I commiserate with Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers and many other school administrators in the compromising position of having to work on educational initiatives and details with radical politicians, like Governor Walker—who overtly contrast with the values of Evers and the ideals of many other school officials.
I appreciate the important role school and state administrators play in the lives of my children, my students, and public education. I also respect the work Evers has done in public education and consider him a friend to the noble cause of quality education for all children and young adults of Wisconsin.
|Forest Surrounding Devil's Lake, WI|
Despite the divisiveness of the day, Evers has forged ahead in “finding common ground and working together to improve education for Wisconsin’s children wherever possible” and not letting “conflicts among adults rob our children of the educational opportunities they need to succeed.” Across the state and in my own school district, many school administrators have also continued to throw themselves into the important details of their work.
Contrary to the irate tone of my blog postings, most of my career I have endorsed a collaborative approach to education. In a previous life (before Governor Walker’s radical agenda), I had never canvassed for signatures, written a blog, challenged businesses about supporting political leaders I opposed, donated any significant funds to political causes, took off school to defend public education, or marched in a political rally.
In earlier times, educators across Wisconsin have spent their entire careers collaborating with diverse parties for the common good of public education. However, these are rare times. Governor Walker’s extremism has pushed me (and a million others) to this extraordinary position. Gov. Walker’s radical education agenda is purely partisan, anti-union, founded on sensationalist research, and designed to give unjust favoritism to the private and charter school industry.
The search for middle ground with Gov. Walker by the altruistic Evers and other school officials inadvertently gives credence to Gov. Walker’s larger radical agenda to slash public school funding and destroy educator unions. The well-meaning centrist positioning of too many school officials enables Gov. Walker’s bigger agenda and propaganda machine to move “forward.” Consequently, Gov. Walker’s recall election campaign is shrewdly designed to give the impression that education leaders are supporting Gov. Walker’s larger political agenda.
Standing up to extremism in public education does not make public educators radicals. Gov. Walker has already robbed our children of educational opportunities they need to succeed. This conflict is not our doing and noble-minded educators should not take any blame for what now lays before us. Our strong response to Gov. Walker’s drastic measures is appropriate, reasonable, and necessary for the future of quality education in Wisconsin.
Bill Conway, 2009-2010 state PTA Teacher of the Year, fittingly wrote local school officials, “The bigger picture is being ignored. That is the long-term, if not terminal damage to the system. It is my hope that we can bring all sides to the table to discuss the benefits of working together to lobby hard for public education. This is where I am placing my time and energy.”
Hard-working public educators, like Conway, need Wisconsin school administrators to better focus their energies, walk beyond the trees to see the forest, and join teachers in reclaiming public education from extremism. I understand our school leaders are anxious to have Wisconsin lead the way in meaningful improvements to public education. This, however, is not the time to pretend Gov. Walker’s educational reforms are happening with educators for the children of Wisconsin. As we have seen in the past year and in the past week, Gov. Walker’s reforms will continue to happen to us, without us, and for larger political reasons.
My favorite people in history are those leaders who have uncompromisingly and courageously stood against extremism, discrimination, and injustice. It is time for all school leaders to walk unabashedly in this modern-day civil rights movement. Following Gov. Walker's recall, there will be time for school officials to once again work the details of meaningful initiatives and promote compromise among us. However, well-meaning school officials will then be working with teachers who share their passion and sincere interest in fostering quality public education. This is a walk in the forest worth waiting for.