WEAC Members Defend Public Education During Lobby Day
WEAC members discuss the threats facing public
education with Tim Fiocchi, a member of State Representative Jeffrey
Wood's staff, during WEAC's June 16 Lobby Day.
days before the State Assembly will begin its work on the 2005-07 state
budget bill, approximately 1,000 WEAC members from throughout Wisconsin
gathered in Madison Thursday (June 16, 2005) to stand up for kids and
public education during the Great Schools Lobby Day.
The teachers and education support professionals joined parents and
other concerned citizens in face-to-face meetings with legislators.
They stressed the importance of investing in public education and warned
that the deep cuts proposed in the Republican-controlled Joint Finance
Committee's budget bill would destroy the state's great schools.
“The education decisions in this budget will affect our children,
our communities and our economy for years to come,” WEAC President
Stan Johnson said.
Governor Jim Doyle introduced a state budget in February that protects
schools by adding a historic $850 million in additional aid so that
the state lives up to its commitment to fully fund two-thirds of the
cost of public education. The budget proposal also calls for additional
support for the SAGE class-size reduction program, transportation aid
for rural districts and teacher mentoring programs, all while providing
property tax relief.
One week ago, the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee finished
its version of the budget bill, which cuts $400 million in school aids
from the governor's proposal by ratcheting down the per pupil expenditure
under school district revenue controls, and makes other significant
cuts to education.
"We know this budget proposal, if passed in its current form,
will take teachers out of the classroom, increase class sizes, cut school
libraries, reduce educational programs for children with far fewer curricular
opportunities, delay maintenance of facilities, and keep low-income
students out of higher education," State Superintendent Elizabeth
Burmaster said during a morning general session at the Monona Terrace
Convention Center before members met with legislators. "Is this
budget good for the children of Wisconsin? No, of course not."
Governor Doyle also spoke out against the JFC's budget bill during
the general session. "It's a cruel hoax," he said. "They
know schools can't make these cuts. They know they are forcing an increase
in property taxes.
"It's time we had a Legislature that said no to special interests
and yes to kids," he said. "Tell your legislators that our
kids should be their first priority."
Lobby Day participants met with nearly every state legislator or a
member of their staff during the event. Clintonville Education Association
member Ed Johnson told Heather Smith, chief of staff for State Senator
Luther Olsen, about the challenges facing his district. Due to declining
enrollment and revenue controls, his district has cut course offerings,
increased class sizes, and laid off guidance counselors and the social
worker, he said.
James Niemeier, who teaches in Beaver Dam, told Representative Carol
Owens that the schools should not have to make any more cuts. “We
are getting cut to the bone. We are looking for support for education
so we can continue to be number one,” Niemeier said.
Joseph Pieters, a member of the West Central Education Association,
met with Representative Jeffrey Wood's staffer, Tim Fiocchi. Pieters
said his district has already cut $1.5 million from its budget, and
could not handle additional cuts without needing to raise revenue through
“To pit education against tax relief is a false choice,”
Senator Jeff Plale told the members he met with. “You can’t
look at education as 'just education.' It fits into a bigger piece that
drives our whole economy.”
Deanna Matchy, of the Whitehall School District, talked to Representative
Barbara Gronemus about the importance of increasing school funding.
“We have so many kids with so much potential,” Matchy said.
“Isn’t a child’s education worthy of being fully funded?"
Karen Hilleren, of the Plum City School District, agreed. “I
believe we’ve got to put our money where our mouth is and give
kids what they need to succeed in the world,” Hilleren said.
“As legislators, we are really reneging on our responsibility.
The future is our children. That’s just where it’s at,”
Many WEAC members appreciated the opportunity to have their voices
heard at the Capitol. Beth Ludeman, president of the West Allis-West
Milwaukee Education Association, said the future of children and educators
is at stake.
“Today is important in order to safe guard our members’
futures and the futures of children across the state of Wisconsin,”
Ludeman said. “I think people are pretty excited and upbeat to
be able to build the social capital that our organization needs. I think
people feel that they really make a difference.”
Shorewood Education Association member Arthur Anderson said"I
think today is a terrific opportunity for our members to have their
positions about education known. What the Legislature is proposing will
destroy public schools. “
WEAC President Stan Johnson is urging all WEAC members who did not
attend Lobby Day to get in touch with their legislators about the state
budget bill. "We need to make sure that legislators hear the voices
of the state’s educators—the education experts—before
making their final decisions about this budget.”
Resource page on the 2005-07 state budget
Posted June 16, 2005