Wisconsin educators get on the bus to reclaim education
by Félix Pérez
Slashing school budgets at historic levels in the name of budget austerity hurts students, communities and schools. That’s the message Wisconsin educators are taking on the road through next week to avoid a repeat of the devastating
educator layoffs from this school year.
The Red School Bus Tour began its six-city tour April 25 in Lodi and makes its final stop in Wausau May 3. Along the way, educators, parents, elected officials and others are raising awareness about the real-life consequences of state budget cuts in classroom after classroom across the state.
Cities have already begun issuing layoff notices for the next school year in response to the nearly $800 million in cuts to public education pushed by Governor Scott Walker.
“It’s vital that our state government understands what they’re doing not only to public schools but also to the communities that support these schools,” said Lodi English teacher Joel Betsinger.
Lodi Mayor Paul Fisk urged state leaders to stop driving a wedge between teachers and cities. “Schools are essential to communities. They’re the heart and soul of a community.”
The Red School Bus Tour, organized by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, follows on the heels of a report from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction that found three out of four state school districts cut teacher and education support professional positions this school year. The cuts mark a 50 percent increase in educator losses from the previous school year.
“Losses in school staff erode our public education system,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “We want our students to graduate college and career ready and must make a bipartisan investment in public education instead of continually forcing cuts on school districts.”
Mary Bell, a junior high school media specialist and president of WEAC, chastised Walker’s destructive leadership. “The facts are clear. The governor’s budget and policies show he does not value Wisconsin’s public schools and is focused more on dividing communities than strengthening them. We need a leader who puts education first.”
More than 900,000 Wisconsin voters agree Walker has gone too far. That’s how many signed a petition to spur a Walker recall election June 5.
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