Note: The following guest editorial appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on July 5, 2017.
We read with interest Alan Borsuk’s June 30 column, “Three signs supporting public schools is in vogue for politicians.” Yes, Gov. Scott Walker proposed a $200 per pupil increase for the 2017-2018 school year, with an additional $204 for the following school year. And yes, reports coming of out Madison seem to indicate that the state Legislature is likely to approve those levels. We are hoping for the best, but continue to hold our collective breath until the state budget (you know, the one starting July 1, 2017) is signed.
Borsuk wrote, “School advocates have done an effective job of educating politicians about their situations,” and we proudly count ourselves among the hundreds of grassroots advocates and fellow parents and grandparents statewide who have spoken up over the past six months. In addition to teachers and superintendents who have been advocating for their schools, volunteers have spent hundreds of hours calling, emailing, and visiting our legislators; we’ve testified at Joint Finance Committee hearings; we’ve sent thousands of postcards to the Capitol.
Nevertheless, even if the proposed levels of funding are approved, Borsuk acknowledges and we wholeheartedly agree that “school budgets remain tight” and “$200 is only a big deal compared to the last six years.”
We would love to see a more generous increase in funding statewide in the next biennial budget so that innovative curriculum, materials, and programs are available statewide to match 21st century needs. We would love to see the renovation and replacement of outdated classrooms, buildings, and facilities that is needed in so many of our school districts. We would love to keep our best teachers and provide an attractive career path for well-trained and licensed professionals to reverse the enrollment declines in teacher education programs.
In addition to restoring additional funding, we need a governor and legislators who are willing to take on the hard work of reforming our system of school funding, perhaps looking to the “Fair Funding for our Future” plan proposed by Tony Evers, state superintendent of public instruction. We hope that voters in 2018 will look for and support candidates who want to provide leadership and support for significant funding reform and strong public schools in the long run.
We know we have a long way to go before funding is fully restored to our public schools and our children and their teachers receive the resources they need to thrive. Therefore, moms, dads, and grandparents all over Wisconsin will continue to advocate for our kids and our schools. Over the past six years, lawmakers essentially took 8 tons of apples away from our children, and now they’re planning to give 2 tons back. That’s a start, but we’re going to continue to speak up and work hard until we see the rest of those apples returned.
Spending on public schools may be “in vogue” for politicians this year, but this shouldn’t be about what’s fashionable. We need a generous investment and long-term commitment to public education. The future of our kids and our wonderful state depend on it.
Carol Carstensen, volunteer, Grandparents United for Madison Public Schools; Heather Dubois-Bourenane, volunteer, Support Sun Prairie Schools; Marcia Engen, volunteer, Fox Cities Advocates for Public Education-Appleton; Jenni Hofschulte, volunteer, Parents for Public Schools-Milwaukee; Ellen Lindgren, volunteer, Community Advocates for Public Education MCPASD-Middleton; Stacy Racine Lynch, volunteer, Support Our Schools-Wauwatosa; and Sandy Whisler, volunteer, Citizen Advocates for Public Education-Lake Mills; Bob Wright, volunteer, St. Croix Valley Friends of Public Education-Osceola.