Archives for category: Walker, Scott

I spoke last night to educators, parents, and some school board members in Milwaukee. I was sponsored by the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. I am in awe of their courage. They keep on going despite the attacks by Governor Scott Walker, who boasted recently that if he could beat the unions, he could beat ISIS. I looked around for kindergarten teachers with Uzis or librarians with bazookas, but I didn’t see any.

This week Governor Walker plans to sign right-to-work legislation, the Golden Fleece of the far right. Can’t allow workers to have a voice in working conditions or collectively bargaining for higher wages, can we?

His budget is also a subject of heated discussion. He wants to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system, one of the narion’s finest higher education systems. He wants to cut public education by $127 million, of which $12 million will come from Milwaukee’s beleaguered public schools.

According to this article, some campuses are planning to lay off 1/4 of their staff, and others will close entire departments, if the cuts are enacted.

Walker wants more vouchers, even though the last independent evaluation showed that voucher schools do not get better results than public schools, and many are abysmal failures. Walker wants more charters, even though the charters do not surpass public schools in test scores, and many are failing.

The reformers promised that choice and competition would save Milwaukee’s children, especially its African American children, from “failing public schools.” They said that competition would improve the public schools, because they would be compelled to compete for students.

After 25 years as the Petri dish of school choice, we now know that those promises were hollow. Milwaukee started participating in the urban district portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)–the federal testing program–in 2009. It is one of the lowest performing of the 21 districts tested, slightly ahead of Cleveland and Detroit. (Cleveland also has vouchers and charters, and Detroit has been the setting for an endless parade of failed reforms.) today, the black children of Milwaukee perform on the federal tests about the same as black children in the poorest states of the Deep South. Choice and competition splintered community support and divided the schools into three sectors, none of which succeeded.

So who will save the children now trapped in failing voucher schools and failing charter schools?

Walker wants to adopt Jeb Bush’s A-F school grading program, which sets schools up for closure. He wants to make it easier for the state to takeover public schools and privatize them.

He wants alternate licensure to allow anyone with a bachelor’s degree and “life experience” who can pass a test to be eligible to teach grades 6-12.

Teachers, parents, and the community are organizing to push back against Walker’s assault on public education and the teaching profession. There is a silver lining: his budget cuts will affect all parents and families in Wisconsin, including those who voted for him. He may discover that families–Republicans, Democrats, and independents–would rather have a good neighborhood school and a great and affordable university system than property tax relief.

We now know that “reform” is empty and deceptive rhetoric, an excuse for ignoring poverty and segregation, a distraction from the growing income inequality and wealth inequality in our society.

There must be many legislators on both sides of the aisle who graduated from Wisconsin’s public schools and its renowned state university. Will they let Walker cripple the state’s education system?

When news broke that Governor Scott Walker wanted to change the purpose of higher education in state law, removing key words, the governor’s staff backtracked and called it a “drafting error.” Critics say that he wants higher education to focus on job training and competition in the global economy. Governor Walker dropped out of Marquette University and never completed his undergraduate studies; is that why he has an animus towards higher education?


Tim Slekar, Dean of the College of Education at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, says there was no drafting error. 


Right here in Wisconsin our Governor, Scott Walker, declared war on the idea of free inquiry and the search for truth. He then went and put forth a budget that cuts $300 million from the UW system. When Governor Walker was called on his blatant attack on the academic mission of higher education—specifically the Wisconsin Idea—his response was a simple dismissal and officially called it a “drafting error.”


According to Jonas Persson and Mary Botarri of the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, Walker wanted to strike language,


ensuring that the mission of the UW is to extend “training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition,” as well as the language specifying that “the search for truth” is “basic to every purpose of the system.”


If you need to go back and read that again go ahead.


Now let that sink in…..


This is an attack on the right to learn and the right to investigate the human condition. This is an attack on the search and journey that promotes ways of living that enhance life.


Why would Governor Walker want to strike language that commits the state university system to improving the human condition and the search for truth?

Tim Slekar, dean of education at Edgewood College in Wisconsin, has been a relentless fighter against high-stakes testing and privatization for years. Here he explains what the recent election meant for children and public schools in Wisconsin, what might be called politely a fist in the face or a hard blow to the gut.


There can be no doubt that re-elected Scott Walker will push for more vouchers, more charters, more high-stakes testing and call himself a “reformer.”


The Assembly speaker said that it was time for a new accountability bill, despite decades of failed accountability demands from Washington, D.C. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting better results is the definition of insanity, isn’t it?


Some local school boards plan to “hunker down” and wait for the next election.


Tim shouts “NO!” as loud as he can:


“Hunkering down” has to be one of the most damaging strategies for anybody or any organization that has the democratic and constitutional responsibility to do what is best for children. Just the idea that the new found power elite are proposing educational “accountability” after 30 years of failed accountability should motivate all that care about children and public schools to regroup, organize, strategize, and then counter attack.


Winning an election does not give permission to anti-intellectual, political hacks to prescribe abusive accountability schemes that only hurt children, teachers, and communities and funnel tax dollars to political donors.


Hunker down? No! My daughter and son don’t need spineless adults unwilling to protect the only chance they have at a critical and powerful democratic education. My children deserve (and so do all Wisconsin children) advocacy and action! Vos and all the other accountability hawks hellbent on killing childhood are the ones that need to be held accountable. For 30 years they have defunded and redirected precious resources to an accountability scam designed to enrich test and data companies and dismantle OUR public schools. NO MORE! Test and punish accountability has been a disaster!


It’s time for an accountability system that holds legislators accountable for making sure all children come to school well fed, well clothed, warm, healthy, and protected from the trauma of living in a state of perpetual uncertainty—poverty. If this new set of power pawns fail to pry our most vulnerable from the trappings of generational racism and destroy the economic system that only rewards their campaign funders then they must be the ones held accountable, judged “legislatively inadequate” and stripped of all legislative power. We must get rid of “failing” legislators.



A reader who is a parent in Wisconsin notes that the far-right group American Federation for Children is reaching out to disability groups to get their support for vouchers. AFS is committed to privatization, and they know full well that vouchers for special education students is a first step. It is also high on ALEC’s agenda. It arises not from concern for the students, whose rights are protected by federal law in public schools, but out of concern for their own political agenda, which is anti-public education, anti-union, and anti-professionalism.

Writes the reader:

More about Wisconsin and vouchers — I and two other parents of students with disabilities have just had a column published in Wisconsin’s Capital Times:

Amanda’s link above, about expanded vouchers expected to be part of the budget plan, also holds true for special needs vouchers, although the Walker administration has been silent on that aspect so far. Just this week, however, the national American Federation for Children lobby has begun contacting disability groups across Wisconsin, with a pitch for putting the vouchers INTO the budget.

This although no statewide disability group in Wisconsin is asking for these vouchers, and we particularly DON’T want them in the budget where they wouldn’t get a separate public hearing. Such a controversial statewide policy change, full of problems and pitfalls, must be debated and exposed and voted on separately!

Stop Special Needs Vouchers, a statewide grassroots group led by families of students with disabilities, is spreading the word: we need to keep special needs education strong in Wisconsin public schools. We’re on Facebook at — please join us!

The Walton Family Foundation has many billions of dollars. Though not as big as the Gates Foundation, it is one of the biggest three donors to education today. (The third billionaire foundation is the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.) All three of these foundations support charter schools, testing, and choice.

Of the three, the Walton Foundation is the most conservative. It has a strong preference for free-market and libertarian policies. Last year, it handed out $159 million in education grants. This year, $158 million.

Here is their list of winners for 2012.

The Walton Foundation is built on the fortune produced by the Walmart stores. Walmart is not a friend to Main Street, and the Walton Foundation is not a friend to community public schools. The foundation, like its stores, likes disruption. It disrupts communities and destroys the small-timers that get in the way of the free market. Privatization is the theme of their giving.

If you have time to review the list, you will see many familiar names, some in your own state, advocating for charters and vouchers, which have become a top priority for the far-right.

Teach for America: $11,445,000 million. The DC Public Education Fund was a big winner with $5.9 million, but it seems unlikely that any real public school will see a dollar of this grant. KIPP picked up $8.3 million. The Center on Reinventing Public Education–which writes research studies of charter schools–got $700,000. Students for Education Reform: $250,000. StudentsFirst collected $2 million. Eva Moskowitz’s chain (Success Academy) collected $1 million. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education came away with $1 million. The ex-liberal, now conservative group Stand for Children won more than $600,000, perhaps to continue their assault on teachers’ unions. GreatSchools, Inc., which grades schools, picked up $4.3 million. Howard Fuller’s pro-voucher group, Black Alliance for Educational Options, won $1.1 million. The once-liberal, now conservative Brookings Institution received  $666,000.

Look over the list of the lucky winners. The one consistent theme is support for school choice, for charters and vouchers. Even the organizations with the word “public” in their name are supporters of school choice.

Perhaps what is most surprising and disturbing in the list is the inclusion of media outlets that should be strictly nonpartisan and neutral. It is frankly difficult to believe that the Walton Foundation makes grants to any organization that is truly nonpartisan on the issues about which it is passionate. So here is the shocking lineup:

$1.4 million for National Public Radio.

$100,000 for the Education Writers Association.

$250,000 for Education Week (Editorial Projects in Education).

$185,000 for Bellweather Education Partners (TIME magazine columnist Andrew Rotherham).

A reader from Wisconsin points out that Governor Walker’s reforms are not intended to improve the schools, but to turn schooling into a free-market activity:

Thank you Diane for highlighting yet another unproven attempt to inject free market ideology into Wisconsin public schools.

The recent recall attempt exposed the forces supporting Gov. Walker and how they wish to dismantle public education and fill the void with free market principles. Walker rolled out phase two of his anti-public education plan in his State of the State address with more promises to “transform education” and “expand the number of choices for families in Wisconsin—be it a traditional, a charter, a voucher, a virtual, or a home school environment.”

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute–which provided the first critique you mentioned– is in the same camp (or a suburb) of the MacIver Institute–which sponsored Operation Angry Badger designed to “document the shortcomings of public schools in Wisconsin.”

WPRI, MacIver, Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG), and the Tea Party forces supporting Gov. Walker have no intent to improve public education or provide support for our neediest students. A successful public education system with an extensive support network works against the lassez-faire capitalist ideology of these free marketeers.

Joy Resmovits at Huffington Post has a revealing story about how top staff at Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst have abandoned the ship.

No one went on the record to explain the exodus but it is hard to see how any Democrat could be part of a campaign to curtail collective bargaining rights and to diminish the rights and status of teachers. Unions and teachers are the base of the Democratic Party.

Think about how frequently Rhee has allied herself with rightwing governors like Mitch Daniels, John Kasich, Rick Scott, and Chris Christie. She has advocated for for-profit charter schools and for-profit universities. She supports vouchers. She was honored along with Governor Scott Walker by the far-right American Federation for Children, which is passionate for vouchers and privatization of public schools.

What part of her agenda is bipartisan?

StudentsFirst and another far-right group called Tennessee Federation for Children are pumping huge amounts of money into state legislative races for candidates who support vouchers and charters.

Tennessee Federation for Children is affiliated with the pro-voucher organization called American Federation for Children, run by billionaire Betsy DeVos of Michigan. AFS honored Michelle Rhee and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin for their efforts on behalf of vouchers in 2010.

This report in the Tessessean says:

The Tennessee PAC affiliated with StudentsFirst, a Sacramento, Calif.-based organization led by former Washington, D.C., Chancellor of Schools Michelle Rhee, has pumped $376,266 into Tennessee this year. That sum includes contributions to a handful of local school board contenders in Nashville and Memphis but far more to candidates seeking state legislative seats. Most of the recipients are Republicans.

StudentsFirst’s Tennessee PAC, formed last year, spent $66,150 in the Volunteer State over the past month alone, according to financial disclosures submitted last week.

During the same four-week time frame, a PAC called Tennessee Federation for Children, a branch of a Washington organization that expanded to Tennessee this spring, accounted for $145,302 in contributions and other expenditures. The group spent $248,539 in Tennessee altogether this year, with money going to direct mail efforts and to pro-voucher candidates.

When I was in Chattanooga in September this year, a Democratic candidate told me that a campaign gift of $1,000 was considered huge, so you can imagine the power of this kind of money for conservative Republicans and a few rightwing Democrats.

This teacher in Wisconsin disagrees.

When your class sizes grow larger, it’s personal.

When the classroom lacks the resources it needs, it’s personal.

When this teacher’s family must make do with less, it’s personal.

When the governor takes advice from businessmen but not educators about how to fix schools, it’s personal.

It just isn’t personal for Governor Walker.

Wisconsin has a recall election on June 5. On that date, the voters of the state will decide whether they want Scott Walker to finish out his term or to leave Madison. There are also four Republican state senators on the same ballot.

This article in the New York Times magazine explains the issues and sets them into context. It shows that Scott Walker is an ideologue of the worst stripe. He has rammed through an extremist agenda. He is uncompromising. He wants to get rid of collective bargaining and privatize public education. In his rush to open the state for business, he wants to roll back environmental regulation. And that’s not all. Read the article and see just how far these guys will go to take American society back a century and to abandon any public responsibility for anything.

Scott Walker has the financing of the most reactionary elements in American politics. His policies seek to make corporate greed respectable.

As the article shows, the Wisconsin Idea once meant that legislation should help as many people as possible. The Scott Walker idea is that legislation should help corporations get richer.

For the first time in my life, I wish I were a resident of Wisconsin so I could cast my ballot on June 5 for anyone but Walker.



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