Wisconsin must demonstrate that we value our teachers, Governor Evers writes

In a column released Wednesday, Governor Tony Evers says Wisconsin must do better in demonstrating that it values its teachers.

“We must … recognize that part of supporting our kids in the classroom means supporting the educators who teach our kids,” Evers writes.

“Wisconsin pays our public school teachers less than the national average, which makes it harder to recruit and retain talented educators. According to recently-released data, Wisconsin has fallen to 33rd in the nation for average teacher pay. Teacher salaries in our state are some of the lowest in the Midwest. Teachers moving across the border to Illinois or Michigan can see pay bumps of $10,000 or more.

“That’s just not good enough, folks.

“As we continue to fight for the resources our schools need to invest in our kids, we must do everything in our power to ensure that educators know the work they do is valued and that they mean something to our kids and the people of our state.”

Read the governor’s entire column, published by the Capital Times:

Last month, Kathy and I escaped Madison for a weekend and celebrated our 50th high school reunion back in Plymouth.

We got to catch up with friends, attend the homecoming parade and football game, and tour the new multi-purpose facility and fitness center at the high school.

While I was in town, I also sat down for an interview with two high school students. They asked me everything from my favorite memory of Plymouth High School (starting at the school when it was brand new) to my thoughts on Greta Thunberg’s advocacy on climate change (I think she is an incredible human being and appreciate her work). The students also posed the question: “What is the biggest change you’ve seen in Wisconsin in the last 50 years?”

It might sound hokey, but here’s what I told them — what stands out for me is that a whole bunch hasn’t changed. Being back in our hometown was an important reminder of how important our kids and our schools are to our communities. And kids are as good and smart and dedicated now as they were when I was in high school.

That’s why after spending my career fighting for our kids, I decided to run for governor. Because I believe what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state.

Since taking office, I have traveled the state listening to the people of Wisconsin, and at every stop, I saw educators and heard folks say how important their local schools are.

That’s why I proposed a bold budget with significant investments in education, including a commitment to return to two-thirds funding and a $600 million increase in special education, among other important priorities.

Now, I know this is not quite where the final budget ended up. We didn’t get everything we all wanted. And, quite frankly, no one was more disappointed than I was by what Republicans did to the budget we put together.

But I wasn’t going to negotiate against what we were able to give our kids with the budget we were sent, knowing that our kids could have ended up with less in the end.

And I sure wasn’t going to let our kids, our educators and our schools become bargaining chips by going back to the negotiating table when it would hurt them the most.

So, at the end of the day, I went back to that fundamental creed: that what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state.

And that’s why I’m proud of where we ended up and what we were able to do with the budget we were given.

We provided $95 million in special education categorical aid — the first increase in a decade.PauseCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time0:00Stream TypeLIVELoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00Fullscreen00:00Mute

We provided nearly $330 million in state general aid — the largest increase since 2005.

We also doubled state support for school mental health programs to help our kids in need.

And finally, through my vetoes, we were able to increase per-pupil state categorical aids by nearly $100 million over the next two years.

Our budget was a down payment on important priorities, but there is more work for us to do.

I said I wanted to return to our state providing two-thirds funding for our schools, and we have to get that done. And, yes, we increased special education aid, but we’re nowhere close to where we need to be, and we have to do more.

We must also recognize that part of supporting our kids in the classroom means supporting the educators who teach our kids. Wisconsin pays our public school teachers less than the national average, which makes it harder to recruit and retain talented educators. According to recently-released data, Wisconsin has fallen to 33rd in the nation for average teacher pay. Teacher salaries in our state are some of the lowest in the Midwest. Teachers moving across the border to Illinois or Michigan can see pay bumps of $10,000 or more.

That’s just not good enough, folks.

As we continue to fight for the resources our schools need to invest in our kids, we must do everything in our power to ensure that educators know the work they do is valued and that they mean something to our kids and the people of our state.

Because, by golly, I can tell you that our educators mean something to our kids. I see it in every classroom I visit. And I heard it straight from one of those two students who asked me what’s changed since I graduated. She told me that her favorite thing about Plymouth High School is her teachers. That she appreciates how she can talk to them even about things that happen outside of school. That they make her feel like she is important and that she is the future.

As I said, a lot has changed in the last 50 years, but our values have stayed the same. We work hard, we cheer for the Packers, Brewers and Bucks, we look after our neighbors, and we care about our communities.

That’s why it’s time to get serious about investing in our kids, our schools and our educators, because what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state.

Gov. Tony Evers: What’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state

Last month, Kathy and I escaped Madison for a weekend and celebrated our 50th high school reunion back in Plymouth. We got to catch up with friends, attend the homecoming parade and football game, and tour the new multi-purpose facility and fitness center at the high school.

Taxpayers’ bill for private voucher schools soars to $350 million

Wisconsin taxpayers will be spending $349.6 million to support private schools this year through the state’s voucher program, up from $302 million last year, according to figures released by the Department of Public Instruction.

According to DPI, the taxpayer-funded voucher programs will support a total of 43,450 private school students this year, up from 40,039 students last year.

There are four voucher programs: Milwaukee, Racine, Statewide, and Special Needs. The biggest growth this year was in the Statewide Program, which grew by 37 percent, and the Special Needs program, which grew by 55 percent. Below are figures from DPI:

Read more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Cost of Wisconsin voucher programs nears $350 million as enrollment surges

CLOSE Buy Photo The HOPE Christian Schools network is active in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. (Photo: Mark Hoffman /Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) The number of Wisconsin students attending private, mostly religious, schools on taxpayer-funded vouchers continues to grow, driven by double-digit increases in the state’s two newest programs, according to data released by the Department of Public Instruction on Tuesday.

Three WEAC members win Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Three WEAC members – Richard Erickson, Bayfield High School; Kevin Reese, Clintonville High School; and Rebecca Saeman, Sauk Trail Elementary School, Middleton – were named Wednesday as recipients of Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Winners of the award receive a certificate, a trip to Washington, D.C., for professional development and recognition events, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

The Wisconsin recipients were nominated by the state Department of Public Instruction in 2017 and 2018, the award program cycle, DPI spokesman Benson Gardner said.

The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) are the highest honors bestowed by the United States government specifically for K-12 science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and/or computer science teaching. The Awards were established by Congress in 1983. 

The award recognizes those teachers have both deep content knowledge of the subjects they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas.

Awardees reflect the expertise and dedication of the Nation’s teaching corps, and they demonstrate the positive impact of excellent teachers on student achievement. The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Below are profiles of the WEAC members who won this cycle’s awards:

Rick Erickson, Bayfield

Rick Erickson

Richard Erickson has been teaching for 35 years and has been at Bayfield High School for 25 years. There, he teaches 11-12th-grade Chemistry and Physics, and a science-focused experiential learning alternative education program for 9-12th-grade at-risk students. Previously, he taught for ten years at Mahtomedi High School in Minnesota. Richard collaborates with scientists from the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the National Park Service, and Northland College to provide his students with authentic scientific experiences and research opportunities. He facilitates independent student research and encourages his students to participate in science fairs. Richard has worked with the University of Wisconsin to develop a summer program focused on indigenous arts and sciences, targeted toward Native American students. For the past three years, he has coordinated science festival events in the northwest region of the state and has served on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “Reimagining Science Fairs” committee. Richard was a Minnesota Teacher of the Year Finalist in 1992 and the 2014 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year. Richard earned a B.A.S. in teaching physical science from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He is a National Board Certified Teacher and is certified in broad field science, physical science, chemistry, physics, and alternative education.

It goes without saying that it is a true honor to be recognized for the work that has been my passion for 35 years. I am excited to receive the Presidential Award while also acknowledging the many teachers who are deserving of recognition for their efforts to foster the sense of wonder in students. It is a testimony to the science teachers who fanned the flame of my curiosity, my colleagues with whom I have collaborated on exciting projects, and my role models who have made me a better teacher.

Rick Erickson

Kevin Reese

Kevin Reese

Kevin Reese has been a mathematics teacher at Clintonville High School for his entire 17-year teaching career, currently assigned to teach 9-12th-grade Advanced Algebra, Pre-Calculus, Advanced Placement Statistics, and AP Calculus. Kevin is also an adjunct instructor for the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, permitting qualified students in his Pre-Calculus, Statistics, and Calculus courses to earn dual credit from the UWO campus. In his classes, Kevin works to incorporate student-centered activities that everyone can grasp, but that have high learning potential. Throughout his time teaching mathematics, Kevin has maintained a passion for leadership. In addition to leadership roles within his mathematics department, building, and district, he currently serves on a statewide committee that is working to develop a guide that will consist of instructional practices aimed at promoting educational equity in mathematics throughout the state of Wisconsin. He also works to develop future leaders through his advising of the student council at Clintonville High School. Kevin is a member of the Wisconsin Mathematics Council and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Kevin earned a B.S. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a M.S. in mathematics education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He is a certified teacher for grades 9-12 mathematics.

Even with this recognition, I still feel there is more work to be done for me to improve as a teacher. I arrive each morning ready to take on the challenge of another student that I have yet to fully engage in learning and to bring out their best as a person. This is a tribute to all the students I have ever taught who inspired me to give my best effort in and out of the classroom, and for all my hardworking colleagues who have dared with me to take risks to improve instruction for our students.

Kevin Reese

Rebecca Saeman

Rebecca Saeman

Rebecca Saeman has been employed within the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District as a Math Interventionist for over 12 years. She has spent the past nine years as a Math and Reading Interventionist at Sauk Trail Elementary. She previously served as Math Interventionist at Northside Elementary and Park Elementary. Rebecca loves working directly with her students to grow their academic skills and confidence levels. She focuses on making sure all students are aware of the learning targets for the lesson and why the learning is relevant and important. She also enjoys counseling educators in the area of conceptual mathematics, so they may pay forward these same learnings to their own students. In addition to her daily student curriculum and educator training, Rebecca also cofacilitates the annual STEAM clubs for students in first and second grades to inspire their enthusiasm for STEAM through discovery-based learning. Rebecca has conducted several professional development presentations at National Math Recovery Conferences and within her school district. Topics include early numeracy skill development and activities to promote student growth. Rebecca earned a B.S. in elementary education from Edgewood College. Additionally, she earned both a Reading Teacher License and a M.S.Ed. from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Being honored with the Presidential Award reconfirms my purpose as an educator and encourages my passion for and dedication to my mathematics students and fellow educators. As mathematics teachers, we must remain dedicated to empowering students to acquire new learning skills, expand their mathematical understanding, and develop self-confidence to fully apply themselves throughout their future academics. I share this award with my inspiring children, dedicated educators, and supportive family.

Rebecca Saeman

Evers asks Godlewski to head new Retirement Security Task Force

Governor Tony Evers has formed the Retirement Security Task Force, and announced that State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski would lead the effort.

In a news release, Godlewski said, like citizens nationwide, Wisconsinites are not saving enough for retirement and that an estimated 400,000 Wisconsinites are at risk of retiring in poverty by 2030. The task force, she said, will “identify effective and achievable solutions that will provide an opportunity for all Wisconsinites to save that is separate from the WRS (Wisconsin Retirement System).”

Below is State Treasurer Godlewski’s overview:

Why a Retirement Security Task Force? 

Wisconsin’s growing elderly population is ahead of the national trend. By 2030, there will be a projected 60% increase in the number of people age 65+. Further, Wisconsinites are not set-up for success. The typical working-age household has less than $3,000 in retirement savings. It’s not that Wisconsinites don’t want to save, it’s that they have been living under economic conditions that have made saving either impossible or inaccessible. Recently, AARP of Wisconsin did a study that identified 1 in 7 registered voters in Wisconsin have no way to save for retirement at work. Yet, 82% would take advantage if a savings program for retirement was available. The Governor and Treasurer believe hard-working Wisconsinites deserve to have peace of mind and feel secure when they retire. 

Financial Risk if No Action is Taken to Address the Retirement Crisis. 

The long-term financial health of Wisconsin is at risk if no action is taken. Projected expenditures on senior programs (i.e. Medicaid, Homestead Tax Credit, Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program and Supplemental Security Income) are estimated to be $4.7 billion annually by 2030 an increase of $3.5 billion from 2015. With the cost of living increasing and retirement savings decreasing, it is estimated that 400,000 Wisconsinites are at risk of retiring in poverty by 2030. If lower and moderate income households (up to $40,000/year) were to save 3% of their income through 2030, state expenditures in 2030 may decrease by $3.1 billion annually. 

Why should Public Employees care? 

Public employees work hard and deserve to retire in a financially secure manner. There is a misperception that state employees, to include public educators, have an unfair advantage with savings through the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). That said, what the Governor and Treasurer are proposing with this Task Force is to identify effective and achievable solutions that will provide an opportunity for all Wisconsinites to save that is separate from the WRS. 

For more information about the Retirement Security Task Force, please reach out to the State Treasurer’s Office at treasurer@wisconsin.gov or 608-266-1714.

Legislative Update

In other legislative action this week, the Senate and Assembly Committees on Education held a joint public hearing Thursday on a series of bills created as a result of the Legislature’s Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding. To see the full slate and email the Senate and Education committees, click here. WEAC has not taken a formal position on the bills, having no opposition to the proposals.

To contact your elected officials on any issue, use the “Find Your Legislators” link at www.weac.org/take-action. For more information to get even more involved, email Christina Brey, WEAC Public Affairs.

Bills We’re Watching
See all the bills we’re watching at www.weac.org/bills.

Spotlight on Locals: Council 10 Retired

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen (right) recognized Council 10 Retired at their September breakfast for their service in dedication to public education in Wisconsin. Pictured left to right: Council 10 Retired President Marlene Ott, Vivien DeBack, Jim Briselden, Jean Haase, and Cal Wetzel.

By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President

Council 10 Retired – one of 24 local chapters of the statewide WEAC Retired group – is used to honoring others, as it did recently at its annual breakfast. But I had the honor of turning the tables on Council 10 Retired by recognizing it as a WEAC Strong Local Affiliate.

“Thank you to WEAC for recognizing the years of service from our local group of retired educators,” Council 10 Retired President Marlene Ott said in response. “These four (pictured above) were among our founding mothers and fathers who continue to be active retirees.”

As part of the annual breakfast, Council 10 Retired featured speakers from Voces de la Frontera, a young ‘dreamer’ Josue, and Anna Dvorak. The presentation described the impact of immigration policies on families seeking asylum. Marlene shared, “We also honored some of our newly retired members and hope to keep them active in our important work.”

Council 10 Retired does a great job of keeping members and retirees active, and when I asked Marlene how they do it, she said, “There are a number of factors involved in our member involvement. First, people who get involved immediately after retirement are much more likely to stay involved, and we work to get them on a committee right away! Second,  we have had great support from our staff Jim Gibson (who recently passed away) and Ted Kraig have been so supportive attending all of our board meetings, updating us on what’s happening in education and the WEAC world, and including us in all appropriate events such as protests in a district or political actions so that we can help.”

We all know that it is important to stay connected with our members, and Marlene shared, “We have a regular newsletter that goes out including photos of members at social gatherings as well as work sessions. Retirees who have moved away or who can’t always get out stay in touch through the newsletter and have often expressed appreciation to Phyllis Wetzel, our newsletter editor.”

While members of Council 10 Retired aren’t in a school building every day anymore, they certainly stay active. Marlene shared, “As a retiree, social events are very important to our members. We have a summer picnic in one of the Milwaukee parks and a breakfast honoring new retirees. Other activities include getting tickets for plays and concerts, groups meeting for breakfast or lunch, and outings like taking the trolley with a docent to see this summer’s artists’ creations along Wisconsin Avenue.” 

When I asked Marlene about advice to other locals, she said, “I think active involvement in retiree units begins with local engagement in active unit activities. If the same person is always the president and the same person remains chief negotiator for years, lots of talent remains undeveloped. At the association retirement party when I retired, at least a dozen of the teachers in the room had also served as association president as well as chief negotiator. They all had a stake in the organization and knew the ropes.” 

Marlene told me, “We feel very honored that someone noticed the ongoing work of our retired members! We know that our local actives appreciate us. And we have had many members appointed to state WEAC committees and DPI teams as well as chairing our local negotiating cadre and our local association cadre.”  

WEAC is proud to recognize Council 10 Retired for its long-standing support of public education in Wisconsin and its continued advocacy for our students and our profession.  

Have you recently retired or planning to retire? Join WEAC Region 10 / Retired to stay active and informed! Click here for a membership form.

Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.