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.


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:



Green Bay:


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.

Educators spring into Wave of Action on eve of 50th anniversary of ESEA

From the National Education Association

WaveOfAction_200pxFamilies, students, educators, and communities across the nation are springing into an April Wave of Action to inject their voices into the reauthorization process of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now more commonly known as No Child Left Behind, with a series of public events, teach-ins, rallies and digital engagements. This campaign coincides with Congress’ Easter recess. Leading the Wave of Action is a new television and digital ad buy that is running in select media markets home to 13 U.S. senators who will play a key role in deciding the future of the law. A cable ad buy also is airing in the Washington, D.C. media market starting the week of April 13, which coincides with the Senate education committee’s expected mark up of their version of ESEA.

“Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the most sweeping education legislation of its time, the future of public education stands at a critical crossroads,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Today, more than 50 percent of the nation’s public school students now qualify to receive free and reduced-priced meals. Fifteen million children in the United States — 20 percent of all children — live with families whose incomes are below the federal poverty level.”

On April 11, 1965, President Johnson cemented ESEA as a critical cornerstone of his War on Poverty programs, establishing the federal footprint in K-12 public education, and putting in place programs to level the playing field for the most vulnerable students: children living in poverty, students with disabilities and English-language learners.

“Under No Child Left Behind, the focus has shifted away from helping those most in need and moved towards testing, labeling and punishing schools, with no significant closure of achievement or opportunity gaps. Today, we call on all Americans to join us and take action, to speak up, to raise their hands, to reaffirm President Johnson’s ‘fierce commitment to the ideal of education for everyone,’” said Eskelsen García.

The 50th anniversary of ESEA comes as Congress is in earnest considering ways to rewrite the law. In fact, the U.S. Senate education committee is scheduled to begin marking up its version of ESEA on April 14, just a few days after the law’s anniversary. Educators, students, and families are demanding that Congress get ESEA right this time by ushering in a new and improved vision for our nation’s public schools—a vision that promotes opportunity, equity and excellence for all students regardless of the zip code in which they live.

“We will continue to fight until we have a new federal education bill signed into law that focuses on students and includes the voices of educators,” emphasized Eskelsen García. “The only way to achieve that is to make sure that our members and the public are fully engaged. The stakes are high for our students and their future. That’s why we are springing into action again to make sure lawmakers hear directly from educators about what hasn’t worked and what needs to happen in order to get the law right this time.”

In February, NEA launched a successful nationwide campaign, “Get ESEA Right,” to get the public and educators engaged in the ESEA reauthorization process. The campaign included a six-figure ad, titled “Fix ESEA.” NEA cyber advocates have sent nearly 130,000 emails to Congress about ESEA reauthorization. And during just one week in February, NEA members visited 245 House of Representatives and 79 Senate offices.

During the April Wave of Action nationwide campaign, educators are reaching out to parents, community partners, and the general public to raise their voices. They are leafleting parents in public places, attending community forums, hosting teach-ins, and writing letters to the editor or opinion pieces in their local papers, among other proactive actions.

The TV ads (embedded at the top of this post) are running in select media markets in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia., Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington state.

State budget hearing in Milwaukee March 20 | Rally and testify

public ed is good for WIAll students deserve a high quality public education. But Governor Walker has proposed a $127 million cut to public schools statewide, including $12 million to MPS alone. Voucher and private charter schools are expanding statewide, and legislators want to hand over dozens of MPS schools to private companies.

Please attend a rally and action with parents, students and educators at the state budget hearing Friday, March 20 at 4:30pm at Alverno College, 3400 S. 43rd Street. Public education advocates are also needed to testify at the hearing that day, which will run from approximately 10am-5pm. Please share this information with parents and students!

RSVP below.

Please select a valid form

Wendell Harris for MPS School Board | Build a Progressive Majority on the MPS School Board

wendell harris

Wendell Harris

The MTEA has endorsed Wendell Harris for Milwaukee Public School Board in the 2nd district. Harris is running against Jeff Spence.

Wendell Harris will be a strong voice for MPS in state battles for fair funding and local control. He will likely be the deciding vote on issues related to wages and benefits, working conditions, year round schools, safety, etc.

MTEA members can have a direct impact on this election and ensure that Wendell Harris wins, and we need volunteers. Please sign up to volunteer below.

If you have questions, contact MTEA Vice President Kim Schroeder at 256-6751 or email kimschroeder3036@sbcglobal.net.

Please select a valid form