As you ponder this season's state budget, you should weigh heavily this reporting out of Evansville. This story adds to the mounting accounts of how the recent state cuts to public education are not working for Evansville or Wisconsin.
Evansville's story is Wisconsin's story. Educators and school leaders in this small community have done nearly everything asked under the state proposals of the past two years. Nevertheless, this tight-knit community is being ripped apart from the outside by the reckless state government policies of the past couple years.
Community leaders have tried to keep it taped together. Since Act 10, the Evansville Community School District (ECSD) has cut to the bone, drained its reserves, and petitioned for savings from school staff. The teachers and school staff have negotiated significant savings not once, but twice with thrice in the works for the upcoming school year. Yet, today the community still faces another district budget deficit and rounds of damaging cuts to its students' education.
Community members and parents recognize the damage being done in the wake of Act 10 and other recent school-funding cuts. The lack of thoughtful leadership by those controlling state government is forcing local property owners to speak up and lead. Don't take my word for it. Listen to a local farmer's call, applauded by many in Evansville, to restore his kids' schools to "..where they were two or three years ago."
“My opinion is relatively simple. We have already cut too much money out of this budget. We’re being nailed to the wall by forces of state government, and we need to do what we can to fight back. Let’s get a referendum started and raise the money that we need for these schools. We can’t be pushed around by these folks in Madison.”
Consider further the words of an Evansville parent who is left to pleading for what is right for her kids.
“On behalf of them, I beg you, please don’t continue cutting teachers, and don’t cut specials and phy. ed. and language arts, and all of those areas that give kids opportunities to express themselves and to succeed."
This call for reinvesting in education is not about me, but consider for a moment my wife and her colleagues teaching in Evansville who are doing more, for less, and with less in subsidizing the state cuts to education. God bless them and the thousands like them across this state practicing life-saving triage in Wisconsin's public schools.
Evansville is a telling sample of what is happening all around the state. Generations of Wisconsinites -- conservative and progressive alike -- proudly built one of the finest public education systems in the country. Three years ago, Evansville was proud of its developing school system. Now the ECSD is left with inadequate tools to properly fund the services needed for its student's education.
For those of you rooted in ideologies that stand against government-run anything, consider for a moment the recent tragedy in Boston. Let your foundation be shaken by the impressive results of government agencies and the public working together for the well being of all. As one Boston bystander in an interview said, "Sometimes tragedies like this make you appreciate things you take for granted--like your government."
Likewise, government-run schools must not be taken for granted. Public schools should not be deemed a burden. Public schools are the soul of society. All of Wisconsin benefits from investments in future generations. In a time when public school demands are on the rise with rapidly growing student poverty, we should not be cutting back on public school services and funding. We must rebuild the pride communities, like Evansville, once had in its public schools. This begins by reinvesting in Wisconsin's public schools.