Walker budget would leave our most vulnerable students ‘hanging by a thread’

GBEAatJFC_300pxGovernor Walker’s state budget proposal would leave our most vulnerable students ‘hanging by a thread,’ Green Bay teacher Lori Cathey told the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee at a public hearing Wednesday in Brillion.

“I see harmful cuts in store for public school students, to the tune of $150 per child,” said Cathey, president of the Green Bay Education Association. “I see a plan to strip even more funding away from the schools that serve the vast majority of Green Bay children and instead funnel it into private schools that have fewer quality requirements and less oversight. …

“When you get right down to it, there’s a simple recipe for success. To help children, we each must do our part to make sure every child has a good public school to attend no matter where they live or what their family circumstances are,” Cathey said. “That’s why I’m here today. I implore you to do the right thing for the majority of children – in Green Bay, in Greenfield, in Gibraltar and beyond.”

Also speaking to the committee was Green Bay elementary school music teacher Amanda VanRemortel, who said parents tell her all the time that they love the parts of school that you can’t necessarily put a finger on. “Music in the hallways. Artwork on the walls. Energy, enthusiasm, smiles. If you’ve ever been in a school, you know what I mean,” she said. “But these opportunities are in jeopardy. Each state budget passed that cuts another million – 10 million – 127 million – from public schools hurts kids. Don’t let that be your education legacy.”

GBEA Vice President Brad Riesterer also testified, focusing largely on the “disturbing” provision that would lessen standards for teacher quality.

“This proposal would allow people with ‘real-life experience’ to gain a teacher license by passing a single competency test.  This would allow individuals to bypass our current licensure system that requires a bachelor’s degree in education from an accredited university and real-life student-teaching experiences,” Riesterer said.

“There is more to being a good teacher than subject-matter know-how or the ability to pass a test.  Ask anyone in this room.  A good teacher connects.  A good teacher builds relationships.  A good teacher listens, reflects, collaborates, adjusts, and challenges all students to have the best educational experience possible,” he said.

“The suggestion that anybody can walk into a classroom and effectively teach is disrespectful to generations of highly qualified Wisconsin teachers … and is a slap in the face of my profession.

“Requiring educators to prove their skill and ability to teach children is a moral obligation. I ask that you look twice before allowing this seemingly small provision tucked inside a workforce plan to advance.  I also ask that you tackle the larger issue facing our schools – adequate funding that allows schools to find and keep highly qualified educators.”