In her second annual address on the state of Wisconsin’s education, School Principal Jill Underley launched conservative attacks on teaching about racism in the K-12 classroom, and defended the Evers administration’s proposal to use $1 billion in surplus state revenue to increase historic funding. for public schools and took some direct shots on Republicans.
Curricula that teach critical thinking require tackling difficult concepts, Anderley said. Teaching difficult concepts can mean teaching racism and sexism. Failure to do so would be a blatant disregard for the truth of our country’s history, and an erasure of the lived experience of our students.”
Parents, conservative activists, and some Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have called for books to be removed from school libraries that they consider “inappropriate” and Even pressure to prosecute teachers which give students access to a specific list of books dealing with race, gender, and LGBTQ teens.
I pushed back that movement. “The only way to teach the full story of the United States is to include the history of racism,” she said, adding that “denying the centralization of slavery and racism just because it is uncomfortable only jeopardizes the continuity and strength of our democratic society.”
She said: “Saying otherwise is problematic, and racist.”
She also took a bullet in conservative activists who pushed for policies to prevent teachers from using student-favored gender pronouns, and told LGBTQ students in Wisconsin, “I support you.”
“Such rhetoric and policies are harmful and dangerous to students’ emotional well-being and mental health,” Anderley declared. Affirming students’ gender identity is “preventing suicide,” she said, adding, “Pronouns save lives.”
Underly has called on Wisconsinans in communities across the state to use their influence within their social circles to suppress divisive politics revolving around schools by speaking to people they know: “If they don’t respect our teachers, advocate a halt to public school funding, or weaponize our children’s identities …Then it’s up to us to talk and stop them.” “This is a role we all have to do.”
Underly also defended the proposal that she and Evers recently announced to spend one-sixth of Wisconsin’s projected $6 billion budget surplus on significant new investment in schools, including targeted funding for mental health programs and $750 million for private education, which has taken up a larger and larger share. From the budgets of school districts in recent years as the state has taken on a lower funding burden. Underly and Evers’ proposal increases the state’s share of special education costs to 45% in the first year of the two-year budget and 60% in the second year, with the goal of having the state pay 90% by the end of the subsequent period. biennium.
“Critics will say we spend too much on education, or that the DPI is always asking for more money,” Andrelli said in her speech. “But let me put that in perspective.” She cited data showing that school funding over the past 12 years has failed to keep pace with inflation. She noted that during the same period, and over the past three decades, revenue limits have been frozen.
“For 30 years now, our school districts have not received their constitutional investment and promise from the state, and instead, the responsibility to increase spending so our schools can buy these computers, hire a tech teacher, or modernize their bus fleet has fallen on,” Anderley said. the responsibility of the local taxpayer.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anderley said, “Here we are, at the start of another school year, a lot has changed in our world while nothing has changed in our state funding.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin lives on a historic revenue surplus. She noted that in 2019, the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding recommended that the legislature raise the revenue ceiling and put more money into public schools. “I agree,” Andrey said.
To be clear, the legislature has the financial means to help our public schools. “They are simply choosing not to,” she added.
While she spent much of her speech praising the teachers who have been honored by her department this year for their creativity and support of students in difficult times, Underley spoke with gusto when attacking Republicans in the legislature. She accused them of “trying to undermine public education – through their funding decisions, but also by specifically targeting the relationship and trust between schools and families – all for political gain”.
In a statement in response to Underley’s letter, Republican candidate for governor Tim Michaels said she had “failed to provide Wisconsin taxpayers and their families with any information on the actual state of education.”
“Rather, Underley’s remarks were political rhetoric in favor of wake-up politics and against the legislature, despite the supposed non-partisan position,” Michaels said.
Comparing the Wisconsin education system to a car. Anderley said the state’s schools are “powered by steam.” “The last time we filled the gas tank along the road was decades ago.”
Funding schools and libraries, she said, is more than just an economic necessity, it’s a moral duty to care for Wisconsin students. “These kids are going to change the world one day,” she concluded. “We must take care of them. We must prepare them well.”
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