Opportunity to Learn Wisconsin kicks off statewide;
Campaign backs new funding system, restoring cuts
Salvatore Carranza, of Madison's Latino Education Council, talks about the need for learning opportunities for all children while Bambi Statz, of the Association for Equity in Funding, and Jeri McGinley, School Funding Reform Wisconsin in Stevens Point, look on.
For two decades, young people have lost hundreds of millions of dollars of opportunities because of a school-funding system that no longer works. Then, on top of that, the last state budget slashed another $830 million of opportunities ─ resources children need such as qualified teachers, challenging courses, smaller classrooms, librarians, and the arts.
OTL-Wisconsin plans to build public will throughout the state so communities will demand of state government adopt “Fair Funding for Our Future” to fix the system and a minimum $830 million increase in state aid to schools to begin a desperately needed reinvestment in our schools.
“It isn’t a case of ‘state government can’t fix the problem,’” said Karen Royster, executive director of the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, the group that staffs OTL-Wisconsin. “It’s a case of ‘not wanting to help our schools and children.’”
“The Governor and the Legislature can find the resources tomorrow to start reinvesting in our children and the futures of all of us. There is no excuse for what is happening to our kids.”
OTL-Wisconsin is part of the National Opportunity to Learn Network, a project of the Schott Foundation for Public Education in Cambridge, MA. OTL national director, Tina Dove, opened the March 24 event. She talked about the movement’s four core principles and working closely with Wisconsin to stitch together not only a strong state network, but an effective Midwestern movement that is linked to similar endeavors across the country.
OTL-Wisconsin’s five core resources that all children need for a full opportunity to learn are:
- High-quality early childhood education that has been proven to have clear benefits for students and communities.
- Highly prepared, effective teachers who have strong content knowledge, professional expertise, and classroom experience and are supported by their schools and communities.
- Solid and challenging curriculum that provides every child in Wisconsin with an integrated, balanced, relevant, and rigorous curriculum.
- Equitable instructional resources so students have access to the latest books, technology, research, and learning tools.
- Expanded learning options to enhance when and how children learn in a way that best suits their needs.
discusses Fair Funding for Our Future plan with Ellen Lindgren, Middleton Cross Plains School Board President
Jeff Pertl, a policy advisor with the Department of Public Instruction, also spoke. He called “Fair Funding for Our Future” a plan that “can protect students, provide additional funding, and enact school finance reform while holding the line on property taxes even in difficult economic times.”
As part of his presentation, Pertl explained how the most recent Wisconsin budget enacted the largest cuts to public education funding in the state’s history. Those cuts forced most school district to eliminate teachers, teachers’ aides, and support staff. All of this, he said, has come at a time of economic instability, increasing poverty, and more need than ever for quality education.
The Superintendent’s plan, Pertl said, addresses all of those needs by guaranteeing $3,000 minimum aid per student, puts a poverty factor into the funding formula ─ for the first time ever ─ and adds new money to the system.
Royster followed Pertl and reminded the crowd that “Fair Funding for Our Future,” by Sup. Evers’ own admission, is only a “first step.” The more revenue put into the plan, the more opportunities are returned to children, the IWF executive director said.
She challenged those attending the conference to consider whether or not “Fair Funding for Our Future” is a viable campaign for OTL-Wisconsin to undertake, to consider its strengths and short-comings, and then to arrive at a decision.
The group voted to pursue the plan “with more money” ─ at least $830 million to restore the cuts in the last state budget.
OTL-Wisconsin also promised to be the group that is honest with the public. “If we are going to call for the restoration of those devastating cuts in our children’s opportunities to learn, we have to say where that new revenue is going to come from,” Royster said.
“Then we need build the public will to demand those changes knowing there is a better way.”
Institute for Wisconsin's Future Research Director Jack Norman talked about how to fund the reinvestment in Wisconsin's public schools.
IWF Research Director Jack Norman then presented the changes or revenue options that could be used to fund a reinvestment in Wisconsins’ public schools and public school children.
Norman started his presentation by explaining that Wisconsin is a very efficiently run state. He said the number of state and local government workers and their cost is middle of the road across the 50 states.
Furthermore, Norman explained that Wisconsin isn’t a high-tax state. On the contrary, taxes have taken an increasingly smaller bite of personal income following tax cuts under Republican and Democratic administrations over the last 20 years. In addition, our five-percent sales tax is the lowest in the Midwest and one of the lowest in the country.
The problem, Norman pointed out, is that the tax burden in Wisconsin falls disproportionately on low and middle income workers because of bad public policy and outdated tax laws.
“It’s time to talk about tax reform,” Norman said. “We can make our tax system more fair and, at the same time, restore the cuts made to public education in the last budget.”
Norman outlined several possible changes to Wisconsin’s tax laws. All of them and more are contained in the IWF report , “Tax Reform Options for Wisconsin.” For example, over $900 million could be added to the state treasury by increasing tax rates only on those making over $200,000, improving the tax collection process, changing the way capital gains are taxed, reinstating the inheritance tax only on estates over $1 million, restore breaks given to corporations and investors, and tweaking the sales tax.
He also referred to “A Penny for Kids,” a sales tax plan he wrote several years ago to raise Wisconsin’s already low sales tax by one-cent and using the approximately $800 million raised to reinvest in public education.
“Whatever we do,” Norman said, “the important thing to remember is that state government has made a choice to cut revenue to public schools at the same time it has cut taxes. There was a value judgment made and kids lost.”
After the decision was made to wage a campaign to support “Fair Funding for Our Future” and fund it with at least $830 million to, at least, restore the opportunities lost by Wisconsin’s public school children, those attending the OTL-Wisconsin conference broke into three groups to discuss how the campaign will be waged.
Gina Palazzari, IWF associate director, and Tom Beebe, OTL-Wisconsin coordinator, hosted a communication workshop. They explained the movement’s new, web-based communication system and talked about goals and strategies necessary to link the OTL network and its message to audiences throughout the state.
In a second session, Norman and Chris Thiel, Milwaukee Public Schools legislative policy director, reviewed how the OTL campaign fits into the state’s political season, budget process, and legislative landscape.
Margaret Stumpf, Jenni Hofschulte, and Jasmine Alinder (left to right, with Sally Overholt in the background) listen attentively to one of the presentations at the OTL-Wisconsin kick-off event.
The final session, hosted by Royster, was about community organizing. It featured a panel consisting of Anna Moffit, OTL organizer in Dane County; Jasmine Alinder, founder of “I Love My Public Schools” in Milwaukee; Kim Henderson, Wisconsin PTA president; and Jenni Hofschulte, founder of a parent group called Montessori Milwaukee The outcome of the session was an OTL-Wisconsin organizing plan.
OTL-Wisconsin is part of the National OTL Network. It is staffed by the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future and the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools.
Jeff Pertl's PowerPoint presentation .ppt
Jeff Pertl's PowerPoint presentation Adobe .pdf
Karen Royster's PowerPoint presentation .ppt
Karen Royster's PowerPoint presentation Adobe .pdf
Jack Norman's PowerPoint presentation .ppt
Jack Norman's PowerPoint presentation Adobe .pdf