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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Are these MPS kids - and other Wisconsin schoolchildren - our future or a political football? You decide.

Why vote in state schools superintendent race?


Why vote in this race?

There are almost a million reasons.

If you are writing a column and you want people to take a nap while pretending to read it, try writing about the exciting race for Superintendent of Schools in Wisconsin.

But once you shake your head to rid it of exciting thoughts you may have a little space to consider an office that has wide-ranging impact on how we all live – those with children and not.

This is kind of a classic race. The incumbent is Dr. Tony Evers, a veteran educator with a decades-long file of experience. He's being challenged by Don Pridemore, a right-wing lawmaker from Hartford who has no meaningful education experience and has made a name for himself by saying single parenthood is the leading cause of child abuse and that abused women should just remember the good times and the reasons they got married in the first place.

See what I mean?

This is not the first time that we've had a candidate with experience and credentials being challenged by a weirdo. That's our system.

But there is more than wondering whether a fool can win an election here.

There are just under a million kids in public schools in Wisconsin. Those kids are going to grow up and run this place. They are going to be our cops and firefighters, our teachers and coaches, our actors and musicians, our factory workers and IT guys, our entrepreneurs and servers. They will sell us our food and clean our streets and pick up our garbage and drive our buses and run our offices and companies.

And once we were forced to swallow the school choice avalanche, the resources available to educate those kids started a downhill slide that continues to this day. It's death by a thousand cuts.

Gov. Scott Walker and Pridemore continue to juggle statistics so they claim that schools have more fiscal resources every year.

Think of it as someone cashing a $1,000 check on your account and then putting $700 back and telling you that you really have even more money than you had before this whole thing started.

The biggest selling point of the school choice folks was that the competition would force public schools to get better.

But what really happened was that classes got bigger, art and music and gym and guidance counselors began to disappear. A librarian here, a valued program there, half a teacher here and another one there. The job of educating these kids just got more and more difficult.

The babble from talk radio loves to bash teachers. Those guys couldn't be more wrong. Are all teachers perfect? Of course not. Most of them, though, spend their own money on supplies and work longer than they are supposed to.

The biggest problem in public education in Wisconsin is very simply the inequalities in the way schools get funded. I am not going to get into the Byzantine details of how it works, but suffice it to say that it is one of those lousy systems that stays in place because nobody can agree on how to fix it.

Evers has ideas. His opponent is the poster boy for the Empty Suit Syndrome.

Evers will treat our schools like a serious issue to be discussed by serious people with serious solutions. His opponent will just be a lapdog for Scott Walker and use schools as yet another political football.

That's one thing nobody can afford. Whether you have kids or not. This is too important.

Talkbacks

mikeb | March 29, 2013 at 5:45 a.m. (report)

MPS has been a lousy school district for some time and it's been run by liberals like Dave Begal, Larry Miller etc. for as long as I can remember, so maybe a different approach would work, but I doubt it. Money isn't the issue. If it was, the private schools would be a train wreck as they spend less per student than MPS. The real problem that no one wants to talk about with MPS is the clientele. You could swap the MPS teachers with the Mequon teachers and I'd bet academic achievement would not change in either district, Until you get the majority of MPS's customers to value education, I'm not sure how you do that. I don't see school choice as being a magic bullet. One of the reasons the little Catholic school I went to did well is the Parents had to pay something and as such they were invested. They backed the teachers up and helped enforce the discipline. As for Pridemore. He has said some odd things, but my question would be, has the destruction of the nuclear family (especially as it relates to the kids in MPS) been a good thing or a bad thing?

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