Tools, and Schools

16 March 2011
Dear Mr. Walker,

I think today marks a great step forward in our commitment to work together: After you lied at your press conference today about school administrators supporting your public education-killing budget bill, the School Administrator's Alliance immediately issued a very promising statement regarding your proposals. I am confident that reading this will make you change your mind, considering that we clearly both equally respect Mr. Forester and the group of educated professionals he represents, people who know the state education system inside-out and as well as or better than anyone else, since they serve on the front line as administrators who are in constant contact with teachers and see first-hand the effects of legislative policy in the classroom and beyond.

Mr. Forester's statement could not make their position more clear: "Wisconsin administrators are united in their opposition to Governor Walker's agenda of privatizing Wisconsin education." While this must surely sting a bit, having just outright lied about this to the people of Wisconsin, I don't think there are two ways to read that statement, duplicitous as you are and crafty as you might be in trying to turn truth into lies to fit your political goals.  He goes on to say that your agenda "is simply not in the best interest of Wisconsin children," something teachers, principals and staff at every public school, and anyone who's actually read your shameful budget bill and SB-22 already know.

The Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Education, Dr. Tony Evers, has very clearly stated the many, many reasons why your agenda betrays Wisconsin children and stands to destroy our education system. The Wisconsin Education Association Council has been working tirelessly to ensure that parents and teachers are aware of the lasting ramifications of your plans for the future of our state.  Leading education policy analyst and Bush administration Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch minces no words in declaring how disastrous your plan will be to our schools and our children. I have friends and colleagues who are educators and administrators from preschool to college age.  I have children in Sun Prairie public schools. And I do not know a single person among them who supports your agenda. Not one.  The entire educational community of Wisconsin, regardless of their party affiliation, stand united against the harm your bills will do to this state, and ignoring their sage advice is tantamount to treason: you are intentionally attempting to enact legislation that will harm the people of Wisconsin, the people you have taken an oath to serve. You went on and on in your press conference today about how you're providing "tools" that will create jobs, improve education, benefit the state. Well, Mr. Walker, teachers know a tool when they see one.  And Sondy Pope-Roberts is right: what good are is the toolbox you're forcing on the Wisconsin education system when "all [the] tools are hatchets?"

It's very clear, Mr. Walker, that you personally do not hold educators in high esteem. This has been evident in the condescending way you speak of them, the way you ignore their voices and refuse to communicate - much less negotiate - with them.   It's evident in your strange and deeply personal disdain for higher education, as a college dropout who endured his first political humiliation in a public forum of people better qualified and more intelligent than himself.  These are your issues, and they're publicly available for all to see.

But I don't think we have to dwell on the sorry, sorry state of your personal affairs.  That will lead us nowhere. Now that we're working together, I think, as I said at the start, that this provides an ideal opportunity for you to do some of your razzmatazzing and spin today's press conference into your new, pro-education self.  You can just apologize for having "misspoke" and say that you were in error: Wisconsin educators don't so much "support" your bills as "vehemently and very publicly oppose" them.   And you can add that after careful reflection, and taking into consideration the partnership of concerned citizens like me (fine with me if you use my name - the press loves when you know some random citizen's name. That'll look good), you've decided that your measures are perhaps a little draconian. And maybe it's not necessary after all to defund public education while we increase public funding to vouchers which have been proven, time and again, to be ineffective at raising test scores or improving education among the populations they should benefit. And that we really can't show teachers the respect they deserve if they don't have a right to have a voice in their own workplaces. And that the children of Wisconsin really are the future of Wisconsin, and that we want that future to be bright, and stable and strong.

It's easy; just apologize, tear up the budget bill and start over, in collaboration with both Democratic and Republican legislators, and listening to educators, administrators, policy experts and your constituents. That is, after all, what you were elected to do.  The only other option, really, is to resign.  And that option does have its charms: think how pretty that resignation letter would look on a teacher's desk next to the poison apple that is your budget bill.  You have shown us yet again that you don't give a cheesy curd about us or our children, or the future of this state.  Willing as I am to work with you on this, I really wonder if you're up to it.

Until you resign,
Heather DuBois Bourenane

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