Archives for category: Wisconsin

Scott Walker has a plan. It is called “reform,” but in reality it is destruction. He (acting through the legislature) is holding funding for public schools flat (he wanted to cut it); he is increasing funding for charter schools and vouchers; he is imposing draconian budget cuts on the University of Wisconsin system; and he is lowering standards for entry into teaching. One analysis says the voucher expansion proposal would drain $800 million from public schools over a 10-year period.

Tony Evers, the veteran educator who was elected twice as state superintendent of education, says Wisconsin is in a “race to the bottom.”

Wisconsin has decided to reform its teacher licensing standards—by eliminating them! Anyone with any bachlor’s degree can teach any subject, a change inserted into the state budget without hearings.

Even those without a bachelor’s degree are eligible to teach, as Valerie Strauss notes: “That’s not all. The proposal would require the education department to issue a teaching permit to people who have not — repeat have not — earned a bachelor’s degree, or potentially a high school diploma, to 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. And, the department would not be permitted to add requirements.”

Politico.com says that high school dropouts moght be eligible to teach middle school and high school under the legislative plan to drop standards.

The state Department of Public Instruction released this critique of the latest assault on the teaching profession.

Governor Scott Walker and his allies in the Legislature are working full-time to privatize public education and destroys he teaching profession. State Superintendent Tony Evers made these statements. He is a hero for standing up fearlessly to the know-nothings, joins the blog’s honor roll as a champion of education.

His office issued this blast:

“Legislative action slides teacher licensing standards toward the bottom”

“MADISON — Major changes to teacher licensing voted into the 2015-17 state budget, without a hearing, puts Wisconsin on a path toward the bottom, compared to the nation, for standards required of those who teach at the middle and high school level.

“Adopted as a K-12 omnibus motion by the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), the education package deregulates licensing standards for middle and high school teachers across the state. The legislation being rolled into the biennial budget would require the Department of Public Instruction to license anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any subject to 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. Traditional licensure requires educators in middle and high school 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.

“Additionally, the JFC motion would require the DPI to issue a teaching permit for individuals who have not earned a bachelor’s degree, or potentially a high school diploma, to 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. For both provisions in the JFC motion, the DPI would not be able to impose any additional requirements. This may preclude the fingerprinting and background checks required of all other licensed school staff. The standard also is lower than that currently required for teachers in choice and charter schools, who must have at least a bachelor’s degree.

“We are sliding toward the bottom in standards for those who teach our students,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “It doesn’t make sense. We have spent years developing licensing standards to improve the quality of the teacher in the classroom, which is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement. Now we’re throwing out those standards.”

“Currently, all 50 states require a beginning teacher to have a bachelor’s degree for traditional licensure, with a narrow exception for career and technical education teachers (Georgia). The states have differing standards for alternative routes to licensure, generally requiring major content coursework or a test in lieu of coursework for individuals to be eligible for an alternate route to earn a teaching license.

“Wisconsin has several routes for career changers, who want to teach our elementary and secondary school students, to earn a teaching license through alternative programs,” Evers noted. “Emergency permits allow them to work under supervision while completing educator preparation program requirements. Each alternative route program ensures that candidates are supported and are ready to do the job independently when they complete alternative licensing requirements.”
Under provisions of the omnibus motion, the leaders of 424 public school districts, 23 independent public charter schools (2R charters), and potentially hundreds of private choice schools would determine who is qualified to teach in their schools. Current provisions of the JFC motion would restrict these licenses to teaching at the district or school that recommended the individual for licensure.

“Learning about how children develop, managing a classroom and diffusing conflict among students, working with parents, and developing engaging lessons and assessments that inform instruction — these are the skills our aspiring educators learn in their training programs,” Evers said. “Teaching is much more than being smart in a subject area.

“This motion presents a race to the bottom,” Evers said. “It completely disregards the value of the skills young men and women develop in our educator training programs and the life-changing experiences they gain through classroom observation and student teaching. This JFC action is taking Wisconsin in the wrong direction. You don’t close gaps and improve quality by lowering standards.”

It makes you wonder if the “reformers” in Wisconsin plan to deregulate other professions, so anyone can be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever they want, without professional education.

A radical privatization proposal has been inserted into the Wisconsin state budget and approved by the budget-writing committee. The plan initially applies to Milwaukee (where the public schools outperform voucher schools and get similar test scores to charter schools), but it could be extended to Madison, Racine and other “large, racially diverse” school districts. Under the plan, a commissioner would be appointed and have the power to fire all staff, both teachers and administrators, and hand the school off to a private operator to run as a charter or voucher school. In other words, public assets, schools paid for by the community, will be given away to private operators.

Under the plan, an independent commissioner appointed by the county executive would take control of three of the lowest-performing schools in the district after the 2015 school year. Everyone who works at the school would be fired and forced to reapply for their jobs. The commissioner could also convert the schools into private — but non-religious — voucher schools or turn over operation to an independent charter school.

For the first two years, up to three schools could be chosen. After that, five more a year could be added.

Republican supporters of the plan said they wanted something dramatic to turn around chronically failing schools in Milwaukee. The most recent school report card ranked 55 schools within the district as “fails to meet expectations,” the lowest of five rankings.

Some Democratic legislators were outraged:

But Democrats said the plan does nothing to address the root causes of problems in Milwaukee schools, including high poverty, and they argued the Legislature should not interfere in running the city’s schools.

Democratic Sen. Lena Taylor, the only lawmaker from Milwaukee on the Joint Finance Committee, blasted the proposal as part of a history of diverting resources from public schools in Wisconsin’s largest city.

“For years, individuals who sit on this committee and in this building have known that they have been raping the children of MPS,” Taylor said.

The comparison drew a sharp rebuke from Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, one of the plan’s authors.

“I just find that sick,” he said. “That’s actually sick.”

Taylor refused to back down.

“I get it. The word ‘rape’ sounds offensive,” she said. “But when you consider the fact that 15 out of 100 kids can read on grade level while $89 million have been skimmed from the education of kids, and that you don’t invest it in even the crisis areas, who are you fooling?”

Given the demonstrated failure of voucher schools and charter schools in Milwaukee to outperform the public schools, you might expect that the Legislature would stop expanding both forms of privatization. But you would be wrong. Here are some recent legislative actions, as reported by blogger Steve Strieker:

 
The WI GOP committee members moved forward with a vote on their education budget package that 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
Requires passing a civics exam to graduate from high school

 

 

 

It turns out that most of the applicants to the voucher program (86%) previously attended a private school, not a public school. This is a subsidy to families whose children already are enrolled in private schools, not an “escape” for “poor children trapped in failing public schools” (reformster talk).

 

 

 

http://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/news-release/dpinr2015_53.pdf

Milwaukee is the original laboratory of corporate reform. Since 1990, it has had a thriving charter sector and a thriving voucher sector. Competition was supposed to lift all boats, but it didn’t. All three sectors are doing poorly. Neither the voucher schools nor the charter schools outperform the public schools. The public schools have far more students eith disabilities than the other sectors, which don’t want them. On NAEP, Milwaukee is one of the nation’s lowest performing urban districts.

So what do reformers want now? To set in motion a process to turn all of Milwaukee into a privately-managed system, all charters and vouchers. Failure never deters them from more privatization.

Larry Miller is a member of the Milwaukee public school board. In this post, he describes the current proposal to cripple and destroy the Milwaukee public school system, offered by two suburban Republicans.

The plan, sponsored by Republicans Rep. Dale Kooyega and Sen. Alberta Darling, allows a single unelected official to turn five low-scoring schools over to a charter operator or a voucher school every year.

Miller writes:

“For one, the plan places authority over these schools, dubbed “opportunity schools,” in a single commissioner, appointed by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. Theoretically, Abele could provide some oversight of that person, and to a certain extent that commissioner will have to follow state and federal laws.

“But unlike in MPS, there is no democratically-elected governance board; the proposal does not allow the elected Milwaukee County Board any oversight, despite putting the commissioner directly under the county executive (who is elected only once every four years; there are school board—and county board—elections every two years). All power to evaluate and close failing MPS schools lies with this one individual, as does the power to authorize, fund, and monitor the success or failure of these new opportunity schools.

“Let me repeat part of that again: A single, unelected, unknown “commissioner” will absolutely have the authority to close public schools operated by the democratically-elected Milwaukee Board of School Directors, confiscate the buildings, material, and students (maybe? see below) within those schools, and turn them over to private, possibly religious, possibly for-profit operators.

“The proposal suggests in at least two ways that the problem with failing schools is teachers, though thinking only about teachers is stupidly reductive. Any staff in the schools selected to be closed and handed off can reapply for their jobs, but they have to sign a contract that they will not seek representation by a union. Teachers unions, of course, had their authority gutted by 2011’s Act 10, so I am unsure why Kooyenga and Darling fear unions in their “opportunity schools.”

“They also seem to fear fully licensed teachers. The plan allows the commissioner to grant licenses to whoever wants one to teach in these schools. Let’s be clear: the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction makes no provision for such a thing to happen. The federal law governing schools makes no provision for such a thing to happen.

“There are well-established emergency licenses and even alternative certification programs available, sure. But this power, residing in a single individual with, potentially, no expertise or qualification in education, to unilaterally grant licenses to any random person is unprecedented. A quick googling turns up no other program anywhere in the country—even in the “recovery zones” in New Orleans or Detroit on which this program is modeled—that allows a commissioner like this one to license teachers on his own.

“And, really, does anyone believe that the problem in these schools is that the teachers there are licensed and represented by the union? If that is the problem, then why are the top schools in the state full of licensed, qualified teachers? Would Kooyenga and Darling have the nerve to walk into MPS’s Reagan or Fernwood Montessori, or for that matter, Brookfield East or Maple Dale in their home districts, and demand they discharge all the licensed teachers in their employ? Of course not.”

Both legislators stressed their admiration for the current Milwaukee public school superintendent.

“Kooyenga said they are not trying to undermine MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver, but help her by allowing other parties to try something radically different in the district’s most challenged programs.

“Darling added that she thought highly of Driver, and that she would like to see her be considered for the role of commissioner — as long as the school board isn’t involved in the turnaround schools.”

However, Superintendent Druver said that a change of governance would not address the children’s problems.

She said:

“Driver said the impact of poverty on low test scores would not be alleviated by a change in school governance. She also pointed to the fact that private voucher schools have no better performance record overall than the city’s public schools.

“We can’t go to the quick fix,” she said Monday during an education conference at Marquette University. “I just beg everyone: Don’t go to what sounds sexy. Let’s go to the data.”

“Driver said any new plan to address low-performing schools in Milwaukee should also address chronically underperforming voucher and charter schools — not just district schools. She also highlighted programs already in place at some of the district’s lowest-performing schools that have started to show signs of improvement.”

The plan got poor reviews from the state superintendent and the head of the Milwaukee teachers’ union:

“Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association union, said the plan was “an insult” to the Milwaukee community and part of a larger plan to privatize schools throughout the state.

“For two white suburban legislators to propose that the white county executive appoint a ‘Commissioner’ who will have ‘parallel authority’ to the democratically elected school board is a racist attack on the democratic rights of the citizens of Milwaukee, the majority of whom are black and brown,” Peterson said in a statement.

“State Superintendent Tony Evers said Monday at the Marquette conference that improving schools doesn’t hinge on changing governance but on hard work and adequate resources.

“Looking for a silver bullet is a fool’s errand,” he said.”

William Schuth, an Iraq war veteran, was insulted when Governor Scott Walker compared fighting the unions in Wisconsin to fighting terrorists in the Middle East.

 

He is now a teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin and a member of AFT Local 3220, the Teaching Assistants’ Association.

 

He created a petition on Moveon.org. He asks if you will sign it.

A reader sent the following comment. Who knew that America’s greatest domestic threat is unions? Reminds me of Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s unfortunate remark in 2004, when he called the NEA a “terrorist” organization. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/24/us/education-chief-calls-union-terrorist-then-recants.html

The reader writes:

“It’s really great to finally know how Scott Walker really feels about union members in Wisconsin (for all union members in general). His pearl yesterday at the CPAC convention, “If I Can Handle Union Protests, I Can Handle ISIS” is one for the classic hate-speech soundbites-rewind. And of course the fascists in attendance absolutely ate it up! So nice that he holds those who pay his salary in Wisconsin in such high esteem. Ooops… wait a minute…the Koch Bros. pay his salary…forget what I said…

“Maybe he meant “If I Can Handle Teachers Union Protests, I Can Handle ISIS?” In no way could he have been referring to organized firemen or police…”

A pro-voucher group called School Choice Wisconsin has asked school districts to turn over the names and addresses of students, presumably for recruitment to private and religious schools.

“Oshkosh Area School District parents have until Monday to decide whether they want their children’s personal information released to a statewide school voucher group.

“District leaders notified parents Monday about an open records request from School Choice Wisconsin, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that advocates for school choice programs. Oshkosh is one of about 30 districts statewide to receive such a request.

“The group is seeking a portion of the district’s school “directory data” for each student, including name, address, telephone number, grade level and the school each student most recently attended.

“The data is collected and used for a variety of purposes, but the scope of the group’s request is uncommon, Superintendent Stan Mack II said.

“It’s so unusual; we don’t get blanket requests like this,” Mack said.

“School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender said the group likely would pass the information it requested to private and parochial schools that are part of the state’s voucher program.”

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?

Just when you thought “reform” couldn’t get worse, couldn’t become more hostile to real education, count on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to think of something utterly reprehensible.

Valerie Strauss reports on Walker’s assault on his state’s great university system, both by cutting its budget by $300 million and changing its purpose.

She writes:

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

After loud public criticism, Walker’s staff said the wording was an error.

Reflecting on Walker’s bold but brainless initiative, Arthur Camins wrote this essay on “What Is the Purpose of Education?”

Governor Walker thinks it’s to prepare the workforce. Camins disagrees:

“But it doesn’t have to be either-or. Education should prepare young people for life, work and citizenship.

“Knowledge of the natural and engineered environments and how people live in the world is critical to all three purposes of education. Critical thinking, creativity, interpersonal skills and a sense of social responsibility all influence success in life, work and citizenship. For example, unhappy personal relationships often spill over into the work environment, while a stressful workplace or unemployment negatively impacts family life. Uninformed disengaged citizens lead to poor policy choices that impact life, work and citizenship. To paraphrase the verse in the old song, “You can’t have one without the others.”

Gail Collins, formerly chief editorial writer for The New York Times and now a regular columnist, has a hilarious column today about Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

 

This is a man who seriously should not be in contention for the Republican presidential nomination.

 

Collins says he needs an eraser to take care of the mistakes and drafting errors that plague his speeches and statements.

 

She writes about his Big Speech to conservative activists in Iowa:

 

Mainly, though, The Speech was about waging war on public employee unions, particularly the ones for teachers. “In 2010, there was a young woman named Megan Sampson who was honored as the outstanding teacher of the year in my state. And not long after she got that distinction, she was laid off by her school district,” said Walker, lacing into teacher contracts that require layoffs be done by seniority.

 

All of that came as a distinct surprise to Claudia Felske, a member of the faculty at East Troy High School who actually was named a Wisconsin Teacher of the Year in 2010. In a phone interview, Felske said she still remembers when she got the news at a “surprise pep assembly at my school.” As well as the fact that those layoffs happened because Walker cut state aid to education.

 

Actually, Wisconsin names four teachers of the year, none of which has ever been Megan Sampson, who won an award for first-year English teachers given by a nonprofit group. But do not blame any of this on Sampson, poor woman, who was happily working at a new school in 2011 when Walker made her the star victim in an anti-union opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. At the time, she expressed a strong desire not to be used as a “poster child for this political agenda,” and you would think that after that the governor would leave her alone. Or at least stop saying she was teacher of the year.

 

When it comes to education, Walker seems prone toward this sort of intellectual hiccup. Just recently, he released a proposed budget that would have changed the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement by eliminating the bits about “the search for truth,” educating people and serving society, in favor of the educational goal of meeting “the state’s work force needs.” When all hell broke loose, Walker blamed that one on a drafting error.

 

She notes that Walker wants to change teacher licensing, so teachers need not have any teacher education or training to teach. “Life experience” would count instead. Anyone should be able to teach, like in the early 19th century. This is a man who seriously doesn’t care about education.

 

 

 

 

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