Angelina Cruz, a teacher of ten years from the Racine Unified School District, suffered a traumatic brain injury 5 months ago that has kept her out of the classroom this year, but she mustered up the strength to testify at Tuesday’s public hearing on Senate Bill 1. Here is what she had to tell the committee on how to best help schools in Wisconsin:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. And I would like to thank you all for dedicating your work to public service. I do the same. My name is Angelina Cruz and I am a public school teacher. For ten years, I taught 5th grade in the Racine Unified School District. This would have been my eleventh year, except that 5 months ago I suffered a traumatic brain injury.
You may be wondering what would compel someone such as myself to find a way to Madison today to speak before you. Frankly, I should not even be alive. I shouldn’t be able to do this today. And that’s just it. I’ve been told over and over by some of the best doctors that my being alive is a miracle. So I feel very strongly that I must continue to use the voice that I have been blessed with to speak for my students and their families.
My first week out of the hospital was the first week of the school year. This was extraordinarily difficult for me. I’ve always taken what I do very seriously. These past five months I have been working very hard to get back to it. I receive e-mails from former students on a daily basis. I have had the opportunity to visit the school I was at for ten years. I miss it. I miss my kids. And I sit before you concerned that the place I love being most in this world, working with these kids, public schools, will not exist very soon.
I have a degree in educational policy so I like to think that I am pretty well versed in the history of public schools and how to move our schools forward successfully. So I am seeking some clarification:
- How will voucher and privately run charter schools be held accountable? I’m not a statistician, but it seems to me that allowing charter and voucher schools to take different tests than public schools makes comparison and accountability unrealistic.
- How do privatizing, or abandoning, public schools deemed “failures” ensure positive results when studies have shown that these schools do not perform any better than our existing public schools?
- The establishment of a separate board is concerning. Will creating a separate board really hold private schools receiving public money accountable?
- It seems as though this bill would remove local control of our schools. Presently, if a parent has an issue with a teacher or an administrator, they have the freedom to approach the local school board to redress their grievances. Passage of this bill seems to eliminate this as a possibility. Please explain to me how this is not a divestment in our communities.
- What protections are in place for our special education students and English language learners under this bill? Private schools are not required under law to provide these services, whereas public schools must. Furthermore, private schools have the freedom to deny access to students that require services that they do not provide.
Please don’t get me wrong. I have no problems with private schools. I am a product of parochial schooling, grades K-12, because my parents thought it important that I have a religious upbringing. What this religious upbringing taught me is that our world is filled with beautiful diversity that must be embraced. We must love each other and support each other. And I fear that this bill does nothing toward that effort for those most in need.
Wisconsin has one of the finest public school system in the country. Yet here we are on the precipice of losing it all. If you are truly looking for ways to move our great state forward, and I believe that you are, please consider addressing issues related to poverty. Think about requiring smaller class sizes so that students receive more individualized attention. Please consider the provision of wrap around services so that children have adequate nutrition. Please ensure that schools are staffed with highly educated and experienced teachers. Consider raising the minimum wage to a living wage, so that parents have the means to provide for their families.
When you go to bed at night and close your eyes, please think about your own children and those that you know and love. Think about what it is that you would like for them to have. Because that’s what this is about. The kids. And it takes a village to raise them up. As politically charged as education has become across this nation, I believe that the legislators in our state have the courage to do the right thing for the voiceless that have gotten lost in this debate. The kids. This is not a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. This is a doing what is right versus doing what is wrong problem. As Kid President once said, “I disagree with you but I still like you as a person who is a human being and I will treat you like that because if I didn’t it would make everything bad and that’s what a lot of people do and it’s lame.” I believe that we, in Wisconsin, can choose to model for the nation what it means to put our differences aside for just about the best reason ever. For the kids.
I have included my name, address, e-mail, and phone number on my testimony that I will be submitting for the official record. I look forward to hearing from you. And for you to do the right thing.