Wisconsin Senate to hold hearing Oct. 9 on
Racist Mascot Preservation Bill,
Sale of Public Schools to Private Ones
Racist Mascot Preservation Bill,
Sale of Public Schools to Private Ones
5 October 2013
If the record-breaking cuts to public education, ALEC-driven policy agenda, and massive expansion of the private voucher program weren't enough to convince you of just how insidious the Walker administration's plan to undermine public education is, perhaps some of the bills on the table in this session will finally get more people seeing the light and speaking out.
There has never been a more critical time in America to pay attention to the big-money forces behind these legislative efforts to defund public education and move toward increased public funding for private schools and obliteration of local control over decision-making on education issues. The time to be vigilant is NOW and there are three ways we can best do this:
- Stay informed. In Wisconsin, the best way to do this is shaping up to be by following the excellent work going into reporting on state and national threats to public education at Public School Shakedown, the new website launched by Ruth Conniff as her first official act as editor of The Progressive. Other great resources:
- The Institute for Wisconsin's Future (whose motto is "policy research in the public interest"),
- The Forward Institute
- The follow-the-money work being done by the Center for Media and Democracy at PR Watch, Source Watch and ALEC Exposed as well as the amazing work of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Wisconsin Watch. You can also follow the money yourself via the GAB.
- And, of course, if you don't already, you should
follow MoD on facebook, where I try to post the best of news that matters
about public education in Wisconsin. And you can subscribe to this blog, where I research and report on the things that make me most angry.
- Stay involved, legislatively. Know what bills are coming up and what they'll mean (see #1), and then SPEAK OUT. Attend hearings or submit written testimony if you can, and, if you can't, call and write your legislators, cc'ing the relevant committee members, and the governor and, when relevant, Tony Evers (the Superintendent of Public Instruction) and your own school board members. All of these parties should be connected; they all work for you and they should all be aware of your concerns.
- Stay involved, locally. Follow school board agendas, which are by law posted in advance of every meeting, and attend any meetings where a topic of interest is listed. Write to your school board members and district administrators with any questions or concerns you have. Ask them how, specifically, policy changes will affect your district. Ask them if they support or oppose specific bills, and encourage them to take a public stance when there is consensus. It is their job to answer your questions and it is their job to advocate for the schools in your community. It is your job to elect responsible people to these positions and to let them know they have your support in standing up strong for fully funded, high-quality public schools. It's also your job to share this information with your friends and families to help make sure the cycle of information and action is repeated and the consequences of these policies are fully understood.
As Rebecca Kemble has faithfully reported (and if she didn't, who would?!), several failed bills of the last legislative sessions are back, couched now in more carefully deceptive language to limit public and professional kickback as much as possible. The charter expansion bill, SB 76, in particular, was amended a day before the public hearing to include a blatant power-grab. Despite the amendment's late-hour delivery to the public, its corporate stakeholders (who likely drafted the legislation) were very clearly long-prepared to address the issue at the hearing, and promoted their self-serving agenda in no uncertain terms:
"The most disturbing element of the hearing was the aggressive confidence of charter school and chamber of commerce lobbyists representing both state and national groups, as if their domination of public education policy and budgets were a foregone conclusion. They quoted statistics drummed up inside their own school reform echo chambers about how low Wisconsin ranks on national charter-school friendliness indices, and bemoaned the bureaucratic obstacles posed by the democratic public processes required of local school boards.
"Several lobbyists argued that charter schools run by local school districts should be called something else, like magnet schools, since they were under the influence of the inefficient, status quo-supporting school district bureaucracies. In their view, the term “charter school” should be reserved for private schools that receive taxpayer money but are not accountable to democratically elected local school boards."
|From our friend Worley Dervish: |
"The children of Wisconsin don't need a two-tiered education system.
Public funds should not be used for private schools."
Press release from WI state senator Kathleen Vinehout (PDF): http://bit.ly/GDDfvG
The administration is hoping we're distracted by the spectacle that is their Tea Party posturing over whether or not to adopt the Common Core State Standards we've already adopted - a move made clear by their decision to hold the SB76 hearing at the same time as three other education hearings, including the one on the standards that drew an overflow crowd.
This is an important topic of conversation, but don't be distracted by their hypocritical appeal there to "local control." Every other bill on their agenda takes power away from local electors and ties districts' hands and budgets.
Our only hope is to continue to read, share and write/call our legislators, and keep spreading the word.
It starts with us. And it starts today.
So here's what's going on this week (full legislative calendar here):
PUBLIC HEARING: Wednesday, October 9 at 9:30 am in 411 South on several important bills:
SB 318: Sale of Public School Buildings to Private Schools. According to Rebecca Kemble, this bill "Makes it easier for religious, charter and private schools to buy Milwaukee Public School buildings."
SB 317: The Racist Mascot Preservation Act - consolidates decision-making power at the DOJ and revokes DPI authority; puts burden of proof in proving racism on its victims rather than the districts themselves (now, districts have to prove their mascots aren't offensive; under this law, those with concerns have to come to Madison to prove that they are - an impossible burden that the bills supporters openly admit is just a ploy to ensure no districts will be forced to change their mascots).
+ other items not related to education area also on the agenda, which you can see here: http://docs.legis.wi.gov/raw/cid/993666.
Contact info for this committee (be sure to cc the Governor, who will ultimately have the power to stop this dangerous legislation):
AT THE SAME TIME, on Wed. Oct 9, in a different room (415 NW), the Assembly Workforce Development committee will be holding a public hearing on a Technical College Grant Bill, AB 399: Relating to: career and technical education incentive grants and making an appropriation. "Under the bill, the Department of Public Instruction (department) must annually confer with the Department of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Technical College System to identify industries and occupations that face workforce shortages or shortages of adequately trained, entry-level workers." Which sounds pretty good, right? Jobs might eventually come of this? Until you follow the money. The myth of the "skills gap" has been a persistent ploy of the Walker administration to funnel tax money directly to crony industry partners under the guise of addressing undemonstrated "worker shortages" and the "problem" of un- or under-skilled workers, a convenient mechanism for blaming the workers - rather than his own failed jobs policies - for high unemployment rates. It's also a way to coerce DPI into forcing industry-specific trades on high school (and younger) students and opens the doors even wider to farming low-wage workers directly out of our classrooms. Not every student is college material. But all students should have a choice on which direction their education will take them. This bill puts that decision in the hands of the Dept. of Workforce Development and Scott Walker's cronies. And we all know that the history of such moves have led to one abuse of power after another and a whole slew of criminal crony activity.
Don't like what you're reading? Good news: you can do something about it. [See above, steps # 1-3].
Here's to staying informed and involved, and moving forward.
Your partner in action and dissent,
|Learn all about how big money turns into bad policy for public schools at PublicSchoolShakedown.org|
___P.S. Special thanks to Rebecca Kemble for her persistence and vigilance in informing us all about upcoming hearings and legislative action, and for her spot-on analyses of what's really going on at the statehouse. If there's an award for this (and I think there is), she should get it.