Approximately thirty concerned citizens attended, including parents and administrators and school board members from a number of schools in this legislative district. Not one person spoke in favor of the proposed changes. The attendees came armed with facts and figures, detailing exactly how much money each school in the district stood to lose as public funds, collected locally, flow to private schools located outside our district. These private schools will also, according to the policy written into the ‘budget’, not have to answer to any standards or tests, which are required of the public schools. They can teach anything they want. They can teach nothing at all. They have to follow no standards.
Add to this the unimaginable proposal to eliminate even minimal requirements for teachers, and you have a clusterfuck of major proportion. The current proposal before the legislature would allow anyone to teach, without any teacher training, without a bachelor degree, hell – even without a high school degree. This proposal has made Wisconsin the laughing stock of the country, even the world. Rep. Novak said that the language for this section of the budget is being ‘pulled back’ because there has been some outrage over it – but it’s only being pulled back in part.
It was a wretched way to spend an hour – tormenting oneself with the harsh realities of what a Republican governor and a Republican State Senate and a Republican State Assembly want to do to public education in this state.
But the worst of it was not the endless list of calamities that this legislation will inflict, bad as they are. What offended me the most was Rep. Novak saying, no less than eighteen times in one hour: “Unfortunately, the train has left the station …” And then he would shrug, and smile and pretend to commiserate with the parents and educators who universally – to the very last person in the room – opposed the proposed changes that promise to eviserate public education in this state.
The train has left the station.
And with this glib statement, Rep. Novak washed his hands, again and again and again, of the problem. When an attendee challenged his hiding behind this phrase toward the end of the hour long meeting, he intoned that he only meant to say that the move toward privatization in education started before he was elected to the Assembly, and that it’s not going to be stopped now. His response was hardly a response at all. It doesn’t matter whether this travesty was initiated ten years ago or ten minutes ago – shrugging your shoulders and meekly smiling is not an acceptable answer to a constituency that is outraged by the back-door dealings of private school profiteers and legislators in Madison.
We deserve a better answer. We deserve a better state representative – one who will represent us and not simply vote the party line. We deserve (our children deserve) better schools.