two-thirds of referenda votes were for the purpose of raising debt for building projects.

Budget Cuts to Education Cost All of Us

Kathleen Vinehout
 
Budget Cuts to Education Cost All of Us
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“We hired a great inorganic chemistry professor last year,” Mike, a UW-River Falls chemistry professor, told me. “Unfortunately she’s leaving in May for St. Olaf.” I visited St. Olaf in Northfield, Minnesota. They have a great chemistry department.
 
Mike told me his department used to have 15 professors. They now have 11 – soon to be 10. They plan to replace the person leaving but it’s getting harder to recruit and retain faculty.
 
The consequences of deep budget cuts to education are disparate but all around us.
 
Deep budget cuts to the UW system results in fewer course offerings and programs, larger classes and less staff. UW Extension is proposing to remove extension agents from many rural counties. The UW Madison Ag program announced the loss of the only dairy sheep program in the country. Faculty are moving on to greener pastures.
 
There is a similar story in K-12 education.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - education