Statements by three Wisconsin State Senators on education in the 2009-2011 biennial state budget brought to mind three songs by the Rolling Stones, so I’m offering some special dedications. Read, listen, think, act (click on their names to contact the Senators).
Before getting to the excerpts from the statements and the songs I want to say that whatever my opinion of the statements themselves, I want to applaud the Senators for talking about this in public. It takes a little courage to address these difficult issues and if nobody is talking no progress can be made.
“[T]he state’s complex school finance formula…can’t be changed easily.”
In the Wisconsin State Journal.
We all know it is complex and that change isn’t easy. As noted in regard to Miller’s fuller statement, change requires work and that work is the responsibility of the State Senate and Assembly.
“I thought protecting education should have been the top priority in the budget, but instead students and property taxpayers are shortchanged with less state aid,” Schultz said.”…
“State school aid is important for our kids and for property taxpayers and it should have been a higher priority.”
Senator Schultz has been in his position since 1991; before that he served a decade in the Assembly. By the standards generally applied to Republicans in Wisconsin, he has been considered a “friend of public education.” This is mostly because he often says something close to the right things. Words are nice: actions are needed. Leadership would be even better. I am waiting.
“We don’t have the money to do school funding reform,” goes conventional wisdom around the Capitol. It costs money to fix the funding formula and money is in very short supply.
Given the state’s fiscal condition, many considered any reform of school funding impossible. But in our Senate District schools simply can’t wait….
As one man from Pepin said, “We have got to start somewhere and we have got to start right now.”
This last song goes out to all the Senators and Members of the Assembly, but Senator Vinehout seems to display more of the “can do,” “get-er’-done” spirit than most who work at the Capitol (including elected officials, staff and lobbyists). As the Miller quote indicates, many will always find reasons why progress and reform can’t happen. I believe it can and must happen. The first step is trying.
Thomas J. Mertz