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Education Committee Chair: Money’s not the problem

Empower Wisconsin | Sept. 18, 2019

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — The failure so widespread in Wisconsin’s k-12 education system didn’t pop up over night, and it certainly isn’t the fallout of reduced spending, asserts state Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du lac).

“It’s clear this is not a money problem, it’s a methodology problem,” the chairman of the Assembly’s Education Committee told Empower Wisconsin earlier this week on the Vicki McKenna Show.

Thiesfeldt argues educrats a long time ago gave up on proven methods of learning, and Wisconsin’s education system is reaping what it has sown.

Last week, the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released the latest round of dismal student test scores. The results: Six out of kids in Wisconsin can’t read and write or solve math problems at a proficient level.

DPI notes overall performance results showed “slight decreases” in English language arts and mathematics. Those results are down from already-failing levels from the previous year.

Performance dipped as low as 8.5 percent of black eighth-graders testing at or above grade level in math, and 12.1 percent in English language arts.

Instantly, educrats and the state’s largest teachers union blamed a lack of funding on the continued poor showing.

But K-12 funding has seen a record level of funding over the past two budget cycles for an education budget that exceeds $15 billion in total spending.

Ron Martin, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), joined the chorus crying poverty.

“When people say you’re just throwing money at the public schools it’s not just throwing money,” he said. “It counts to that one particular student who really needs the attention from the teacher.”

Thiesfeldt said there’s a definite disconnect with the we-can-never-spend enough crowd and the reality of the numbers. He noted that areas of the state that receive some of the highest spending levels continuously see among the lowest test scores. He called it “perfect evidence” that increased funding isn’t solving the problem.

One of the biggest problems, according to Thiesfeldt, is that educators a few decades ago gave up on “proven” methods of learning such as phonics.

“There’s a long train of failure to what has been called the whole language approach to reading,” the lawmaker said.

The education committee chairman said there needs to be a comprehensive investigation into Wisconsin’s chronic low test scores.

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