As an education advocate, when I talk about the need for diligence in fighting for quality public education, I sometimes meet resistance from other parents and even educators, who find some of the concerns I raise to be so extreme-sounding, so irrational and unreasonable, that they're tempted to dismiss them as being overblown and impossible. "No one would ever really want to do that to public schools," they say. "That could never happen here. People support public education here."
But - as much as I love hyperbole (I'm an English teacher and a writer. What can I say?), I'm not the kind of person who takes liberties with facts, and I'm certainly not the kind of person who would accuse anyone of trying to undermine the cornerstone of democracy, public education, if it weren't entirely, documentably, true. And even though none of us really want to believe it, I don't think anything could make how true it is more clear than going directly to the horse's mouth.
The passage below is copied directly from the 2013 Wisconsin Republican Party State Convention Resolutions as Adopted. The convention was held on May 4, 2013 in Wausau, where "Republican leaders including Governor Scott Walker, Congressman Paul Ryan, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus spoke to an excited crowd ready to take our message and Party to the next level." If you want to join the 44 people (give or take, since at least 5 of them are me) who cared what Priebus had to say in his Walkerphilic keynote begging for more members and wondering why the GOP hasn't won a decisive presidential victory in over 20 years (see below for why), click here. Or just read on to see what they formalized in terms of an education agenda.
The "education" part of the WisGOP message is pasted below. The entire thing is dripping with thinly veiled contempt for, and unfounded assumptions about the bias within, public education. I started to bold the sections that you might find most shocking or outrageous, but within minutes, pretty much the whole thing was bolded, so I'll just give you a chance to wrap your mind around the highlights before you read on:
- They want to eliminate 4K, which research shows is one of the leading factors in graduation rates, retention and test scores for all students, but especially low income students.
- They want to eliminate funding for mental health screening (which potentially reduces violence in schools and helps troubled kids get the help they need), but create funding to put armed staff in public schools, a potentially tragic idea against which mental health professionals strongly warn.
- They want to eliminate minimum certification requirements to create a system so lax that teachers need neither degrees in education nor student teaching experience to enter a classroom, a move that feeds on increased funding to groups like Teach for America that undermine qualified teaching staff by putting inexperienced temps into the classrooms that most need experienced instructors for short-term assignments. This move also has a disproportionally negative impact on low-income students and those with disabilities.
- They want to amp up public funds to private school vouchers AND increase the already massive tax break for private school tuition regardless of a family's financial need. Maybe you didn't catch that last part. It was this: REGARDLESS OF A FAMILY'S FINANCIAL NEED. Pardon the shouting, but I just want to make sure this is crystal clear: rich families in Wisconsin will now get both tax breaks AND vouchers, a supreme double-dip government handout, an unconscionable subsidy for the wealthy at the expense of taxpayers and public schools.
- They not only oppose adopting Common Core State Standards (or any standards for public education), but they actually endorse the ABOLISHMENT of the U.S. Dept. of Education. That's right. In the same breath as claiming that the taxpayer should fund the education of wealthy, and that they support de-funding virtually every aspect of public education that helps level the playing ground for low-income students, they've revived the most laughable, least reasonable, of the anti-government-school Tea Party mantras: "we endorse that the U.S. Department of Education be abolished."
What more do you need to know to accept that this is not a false alarm? The war on public education is going on now, in full public view, and we ignore it at our peril. This is not the rambling of the radical fringe. This is the official resolution of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. The party responsible, under the well-bought "leadership" of Scott "Fundraising IS Governing" Walker, for the largest cuts to public education funding ever. The party that tried to run a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction whose platform was basically "get guns in schools and cut funding to everything else." A party that has been wholly bought and paid for by those with a vested interest in dismantling public education.
Read on for the full monty, and then think hard about whether or not this is really your definition of "forward":
2013 Wisconsin Republican Party Education Resolution:
WHEREAS, we believe in limited government, individual freedom and personal responsibility; and
WHEREAS, parents have the right to spend their money on the school or method of schooling they deem appropriate for their children; and
WHEREAS, virtual schools have come under attack by the leadership of the state teacher’s union; and
WHEREAS, parents have the fundamental right and responsibility to educate their children and provide for their moral guidance; and
WHEREAS, parents should have as much choice as possible in selecting the right school for their children; and
WHEREAS, vigorous competition from independent schools will stimulate government schools to strive for and achieve excellence; now,
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Republican Party of Wisconsin, in convention assembled:
- Urges that parents of school-age children be given vouchers or tax credits designed to give all parents equal freedom of choice in education without regard to their financial means; and
- Urges that religiously oriented schools not be discriminated against for exercising their freedom of religion; and
- Strongly urges that the right to home school shall not be abridged; and
- Urges our state legislators and local school boards to push for curriculum changes that place greater emphasis on the basics, and eliminate all programs whose objectives are social engineering or advocacy of special interests; and
- Calls for the state legislature to eliminate funding of 4-year-old kindergarten; and
- Urges Congress to pass legislation that prohibits schools from forcing or coercing parents to put their children on drugs and eliminates all funding for government-mandated mental health screening of all children; and
- Supports academic efforts that ensure that the presentation of our history and founding Judeo-Christian principles in our educational institutions, including those of higher learning, is objective, truthful and complete; and
- Urges legislation adopting alternative standards for teacher licensing that do not require a degree in education or student-teaching experience; and
- Urges that if political issues are discussed, that multiple opinions be presented to represent a more fair discussion and to allow for debate; and
- Opposes the adoption and implementation of Common Core Standards as well as the International Baccalaureate Curriculum in the Wisconsin school system; and
- Supports allowing properly trained adult staff to be armed in public schools.BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we support legislation to make it easier to fire unsatisfactory teachers in the public schools and to encourage performance pay for the best teachers; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we support local school districts’ decisions to set up virtual schools and parents right to participate in their children’s education and to choose virtual schools for their children’s education; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge libraries in all publicly-funded schools have a balance of reading materials that reflect conservative values as well as liberal values; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we endorse that the U. S. Department of Education should be abolished and all federal mandates and funding (such as Common Core Curriculum), leaving education decision making at the state, local or personal level; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we support school districts having the right to choose from multiple vendors for their statewide school information system (SSIS) on the grounds that multiple vendors will lower costs to the taxpayers and promote free market principles.