30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112
cc: Scott Walker
22 Sept 2011Dear Mr. Williams,
I was absolutely shocked to learn today that you are featuring Scott "Teachers are Thugs" Walker on your Sept. 26 "The State of Education" program. While I'm something of an independent news junkie and not a regular viewer of NBC Nightly News, I am familiar with some of your work on the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, and happen to know for a fact that you not only know that Scott Walker is an enemy of teachers, but have in fact slow-jammed that news yourself on at least one occasion:
1. Scott Kevin Walker cut 1.6 BILLION dollars from the public education budget over the next two years, even as he passes out tax breaks like candy and increases public funding to private and charter schools. Most districts in the state were forced to deal with these cuts this year by forcing our top commodity, experienced teachers, into early retirement to get some short-term balance in hiring new, "less expensive" teachers. Programming cuts are rampant all over the state. Districts are forced to raise taxes up to the existing levies, if they haven't already. Cuts, everywhere, across the board. Walker calls cuts "tools." Get ready to hear him say that word a lot on your show. He may also mention jobs, since he has a hard time not using "job" and "tool" in the same sentence, but don't fall for it. He's a total tooljob. And, as the people of Wisconsin have been telling him since February, myself included, he needs to keep his brown bag full of "tools" away from our schools.
2. Walker is heavily funded by, and answers to, anti-public education privatization policy-pushers like the Koch brothers, the Walton family and Betsy DeVos's ironically named American Federation for Children, at whose annual event Walker was a keynote speaker last spring. These groups have a proven and admitted goal of privatizing public education and are using Wisconsin as a staging ground for advancing their political aims for our schools, using the ready puppet, Scott Walker, who is more than willing to sell out our kids to such high-rolling bidders. They have trained him to use words like "choice" and "merit" as codes for long-term agendas toward privatization and segregation of schools. His efforts to "reform" education in Wisconsin are little more than a financial venture.
3. Scott Walker is a proven and habitual liar. His biggest, and most common lie, is that Wisconsin is "broke" and that we need his "reforms" to "balance the budget." The financial "crisis," which Walker manufactured in order to attempt to illegally push through his draconian budget which revoked the rights of public employees in Wisconsin, was the direct result of the tax cuts he distributed (again, to his cronies) in the weeks before declaring this phony state of fiscal emergency. Further, he pushes a myth that the Wisconsin education system is in need of major reform, often blaming our excellent teachers for problems that do not exist. Wisconsin public schools are a national model in many areas and we are #1 in the nation in graduation rates, even as we spend less per pupil than most other states. With many of our schools already running on bare-bones budgets, Walker's cuts are devastating and our kids are paying the price as Walker's funders cash in their checks.
4. The people of Wisconsin do not support Scott Walker. As soon as legally possible, recall efforts will begin full force and are in the planning stage as we speak. Educators and educated people throughout the state are near-universally opposed to his policies and further disgusted by his arrogant contempt for the welfare of our children and our education system. He has an approval rating around 40% and sinking. He is at the heart of an FBI "John Doe" investigation relating to illegal campaigning. He was asked to leave Marquette University for similar campaign ethics violations and he has made clear time and again throughout his many campaigns that he does not (and did not) value his own education; hardly the man we should trust to preserve and protect the education of our children. He does not speak for the people of Wisconsin, who see his power-grab for exactly what it was: a purely partisan bait-and-switch which led us down a whirlwind path of abuses of power and has produced painfully divisive policies that pit the erstwhile friendly and accommodating people of Wisconsin against each other.
When bragging about being part of your summit, Walker said "I believe we have a great story to tell about our reforms and our bipartisan collaborations to further improve our schools." This from the man who famously said "There's nothing to negotiate" when revoking teachers' rights and lying about how doing so would help "balance the budget." There has not been one single instance of bipartisan collaboration related to Scott Walker's education agenda since he took office. And I've been paying attention. I watched live as citizen after citizen, teacher after teacher, expert after expert, testified in opposition to his budget, his education-gutting, his plans to expand charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools across the state. Scott Walker shows open contempt for anyone who opposes him and refuses to even acknowledge citizens with whom he disagrees (I myself have been writing to him regularly since February and have never received more than an automated email response). He continues to this day to suggest that the educators who gathered by the thousands to protest his cuts to education and his abuse of power in taking away their rights were "a handful of out-of-state protesters." He is perhaps the most deceitful and divisive governor in America, and a staggering example of how to destroy public education. I trust you will expose him as such.
Heather DuBois Bourenane
Wisconsin parent, educator, PTO member, state employee and public education advocate
Update: Citizen action works. Mr. Williams actually opened his event by reading aloud from this letter to Scott Walker, asking him if it wasn't true that his divisive policies will ultimately cause irreparable harm. More here.