In 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- DECREASED FUNDING – Funding for public education is declining while mandates are escalating.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Superintendent of Schools
School District of River Falls
- Contact your legislators using the WEAC Cyberlobby.
- Share this letter: Click for Superintendent Benson’s entire letter as a pdf.