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

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 weac.org 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:

River Falls superintendent says state budget will have ‘significant and lasting negative implications’ for public schools

JamieBensonIn an open letter to the community River Falls School District Superintendent Jamie Benson says “the future of our children” is at risk and is asking residents to voice their opposition to a long list of items now being debated by the State Legislature.

“The current state budget and related legislative proposals would have significant and lasting negative implications for the School District of River Falls and all public schools in the state of Wisconsin,” he writes, concluding: “The time is now to voice our opposition to policies and legislation that will undermine our ability to support quality education. Please be active in advocating for our schools with the legislature and Governor Walker.  The future of our children depends on your involvement.”

Here is his entire letter:

Residents and Parents in River Falls Should Know…

State Budget proposals impact our schools

The current state budget and related legislative proposals would have significant and lasting negative implications for the School District of River Falls and all public schools in the state of Wisconsin.  As part of our school district responsibility to the community, it is important for these issues to be brought to your attention.

Below is a brief summary of ten things you should know:

  1.  VOUCHERS – The School District of River Falls, and public school districts across the state, will have their state aid cut to allow for voucher expansion; these are public tax dollars used to pay for a student’s private education.  Voucher expansion will mean less money for public schools, including our school district.
  1. VOUCHER IMPACT – Students from RFSD could receive vouchers to attend private religious or secular schools.  We would lose $7,856 for eachhigh school student from our district to support private and religious school education – these funds are state tax dollars if private schools around the state are publicly funded as proposed, the River Falls School District will struggle to maintain the educational quality that people in this community have worked so hard to build.
  1. DECREASED FUNDING – Funding for public education is declining while mandates are escalating.
  1. NATIONAL DECLINE – This state education budget drives Wisconsin under the national average in per pupil spending.  The legislature is pouring money into private voucher schools at the expense of maintaining a public system that has been a source of pride in our state for more than 100 years.
  1. FREEZE – The legislature plans no future cost-of-living increases for teachers and other staff.  This threatens our ability to attract and retain high quality faculty now and in the future.  Offering nothing will undermine our ability to maintain, let alone, improve the high quality education our children currently receive.
  1. EXTRA – CURRICULAR – The new law would allow home schooled students and virtual school students to participate in any extra-curricular or athletic team our district offers.   Students from area private schools would also be eligible to participate on our school teams in certain sports.  This raises a multitude of eligibility questions and different eligibility requirements for members of the same team.
  1. DILUTE DIPLOMAS – The new law would allow “learning portfolios” to replace up to one-half the credits needed to graduate from high school. Concerns include the likelihood that the rigor needed to earn a high school diploma will be significantly reduced, jeopardizing both in and out-of-state college acceptance.
  1. LICENSE TO TEACH – The new law eliminates many standards for licensing teachers, with no bachelor’s degree needed to teach our students in multiple subject areas.  The River Falls School District does NOT intend to hire non-certified teachers or teachers without a college degree, but we are concerned about the de-professionalization of teaching in Wisconsin.
  1. SPECIAL ED. VOUCHERS – The proposed law allows students in special education to use $12,000 in publicly funded annual vouchers to attend private and parochial schools.   In these schools they would not be guaranteed the legal rights and protections afforded to them by federal law. At the same time the legislature is allocating money for special education students in private/parochial schools, it has not increased funding for public school special education students in eight years.
  1. TESTING – The standardized state tests that students are required to take will be different for the third consecutive year.  Districts will not be required to take the same test; making district-to-district comparisons very difficult.   Our students do extremely well on the standardized test they are given and we welcome the opportunity to compare ourselves to any competing school.  Common sense tells us adequate comparison can only be made when students in each district are taking the same standardized tests.

WHAT CAN BE DONE? – The time is now to voice our opposition to policies and legislation that will undermine our ability to support quality education.  Please be active in advocating for our schools with the legislature and Governor Walker.  The future of our children depends on your involvement.

Sincerely

Jamie Benson

Superintendent of Schools
School District of River Falls

Take Action:

Read comments on Facebook and add your comment:

Posted by WEAC on Sunday, June 7, 2015

Day of Action for Public Education is June 8

Activities are being planned in many locations for a Day of Action for Public Education on June 8. Key events include a Pep Rally for Public Schools in Sun Prairie and an I Love My Public School Rally in Green Bay. Activities are being considered in other locations as well. Below are fliers for the Sun Prairie and Green Bay events. For more information, go the Wisconsin Public Education Network Facebook page.

Sun Prairie:

SunPrairieRallyPoster

 

Green Bay:

IloveMyPublicSchoolRallyGreenBay

Taxpayers have no voice in private charter schools, Green Bay teacher Lori Cathey says

The proposed expansion of taxpayer-funded private charter schools leaves taxpayers with no voice. That was the message Tuesday from Green Bay Education Association President Lori Cathey, who was interviewed by Fox 11 in Green Bay.

She noted that democratically elected school boards set policy and are held accountable for public schools. Students in public schools have to take specific tests, and the schools must report attendance and results to the Department of Public Instruction. “And the taxpayers can always go to the school board and say, ‘what’s going on here?’ That won’t be the case in private charter schools,” said Cathey.

In addition, public schools will lose funding when children transfer to unaccountable charter schools.

The proposed expansion of taxpayer-funded private charter schools has been approved by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee as part of the state budget. The Senate and Assembly still must vote on the budget.

Here is some background on the proposed expansion of private charter schools:

What does it do?
This plan would allow politicians to open tax-funded private charter schools in over 100 different school districts across the state without any accountability to parents and no oversight by taxpayers.

Why is that a bad idea?
This plan would take funding away from our neighborhood public schools to open new schools throughout the state.

  1. Taxpayers don’t have any say on whether a school is in their community.
  2. Public schools are already seeing cuts in funding, this makes things worse over the long run.
  3. There’s no oversight. There’s nothing in the law to hold these schools accountable.

How many privately run charter schools could be opened?
More than 140, maybe as many as 177.

Who could start privately run (independent) charter schools?

  • The University of Wisconsin System President could appoint someone to approve independent charter schools in Milwaukee and Madison.
  • And other agencies could approve charter schools in more than 140 school districts including:
    • The Waukesha County executive
    • Tribal colleges
    • Gateway Technical College in Kenosha

Doesn’t this create more opportunities?
No. To provide opportunities for the most Wisconsin students, lawmakers should invest in public schools that serve all students. This is another way the Legislature is taking away from public schools.

What’s the worst thing about this?
Politicians are handing over the power and authority for local tax dollars to unelected and unaccountable individuals and groups that will impact local school funding and property taxes. It would place private charter schools in our communities without our say and then require us to pay from them, on top of what will be required to pay for private school vouchers.

What can I do?
Use the WEAC Cyberlobby to contact your legislators now and tell them to vote against this and other anti-public education provisions in the state budget. Tell them why they need to support public education. Also, check the weac.org Events page for upcoming grassroots events.

Fox11 video:

New charter school expansion plan would further degrade education, Kippers says

the red rectangle buttonAnother newly discovered state budget provision that would greatly expand taxpayer funding of privately run charter schools will further degrade education in Wisconsin, WEAC President Betsy Kippers said.

The measure that was slipped into the state budget last week by the Joint Finance Committee would allow politicians, not locally elected school boards, to open schools – including for-profit institutions – in 177 different Wisconsin school districts on the taxpayer dime.

The plan would impact thousands of Wisconsin students but give parents and taxpayers no say-so. Under the scheme, individual politicians, as well as for-profit and nonprofit religious groups will operate privately run charter schools open to children from any school district without local oversight.

“This plan, another that was slipped into the budget without public discussion, erodes local control of neighborhood public schools,” Kippers said. “The result will be further degradation of education in Wisconsin.

“Our state’s history of giving every child a shot at success is at risk, replaced by profit-driven outfits that will cherry pick students and shut the door on opportunities for the rest,” she said.

“No matter where students live, or what their family circumstances are, they deserve to have a quality education, provided by licensed teachers.”

State Superintendent Tony Evers said, “We must seriously reinvest financially, embrace our historic value in local public education, and end this continued ideological drive aimed at eroding Wisconsin’s strong public schools. I call on our leaders to prioritize our 870,000 public school students, their families, and our state’s common good.”

Read more:

Budget expands independent charter schools to 140 districts

Read State Superintendent Tony Evers’ comments:

Superintendent Evers statement

Sun Prairie teacher Brad Lutes says many are worried about impact of teacher license changes

BradLutes2Proposed changes to Wisconsin’s teaching licensing standards are leaving a lot of people worried about the future quality of education in Wisconsin, WEAC member Brad Lutes told WISC-TV, Channel 3, in Madison.

“These standards would put us below the lowest-achieving states in the United States,” the Sun Prairie health and physical education teacher said in a report on changes approved by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

The changes would throw out a decades-old process of licensing teachers to make sure they know their subject and how to interact with children and help them learn. Current licensing requires educators in middle and high school, for example, to have a bachelor’s degree and a major or minor in the subject they teach, plus completion of intensive training on skills required to be a teacher, and successful passage of skills and subject content assessments.

Under the changes, anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any subject could teach English, social studies, mathematics, and science. The only requirement is that a public school or school district or a private choice school determines that the individual is proficient and has relevant experience in each subject they teach.

Additionathe red rectangle buttonlly, even individuals who have not earned a bachelor’s degree, or potentially a high school diploma, could teach in any subject area, excluding the core subjects of mathematics, English, science, and social studies. The only requirement would be that the public school or district or private voucher school determines that the individual is proficient and has relevant experience in the subject they intend to teach.

In the WISC-TV report, Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell, associate dean for teacher education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the changes make her feel sick.

“It is a bad means to an even worse end,” she said.

She said the proposal does not take into consideration many extremely important aspects of teaching, including classroom management, lesson planning, curriculum development, and working with families and communities to improve the outcome for kids.

“A teacher’s job is very, very expansive,” Hanley-Maxwell said.

Watch the video:

Teacher certification changes stir controversy in state budget

Racine educators act collectively to retain voice in Employee Handbook decisions

An effort to deny employee unions input into the process of making changes to the Employee Handbook was turned down by the Racine Unified School District Board this week, following a strong lobbying effort by the Racine Education Association and the Racine Educational Assistants Association.

OurVoiceMatter_Racine_200pxThe 5-4 vote came after 90 minutes of discussion in which 30 speakers representing a broad community coalition spoke against a motion to strip out the formal role of the educators in shaping teaching and learning conditions in the Employee Handbook.

“The lobbying effort the prior three weeks was monumental and we showed ourselves that when we stick together and act collectively we can win,” the REA-REAA said.

The union had argued that the plan by Superintendent Lolli Haws for drastic changes to the Employee Handbook was a recipe for division and disorder and would ultimately hurt students. Haws had unveiled her plan to the press before consulting the school board or educators.

At the meeting, attended by about 200 people, School Board Member Don Nielsen argued in favor of continuing to work with educators. The Racine Journal Times said Nielsen pounded his hand on the desk while asking, “So what is the harm with cooperating with people and asking for their opinion?”

Read more.

Video from the Racine Journal Times:

Joint Finance Committee budget continues Republican assault on public education

the red rectangle buttonThe Republican-led Legislature continued its assault against public school students in Wisconsin, with the powerful, budget-writing Joint Finance Committee advancing proposals that drain revenue for public schools by bolstering voucher and charter schools in Wisconsin.

The committee introduced a 30-page motion on education-related topics late Tuesday night, giving Democratic members of the committee 90 minutes to look over the content before bringing it to a full committee vote.

Numerous items had never received a public hearing, meaning parents, educators and students have been denied an opportunity to provide input on the drastic changes that are creating a dueling, state-funded school system in Wisconsin.

Perhaps the biggest financial hit to public schools will come as a result of Republicans lifting the cap on the number of vouchers issued statewide, while simultaneously preventing school districts from levying taxes to replace lost aid. That means public schools will be prevented from raising taxes to fund the educational needs of students who opt to stay in public schools rather than applying for a state-funded voucher.

Republicans also confirmed the fears of many by sliding a proposal by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, into the motion. The proposal would turn “underperforming” Milwaukee public schools into voucher or charter schools. This proposal, which will impact thousands of Milwaukee public school children, never had a public hearing.

“The Republican public education budget, designed by Gov. Scott Walker and politicians to pay back voucher lobbyists for campaign cash, represents the worst of the worst for Wisconsin Public Schools,” said teacher Betsy Kippers, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “At the same time Republicans are at the front door of the schoolhouse boasting that they are putting money inside, they are sneaking money out the back door to subsidize private schools. Citizens will not stand for this assault on public schools.”

The education budget package advanced by the committee does the following:

  • Removes the cap on statewide vouchers and prohibits districts from levying to replace the lost state aid.
  • Creates a special needs voucher program.
  • Allows operators of privately run charters to open new schools under conditions specified by the Legislature.
  • Allows for the takeover of struggling public schools in Milwaukee under the control of an appointed commissioner to convert them to voucher or charter schools while paving the way for similar takeovers in other school districts.
  • Provides for licensure of individuals with minimal qualifications, some with little more than a high school diploma, to teach in our public schools.
  • Eliminates common core standards.
  • Pushes back the non-renewal deadline in odd-numbered years.
  • Requires passing a civics exam to graduate from high school.

Following final action on the state budget by the Joint Finance Committee, the budget bill heads to both houses of the Legislature for approval before heading to the Governor for his consideration.

For more details of the Joint Finance Committee state budget education provisions, click here.

Look for additional analysis distributed through WEAC Communications channels soon and follow state budget developments at weac.org/budget and at twitter.com/weac. You can also sign up for At the Capitol News Alerts at weac.org/subscribe.

Tell your legislators this budget will hurt your local schools: www.weac.org/cyberlobby.