Wisconsin must demonstrate that we value our teachers, Governor Evers writes

In a column released Wednesday, Governor Tony Evers says Wisconsin must do better in demonstrating that it values its teachers.

“We must … recognize that part of supporting our kids in the classroom means supporting the educators who teach our kids,” Evers writes.

“Wisconsin pays our public school teachers less than the national average, which makes it harder to recruit and retain talented educators. According to recently-released data, Wisconsin has fallen to 33rd in the nation for average teacher pay. Teacher salaries in our state are some of the lowest in the Midwest. Teachers moving across the border to Illinois or Michigan can see pay bumps of $10,000 or more.

“That’s just not good enough, folks.

“As we continue to fight for the resources our schools need to invest in our kids, we must do everything in our power to ensure that educators know the work they do is valued and that they mean something to our kids and the people of our state.”

Read the governor’s entire column, published by the Capital Times:

Last month, Kathy and I escaped Madison for a weekend and celebrated our 50th high school reunion back in Plymouth.

We got to catch up with friends, attend the homecoming parade and football game, and tour the new multi-purpose facility and fitness center at the high school.

While I was in town, I also sat down for an interview with two high school students. They asked me everything from my favorite memory of Plymouth High School (starting at the school when it was brand new) to my thoughts on Greta Thunberg’s advocacy on climate change (I think she is an incredible human being and appreciate her work). The students also posed the question: “What is the biggest change you’ve seen in Wisconsin in the last 50 years?”

It might sound hokey, but here’s what I told them — what stands out for me is that a whole bunch hasn’t changed. Being back in our hometown was an important reminder of how important our kids and our schools are to our communities. And kids are as good and smart and dedicated now as they were when I was in high school.

That’s why after spending my career fighting for our kids, I decided to run for governor. Because I believe what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state.

Since taking office, I have traveled the state listening to the people of Wisconsin, and at every stop, I saw educators and heard folks say how important their local schools are.

That’s why I proposed a bold budget with significant investments in education, including a commitment to return to two-thirds funding and a $600 million increase in special education, among other important priorities.

Now, I know this is not quite where the final budget ended up. We didn’t get everything we all wanted. And, quite frankly, no one was more disappointed than I was by what Republicans did to the budget we put together.

But I wasn’t going to negotiate against what we were able to give our kids with the budget we were sent, knowing that our kids could have ended up with less in the end.

And I sure wasn’t going to let our kids, our educators and our schools become bargaining chips by going back to the negotiating table when it would hurt them the most.

So, at the end of the day, I went back to that fundamental creed: that what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state.

And that’s why I’m proud of where we ended up and what we were able to do with the budget we were given.

We provided $95 million in special education categorical aid — the first increase in a decade.PauseCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time0:00Stream TypeLIVELoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00Fullscreen00:00Mute

We provided nearly $330 million in state general aid — the largest increase since 2005.

We also doubled state support for school mental health programs to help our kids in need.

And finally, through my vetoes, we were able to increase per-pupil state categorical aids by nearly $100 million over the next two years.

Our budget was a down payment on important priorities, but there is more work for us to do.

I said I wanted to return to our state providing two-thirds funding for our schools, and we have to get that done. And, yes, we increased special education aid, but we’re nowhere close to where we need to be, and we have to do more.

We must also recognize that part of supporting our kids in the classroom means supporting the educators who teach our kids. Wisconsin pays our public school teachers less than the national average, which makes it harder to recruit and retain talented educators. According to recently-released data, Wisconsin has fallen to 33rd in the nation for average teacher pay. Teacher salaries in our state are some of the lowest in the Midwest. Teachers moving across the border to Illinois or Michigan can see pay bumps of $10,000 or more.

That’s just not good enough, folks.

As we continue to fight for the resources our schools need to invest in our kids, we must do everything in our power to ensure that educators know the work they do is valued and that they mean something to our kids and the people of our state.

Because, by golly, I can tell you that our educators mean something to our kids. I see it in every classroom I visit. And I heard it straight from one of those two students who asked me what’s changed since I graduated. She told me that her favorite thing about Plymouth High School is her teachers. That she appreciates how she can talk to them even about things that happen outside of school. That they make her feel like she is important and that she is the future.

As I said, a lot has changed in the last 50 years, but our values have stayed the same. We work hard, we cheer for the Packers, Brewers and Bucks, we look after our neighbors, and we care about our communities.

That’s why it’s time to get serious about investing in our kids, our schools and our educators, because what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state.

Gov. Tony Evers: What’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state

Last month, Kathy and I escaped Madison for a weekend and celebrated our 50th high school reunion back in Plymouth. We got to catch up with friends, attend the homecoming parade and football game, and tour the new multi-purpose facility and fitness center at the high school.

Taxpayers’ bill for private voucher schools soars to $350 million

Wisconsin taxpayers will be spending $349.6 million to support private schools this year through the state’s voucher program, up from $302 million last year, according to figures released by the Department of Public Instruction.

According to DPI, the taxpayer-funded voucher programs will support a total of 43,450 private school students this year, up from 40,039 students last year.

There are four voucher programs: Milwaukee, Racine, Statewide, and Special Needs. The biggest growth this year was in the Statewide Program, which grew by 37 percent, and the Special Needs program, which grew by 55 percent. Below are figures from DPI:

Read more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Cost of Wisconsin voucher programs nears $350 million as enrollment surges

CLOSE Buy Photo The HOPE Christian Schools network is active in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. (Photo: Mark Hoffman /Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) The number of Wisconsin students attending private, mostly religious, schools on taxpayer-funded vouchers continues to grow, driven by double-digit increases in the state’s two newest programs, according to data released by the Department of Public Instruction on Tuesday.

Three WEAC members win Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Three WEAC members – Richard Erickson, Bayfield High School; Kevin Reese, Clintonville High School; and Rebecca Saeman, Sauk Trail Elementary School, Middleton – were named Wednesday as recipients of Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Winners of the award receive a certificate, a trip to Washington, D.C., for professional development and recognition events, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

The Wisconsin recipients were nominated by the state Department of Public Instruction in 2017 and 2018, the award program cycle, DPI spokesman Benson Gardner said.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are the highest honors bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teaching. The Awards were established by Congress in 1983. 

The award recognizes those teachers have both deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas.

Awardees reflect the expertise and dedication of the Nation’s teaching corps, and they demonstrate the positive impact of excellent teachers on student achievement. The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Below are profiles of the WEAC members who won this cycle’s awards:

Rick Erickson, Bayfield

Rick Erickson

Richard Erickson has been teaching for 35 years and has been at Bayfield High School for 25 years. There, he teaches 11-12th-grade Chemistry and Physics, and a science-focused experiential learning alternative education program for 9-12th-grade at-risk students. Previously, he taught for ten years at Mahtomedi High School in Minnesota. Richard collaborates with scientists from the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the National Park Service, and Northland College to provide his students with authentic scientific experiences and research opportunities. He facilitates independent student research and encourages his students to participate in science fairs. Richard has worked with the University of Wisconsin to develop a summer program focused on indigenous arts and sciences, targeted toward Native American students. For the past three years, he has coordinated science festival events in the northwest region of the state and has served on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “Reimagining Science Fairs” committee. Richard was a Minnesota Teacher of the Year Finalist in 1992 and the 2014 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year. Richard earned a B.A.S. in teaching physical science from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He is a National Board Certified Teacher and is certified in broad field science, physical science, chemistry, physics, and alternative education.

It goes without saying that it is a true honor to be recognized for the work that has been my passion for 35 years. I am excited to receive the Presidential Award while also acknowledging the many teachers who are deserving of recognition for their efforts to foster the sense of wonder in students. It is a testimony to the science teachers who fanned the flame of my curiosity, my colleagues with whom I have collaborated on exciting projects, and my role models who have made me a better teacher.

Rick Erickson

Kevin Reese

Kevin Reese

Kevin Reese has been a mathematics teacher at Clintonville High School for his entire 17-year teaching career, currently assigned to teach 9-12th-grade Advanced Algebra, Pre-Calculus, Advanced Placement Statistics, and AP Calculus. Kevin is also an adjunct instructor for the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, permitting qualified students in his Pre-Calculus, Statistics, and Calculus courses to earn dual credit from the UWO campus. In his classes, Kevin works to incorporate student-centered activities that everyone can grasp, but that have high learning potential. Throughout his time teaching mathematics, Kevin has maintained a passion for leadership. In addition to leadership roles within his mathematics department, building, and district, he currently serves on a statewide committee that is working to develop a guide that will consist of instructional practices aimed at promoting educational equity in mathematics throughout the state of Wisconsin. He also works to develop future leaders through his advising of the student council at Clintonville High School. Kevin is a member of the Wisconsin Mathematics Council and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Kevin earned a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a M.S. in mathematics education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He is a certified teacher for grades 9-12 mathematics.

Even with this recognition, I still feel there is more work to be done for me to improve as a teacher. I arrive each morning ready to take on the challenge of another student that I have yet to fully engage in learning and to bring out their best as a person. This is a tribute to all the students I have ever taught who inspired me to give my best effort in and out of the classroom, and for all my hardworking colleagues who have dared with me to take risks to improve instruction for our students.

Kevin Reese

Rebecca Saeman

Rebecca Saeman

Rebecca Saeman has been employed within the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District as a Math Interventionist for over 12 years. She has spent the past nine years as a Math and Reading Interventionist at Sauk Trail Elementary. She previously served as Math Interventionist at Northside Elementary and Park Elementary. Rebecca loves working directly with her students to grow their academic skills and confidence levels. She focuses on making sure all students are aware of the learning targets for the lesson and why the learning is relevant and important. She also enjoys counseling educators in the area of conceptual mathematics, so they may pay forward these same learnings to their own students. In addition to her daily student curriculum and educator training, Rebecca also cofacilitates the annual STEAM clubs for students in first and second grades to inspire their enthusiasm for STEAM through discovery-based learning. Rebecca has conducted several professional development presentations at National Math Recovery Conferences and within her school district. Topics include early numeracy skill development and activities to promote student growth. Rebecca earned a B.S. in elementary education from Edgewood College. Additionally, she earned both a Reading Teacher License and a M.S.Ed. from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Being honored with the Presidential Award reconfirms my purpose as an educator and encourages my passion for and dedication to my mathematics students and fellow educators. As mathematics teachers, we must remain dedicated to empowering students to acquire new learning skills, expand their mathematical understanding, and develop self-confidence to fully apply themselves throughout their future academics. I share this award with my inspiring children, dedicated educators, and supportive family.

Rebecca Saeman

WEAC – Badgers Outstanding Educator: Dawn Perkins, Unity Education Association

Dawn Perkins, a member of the Unity Education Association and eighth grade math teacher, is the latest recipient of the WEAC-Badgers Outstanding Educator Award.

Perkins, who is married to Unity EA member-teacher Shawn Perkins, has worked as a teacher and school volleyball coach for 25 years. She will be honored by the sold-out crowd at the October 19 UW-Badger volleyball game.

From organizing the annual Dig Pink fundraiser, to coaching volleyball and basketball, Perkins is dedicated to her students and school community. She was formerly named Outstanding Unity Staff Member of the Year and is involved in middle and high school drama, Destination Imagination, and has played piano for the solo and ensemble contest. Equally committed to her union, Perkins has been involved since 1988.

“I truly enjoy working with middle school students, no day is never the same,” said Perkins. “My favorite part of teaching mathematics is watching a student experience the ‘AH-HA!’ moment. There is nothing like watching them struggle and struggle and then suddenly, it clicks! There is an intrinsic reward with knowing that you have been a small part in their success. Also, I’ve gotten to the point in my career where I am now teaching the children of some of my first students. That is exciting, but also scary – it means I’ve been teaching for a long time!”

When it comes to her union, Perkins said she belongs for several reasons. “First, it is to pay respect to those workers who fought for our basic rights all those years ago,” she said. “When I first became involved with our contract negotiations team, I remember the older members talking about the struggles they had early in their career and the items they had to fight for over the years, those things that many of us take for granted today. We owe them to carry on their hard work from many years ago. Second, my mom was a member of the ESP staff at her school for 30 years… And finally, the Unity Education Association is my professional organization.  I should belong to the organization that represents me.”

ENTER THE WEAC-BADGERS OUTSTANDING EDUCATOR CONTEST AT WWW.WEAC.ORG/BADGERS

Evers asks Godlewski to head new Retirement Security Task Force

Governor Tony Evers has formed the Retirement Security Task Force, and announced that State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski would lead the effort.

In a news release, Godlewski said, like citizens nationwide, Wisconsinites are not saving enough for retirement and that an estimated 400,000 Wisconsinites are at risk of retiring in poverty by 2030. The task force, she said, will “identify effective and achievable solutions that will provide an opportunity for all Wisconsinites to save that is separate from the WRS (Wisconsin Retirement System).”

Below is State Treasurer Godlewski’s overview:

Why a Retirement Security Task Force? 

Wisconsin’s growing elderly population is ahead of the national trend. By 2030, there will be a projected 60% increase in the number of people age 65+. Further, Wisconsinites are not set-up for success. The typical working-age household has less than $3,000 in retirement savings. It’s not that Wisconsinites don’t want to save, it’s that they have been living under economic conditions that have made saving either impossible or inaccessible. Recently, AARP of Wisconsin did a study that identified 1 in 7 registered voters in Wisconsin have no way to save for retirement at work. Yet, 82% would take advantage if a savings program for retirement was available. The Governor and Treasurer believe hard-working Wisconsinites deserve to have peace of mind and feel secure when they retire. 

Financial Risk if No Action is Taken to Address the Retirement Crisis. 

The long-term financial health of Wisconsin is at risk if no action is taken. Projected expenditures on senior programs (i.e. Medicaid, Homestead Tax Credit, Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program and Supplemental Security Income) are estimated to be $4.7 billion annually by 2030 an increase of $3.5 billion from 2015. With the cost of living increasing and retirement savings decreasing, it is estimated that 400,000 Wisconsinites are at risk of retiring in poverty by 2030. If lower and moderate income households (up to $40,000/year) were to save 3% of their income through 2030, state expenditures in 2030 may decrease by $3.1 billion annually. 

Why should Public Employees care? 

Public employees work hard and deserve to retire in a financially secure manner. There is a misperception that state employees, to include public educators, have an unfair advantage with savings through the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). That said, what the Governor and Treasurer are proposing with this Task Force is to identify effective and achievable solutions that will provide an opportunity for all Wisconsinites to save that is separate from the WRS. 

For more information about the Retirement Security Task Force, please reach out to the State Treasurer’s Office at treasurer@wisconsin.gov or 608-266-1714.

Legislative Update

In other legislative action this week, the Senate and Assembly Committees on Education held a joint public hearing Thursday on a series of bills created as a result of the Legislature’s Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding. To see the full slate and email the Senate and Education committees, click here. WEAC has not taken a formal position on the bills, having no opposition to the proposals.

To contact your elected officials on any issue, use the “Find Your Legislators” link at www.weac.org/take-action. For more information to get even more involved, email Christina Brey, WEAC Public Affairs.

Bills We’re Watching
See all the bills we’re watching at www.weac.org/bills.

Spotlight on Locals: Council 10 Retired

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen (right) recognized Council 10 Retired at their September breakfast for their service in dedication to public education in Wisconsin. Pictured left to right: Council 10 Retired President Marlene Ott, Vivien DeBack, Jim Briselden, Jean Haase, and Cal Wetzel.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

Council 10 Retired – one of 24 local chapters of the statewide WEAC Retired group – is used to honoring others, as it did recently at its annual breakfast. But I had the honor of turning the tables on Council 10 Retired by recognizing it as a WEAC Strong Local Affiliate.

“Thank you to WEAC for recognizing the years of service from our local group of retired educators,” Council 10 Retired President Marlene Ott said in response. “These four (pictured above) were among our founding mothers and fathers who continue to be active retirees.”

As part of the annual breakfast, Council 10 Retired featured speakers from Voces de la Frontera, a young ‘dreamer’ Josue, and Anna Dvorak. The presentation described the impact of immigration policies on families seeking asylum. Marlene shared, “We also honored some of our newly retired members and hope to keep them active in our important work.”

Council 10 Retired does a great job of keeping members and retirees active, and when I asked Marlene how they do it, she said, “There are a number of factors involved in our member involvement. First, people who get involved immediately after retirement are much more likely to stay involved, and we work to get them on a committee right away! Second,  we have had great support from our staff Jim Gibson (who recently passed away) and Ted Kraig have been so supportive attending all of our board meetings, updating us on what’s happening in education and the WEAC world, and including us in all appropriate events such as protests in a district or political actions so that we can help.”

We all know that it is important to stay connected with our members, and Marlene shared, “We have a regular newsletter that goes out including photos of members at social gatherings as well as work sessions. Retirees who have moved away or who can’t always get out stay in touch through the newsletter and have often expressed appreciation to Phyllis Wetzel, our newsletter editor.”

While members of Council 10 Retired aren’t in a school building every day anymore, they certainly stay active. Marlene shared, “As a retiree, social events are very important to our members. We have a summer picnic in one of the Milwaukee parks and a breakfast honoring new retirees. Other activities include getting tickets for plays and concerts, groups meeting for breakfast or lunch, and outings like taking the trolley with a docent to see this summer’s artists’ creations along Wisconsin Avenue.” 

When I asked Marlene about advice to other locals, she said, “I think active involvement in retiree units begins with local engagement in active unit activities. If the same person is always the president and the same person remains chief negotiator for years, lots of talent remains undeveloped. At the association retirement party when I retired, at least a dozen of the teachers in the room had also served as association president as well as chief negotiator. They all had a stake in the organization and knew the ropes.” 

Marlene told me, “We feel very honored that someone noticed the ongoing work of our retired members! We know that our local actives appreciate us. And we have had many members appointed to state WEAC committees and DPI teams as well as chairing our local negotiating cadre and our local association cadre.”  

WEAC is proud to recognize Council 10 Retired for its long-standing support of public education in Wisconsin and its continued advocacy for our students and our profession.  

Have you recently retired or planning to retire? Join WEAC Region 10 / Retired to stay active and informed! Click here for a membership form.

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.

Menominee Indian High School teacher Benjamin Grignon presented WEAC’s Excellence in Education Award

WEAC President Ron Martin presents WEAC’s Excellence in Education Award to Menominee Indian High School teacher Benjamin Grignon.

WEAC President Ron Martin on Wednesday presented WEAC’s Excellence in Education Award to Menominee Indian High School teacher Benjamin Grignon. The award was presented in Grignon’s classroom, in front of students, family members and colleagues.

In presenting the award, Martin quoted one of Grignon’s nominators who said: “Ben’s role as a teacher is not simply to teach art; rather his is the simultaneous honor and obligation to preserve and teach traditional Menominee arts, culture and language through his classroom. He is more accurately described as an art-informed anthropologist, tasked with keeping Menominee Nation traditions alive through education. I cannot overstate how important this work is as the primary teacher working to insulate his nation’s culture and traditions from being lost through time and diffusion.”

One of Grignon’s students wrote: “He is passionate about his students and values that knowledge as power. He provides his classes great learning opportunities and opens doors for all of us. His ability to spread his teaching is one of the most important resources this community has.”

In accepting the award, Grignon thanked his students and said he is honored to pass on traditions to them and hopes they pass them on from there. “It’s important that those teachings remain, and that we uphold that as the Menominee People,” he said.

Grignon has previously been named a Wisconsin 2019 High School Teacher of the Year, and Martin said the WEAC Excellence in Education Award is in effect WEAC’s own “Teacher of the Year” Award. Fourteen excellent educators from across the state were nominated for the WEAC award this year, and four were selected as award recipients: Grignon; Waukesha teacher Sarahi Monterrey; Joanna Rizzotto, a South Milwaukee alternative learning coordinator/teacher; and Sandra Kowalczyk, a Sun Prairie school reading specialist.

Students, family members and colleagues join Benjamin Grignon as he accepts WEAC’s Excellence in Education Award.

Read Across America unveils new look

Our student populations are ever-changing and evolving and every year there are new children’s books that reflect that diversity. That’s why NEA’s Read Across America is rebranding with a new logo to appeal to students of all ages and backgrounds and a continued mission of “Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers.”

Of course, children still love Dr. Seuss, and his birthday on March 2. Also, Read Across America Day is still an ideal time for a school-wide reading event when you can serve green eggs and ham, but with the broadened scope of NEA’s Read Across America, there are activities, resources, and ideas to keep students reading all year long.

A colorful printed calendar and an interactive resource calendar (find it at readacrossamerica.org) offers book suggestions for different age groups and provides ideas for applying lessons from the books to the classroom.

Kicking off this school year, the book for August 2019 was All Are Welcome Here. No matter how you start your day, what you wear, when you play. Or if you come from far away. All are welcome here.

The lively picture book sends a clear message that our public schools are places where every child is welcome. The calendar suggests hosting a community-building back-to-school event that opens opportunities for talking about individual differences, diversity, and how we can learn from each other.

Spotlight on Locals: Boyceville Education Association

WEAC President Ron Martin (left) visited the Boyceville Education Association to deliver the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate recognition. Boyceville Education Association members pictured (left to right): Bryor Hellmann, Kelsey Kuehl, Jacob Peterson, Deb Bell, Hannah Downer-Carlson, Kristen Henningfeld, Holly Sweeney, Dianne Vig, Erin Reisimer, and Angie Hellmann.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

“Our work in building relationships with our community has made such a difference for the Boyceville Education Association,” Holly Sweeney, President of the Boyceville Education Association, told me.  “While we have a good relationship with our school board and administration, we needed to build a good relationship with our community.” To do this, the Boyceville Education Association was on the ground floor of a local initiative called “Build a Better Boyceville” which is focused on the economics of their area and improvement of their community. Both Holly and Boyceville Education Association Secretary, Jacob Peterson, see this work as critical for both their local association and their community.  “We are all invested in Boyceville, and we want to be an education partner in this work,” Holly said.  

Holly credits the success of the local to a plan that was developed at WEAC’s Summer Leadership Academy back in 2018. Holly and Jacob attended and worked with long-time Summer Leadership Academy trainer Deb Bell to develop a plan for growing and strengthening the Boyceville Education Association. Since then, their local has attended all school board meetings bringing a positive outlook, wearing their purple Boyceville Education Association shirts, and telling their colleagues about what’s happening in their district and their community. 

Jacob, 5thgrade teacher, said, “We need to be present at our school board meetings not just in a crisis, but always. We are members of our community, and we need to work to get our name out there.”   

That led to the Boyceville Education Association applying for a grant to be a part of the annual summer community gathering and walking in the Cucumber/Pickle Fest parade. There, their members gave books to students in the crowd. Jacob said the students were thrilled to receive new books as the school year was ready to begin; one local grandmother told him, “My granddaughter was so excited about the book you gave her that we had to ask her to put it away so that she would watch the parade.”  

Holly said, “We set goals for membership growth and are systematically inviting all of our new educators to join us as members of the Boyceville Education Association. Since our locals are small, we are partnering our events with nearby Glenwood City.”

Jacob shared, “We have to ask our colleagues to join with us so that we can grow, and our work can have a broader impact. Our local dues fund programs like our local scholarship presented to a graduating senior who plans to join the field of education. We also partner with the girls’ basketball event Coaches vs. Cancer by donating raffle prizes.”  

Elementary Special Education teacher Kristen Henningfeld shared that, “We are a small group, but very committed to our profession and our community. We offer professional support through the Educator Effectiveness process with our members. At our most recent meeting, we voted to join the Adopt-a-Highway program cleaning up along roadways in our community.”   

Jacob credits his predecessors who have been active in their union locally, statewide, and nationally. “My colleagues like Deb Bell and Kristen Henningfeld, who are experienced teachers and union leaders, are a wealth of knowledge for our local,” he said. Both Deb and Kristen serve on statewide committees bringing these experiences back to engage members in their local.  

Deb Bell, third grade teacher, advised, “When recruiting members, don’t ask just once – keep asking, and don’t give up; people’s circumstances change, and they may be ready to join now when they weren’t last year.”  

Jacob also advised other local leaders across Wisconsin to take time to welcome new educators into the profession. Jacob suggested, “Get to know your new colleagues immediately by reaching out to them. Invite them to a potluck or other event and listen to their needs. This is how you can grow your local union.”  

It’s clear that the members of the Boyceville Education Association are invested in their community not only through their work in the classroom, but also through their service and engagement in making Boyceville a great place to live for their students and their families. Thank you for your dedication and service.  

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.

Students need more resources and program support, WEAC President Martin says

The state Department of Public Instruction is reporting that standardized test results for the 2018-19 school year show a slight decline from the previous year.

“Wisconsin Public School educators are working hard every day to educate the whole child – academically, socially and emotionally,” said Ron Martin, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “The annual standardized test scores measure academic achievement at one point in time, and at the start of a new school year educators welcome everyone in our communities to discuss how, together, we can address increasing barriers to learning including strapped school budgets, student poverty, trauma and mental health concerns.”

In addition to successfully advocating for more school funding in the 2019-21 state budget, WEAC has increased the number of programs it offers to help teachers and support professionals understand and teach students from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Working toward solutions to the teacher shortage is also key, and WEAC is advancing a series of recommendations from a statewide salary system to improving school climates, all outlined in its 2019-20 white paper, Moving Education Forward.

According to the DPI, four in 10 Wisconsin students were proficient or advanced in the 2018-19 school year. For English, reading and writing, 39.3 percent of students met proficiency standards on the Wisconsin Forward Exam, down from 40.6 percent in 2017-18 and 42.7 percent in 2016-17. In math, 40.1 percent met the proficiency standard, down a point from the previous year. Wisconsin has set the bar high to achieve proficiency, with one of the highest cut scores in the nation which are aligned to National Assessment of Educational Progress scores. 

ACT scores dropped for 11th graders, who had an average of 19.5. That was down from 19.7 in 2018 after the average had been 20 in each of the two prior years. Previously, only students who were preparing for college and those taking college-preparatory courses took the ACT, but in recent years all high school juniors have been given the test, whether or not they are enrolled in college prep courses.

The state’s achievement gap between white and minority students narrowed slightly, but due largely to a decrease in performance by white students. For example, the percentage of white fifth graders who rated proficient or advanced in English dropped 4.6 percentage points, while scores were down 1.6 points for African American fifth graders. Martin noted that educators are organizing in school districts across the state to push back on increasing class sizes that prevent them from giving students the one-on-one attention they deserve. 

The decrease in overall scores is slight, and Martin said the years of defunding public schools under the previous governor have a definite impact.

“Years of defunding public schools take a toll on the resources available for our students,” Martin said. “While a first step toward restoring some of the lost funding has been taken with the 2019-21 state budget, the damage won’t be repaired overnight.”

Martin noted that even with overwhelming public support for more education funding in the just-passed budget, Republicans in the legislative majority made deep cuts to Governor Tony Evers’ initial education budget plan. “The lack of support demonstrated by the legislative majority has a direct impact on general and special education school aids, preventing our most vulnerable students from getting the services and resources they need.”

Private voucher schools, which are increasingly enrolling students from affluent communities under the statewide voucher program, did not test nearly 10 percent of their students, even though they are required to give the state tests and are funded by taxpayers. Public schools, which serve all students no matter where they live or their economic status, posted a 98 percent participation rate.