9 May 2011Dear Scott Walker,
Tonight, you are speaking at the American Foundation to Destroy Public Education's annual "National Policy Summit." Their new poster boy for legislation-for-hire policies that defund public schools while they use taxpayer money to promote school "choice" and "vouchers" (code for public funding of private schools), I'm sure you're greedily lapping up the moment of attention and letting those big-money ego-strokers convince you you're doing the right thing, and that you actually bring something to their gilded table.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett had the nerve to blame unions for "failing public schools" earlier today and I don't have to see the video to know what you're going to say, because you're going to spread the same lies and shoddy data you always spout about the "success" of Milwaukee charter schools and brag about your plan to expand the voucher program in Wisconsin and your "success" in paralyzing unions. (I put the "success" in quotes here to show how I don't agree that those measures were "successful." Rather, I think those are "lies" that you intentionally use to manipulate people into thinking that public schools are not worth investing in and that unions - not corrupt and immoral public policies - are responsible for all of societies ills. And you couldn't be more wrong.)
Mary Bell, a teacher with 30 years of experience and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (and one of the people I'm nominating for your condescending State Employee Recognition Award), knows exactly what's wrong with your plan. Calling your plan "a slew of absurdities," she outlined some of the many reasons the vast majority of educators, students, principals and administrators oppose your agenda, which would effectively destroy Wisconsin schools. As Mary Bell wrote,
"Gov. Scott Walker's education plan included in his state budget proposal will move our students and state backward. Whether you have children in a public school or not, whether you are Democrat, Republican or somewhere in between, children are counting on the state to do what's right. Public education must remain a top priority. [...]
Gimmicks and privatization disguised as education reform should not substitute for solid plans to support the investment generations of Wisconsin citizens have made.
The governor's education plan does not support student learning and schools, and they are not based on sound research. Take, for instance, his plan to pour millions of dollars into a separate private school system, while, at the same time, local school districts would experience a $1.68 billion loss in revenue.
On top of that, the budget proposal would lift income limits for vouchers so that wealthy families in Milwaukee could send their kids to private schools at taxpayer expense. All of this is happening despite the fact that since the voucher program's inception, these private schools have never been shown to do a better job of educating children.
To be clear, the implications of expanding taxpayer funding of private and religious schools goes far beyond Milwaukee. Our local public schools are facing unprecedented cuts.
When public schools are struggling financially and laying off teachers, the last thing we need is to spend more taxpayer money on private schools, but that's exactly what the governor wants to do. His followers are even suggesting a special needs voucher system, which was developed without input from Wisconsin disability groups who advocate for those students and their families."
Meanwhile, SB-22, the so-called Charter School Bill, is on the verge of passing through the Wisconsin legislature. I, for one, am trying to do everything I can to educate, infuriate and awaken the people of Wisconsin - and beyond - on the dangers of this bill, and the agenda of groups like the one paying for you to lie to the nation tonight, want to enact.
Without a solid public education system, we are nothing. Your efforts, funded nationally by billionaires like Dick and Betsy DeVos, are a one-way ticket to destroying the middle class and the death of the public school. DeVos money does not come without strings: that Amway money climbed a long, long ladder to get into those pockets and now the rest of us are paying the price again as their pyramid scheme reaches a new pinnacle: they're actually trying to get us to buy into the concept of trickle-down education. Like their famous ScamWay scheme, privatizing public education means the rich reap all the rewards while the rest of us get squashed flat, spread out, stretched thin, every child left behind. And what education can possibly trickle down? What's left for the rest of us? What "choices" do we get to make when there are no income limits on voucher programs and charter schools can be operated for profit? What's left for the vast majority of Wisconsin children, whose districts already cannot afford to lose another single dollar? What's left behind? Nothing.
Do not be seduced by their moneyed voices. Look at the data that all of the experts have been trying so hard to get you to see. Listen to Mary Bell, to Tony Evers, to Diane Ravitch. Listen to educators, experts, concerned and informed citizens and parents like me. And start putting Wisconsin children first. Please listen. And, maybe, in the morning, I'll get up the nerve to listen to what you had to say tonight as well. But I'm pretty sure you're not likely to start surprising me any time soon. Maybe you could start by announcing your resignation. What a start that would be!
Until you're recalled,
Heather DuBois Bourenane
Wisconsin parent and advocate for public education