“‘There’s so much on the line’ in this election when it comes to education.”
MADISON, Wis. — In case you missed it, the Green Bay Press-Gazette highlighted how education is at stake in the November election. As a former teacher, Governor Tony Evers knows how important education is — especially when it comes to adequate funding.
Since his first day in office, Gov. Evers promised to be The Education Governor — and has delivered the largest public school funding increase in nearly two decades, the first special education funding increase in a decade, and helped fund a two-year tuition freeze for the UW system.
Tim Michels wants to defund public education — calling it “the definition of insanity” to continue to fund public schools. Michels even said he would consider abolishing Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction.
“It will only get worse if we do not re-elect Tony Evers because the other side, I mean, they will dismantle public education, and that is a scary thought because that is going to hurt our most vulnerable students and families,” said the president of the Green Bay teachers union.
Gov. Evers is the right choice and he will always do the right thing for students, parents, and teachers.
Read more about how education is on the ballot below.
Green Bay Press-Gazette: ‘There’s so much on the line’ for Wisconsin education in November’s midterms. Here’s what to know.
Inflation. Crime. Election integrity. These issues are top of mind for voters in the November midterm election.
But so is public education.
In a Marquette University Law School poll from last month, 56% of respondents said they were concerned about public schools — tied with an accurate vote count for the election’s third most important issue.
“There’s so much on the line” in this election when it comes to education, said Brent Bergstrom, president of the Green Bay teachers union — including more than $2 billion in referendum funding.
Plus there’s the battle over who will be Wisconsin’s next governor: the Democratic candidate, incumbent Tony Evers, a former educator and proponent of increasing school funding, or Republican Tim Michels, a construction executive and political outsider who supports universal school choice and increasing access to private education.
While state funding, curriculum and school choice will not be on the ballot, they are major concerns for many voters as they choose between Evers and Michels.
In general, Democrats and education advocates told the USA TODAY Network-Wisconsin that they’re stressed about the potential for decreased school funding and the expansion of the private school voucher program if Michels becomes governor.
“It will only get worse if we do not re-elect Tony Evers because the other side, I mean, they will dismantle public education, and that is a scary thought because that is going to hurt our most vulnerable students and families,” Bergstrom said.
School districts stress over funding, and employers vie for school choice
In Milwaukee, School Board President Bob Peterson called the governor’s race the most important gubernatorial election in his memory.
“Scott Walker wanted to decimate our public sector unions, and this year, the Republican candidate wants to decimate our public schools,” Peterson said.
Michels has not given clear answers about how he would change funding for public schools, but he has referred to the idea of putting more money into public education as “the definition of insanity,” and has said he would consider ending or lowering property tax funding for schools.
Peterson said any cuts to funding for public schools, on the heels of years of funding falling behind inflation, would be a “recipe for disaster.” The state Legislature hasn’t adjusted per-student public school funding for inflation since 2009.
“That should be an alarm bell for anyone in this state who wants to see our public schools adequately funded,” Peterson said. “It really comes down to whether or not people think there should be a strong public school system, which is a fundamental democratic institution for any society, or should we get rid of it?”
Michels has also proposed putting more public funding into vouchers for an unlimited number of students to attend private schools.
Peterson said Michels’ plans would “necessarily harm students,” as many students would be left in underfunded public schools, and students in private schools would lack the same protections, such as those for students with disabilities. Residents also wouldn’t have the power to elect board members at private schools.
Michels said he would sign the “Parental Bill of Rights” bill proposed by Republican lawmakers in the last session. That would allow parents to sue school staff at public schools who use names and pronouns chosen by their students if the parents disagree. It would also give parents rights to review books and curriculum and opt their children out of lessons.
Evers has said he would increase funding for public schools in part by freeing up some of the state Legislature’s estimated multibillion dollar surplus.
Part of the funding increase would be for a long-term commitment to supporting mental health services for students and increasing the state’s contribution to special education funding.
Employers are concerned about students coming out of the public education system unequipped with the skills necessary to join the workforce, said Ver Velde, the director of workforce, education and employment policy for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
It’s the largest general business association in Wisconsin, representing 3,800 members across industries.
Statewide test scores released last week show Wisconsin students are below their pre-pandemic proficiency levels with only 37% and 39% of elementary and middle school students proficient in reading and math, respectively.
“Employers are having to provide remedial training at the worksite instead of having them ready Day 1,” she said. “Our employers are really concerned about the K-12 system. They want competition in the education market.”
That competition falls in line with Michels’ plans for expanding school choice for Wisconsin parents.
Employers want more charter schools and private school choice and think the competition will improve all schools, Ver Velde said.