Sunday, August 25, 2013

Issue #127 Singing for Freedom, Defending Public Schools and More

The Wisconsin Uprising II- Saving Wisconsin One Song at a Time…
Actually, the title of this section is misleading.  The events, often called the Wisconsin Uprising, which began in February, 2011 have never really ended.  They morphed from mass protests, to recall efforts, and then to a series of smaller scale legal, political and protest acts.  Of the latter, the Solidarity Sing was one of the more visible and certainly consistent efforts.  The relatively small number of participants “occupied” the Rotunda, or the grounds of the capitol, every weekday for 2+ years.  Their always peaceful voices, a visible presence keeping attention focused on the effort to reclaim Wisconsin.

Despite claims by a small number of legislators and public commentary fueled by rhetoric from far right mouthpieces, the Sing was a relatively non-invasive protest that gave voice to the movement.  Yet, its ongoing presence was a constant thorn in the side of conservative leadership, and they perpetually looked for ways to eliminate the Singers. 

This opportunity presented itself in the form of a court ruling that they could misinterpret and manipulate to allow them to crack-down on the Singers and issue citations for what they deemed an “Unlawful Assembly” (a true oxymoron given that the Constitutions of both the U.S. and Wisconsin guarantee the right of the people to assemble).

Now, several weeks into the crack-down, with the arrest total mounting, the administration finds itself facing a committed group of activists who have garnered support as a result of the efforts to eliminate them.  The administration faces the choice of either admitting they made a mistake in restricting free speech, or in escalating their efforts.  Given the history of this administration it is clear that they don’t even see the fact that they have a choice, escalation of the intimidation is a given for these policy makers. 

In the face of this intimidation, many across Wisconsin have rallied behind the singers. 

You can also support the Singers through contributions to help with the costs of being cited by Capitol Police.  All donations go towards helping with things like:
  • Jury Fees
  • Serving Subpoenas
  • Printing Transcripts
  • Court Filing Fees
  • Fines

The efforts of the administration to curb dissent are actually having the opposite effect.  The injustice of their enforcement of the court ruling has galvanized support for the Singers and also given a voice to the ongoing concerns that many in Wisconsin have about our current conservative leadership. 

Time has not lessened the need for citizens to be aware of what their elected leaders are doing here and across the nation.  The threats to democracy and the values espoused in our founding documents are significant.  No matter what your political persuasion may be, the actions of the current administration move us in a very dangerous direction; One where the voice of the people is limited and those in power are free to use whatever means they desire to advance their agendas. 

The singers aren’t calling for radical revolutionary change.  Their pleas are for a Wisconsin where the citizens of the state can voice their opinions without fear of reprisal and where dissent isn’t suppressed.  They sing for a return to a Wisconsin that was a model for cooperative and ethical government.  The efforts of the conservative administration to label the Singers as radicals and Socialists and to divide our state along political, social and economic lines are harmful to all of us.  The sooner that the citizens of Wisconsin recognize this reality the sooner we can get on a path that leads to true prosperity.

Defend Our Public Schools…
The myth of the radical Singers and the “anti-American” nature of the Uprising are one way that those who hold the purse-strings of our government seek to maintain their dominance in society.  Privatizing our education system provides another opportunity to make a profit and divide the citizens at the same time.  The profit motive is clear and easy to observe.  There is a lot of money to be made in education for those who are interested in profit instead of providing a vital service.

In order to break into the education “industry” it is necessary to undermine the people’s confidence in the public schools.  This is a process that has been going on for a long time, and the reality is that our public school systems across the nation vary greatly in terms of curriculum, materials and other resources that contribute to the gaps in student achievement.  It is clear that we need to address the inequities that exist, but the idea that privatization will help do this is simply not borne out by evidence.  

The implementation of high-stakes testing mandates allowed the “reformers” to gather data on what professional educators had been talking about for years.  They used this data, not to try and improve the quality of education for students, or to give educators a fighting chance to succeed, but rather to move their for-profit “reforms” into the forefront of educational debates.  “Reformers” have worked hard to circumvent professional educators and remove their voices from discussions about educational policy.  

The solution offered by for-profit “reformers” is to cut funding for public schools, expand voucher programs and increase the number of private options for families.  Their claim is that this will provide choice for families to allow them to find a path for their children to get an education that will allow them to escape poverty.  Yet, there is little compelling evidence that the current system of privatization and vouchers does anything but provide opportunities to those who already enjoyed the benefits of an upper-middle (or higher) class existence.  Groups that struggle in the current under-supported public schools are either excluded, or ignored by for-profit schools.  

The argument that competition will improve the quality of service provided by schools simply doesn’t hold water either.  Instead of driving innovation and spurring competition that pushes educational outcomes higher for students, the competition simply fuels marketing campaigns to mislead and attract families to send their children to the school with the best advertisements and most “perks”.

We end up with schools that are run like businesses, including higher CEO pay and fewer reasons for quality employees to stay in positions that truly benefit children and improve their educational outcomes.

These separate and unequal school systems produce significantly different results.  It is important to note that these differences perpetuate the widening gaps in opportunity and economic success based on race.

Parents are confused and frustrated by the barrage of information and negative portrayals of the schools that they are often most comfortable with.  Schools, when given proper support and when held accountable in meaningful and reasonable ways, provide excellent educational opportunities for our students.  As educators we must continue to work to educate our communities and build support for our public schools.  Just like the Solidarity Sing draws attention to the political ills of our state, so to, educators need to bring the issues in our educational system into the public’s consciousness.  

The Industries of Fear, Misinformation, and “Bargains”…
Politics and education are not the only places where we see those in power using their influence to insure that they stay dominant politically, socially and economically.  As a society we are seeing many tools being used to manipulate the ways that we see the world around us.  One of the most powerful of these tools is fear.  If you spend any time carefully observing advertisements or media outlets of any type you can see the way that fear is used to generate a perceived need for a service or product.  Fear can also be used effectively to create opposition for a policy, candidate or movement.  The idea that we need to act/think in a specific way in order to hold on to what we have, or even to survive is a powerful motivational or manipulative tool.   We are constantly being told that our way of life is threatened by some outside force.

Fear can be generated in many ways, but misinformation is one of the most powerful and effective ways to manipulate public opinion.  Giving people partial information or even totally incorrect information means that they will base their decisions on faulty foundations.  For example, perceptions of the protests at the capitol in 2011 were forever tainted in the minds of some by the claim of millions of dollars in damages, claims that were later proved to be totally false.  Now we are seeing fear and misinformation used to try and create a sense that many of the reforms and existing programs that are helpful to so many people are actually damaging to our economy.  This same type of rhetoric is used to support policies that are truly having a negative impact on our state.  

Media coverage of these claims focuses on one side of the story.  For example, when talking about the reductions in employees hired, or hours that employees work because of upcoming changes in health insurance laws few articles discuss the fact that many larger companies are enjoying record profits at the expense of these same workers. 

It is up to consumers (of all things including information) to be aware of the true costs and benefits of their “purchases”.  What looks like a bargain, may not be one in the long run.  Do your homework and develop a complete understanding of what you are being sold.

The key to reclaiming Wisconsin continues to be making accurate information available and educating as many people as possible with complete and truthful material.  If people have the facts then they can make truly informed decisions that are in their best interests as well as the rest of society's. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

#126- Organizing to Defend Public Education and Workers

Attack Educators (and Unions), Attack Public Education…
Education is a labor intensive "industry".  Despite the efforts to utilize technology to educate students, most experts agree that students achieve more when they work with qualified, well trained professional educators.  This is confirmed in study after study, where the positive impact of educators is documented.  If we are looking to address student achievement in a real, meaningful way we need to have a large number of competent, motivated and prepared educators to help guide students academic, social and emotional progress.

Given the importance that so many influential individuals and groups are placing on improving or "reforming" our educational system, it would seem logical that significant emphasis would be put on attracting and retaining the best possible candidates to work with our students.  If the goal of "reformers" was truly to improve our schools it would be reasonable to assume that they would recognize the need to train, compensate and support the professionals that are employed to do the labor needed to educate our students.  After all, in a "market economy" people are free to find the best way to employ their skills, just like consumers are free to find the best way to spend their financial resources. 

If we put 2 and 2 together we can see that the real purpose of education "reform" isn't to improve education, but rather to improve the profit margin for a small number of education investors.  People or groups who have seen the potential for profiting from students and are trying to take full advantage of the opportunities.  Because the largest expense in education is in the labor needed, these investors are looking for ways to cut corners and change the demographics of the educators in schools (assuming that distance learning and on-line schools, where small numbers of educators can reach large numbers of students without costly facilities and materials, are not immediately practical ways to do this).

One way to cut labor costs is to de-professionalize the education work force.  This can be done by making majoring in education too costly and unattractive for students to choose as a career field.  Increasing costs of higher education while lowering educator salaries will eliminate many potential educators from choosing to study education.  If you combine this with the availability of alternative programs like Teach for America then you can alter the perception of educators as professionals and instead turn it into an occupation that requires only rudimentary training.  Educators will enter the profession without necessary skills, knowledge and experience thus increasing the, already high, attrition rate for new educators.  This means that most educators will be at the lowest rungs of the salary scale and won't stay in the profession long enough to advance in wages.  Education suddenly becomes a highly transitional occupation, not a career. 


This phenomena already exists in high-poverty urban and rural areas.  With the ongoing emphasis on cutting school district budgets and vilifying educators the trend will spread to other areas, making private schools and technological fixes seem more palatable to many families. 

One of the major barriers standing in the way of these efforts to de-professionalize the education labor force is the presence of educator unions.  These unions work to promote the interests of educators, but they also give power and protection to educators who fight to try and protect the needs of students and families.  The membership of these unions provides a potent force to resist the "reforms" that are being implemented for profit, not for sound educational reasons.  In order for educational "reformers" to have full access to the power and wealth that they seek, they must eliminate the educator unions.

In order to undermine the educator unions, "reformers" need to paint unions as barriers to improving education and remove the ability of the union to serve its membership.  "Reformers" have worked hard to try and portray their efforts as being in the "interests of the children" and to make it seem like unions only are looking out for lazy and incompetent educators who don't want to work hard to help students.  Act 10 is an excellent example of an effort to achieve the latter goal.  By eliminating the ability of unions to represent their members in virtually all matters relating to working conditions, benefits and wages, Governor Walker was able to put public educator unions on the defensive.  Act 10 combined a number of union busting tactics effectively under the guise of addressing budget concerns.     

Wis. schools firing more teachers after Act 10

Education "reformers" don't want their efforts to be carefully analyzed.  Instead they rely on sound bites and rhetoric that sounds logical, and that pays lip service to American ideals like freedom and equality of opportunity.  Most of these "reforms" rely on smoke and mirrors and don't adequately replace things that we know work for students.  By attacking on multiple fronts, "reformers" can keep unions and their professional membership, as well as other experts in education on the defensive.  This eliminates the need for "reformers" to really defend their proposals until after the changes they propose have become embedded in policy and practice.   


Defending Education…
The constant barrage of anti-education legislation and budgeting combined with  the efforts to "divide and conquer" our communities by trying to create tension between public educators and the families we serve has manufactured a climate of fear and mistrust.  A significant amount of effort has been devoted to isolating groups and to pitting them against each other.  That is the purpose of the negative portrayal of public schools, the "reformer's" support of things like Parent Trigger Laws and other efforts to supposedly "empower" families. 

These efforts rely on using data against public schools, and making claims about public schools using partial, misleading or carefully selected information.  The efforts to quantify student achievement and to grade schools based on specifically chosen statistics are another aspect of these attacks.   All of them contribute to the belief that our schools are "failing" and that we face a crisis in education.  In a climate like this it is no wonder that many families are fearful for their children's future and that they feel a need to act in what they believe to be their family's self-interest.

The lack of information and sense of crisis isn't confined to families or the community as a whole.  Educators themselves are feeling the stress and confusion because of the vast number of new initiatives and "reforms" that are being pushed in the schools we work in.  In addition, the efforts to undermine the ability of our unions and professional associations to act on our behalf has made many question the need to organize and act collectively.  The message that many new educators are receiving is very different from the one that educators got in the not so distant past.  This leads to a feeling of hopelessness and powerlessness for professional educators.

Our political climate certainly hasn't helped educator morale or done much to support our public schools.  It is easy to point out the damage to our schools done by Wisconsin Republicans in recent years.  The massive cuts to school funding, the expansion of the voucher system, Act 10 and many other pieces of legislation and policy are obvious in their impact on public education.  However, even the supposed allies of public schools have done little to really help out the educators, administrators and school boards in our state and around the nation.  For example, Democrats replaced No Child Left Behind with Race to the Top.  In the not so distant past here in Wisconsin, Democrats had the same control of state government that the GOP currently enjoys.  Needless to say they didn't take as much advantage of their power as Governor Walker has.       

So, how do we counter these widespread, powerful and well financed attacks on our public schools and our public educators?  How do we create an environment where our political leaders are forced to listen to educators and families instead of lobbyists, publishers and others who seek to profit from schools?  How do we rebuild the sense of trust and community that should exist around our public schools?  How do we insure that all students and families are given a voice in making our schools places of equal opportunity?      

There are no easy answers or quick fixes to these questions.  In many ways the challenges involved seem insurmountable, especially given the reality that many educators operate under now and the political climate that exists.  We live in a divided state where people's opinions are often entrenched and real discussion about issues is difficult to have publicly.  To act politically or on a large scale invites push back and a constantly swinging pendulum of public opinion, legislation and policies. 

To me the real potential for making positive change happen lies in building personal connections and relationships with a wide range of individuals.  It is well documented that people mistrust individuals or groups that they don't have a personal connection to.  An obvious example of this is the fact that a huge majority of families think that their own public school is excellent, while these exact same families see other schools as unsatisfactory.  We trust what and who we know.  The question for supporters of public education is how to make these connections and speak our truth about our schools and our efforts to educate our students. 

One way is for educators to be a visible presence at events around the community.  When members of the community see educators helping at events or active in efforts to improve things in the community they are forced to look at us in a different way.  It becomes more difficult to see educators as lazy and greedy when they have stood next to you at an event.  It also gives educators an opportunity to have conversations with people who they might not be in contact with otherwise.  Most educators already contribute a lot of time and energy to their communities outside of their regular work duties.  It simply becomes a matter of making sure that those in the community know who we are and what we do for a living.

Another opportunity for educators to connect with their community is to make sure that we represent our profession at school related events and in groups that already exist in our school communities.  Attend local school board meetings and make it known that you are there as a professional educator.  Attend your school's PTA/O on a regular basis.  Be a presence at neighborhood association meetings or other similar organizations.  Often there isn't a need to speak out or do more than just be present in order to have an impact.  However, it is also good to be ready to counter potential misinformation that can be a part of the discussions. 

It is also possible to create your own groups or venues for discussion.  I'm very excited about a group of parents, educators and family members that has formed in my school community.  We call ourselves SCAPE (School Community Alliance for Public Education) and have been meeting for over a year to discuss topics around public education.  We have had members speak at school board meetings and have been vocal about some issues.  However, the strength of the group lies in its diversity of members and the discussions that we have.  Too often discussions about education happen in isolated, special interest groups.  Educators meet with educators, families with families, specific demographic groups within their own groups, and neighborhoods are divided.  Our group is working to try and break these barriers and have open, honest dialog about our schools.  

It is important to create connections within your professional community.  Many educators are feeling isolated and vulnerable and building strong support networks is important for individuals as well as our profession as a whole.  As the school year begins try to reach out to fellow educators, especially newer educators or people new to your building.  As we move farther into the Post Act 10 Era many educators are questioning the need for unions and collective action.  If each educator is connected to a wider network of peers then they will build educator power and a sense of commitment to each other that goes beyond contractual language and legal obligation.  Unions originated in a spirit of cooperation and a shared sense of purpose.  The challenges that organized labor faces in modern Wisconsin are vast, but they are also an opportunity for us to revitalize our organizations. 

Finally, we can't ignore the need to be active politically.  While we face an uphill battle here in Wisconsin it is important that every citizen we encounter is encouraged to participate in the process.  In many communities the end of the summer means lots of moving and changes in addresses.  Be sure that everyone you know has updated their voter registration information. 


All of these efforts will help to build connections and a network of individuals who listen to and who trust each other.  As I work to organize members of my school community I am often surprised at the links that are established between individuals and groups who might not have recognized the interests they have in common.  The more isolated we are, the more vulnerable we are to policies designed to fragment our society and to gain power from polarizing the public.  It's never too early or too late to reach out to others and to forge bonds of trust and support.

Flawed Economic Policies…
Of course public education isn't the only area where misinformation and rhetoric is used to undermine public confidence and to increase fear and mistrust.  These efforts are also very visible in the efforts to create economic policies that benefit a small portion of the population.  In order to achieve these goals it is important that the public develops a fear of government and a fear of regulations.  

The political and economic conflicts that result from these efforts to brand any attempt to improve working conditions are part of an ongoing battle that appears throughout our history.  The push to organize often comes from the most disenfranchised and undervalued workers.

Their efforts are very important and need our support.  After all, the current trends in employment are for more and more Americans to be employed at low wage jobs.  If we don't lend our support to the organizing efforts of these workers then we will see conditions for all workers continue to decline for the foreseeable future. 

This is very true in Wisconsin where we are seeing a significant change in the direction our state's economic policies are going.  This means that fewer jobs are being created that are family supporting.  Even new businesses that are being created are not benefitting most workers.   

Solidarity Sing…
Arrests in the capitol continue another week.  It begs the question, why is eliminating the Solidarity Sing such a priority for the Walker administration?  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Issue #125- Crises in Democracy and Education

Crisis, What Crisis?!?…
We have had a couple of extremely turbulent and volatile years politically, socially and economically in Wisconsin (and across America).  Very few people who have been paying attention to the many different events would argue this fact.  Yet, underneath all of the hype and hyperbole around the conflicts there still exists, for many people, a certain amount of indifference and a lackadaisical attitude about the significance of what has been happening.  Whether intentional or not, the effect has been that the ongoing clashes between ideologically opposed groups have been minimized, and to a certain extent trivialized, for those who are not directly involved.

Whether this is done by comparing our situations to other places around the world, as was done in 2011 by saying Wisconsin was not Egypt, or by trying to paint those protesting as fringe elements of society, the effect is the same.  Many citizens and much of the media are willing to accept what they consider "lesser" infringements on the rights and privileges of citizens in exchange for a sense of order and stability.  We have become so complacent in our society that we are more comfortable blindly criticizing those who would speak out than we are with actually hearing what they have to say.

What is terrifying to hear are comments from people implying that, unless you are facing flying bullets and armed soldiers/police ready to use deadly force, then your protests are less valid than others around the world.  Equally terrifying to me is the concept that a citizenry armed with guns is preferable to a citizenry armed with free speech.  It would appear that many citizens have decided to emphasize only the parts of our founding documents that agree with their philosophy forgetting that the First Amendment comes ahead of the Second, and that they put "Life" and "Liberty" ahead of "The pursuit of happiness" and "Property".

This same effort to marginalize the protests of the Solidarity Singers and to put policy and "order" ahead of Freedom of Speech has continued at the Wisconsin State Capitol for another week.  We are hearing calls for those protesting to give up and leave the capitol.  Yet, many of the so called arguments for ending the Sing focus, not on the merits of their argument, but rather on either a simple desire to put the conflict behind us, or a vindictive glee at seeing those with opposing viewpoints arrested and belittled by those in authority.  If you don't believe me, just read the comments after any article about the Solidarity Sing.     

I have not been a regular Singer, nor have I been able to be at a Sing since the Capitol Police crackdowns have been going on.  I have many friends and colleagues who have been present, and arrested at the Sing.  I appreciate their persistent efforts to continue to draw attention to the injustices that have become common and acceptable here in Wisconsin.  Each Singer, and observer, probably has their own, somewhat unique reason for participating in the Sing.  After all, the Wisconsin Uprising has never been a monolithic political, or ideological movement.  Instead, the Progressive resistance to the current Conservative movement is as diverse as the membership of the movement. 

Yet, this diversity of demographics, ideologies and philosophies is united in their opposition to what seems, to so many of us, to be a rejection of the values that our nation was established under.  The principles of "Freedom", "Justice" and "Equality for All" have evolved over the years and, while we still have a long way to go, have become much more encompassing of the wealth of diversity that our nation benefits from.  However, the current Conservative movement is threatening to undo any and all of the progress that we have made as a nation over the past centuries. 

For me, it is for this reason that the Solidarity Sing is an important continuing protest.  Without their voices, and those of the many other dissenters around the state who continually express their views publically, the debate about the direction our state will take would become a purely political or economic discourse, ignored by many, or evaluated solely on the basis of the most recent economic projections.  By singing every weekday these individuals, collectively, personalize the issues and keep the problems we face in the public's eye.

Despite the desire to ignore them, the problems that currently exist in our society are real and very threatening.  The current conflicts in statehouses around the nation are more than just a minor political dispute.  They represent drastically different views of the way our society should operate.  The current crop of Conservative politicians are seeking to legislate, institutionalize and mandate their way of thinking into policies that will be in place for years to come.  Whether you agree or disagree with the policies, the direction that our society is moving in economically, socially and politically isn't a positive one. 

As our economic stratification intensifies we will see more and more stress being placed on individuals and families.  We become two separate and unequal Americas that struggle to peacefully coexist.  We've seen the pain and suffering that racial and ethnic divisions cause both here in America and across the globe.  Financial divisions can be just as problematic for the continued success of any society or nation.  That these economic classes are combined with other demographic classifications only increases the intensity of the class conflicts.  The current policies being promoted by many Conservatives only widen the existing gaps and cement the barriers that we currently have in place.   
The confrontational nature of our political struggles, and the winner take all mentality, only serves to increase the potential for more bitter conflicts in the future.  We are seeing more one-party domination of state and local governments which is eliminating the need for compromise and moderation in policy making.

We are seeing tensions escalate and the potential for tragic violence increasing as well.  As people feel like their voices aren't being heard, they resort to other means of expressing their dissent.  This leads to an increasingly volatile environment and even more breakdowns in positive, productive communication.

The only way to peacefully avert the crises we are facing is to increase the dialog and promote understanding between groups.  It is virtually impossible to legislate tolerance and respect for other's opinions.  It is also impossible to mandate the way that others think and act.  We can arrest, fine and even kill those who disagree with us, but in the end, humans have shown an incredible willingness to sacrifice for what they believe in.

Here in America we have a system that could really work, if the people involved in the process are willing to be statespeople and not politicians, and if the citizens are willing to accept their responsibilities as guardians of democracy.  We have multiple layers of protection for our rights, and an ability to make necessary changes as time goes by.  Remember that our Constitution, so revered by many, didn't resolve national disgraces like slavery or address equal rights for many groups of citizens.  However, it allowed for a process whereby we could amend the document and "improve" it as our society changed. 

The philosophy our founders espoused was one where dissent was valued when it was directed at promoting Liberty and Justice.  The movement that drove their actions in the 1700's is alive and well in modern Wisconsin.        

We also see other places where hope springs from communities who have faced terrible tragedy.  That this hope comes from an adherence to peaceful and positive thinking should come as no surprise.  Violence and force only create an atmosphere where more violence and force are needed.  We need to draw our strength from those who would move our society forward as a unified community and work to defeat those who would divide us.    

Education Values…
As the new school year approaches, the attacks on public education continue to escalate.  It continues to amaze, and disappoint, many of us involved in public education the direction that those in power are trying to move our educational systems.  It is clear that  we are seeing a coordinated effort to undermine our public schools and to promote a for profit system. 

What are less clear to many citizens are the reasons that this is problematic for our society, and not just issues of educators trying to protect their own turf and their own livelihood. 

The Republican Party of Wisconsin has recently adopted resolutions about education that clearly demonstrate not only their philosophy about education, but also some places where I (and many professional public educators) would question their logic.  I'm including my thoughts and responses in red. 

Republican Party of Wisconsin 2013 State Convention Resolutions as Adopted

2013-1 – Education
WHEREAS, we believe in limited government, individual freedom and personal responsibility; and
WHEREAS, parents have the right to spend their money on the school or method of schooling they deem appropriate for their children; and
WHEREAS, virtual schools have come under attack by the leadership of the state teacher’s union (Why call unions out specifically, lots of people opposed these schools?); and
WHEREAS, parents have the fundamental right and responsibility to educate their children and provide for their moral guidance; and
WHEREAS, parents should have as much choice as possible in selecting the right school for their children (As well as accurate information, not designed to mislead, misinform and scare families away from public schools); and
WHEREAS, vigorous competition from independent schools (More thoughts on this later) will stimulate government (Interesting that they are not called public)  schools to strive for and achieve excellence; now,
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Republican Party of Wisconsin, in convention assembled:
  • Urges that parents of school-age children be given vouchers or tax credits designed to give all parents equal freedom of choice in education (No voucher system that I know of has done this for all parents, this is simple rhetoric designed to mislead and motivate a specific audience) without regard to their financial means; and
  • Urges that religiously oriented schools not be discriminated against for exercising their freedom of religion (They shouldn't be discriminated against, but they also shouldn't be publically funded according to the 1st Amendment.  I believe that giving tax dollars to religious schools for religious teaching amounts to promoting a religion.); and
  • Strongly urges that the right to home school shall not be abridged; and
  • Urges our state legislators and local school boards to push for curriculum changes that place greater emphasis on the basics (Return to a system that is outdated and unequal), and eliminate all programs whose objectives are social engineering or advocacy of special interests (Such as religion?); and
  • Calls for the state legislature to eliminate funding of 4-year-old kindergarten (The benefits of which are supported by data); and
  • Urges Congress to pass legislation that prohibits schools from forcing or coercing parents to put their children on drugs (Where did this come from, in my 16 years of teaching I have never seen educators suggest medication without support from doctors and families) and eliminates all funding for government-mandated mental health screening of all children; and
  • Supports academic efforts that ensure that the presentation of our history and founding Judeo-Christian principles in our educational institutions, including those of higher learning, is objective, truthful and complete (Are they willing to recognize that the original colonists had many differing views about religion, or are they trying to teach a modified, Puritanical, version of American religious history?); and
  • Urges legislation adopting alternative standards for teacher licensing that do not require a degree in education or student-teaching experience (Total disrespect for the profession, what if they suggested the same for doctors?); and
  • Urges that if political issues are discussed, that multiple opinions be presented to represent a more fair discussion and to allow for debate (Already part of most districts' policies, including Madison's); and
  • Opposes the adoption and implementation of Common Core Standards (Fine with a large number of educators too) as well as the International Baccalaureate Curriculum in the Wisconsin school system; and
  • Supports allowing properly trained adult staff to be armed in public schools (Horrible idea for many reasons).
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we support legislation to make it easier to fire unsatisfactory (unionized) teachers in the public schools and to encourage performance pay for the best teachers; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we support local school districts’ decisions to set up virtual schools and parents right to participate in their children’s education and to choose virtual schools for their children’s education; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge libraries in all publicly-funded schools have a balance of reading materials that reflect conservative values as well as liberal values (How will this be determined and enforced, are conservative and liberal values really so easily defined); and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we endorse that the U. S. Department of Education should be abolished and all federal mandates and funding (such as Common Core Curriculum), leaving education decision making at the state (We've seen what types of funding decisions that our current state government makes for public schools) , local or personal level; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we support school districts having the right to choose from multiple vendors for their statewide school information system (SSIS) on the grounds that multiple vendors will lower costs to the taxpayers and promote free market principles (Just like Infinite Campus?).

Competition and the "Free Market" are values that Republicans continually put forward as they talk about improving education.  I have several significant problems with the idea of schools as a competitive "industry".  The first is that in our current marketplace, we are seeing the effects of deregulation and they aren't positive.  As regulation and monitoring of the financial industry was reduced, we saw catastrophic results that we are still recovering from.  Public schools have a level of accountability for providing services and accepting all students, that private schools don't.  

There is also a tendency for larger, better financed, entities to expand while smaller, not necessarily worse, businesses are driven out.  The Wal-Marting of many American communities provides us with examples of this phenomenon.  The success of a business in our current marketplace isn't necessarily tied to performance or to quality.  Do we want to open up our educational system to the potential for students to receive a cheap, mass-produced, but well packaged "product"?  Do we also want to see our children educated by trained professionals who are committed to public education, or underpaid, undervalued transient employees who face constant pressure from "above" to produce results?   

There are some services that should be provided publicly in order to best serve the population as a whole.  By privatizing certain services and products we create situations that are open to corruption and that are delivered inequitably.  Take garbage collection as an example.  In order to maximize profits it would be better for a private company to dump hazardous material without going through the expensive process of disposing of it safely.  Public sanitation services don't have the drive to create profit, but if managed well operate purely in the public interest.  

Education, when done well should not be a money making enterprise.  It is an investment in our children's future and the future of our society.  Our current efforts to privatize education focus on skimming the "profitable" students out of the general pool and leaving the rest out of the opportunities.  By keeping our education system public we remove the need to profit from our students, and instead turn our attention to allowing them to profit from the system.  

Finally, education as a "marketplace" invites secrecy and competition that doesn't benefit all students.  Here I turn to health care for an example.  A medical discovery that would cure a disease should be available to all people.  However, because of the competition involved in medical advances we see procedures, medication and other services distributed unequally based on income and not necessarily other criteria.  In the same way, new educational practices that work for students should be universally accessible and not the province of any specific "business" interest.  If I'm running a school and my students are all "college and career ready" no matter their demographic category then that is a positive thing.  I shouldn't hide my methods and should be able to share them without fear of losing the "profitability" of my "business".  Some goods and services are necessary for an individual's ability to thrive and shouldn't be controlled by private, for profit, interests.     

Buy Local…
Back-to-School shopping has begun in earnest.  Please remember to make the effort to support local businesses when shopping for necessary items.  By shopping at locally owned and operated businesses we not only keep our local economy healthy, but we also maximize the impact that our spending can have.