By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The same lockdown liberals who have done the bidding of teachers unions in demanding Wisconsin schools stay closed during the pandemic are pushing a scheme to make taxpayers statewide pay the full freight for summer school.
Here’s what Democrat lawmakers won’t tell you: the teachers unions that have pumped so much money into their political campaigns are still fighting like hell for virtual learning through at least the summer — the same failed education model that has left so many K-12 students behind.
A bill introduced by Reps. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa), Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb), and Sara Rodriguez (D-Brookfield), and Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) would require full funding of summer school. Currently, 40 percent of full-time equivalent summer school membership is counted for revenue limit purposes.
“By increasing FTE count for summer school, many districts would receive funding which would allow them to provide higher-quality summer school offerings and pay staff at rates consistent with school year reimbursements,” the liberals said in a recent co-sponsorship memo.
They assert teachers, faculty and administrators have “worked tirelessly” through the pandemic under “extremely difficult circumstances.” The opportunity for summer school learning is “critical to help students catch up, fill gaps, and move from surviving to thriving.”
While a lot of Wisconsinites agree that the “lost year of education” demands expanded efforts to assist struggling students, the lawmakers making the full funding pitch are in part responsible for so many children falling behind. They kowtowed to teachers unions and kept schools closed and students locked out of a better in-person education.
They also know what the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee has repeatedly told Gov. Tony Evers and the trough-dwelling educrats: The federal government is pouring $2.4 billion in COVID relief into Wisconsin’s public schools. That money was made for initiatives like extended learning and summer school.
State Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), who has for months urged school districts in union-controlled cities like Madison and Milwaukee to return to in-person learning, has been a long-time proponent of summer school to help students catch up.
“I agree that summer school should be our No. 1 focus right now. That goes with a consistent message I’ve had since Day 1.,” Kooyenga said.
The senator, a member of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, added that Democrats and the press have been disingenuous in claiming the Republican majority is somehow taking money away from school districts. The Joint Finance Committee, in re-writing Evers’ bloated $91 billion budget, has proposed $128 million in new state funding for K-12 education. Evers wants more than $1 billion more, even with the infusion of unprecedented federal cash — billions of dollars worth — marked for Wisconsin’s schools.
“We have not cut funding for K-12 schools,” Kooyenga said. “This story has been turned on its head.”