Wisconsin residents made it very clear in 2018 that they stand behind their public schools and will do whatever it takes to support them. After years of state funding reductions by the Republican Legislature and the about-to-be-former Republican governor, voters went to the polls in droves to make up for the lack of state funding by approving a record number of local school referendums (in addition to electing educator Tony Evers governor). According to a new report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum, voters this year signed off on a record $2 billion-plus in debt and revenue increases for local schools. The approval rate was 90 percent, the highest on record. Read more on the WEAC News From Around the Web Topic Board. You can sign up for WEAC news alerts at weac.org/subscribe.
State Superintendent Tony Evers, a staunchly pro-public education Democrat, is Wisconsin’s new governor, defeating incumbent Republican Scott Walker, long known for his attacks on public schools and educators.
WEAC President Ron Martin applauded WEAC members for their hard work in helping to elect Evers.
“Today is filled with possibilities and opportunities, leading us to a better future,” Martin said in a video message to members. “This victory belongs to you. But more importantly, it belongs to our kids.”
As State Superintendent, Evers has proposed increasing public school funding by $1.4 billion, has said he will freeze the school voucher program as a first step toward its eventual phase-out, strongly supports community schools that help meet the needs of students and families in the local community, and plans to place in statute requirements for teacher voice to be part of all education-related decision and policy-making initiatives.
“We have lots of work to do now,” Martin said. “We have a partner who’s willing to listen to us, and we need to be there to provide the kind of advice and support that he will need to lead this state.
“We had a part in this victory, and I couldn’t be more proud of the WEAC members who participated. The work you did will not go unnoticed,” Martin said.
“And now we go back to our classes and we do what we do every single day, and that’s make life better for students. And you can count on WEAC to be there to support you, so you can focus on your students.”
In other statewide races, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin easily won re-election over Republican challenger Leah Vukmir, while Democrat Josh Kaul was narrowly leading incumbent Attorney General Brad Schimel with 99 percent of the vote in. Secretary of State Doug La Follette was re-elected, and Sarah Godlewski was elected State Treasurer. Republicans came out of the election holding majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
After upending Wisconsin politics and infuriating liberals across the country, Gov. Scott Walker narrowly lost his bid for a third term to Tony Evers.
Democrat Tony Evers has won the Wisconsin governor’s race in a stunning upset of two-term Republican incumbent Scott Walker.
“Phil Neuenfeldt stood side-by-side with WEAC members during our most tumultuous struggles, always insisting that whether in the public or private sector, union brothers and sisters stand together,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “As Phil would expect, those of us who mourn his passing will carry on to advance solidarity in Wisconsin.”
Martin urged WEAC members to re-commit themselves to getting out the vote in advance of Tuesday’s election.
“Phil was with us on the steps of the state Capitol back in 2011, and vowed never to give in to inequity and division,” Martin said. “Let’s do him proud by rolling up our sleeves in these final hours of the campaign to bring home a win for the working people of Wisconsin.”
Here is a brief clip of Neuenfeldt speaking on the steps of the State Capitol during the 2011 uprising (thanks to Citizen Action of Wisconsin):
By Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Vice President
“Our camaraderie and our strong union participation is the greatest strength of the Bayfield Education Association,” Rick Erickson, High School Alternative Education/Science Teacher, former President of the Bayfield Education Association (BEA), and a former Wisconsin Teacher of the Year told me.
“The reason for our strong participation is that people see the BEA as a collective teacher voice for the district, and our voice is focused on kids, families, and our community. We want to make our school district the best place it can be.”
When I asked about membership, Rick said, “Participation in the Bayfield Education Association is high. About 92% of our teachers are members.”
Eric Iverson, Middle School Social Studies teacher and current President of the Bayfield Education Association, told me, “We’re all part of a community, and we stick together.” Eric also mentioned how past leaders helped to create a culture of camaraderie and solidarity through social events and being a part of events in the community.
It’s clear that the BEA is there for the kids and the community. According to Lorie Erickson, Early Childhood teacher, the efforts of BEA members in the community are an important part of their success.
“We did an event this fall at a nearby casino where we roasted 250 hot dogs and gave them to our families who attended. Continuing to build relationships with our students and their families is important to us.” Lorie went on to say, “At the event, parents shared with us struggles of some of our former students who just graduated and were transitioning into life after high school at two-year, four-year, or tech college campuses. This prompted the Bayfield Education Association to write letters and make care packages for these former students in transition.”
The BEA is also involved in advocacy, as Rick discussed the struggles of the school district to recognize that arbitrary pay plans exacerbate their struggles in recruiting and retaining of quality teachers, which harms students. “We are working to have the best compensation and the best environment to keep our teachers here and our district strong.”
Another strength of the Bayfield Education Association is its ability to maintain a positive relationship with administration. Eric shared, “Despite challenges, we have leadership that pulls people together to address the issues to do what’s best for their students.”
Liz Bodin, Bayfield teacher and former student in the district, said, “I feel supported by my colleagues. As a student, I didn’t recognize the many ways that my teachers went above and beyond to support me. Now that I am an adult and a fellow educator, I recognize what they did to make my educational experience special, and I want to do the same for my students.”
Liz was most proud of the work of the Bayfield Education Association did for the scholarship that they award to a student who plans to be a teacher. “In a time with a shortage of students wanting to be teachers, we are doing our part to give back and encourage our students to join us in the profession and to keep high quality teachers in every classroom,” Liz said.
Rick ended our conversation by saying, “The Bayfield Education Association is a positive force with our focus on our kids, our families, and our community.”
Read all of Peggy’s ‘Spotlight On Locals’ columns at weac.org/Spotlight.
Congratulations to Ashwaubenon teacher Lisa Bellile, the latest winner of our WEAC Badger Red for Public Ed promotion! The honor goes to WEAC members in appreciation for their dedication to students. Recipients are treated to a UW Badger athletic event.
Lisa will get VIP treatment at the November 3 UW Badger football game against Rutgers at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Lisa, a Special Education Teacher at Pioneer Elementary School, has worked 16 years for the Ashwaubenon School District. She has experience assisting with choreography in several of the Pioneer Elementary winter musicals. Lisa has been fortunate to attend and support 5th graders on an overnight outdoor education experience at Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya. She is also a part of the PBIS team and the Trauma Sensitive School team.
During the 2017-18 school year, Lisa’s colleagues recognized her as an Outstanding Educator at Pioneer Elementary as someone who goes “above and beyond” in and outside of the classroom.
In the Ashwaubenon community, Lisa has been involved with the Ashwaubenon Swim Club for many years, serving as a board member, and currently assists with apparel and swim coaching.
Lisa started teaching to make a difference in the lives of youth. Recently, she has been reflecting on her purpose. Her ‘why’ is to make connections … to be that person a child looks forward to seeing each and every day, to be that someone students trust and respect, to empower youth in realizing that learning and knowledge are power and that relationships matter, to be mindful that caring and empathy can go a long way, and to spread the kindness and be the change.
Visit weac.org/badger to nominate yourself or another deserving educator for a chance to win a drawing for Wisconsin athletic events throughout the school year.