Educational Juxtaposition

By Molly Belt

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Wisconsin comes in second in the nation in terms of dollars cut per student in 2012. Only New Mexico is cutting its spending per student more than Wisconsin. In 2012, state support for Wisconsin students will be $635 less per pupil than it was in 2011, which is a 10% cut. In the 2011-13 budget, thanks to Governor Walker and his Republican cronies, state aid to public schools was cut $792 million.

Some might argue that during these economic times there is no other choice but to cut spending, even if it means putting the education of children in peril. However, that isn’t true. Our whole country is faced with difficult decisions thanks to the malfeasance of a few, but nine states not only did not try to balance their budgets on the backs of innocent children, they actually increased spending for education (Wyoming, Rhode Island, Oregon, Massachusetts, Vermont, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maryland and West Virginia). Ten other states managed to limit their education cuts to less than two percent (Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia, Louisiana).

It’s bad enough that our Republican legislators and state executive don’t value education (Governor Walker didn’t manage to complete college; he’s not qualified to be a substitute teacher in his own state), but then they turn around and want to punish teachers for poor student outcomes. SB 95 would allow student scores on the WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination) to be used as a reason to fire, discipline or not renew the contract of teachers. It would also allow school districts to increase class sizes in grades 2 and 3, despite a previous commitment to class size reduction for these grade levels.

When looked at together, there seems to be a clear message to educators and the message is this: “We are not only going to ask you to provide children with a high quality education with far fewer resources and larger class sizes. We are also going to penalize you if you are unable to do so. We are not going to look at any other factors. We will not take into consideration where a child started out and how much improvement that child might have made. The fact that a child is homeless and misses a lot of school due to transportation issues does not matter to us. We couldn’t care less that children sit in your classroom hungry and less able to learn. Lack of parent involvement, lack of effort on a child’s part, abuse, a poorly written standardized test…we don’t want to think about any of that. If you can’t accomplish standardized performance on standardized tests, with every non-standardized student you teach, you must be a terrible teacher. And by the way, if you survive this year, we’re going to cut more next year.”

I wonder if they even read their legislation, or just take it directly from ALEC and cram it through. Do they not see the stark juxtaposition between cutting millions from education and then blaming teachers when children don’t learn? How do they think children are going to learn with ever decreasing resources? Osmosis? That didn’t work for Peter Brady on the Brady Bunch and it won’t work for today’s children either.

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