Archives for category: Wisconsin

The Wisconsin government has slashed funding for K-12 public schools while expanding and enriching the state’s voucher program. This is a clear-cut victory for ALEC, the corporate-funded lobby for privatization.

“Since Republicans took over our state Capitol in 2011, they have cut $1.2 billion from public K-12 education. Under this latest budget, 55 percent of school districts will get less general student aid than they did last budget cycle and Wisconsin is spending $1,014 less per public school student than it did in 2008.

“Yet for the private school special interests, this budget was like Christmas morning, with presents that blew the student enrollment caps off the statewide private school voucher program, diverted an additional $600-800 million from public schools over the next decade and increased per-pupil spending in the statewide private voucher system more than what even Governor Walker had proposed. The cherry on top was the last minute, late night passage of the special needs voucher program, which funds private schools for special needs students without requiring specialized instruction, teacher training or current legal protections.”

Way to go, Scott Walker, in meeting your goal of destroying public education. Way to go in destroying a historic democratic institution.

Peter Greene dissects a statement by the Heartland Institute, a rightwing think tank, cheering for the “dismantling” of public education in Wisconsin. The cheering from the free marketeers was prompted by new legislation to expand vouchers and charters. That legislation awaits Governor Scott Walker’s signature, of which there is no doubt.


The privateers view public education with scorn, as a public monopoly rather than a public responsibility. They forget, or never knew, that the development if public education was long considered a major milestone in our democracy, a promise that all the children would have the right to a free public education. Given our diversity, the public schools would be common schools, serving the entire community and creating an educated citizenry.


Greene writes:


“The Wisconsin Legislature passed a budget this week that dumps more funding into the already-robust voucherific choicetastic system in Wisconsin. All the budget needs is a signature from Governor Scott Walker, and the only way Walker wouldn’t approve such move would be if he were disappointed that it didn’t explicitly end public education and replace public school teachers with minimum-wage temps.


“Also cheering for this are the boys at the Heartland Institute, a thinky tank devoted to free market causes and a better world where rich people are free to do as they wish and poor people live the crappy lives they deserve.”


Greene quotes from a press release from the Heartland Institute:


““Wisconsin’s new budget, which expands school choice programs, is a big win for Wisconsin parents and taxpayers. The strategy of across-the-board expansion of choice accelerates the process of dismantling the inefficient ‘district-based’ system and the educational apartheid that system creates.” Says Bruno Behrend, who just goes right on ahead and uses the word “dismantling.”


One thing we know about choice programs: they accelerate segregation of every kind, by race, religion, class, and income. The other is that they do not produce either better education or higher test scores than public schools serving the same kinds of students.


How long will the people of Wisconsin continue to tolerate the destruction of their public schools and public university systems?

Bob Peterson describes what Scott Walker intends to do to public schools and higher education in Wisconsin. Since he plans to run for the Republican nomination for President, it is important to know his views on education.

He is a zealot for school choice and privatization. He doesn’t like public schools or universities. He thinks that taxpayers should foot the bill for religious education. He believes that the purpose of education is workforce training. He is contemptuous of liberal learning. He is proud of his disdain for free inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge.

Peterson writes:

“Buried within the budget are 135 non-budget policy items — a toxic cocktail of attacks on public education, democracy, environmental protections and labor rights.

“For Wisconsin’s schools, the budget is a blueprint for abandoning public education. In Milwaukee, in addition to insufficient funding, the budget includes a “takeover” plan that increases privatization and decreases democratic control of the city’s public schools.

“The budget was passed by the Republican-controlled Senate a few minutes before midnight Tuesday, with all Democrats and one Republican voting “no.” The Assembly is expected to pass the budget and send it to Walker by the end of the week.

“The attack on the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is in the context of a frontal assault on public education across the state. The budget cuts $250 million from the University of Wisconsin system, holds overall K-12 funding flat in the first year with modest increases in the second (which, given inflation, means cuts). And while programs promoting privately run charters are expanded, the budget eliminates Chapter 220 — a metropolitan-wide program designed to reduce racial segregation in public schools and improve equal opportunity for students of color.

“The budget is also expanding the statewide voucher program, under which tax dollars are funneled into private, overwhelmingly religious schools. (The program is modeled after Milwaukee’s private school voucher program which began in 1990 and which now includes 112 schools and 25,000 students.)”

In a dismal field of GOP candidates, Walker stands out for his anti-intellectualism and contempt for learning.

Milwaukee Democratic legislators wrote a letter to their colleagues urging them to oppose the state takeover of low-performing Milwaukee public schools. Any students of a school taken over would be transferred to the control of a charter operator or a voucher school. This is not “reform,” it is privatization.


Ironically, the public schools of Milwaukee perform as well as, or in many cases, better than the local charter schools and voucher schools.


What would be fair, if the Legislature passes the takeover bill, would be a mandatory transfer of students in low-performing charter schools and voucher schools back to the public schools.


It would create chaos, but “reformers” love disruption. Fair?

Tim Slekar writes of Wisconsin’s efforts to stifle academic freedom and the rights of communities to control their schools.

Slekar writes:

“Once we lose our freedom to self government and once we lose our freedom to knowledge haven’t we truly entered a stage of tyranny?

“So have we? Have we entered a true stage of tyranny? One only need look at the purposeful dismantling of Wisconsin’s public K-12 and university education systems to answer that question.”

A few minutes ago, I posted a blog that appeared on the website of The Chronicle of Higher Education, stating that the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin was trying to save tenure from the onslaught of Governor Scott Walker and his allies in the Legislature.

I quickly heard from Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at UW, who warned me not to believe it:

“Thanks so much for posting the blog tonight. However, it is incorrect. The UW Regents aren’t trying to save tenure- that’s not what they voted to do. This is a Board full of Scott Walker’s appointees and what they did was vote to adopt a fake version of tenure that is called the same thing but still allows for massive layoffs. It is a carefully worded trick and the media fell for it.

“More here:

“Please help your readers remember that the Regents, the President of UW System, and yes even the Chancellor of Madison are approved by Walker. None are to be trusted, unfortunately. And all are frantically spinning the story to suggest faculty, staff and students are overreacting.



Note: I have been warned that this account is wrong; that the Board of Regents was appointed by Scott Walker; and that their action is meant to provide fake tenure that allows massive layoffs. See the post that follows this one. Where Scott Walker is involved, nothing good happens to education at any level.

With the legislature in Wisconsin about to pass a budget bill eliminating tenure, the Board of Regents of the University are trying to protect it.

Tenure is the best safeguard for academic freedom. The freedom to teach and to learn requires safety from political reprisals. Without tenure, professors could be fired for teaching controversial subjects or expressing an unpopular opinion or because they offended a powerful politician.

“The University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents voted unanimously on Friday to add tenure protections to system policy as the state’s Republican-led government appeared ready to remove them from state law, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

“Proposed legislation, crafted by the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance as part of the state budget, would strip shared-governance guarantees and tenure protections from state law. It is expected to pass and be signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker.”

We are rapidly moving backwards, and politicians like Scott Walker are doing their best to cripple free thought.

I try to be civil but Scott Walker pushes my buttons.

Fill in the blanks. Scott Walker is a buffoon. Scott Walker is a menace to freedom of thought. Scott Walker hates people who are better-educated than he. Scott Walker is a college dropout who resents those who earned a degree and are advancing the frontiers of knowledge.

Scott Walker intends to destroy the University of Wiscondin system (is Arne Duncan anywhere to be seen?)

Scott Walker is the epitome of the anti-intellectual strain in our history: a man with no respect for teachers or professors or learning.

The thought that this man is running for the presidency is a national embarrassment.

This is an open letter by Scott Wittkopf and Kirstie K. Danielson regarding the defunding of high education and the threats to academic freedom by undercutting tenure protections.

Wittkopf and Danielson write:

UW Budget Proposal Jeopardizes Freedom for Everyone

The following is revised from a letter submitted to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, UW Board of Regents, Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly leadership, UW System President Ray Cross, and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

It is significant that the State and University of Wisconsin were both founded in 1848, because the people’s prosperity is directly linked to the prosperity of both public institutions. The UW System budget amendments proposed by the conservative-controlled Joint Finance Committee are ideologically driven and a misguided attempt to cripple essential relationships between the State, the University, and the People. This ideology will systemically destroy the University and each Wisconsin citizen’s future potential to prosper and enjoy the opportunities provided by educational freedom.

As alumni of the University and life-long Wisconsin residents, we are alarmed by betrayal of public trust at the highest levels of state and UW System leadership. Our current leaders are charged by Wisconsin citizens with the responsibility to empower people through knowledge, and protect basic educational freedoms. Yet they intentionally neglect that responsibility for political expedience. If the proposed UW budget is approved, no longer will Wisconsin citizens, students and faculty benefit from the freedom to inquire, teach, explore, and dream all that is possible.

Since the UW System impacts each person in the state, it is the responsibility of each citizen in the state to speak out in support of democratic public institutions that uphold essential educational freedoms providing opportunity for all. The proposed destructive amendments to the UW budget include weakening our public investment in higher education; eliminating critical tenure protections for faculty and students to research and teach emerging and cutting-edge topics; and silencing shared governance which ensures the democratic voice of those who teach and practice “The Wisconsin Idea.”

Embodying “The Wisconsin Idea,” the people of the state and the University have always worked together tirelessly to improve the quality of health, life, land and water, and gastronomical pleasures (e.g., Babcock Ice Cream) for everyone. It is all of us, through our investment and responsibility to future generations, who have provided citizens with life changing discoveries from vitamins A, B & D, to Warfarin, land conservation, stem cells, computer science, transplant surgery, and the list can go on and on. The current proposal weakening our investment in the future will inevitably hinder breakthroughs and discoveries that would otherwise benefit and bring hope to the people of Wisconsin. This is why the rest of the developed world is accelerating their investment in public education.

The guarantee of academic freedom at UW pre-dates “The Wisconsin Idea.” In 1894, the Board of Regents adopted a statement which has become part of Wisconsin culture. The critical section to tenure and shared governance protection reads, “…the great State University of Wisconsin shall ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth may be found.” Tenure and shared governance have historically guaranteed necessary protection and empowerment to fearlessly pursue truth. Without which we as a state may return to the days of academic persecution, especially under the current political climate. History is rife with examples of individuals who were punished for thinking freely and challenging the intellectual status quo, even as history has shown their discoveries to be true, be it Galileo, Einstein, Turing, or Cecilia Payne (astrophysicist). Is Wisconsin at the dawn of a new era of witch hunts in academia? Already, politicians and corporate powers are pursuing greed, power and profit over freedom of thought and speech. We must protect the Public from undemocratic private rule dictated by one political figure – the governor.

We call on our public leaders to uphold their moral responsibility to protect freedom of thought and speech, and empower the citizens of Wisconsin with opportunity to pursue knowledge. Expand investments, and protect tenure and shared governance for the UW System to fulfill our promise and commitment to future generations of Wisconsin. Our future prosperity as a people depends on it.

Kirstie K. Danielson, PhD & Scott Wittkopf

About the authors:

Kirstie K Danielson received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Division of Transplant Surgery at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She still maintains her permanent residence in Madison, Wisconsin due to her love for the Badger State.

Scott Wittkopf attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is a political communications consultant and co-founder of Forward Institute, a public policy think tank in Wisconsin.

Scott Walker made his reputation busting unions and attacking K-12 teachers. It was only a matter of time until he turned his guns on higher education. Not only has he slashed the funding of the University of Wisconsin, but now he is going after tenure. He long ago signaled his belief that universities exist for workforce training, not to develop independent-minded citizens or creative thinkers.

If you are opposed to Scott Walker’s assault on intellectual freedom, sign this petition.

This email just arrived:


Please help get the word out–

Tenure is literally dying as we speak. Last Friday the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee passed an Omnibus Bill that creates Act 10 for Higher Education

This motion ( ) makes it possible for the University of Wisconsin administration to layoff off faculty or academic staff not only because of financial exigency but also “when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision regarding program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection, instead of when a financial emergency exists as under current law” (Omnibus Motion #521.39)

While the Chancellor of Madison and the President of UW System both claim that the Regents can still “uphold tenure” despite this, it simply is not true. If this is passed into law— and it looks like it will be by month’s end— no Regent policy can override it.

The Regents of UW System have declined—tonight— to do anything about this. Instead they issued a carefully worded statement that still allows tenured faculty and academic staff to be laid off for non financial reasons. For more on this point see:

For more in general see:

We need national attention to this important issue. The national press are not here. Not even Chancellor Blank is here. Tomorrow the Regents meet and they do not appear willing to challenge the Wisconsin Legislature at all.

Scott Walker is leading the charge to end faculty tenure— in Wisconsin, and in the United States. He must be stopped.


Sara Goldrick-Rab
Professor of Educational Policy Studies & Sociology
Founding Director, Wisconsin HOPE Lab
University of Wisconsin-Madison
239 Education Bldg
1000 Bascom Mall
Madison WI 53706
(608) 265-2141


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 156,738 other followers