Plan to pull $22 million from public schools sidetracked but may return

A move is afoot to defund public schools to the amount of $22 million. In a stealth maneuver, a last-minute amendment was offered to a technical bill dealing with special needs vouchers, AB 751.  The amendment, clearly not germane to the bill, would change the school funding formula to strip away $22 million in revenue limit authority for those school districts with voucher students. This would be a devastating blow to our neighborhood public schools and the students they serve. Once the truth was revealed about the amendment and its impact, the Assembly Education Committee pulled back the bill on Thursday, but it will likely be resurrected soon.

Contact your legislators today and urge them to reject any amendments to AB 751 that would defund neighborhood public schools!

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Proposed change to public school revenue limits could cost schools $22 million

WEAC members reach out to Kohler families

From the UAW Local 833 Facebook page

From the UAW Local 833 Facebook page

“I know there are a lot of people and our contributions won’t stretch as far as we want it to, but at least we can put a meal or two on the table for their families.”

Some of the recent donations to UAW Local 833

Some of the recent donations to UAW Local 833

Onalaska kindergarten teacher and WEAC Region 4 President Allison Pratt has a special place in her heart for the employees at the Kohler Co. in Sheboygan, on strike for fair wages to support their families. Pratt, along with members of WEAC Region 4, are standing in solidarity by donating to the families impacted by the situation.

But before members of WEAC Region 4 donate personal and vacation time to stand with Kohler workers next Friday, they’re spreading the word to other WEAC affiliates to encourage them also to stand together for living wages. “We’re asking WEAC’s other regions to match our contributions, exceed them or to give anything they can give,” Pratt said.

Educators point toward students when explaining why they’re lending their support to Kohler employees. Family-supporting jobs are a key factor in providing stability for children, which is a key factor in school success.

Hundreds of employees, comprising United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 833, have been on strike since mid-November – the first strike at the Wisconsin manufacturer in more than 30 years. Workers are asking for higher pay, lower health care costs and an end to a two-tier wage scale that unfairly limits many employees with less seniority to about $13 an hour regardless of the type of work they do.

Pratt said educators traveling from western Wisconsin to the state’s eastern border hope to demonstrate solidarity. “We think it’s important to show that educators are supporting them and we are going to stand with them,” she said.

WEAC Region 4, comprising southwestern communities including La Crosse, is one of many WEAC affiliates uniting around Kohler families. In the small town of Reedsburg, near Wisconsin Dells, educators are also raising money for striking workers.

“We have two members who are from that area, one whose father is on the picket line,” said Trista Henke, a middle school science teacher and president of the Reedsburg Education Association. “One of our members will hand deliver the donations when she goes home for the holiday on December 23. Some of the young families there are living out of their cars.”

At WEAC Region 6, donations are being collected to help Kohler employees be sure they can provide a nice Christmas for their children. And at the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, located less than an hour south of Kohler, educators have also stepped up – including providing Thanksgiving meals for families.

“These workers haven’t had a raise in seven years, while the company owner has seen his financial worth triple in that same time,” MTEA shared on Facebook. “Strike pay does not cover a working family’s expenses. Families are in need of non-perishable food items. They also could use any financial help you can give.”

WEAC President Betsy Kippers, a Racine teacher, said educators believe in supporting families and communities.

“Students succeed when they have the opportunities to support their learning,” she said. “That includes family-supporting jobs that give children adequate nutrition and health care to allow them to learn to their full potential.”

Local WEAC affiliates, regions or citizens can contribute to the Kohler fund by contacting the WEAC Region 4 office, 608.781.1234, visiting Checks can be made out to UAW Local 833.

Eau Claire School Board sharply denounces bill that would restrict referendums

The Eau Claire School Board on Monday unanimously approved a resolution sharply denouncing a bill now before the Legislature that would severely restrict the ability of school districts to raise needed funds through local referendums.

“I’m appalled that our legislators want to take away one of our tools of operation,” said board member Kathryn Duax, as quoted in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. “We need to object to taking away local control and the ability to take care of our financial problems.”

Under a proposal advanced by Republican state lawmakers, school districts would be prohibited from asking voters for new resources for a period of two years after a referendum failed to pass. School districts go to referendum to get voter approval to borrow money for large projects such as the construction of new schools, and to make up for spending limits imposed by the state.

The bill also changes the schedule by which a school district can place a referendum on the ballot.  Currently, a school referendum can coincide with a primary election, general election, or a special election can be called specifically for the referendum. Under this bill, a school district referendum would have to coincide with a regularly scheduled spring or fall general election.

The Leader-Telegram also quoted Eau Claire school board member Wendy Sue Johnson:

“This is absolutely spiteful, and (these are) ridiculous actions by our Legislature, and we can’t let them get away with it,” she said. “We are not sounding the alarm loud enough; this is frightening.”

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School board criticizes referendum proposal

Legislation that would restrict when school boards could take a referendum to the voters could cause some districts to close, said Eau Claire school board member Wendy Sue Johnson. “We are not sounding the alarm loud enough; this is frightening,” she said Monday of the proposal that would launch a buffer period after failed referendums, preventing districts from reaching out to the public for two years to ask for more dollars.

Tell legislators to keep local control of school referendums! – WEAC

For more than two decades, state legislators have justified caps on school resources by saying school districts always have the option of going to referendum to get voter approval to raise property taxes to meet the needs of children attending neighborhood public schools.

Petition opposes limits on school district referendums – WEAC

A Whitewater community/parent group is circulating a statewide petition opposing a bill now being moved through the Legislature that would restrict the ability of school districts to hold much-needed local referendums. Whitewater YES for Education is a volunteer community/parent group in Whitewater focused on supporting school district referenda.

New restrictions on school referendums would have cut new resources for schools by $200 million in recent years – WEAC

A new proposal by Republican legislators making it more difficult for school districts to go to referendum would have reduced or delayed new resources for schoolchildren by nearly $200 million if it was in effect over the last few years, according to a new analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project.

Small Randall Consolidated School District approves referendum to make up for loss in state aid – WEAC

Voters in the small Randall Consolidated School in southeastern Wisconsin approved a referendum to maintain student opportunities at the local level, after the state backed away from its commitment to the school district.


Bill would place severe restrictions on local school referendums – WEAC

Republican legislators are circulating a bill that would place severe restrictions on local school referendums. Under the bill – circulated by Rep. Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) and Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg) – a school district referendum would have to coincide with a regularly scheduled spring or fall general election and a district would have to wait two years to reschedule a failed referendum.

Tell Congress: Get ESEA done! Get ESEA right!

NEA and nine other leading education groups kicked off a digital ad campaign this week urging Congress to finish rewriting ESEA and focus on opportunity for all students, no matter their zip code.

“If Congress is serious about every child’s bright future, let’s get serious about putting kids first,” said NEA president Lily Eskelsen García. “Now is the time to finish the job and deliver a bipartisan education bill to the take actionpresident’s desk right away. Students can’t afford to live another year under the failed No Child Left Behind law.”

Agreement on a final bill is likely to be announced by before Thanksgiving — Congress is hearing the urgency from educators! Continue to add your voice so that Congress cannot ignore the need to pass ESEA now. Call your senators and representative via our “Opportunity for All” hotline at 1-866-331-7233. Click on the “take action” button to urge Congress to finish ESEA now.

Tell legislators to butt out of school referendums!

For more than two decades, state legislators have justified caps on school resources by saying school districts always have the option of going to referendum to get voter approval to raise property taxes to meet the needs of children attending neighborhood public schools. With a state legislature intent on disinvesting in public education with record cuts, school districts are exercising the referendum option more than ever before and voters are approving them more than ever before.  They know how dire things are for their public schools and know they can’t count on this state legislature to provide the critical resources so every child, regardless of zip code, has access to a quality public education.

It has become clear that all that talk about the freedom of communities to commit resources to their public schools by approving local school referenda was just that – talk.  Why else would some legislators be pushing SB 355/AB 481, dictating when school districts can go to referendum and how often?  It is an affront to local control, to voters and to all of us who support our neighborhood public schools, the heart of our communities.

Contact your legislators today and tell them to butt out of local school district referenda and oppose SB 355/AB 481.

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New restrictions on school referendums would have cut new resources for schools by $200 million in recent years – WEAC

Bill would place severe restrictions on local school referendums – WEAC

Small Randall Consolidated School District approves referendum to make up for loss in state aid – WEAC

Guns and campus buildings are a volatile mix that should be rejected

Tragically, our nation’s college campuses have recently experienced a handful of shootings.  These senseless acts of violence are devastating.  Some Wisconsin policymakers are championing the introduction of guns in campus buildings as the “answer” (SB 363/AB 480). Students, college governance, and law enforcement officials have been outspoken in their opposition to these measures. They are fearful that allowing individuals to carry guns in campus buildings does nothing to promote campus safety. In fact, these measures could very likely serve as the impetus for deadly encounters that jeopardize the safety of all on campuses.

Contact your legislators today and urge them to oppose SB 363/AB 480.  Tell them to heed the voices of those who would be directly impacted who have urged them to go back to the drawing board. Campus safety depends on it.

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Bill would OK concealed guns in Wisconsin college buildings

While a pair of Republican state lawmakers want to allow students and faculty to carry concealed guns inside public university and college buildings, at least one campus and its police department are warning the measure could have dangerous day-to-day implications.

UPDATE: UW Police against proposal to allow concealed guns in campus buildings

MADISON (WKOW) — The UW-Madison Police Department released a statement Tuesday afternoon in opposition to a legislative proposal that would allow the concealed carry of guns in public university and college buildings. Here is UWPD’s statement: Recent school shootings have elevated discussions across the country about gun safety, protecting the rights of citizens, and protecting the safety of our schools.

Campus Carry: GOP lawmakers want to allow concealed weapons in public college buildings

People with concealed weapon licenses would be allowed to carry guns inside the buildings and classrooms of Wisconsin’s public universities and colleges under a bill introduced Monday by two state legislators.

Putting guns in schools will not improve school safety, Kippers says – WEAC

Putting guns in schools is not the way to improve school safety, WEAC President Betsy Kippers said Wednesday after both houses of the Legislature approved a bill that will allow off-duty and former law enforcement officers to carry concealed firearms onto school grounds.

Milwaukee fights back against school takeovers with “walk-ins” at more than 100 public schools

walk in hartford

Thousands of parents, educators, students and community leaders held “walk-ins” at more than 100 public schools across the city of Milwaukee to celebrate public schools and to share information about how a proposed public school takeover will hurt students and the Milwaukee economy. All fourteen schools in LaCrosse also held walk-ins today in solidarity with Milwaukee.

Look for pictures of your school at the end of this post – schools are listed in alphabetical order, and more will be added in the next few days.

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and the Schools and Communities United coalition organized the walk-ins in response to a public school takeover plan that was passed in July as part of the Wisconsin state budget.

The school takeover plan charges Milwaukee county executive Chris Abele with choosing a takeover commissioner this fall. The commissioner would then choose 1-3 schools to convert into privately run charter or voucher schools for the 2016-17 school year. In each subsequent year, up to five schools could be handed over to private operators.

Parents and community members have raised several concerns about the takeover plan. Among them:

  • The takeover plan offers no new ideas or resources. Changing who runs a school will not provide the resources or support that students need to succeed.
  • Many students will be left without critical services. The takeover schools are not required to meet the needs of special education students or English language learners.
  • School takeovers eliminate good jobs in our city. Takeovers have hurt the local economy in New Orleans, Memphis and Detroit.
  • The takeover plan eliminates democratic local control and disenfranchises black and brown communities.
  • Takeovers will affect all public schools, not just a few individual schools. The very existence of our public school system is in jeopardy.

The walk-ins today were a step forward in building a network of school defense committees to protect and strengthen every public school in the city of Milwaukee. Parents, educators, community members and students will work together in the coming months to solidify their school defense committees and prepare for an all-city summit of school defense committees on December 5, 2015.

Kippers applauds members for role in helping win Senate passage of Every Child Achieves Act

Kippers_Baldwin_320pxWisconsin educators can be proud of the role they played – along with active educators throughout the nation – in winning U.S. Senate passage Thursday of the Every Child Achieves Act, WEAC President Betsy Kippers said.

“Wisconsin educators can be proud of what we achieved together through union,” Kippers said. “This is a victory for educators across the country. Wisconsin teachers and Education Support Professionals were tireless in their emails, phone calls and office visits to our legislators because we know our students deserve better. We’re one step closer to a final law.”

Kippers worked closely with Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin to shape the legislation, keeping up the pressure for federal law that ensures time for learning and opportunities for students.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia recorded this thank you message in gratitude for the hard work NEA members throughout the nation put in for our students:

News release from the NEA:

Today, an overwhelming, bi-partisan majority of the United States Senate approved the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, a critical and historic first step toward ensuring that every child, regardless of zip code, has the support, tools, and time to learn.

“Every student in America will be better off under this legislation than the generation of students wronged by ‘No Child Left Untested’,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “Educators enter their schoolhouses every morning with one desire foremost in their minds: that every student they encounter that day will know an educator cares for them and is dedicated to reaching, teaching, and inspiring them to reach their full potential. The unmitigated failure of the test and punish culture shackled educators, and we are now one step closer to ending that woeful chapter in American education policy.”

“The Every Child Achieves Act takes a significant step towards fulfilling the original goal of ESEA: to provide more opportunity for all students, but especially those most in need,” Eskelsen García continued. “This bill reflects a paradigm shift away from the one-size-fits-all assessments that educators know hurt students, diminish learning, and narrow the curriculum and that they fought to change. Now, Congress must act swiftly to reconcile the House and Senate legislation and get a bill to the President’s desk. Educators across the country have watched every floor speech, counted along with every vote and made their voices heard with a staggering volume of outreach to elected leaders. Those same educators will not rest until a final bill has the President’s signature. We thank Senators Alexander and Murray for their leadership on this critical legislation.”

During the weeks leading up to today’s historic vote, NEA’s nearly 3 million educators engaged in unprecedented advocacy and activism on behalf of America’s students. NEA national leadership, along with state and local affiliate leaders, board members, staff, and educators nationwide, made nearly half a million individual contacts to members of Congress, including:

  • Nearly 2,000 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress and key staff
  • 216,000 emails
  • 32,000 tweets
  • 15,000 phone calls
  • 25,550 petition signatures

This flood of member activism led to several key victories for students and significant improvements to the Every Child Achieves Act. One of the most important shifts educators fought to include in the underlying bill was the “opportunity dashboard,” a measure that will help ensure resource equity and opportunity for every student. For the first time, the Senate bill would require states to include at least one measure of student and school supports within their accountability system, such as access to higher level coursework, arts and music classes, school counselors or school librarians. The bill would require separation of this information by student subgroups and would help states identify and work to close opportunity gaps.

Further, a bi-partisan group of Senators voted to expand the dashboard measures beyond the already strong provisions contained within the Every Child Achieves Act as part of an amendment. While the vote fell short of the required 60 votes, the level of bi-partisan co-operation sends a strong message to potential conferees that a burning desire exists to ensure every child is more than a test score. Eskelsen García thanked the sponsors of the Opportunity Dashboard of Resources Amendment:

“As educators, we are deeply committed to the success of every student,” Eskelsen García said. “By leading on the bi-partisan Opportunity Dashboard of Core Resources Amendment, Senators Kirk, Reed, Baldwin, and Brown show that they stand with us in that commitment.”

Additionally, Senators from both sides of the aisle voted with the recommendations of educators and rejected an amendment to closely replicate the failed NCLB-era approach of over identifying the number of schools in need of intervention. The Senate also rejected private school vouchers multiple times with nine GOP Senators joining Democrats in opposition to at least one of the amendments. Senators also rejected block granting federal funding that would erode its historic role in helping to target resources to students most in need, with nine GOP Senators joining Democrats in opposition.

While Congress is much closer to sending a law that commits America to the success of every student, the work of NEA is not done. We call on Senate and House leaders to quickly name conferees for the committee that will negotiate differences and present a bill to both chambers. Educators will continue their dogged advocacy to ensure that this already strong legislation is further improved in conference, and elected leaders should ensure such action is taken swiftly and deliberately. NEA’s goal is to proudly support a bill that, when signed by the President, gives every student, regardless of zip code, the support, tools, and time to learn.

The bill now will now go to a conference committee.  For the latest legislative updates going forward, visit NEA’s Legislative Action Center and stay active on the Get ESEA Right website.

Public school supporters rally in Kaukauna


Enthusiastic, dedicated advocates for public education from across the Fox Cities rallied on the streets of Kaukauna Tuesday, calling for a state budget that supports all children in public schools throughout the state. This was one of five rallies scheduled this summer by the Fox Cities Advocates for Public Education. They put together the video below from Tuesday’s event. Find out more on their Facebook page and this earlier post, which also lists information on upcoming rallies in Kimberly on June 30, Menasha on July 7 and Little Chute on July 14. TAKE ACTION NOW: click HERE to email your legislators at this critical time in the state budget process.

Parents, educators, students and citizens rally for public education

Sun Prairie parent Heather DuBois Bourenane talks with media at a Pep Rally for Public Schools in Sun Prairie.

Sun Prairie parent Heather DuBois Bourenane talks with media at a Pep Rally for Public Schools in Sun Prairie.

At events throughout the state, parents, educators, students and citizens rallied in a Day of Action to celebrate public education Monday. At a time when the State Legislature is debating measures that will dramatically shift taxpayer money from public to private schools and undermine the teaching profession, communities are rallying to demonstrate their strong support for their neighborhood public schools. Activities on Monday included a Pep Rally for Public Schools in Sun Prairie, where speakers featured area public school superintendents, students, parents and teachers, all calling on the Legislature to support public education, students and public school educators.

Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser listed 12 Reasons Strong Public Schools are Good for Communities:

  1. You give our schools a sense of identity.
  2. You provide meeting places in our communities where we can gather to share ideas, make plans to improve our communities and to socialize.
  3. You bring culture into our communities through your music and drama performances.
  4. Your civics classes instill in our youth the importance of civic engagement and teaches them to be good citizens who support our schools and our communities.
  5. You are the melting pot where the new ethnic groups and cultures merge with those already in our communities.
  6. You are significant employers in our communities.
  7. You provide opportunities to volunteer, which enhances the self-worth and fulfillment of many people in our communities.
  8. Your sports programs provide recreational activities for the entire community while creating a sense of pride in our communities.
  9. You teach job skills to our young people.
  10. Your excellent reputation attracts people to live in our communities.
  11. You are an economic development driver in our communities.
  12. You help maintain the physical and mental well-being of the youth in our communities.

Events also were held in Green Bay, Appleton/Fox Cities, and Whitewater, among others. Here is just some of the coverage on social media: