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.

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.

Evers to propose freezing voucher and charter school enrollments

Governor Tony Evers is expected to include in his state budget plan this week proposals to freeze the number of students attending private voucher and charter schools, place tougher teacher certification standards on private schools accepting students with special needs, and abolish the law that allows Milwaukee Public Schools to be taken over by private entities.

“This signals a good first step on Wisconsin’s journey to provide all children with opportunity through high-quality, fully funded public schools,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “For three decades, privatization lobbyists have siphoned funding from public schools into private operations. If we care about all students, Wisconsin should invest in the schools that serve all students. That’s common sense.”

The governor’s plan, which would be accomplished through a phased-in approach:

  • Freezes the number of students who may enroll in private voucher schools;
  • Suspends the creation of new privately run charter schools until 2023;
  • Eliminates the law requiring Milwaukee County officials to turn public schools into charter schools without district officials’ approval;
  • Increases standards for teachers in private voucher schools;
  • Requires tax-funded private schools to be accredited; and
  • Provides taxpayers with information about how much of their taxes are siphoned from public schools to pay private school tuition.

Republican legislative leaders and private school lobbyists have said they will oppose the governor’s plans, despite overwhelming support for public schools demonstrated by voters leading up to last November’s election.

Read more:

Gov. Tony Evers seeks to freeze enrollment in private voucher schools, suspend charter school expansion

Gov.-elect Tony Evers chats with high school students at an event in the Wisconsin Operating Engineers’ training center in Coloma. (Photo11: Molly Beck / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers in his first state budget is seeking to undo expansions of private voucher schools and independent charter schools passed by Republicans over the last decade.

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