I haven’t posted any Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools advocacy material this way lately, so here goes. Short version: The “tools” aren’t working, our students aren’t getting the opportunities to learn they need and deserve, and the only way this will change is if we don’t give up, we keep agitating.
Dear education advocate:
We need your help now. We’ve identified you as not only people who care about kids, schools and their communities, but also who have the knowledge and skills to work on their behalf. We need your help in reaching out to the rest of the state—the media, community organizations and your neighbors—in pointing out how destructive recent changes have been to our children’s opportunities to learn.
This afternoon, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators released data that show, for the first time, the devastating impact of the most recently passed state budget.
While we all knew intuitively that a $1.6 billion cut in education would have an impact, the data is even worse than we could have expected and is a clear signal that our state is moving in the wrong direction as it relates to our schools.
The report is attached along with the release that was distributed from WAES. Here are the messages that we want to convey:
- The state budget cut education by historic proportions. The state budget cut aid and revenue limit authority to Wisconsin schools by $1.6 billion in the last budget. This is the largest cut to Wisconsin education ever and is one of the biggest cuts made by any state in the history of the country .
- These cuts are having a devastating impact on our schools. The data is in, and it shows that the cuts to Wisconsin schools, as a result of the state budget, are devastating and much worse than we could have expected.
- Class sizes have skyrocketed. What happens when you cut teaching positions? Obviously, class sizes get larger. In schools large and small across the state, the average size of classes, especially at the elementary school level, have increased dramatically.
- Course offerings have decreased. The new data show that the numbers of programs and services for students in our public schools have declined significantly. What’s worse, some classes, including programs for gifted students and the kinds of classes that are needed for admittance into highly selective colleges and universities, are gone. For those students who want to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison or another highly selective school, the challenge has become even greater.
- Schools face even greater financial challenges next year.While the news is terrible for schools this year, the data show that half of Wisconsin schools are using one-time federal dollars to balance this year’s budget shortfall, money that will not be available next year. Moreover, two out of three districts say that next year’s cuts will be even bigger than this year’s.
- >We’re heading in the wrong direction. The data show that we are clearly moving in the wrong direction when it comes to our schools. At a time when the knowledge and skills of our graduates are more important than ever before—not only for them but for our entire state—why are we making such devastating cuts to our schools?
Here is what you can do now: While we are working to connect with reporters who are covering the story from a state-level perspective, we need your help in reaching reporters, bloggers, and media outlets in your area. Here are some specific things you can do right now –
- >Find out what’s happening at home: The data from DPI tells the story at the state level, and it is devastating to children. If you can work with your local school district to determine the local impact, it will be even more powerful.
- Connect with local reporter: We need to make sure this report is covered in your local newspaper. Toward that end, if you know a reporter at your local paper who would write about this issue, please contact them and urge them to do so.
- Write a letter to the editor: We also encourage you to write a letter-to-the-editor of your local newspaper for publishing. If you need them, e-mail addresses of many Wisconsin newspapers are attached to this message.
- Contact local talk radio hosts and ask to go on their shows: We need to get our voices heard on this issue. Contact the hosts of local radio shows and ask them if you can go on their show to talk about the report.
- Connect with others who will amplify our voices: Think about others in your area who are friendly to our cause and can help carry these messages. Do you know someone who writes a popular local blog? Are you close with your local PTA/PTO president? Use your imagination and your connections to tell others about this report, and ask them to spread our messages.
Whatever you do, please do something and make sure to let us know your plans. Thanks.
To help recall Scott Walker, check in with United Wisconsin.
Thomas J. Mertz