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Spotlight: The ‘mass exodus’ lie

By The MacIver Institute

MADISON — If the mainstream media were to be believed, the Waukesha School District is falling apart because of a ‘mass exodus’ of teachers – who could not find it in themselves to stay at a school where they could not promote their political beliefs to students – supposedly fleeing to districts where they could push their personal politics.

While if that were indeed the case many might consider it a positive development (public schools ought not be political indoctrination day camps),  the fact is the ‘mass exodus’ is just not happening.

The school board says it’s not happening. They say the turnover is on par with previous years.

Gov. Tony Evers’ Department of Workforce Development data dashboard suggests it’s probably not happening either.

Short-term projections of exits and transfers of educators (basically retirements and resignations) are expected to be about 6,900 per year. With the state’s teacher population, according to DPI being 59,801, that’s about 11.5%.

Edutopia, George Lucas’ education research foundation, said in 2017 that teacher turnover was roughly 16% nationally, well before COVID and changing demographics boosted retirements.

Yearly turnover in individual school districts ranges widely across the state and year to year.

The retirements and resignations in the Waukesha School District stand at about 14.6% according to data they’ve provided. Nearby West Allis-West Milwaukee has 23.5% turnover and Wauwatosa 20.4%, while Pewaukee is 10.6% and Mukwonago 11.3%.

Yet a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline last week lamented that “the school board won’t take the issue seriously” based on rhetoric from a group of diversity activists upset over the district’s crackdown on political programming in classrooms.

The Waukesha group stoking panic and ignoring facts – the Alliance for Education in Waukesha (AEW) –  claims Waukesha is an outlier in the state and nationally in terms of turnover. They’re predicting doom because 4.6% of school district positions are open at a time when interviews are being held and contracts signed. In fact, the Waukesha school board reports that they’ve already approved contracts for the majority of the spots that will be open.

All the alarm ringing is in pursuit of the AEW agenda, of course. AEW wants the school board to: stop all personal political appearances and discussions, double the teachers’ pay raise, and defend teachers from criticism. Also, they want the teachers to be able to resume political activism in the classroom.

You read that right.

AEW believes teachers should use messaging in their classrooms to politically groom students.

But AEW also believes the elected school board should be ‘silent and invisible,’ hiding their political beliefs from voters who both want and deserve to know those views.

The only political voice AEW wants students to hear is that of teachers who are so committed to their personal political ideologies that they will literally quit their jobs if they cannot push it on students. Even if their politicization of the classroom makes some, or many, students uncomfortable.

AEW makes money selling merchandise featuring a line from the Waukesha School District policies about respecting and valuing differences.

Respect and value that only extend to those who share your agenda is more accurately called intolerance.

(Vocabulary would be an old-fashioned topic that, if taught in place of political advocacy, would almost certainly raise district proficiency rankings in English. It might also help students recognize hypocrisy, but these educational goals are not among AEW’s stated priorities.)

The State Journal article on resignations quoted a UW professor (of course) who derided what he called a Republican “pattern” of believing “parents know better than schools.” He also asserted that Republicans no longer talk about CRT being used in classrooms for lack of evidence, and now have “moved on” to LGBTQ issues instead.

The State Journal simply accepted his obvious bias and gave the professor several column inches to tout it.

Their coverage was no more than a lengthy opinion piece, featuring a teacher who claimed she was “forced” to reveal her sexual orientation to the entire school community because the school board policies require classrooms to be free of political messaging, and describing legislation requiring parents to be informed about their child’s health and the school’s curriculum as a push to “limit support for transgender students, specifically.”

A hallmark of partisan activist groups masquerading as local ‘concerned citizens’ is often the invention of crises that don’t exist. AEW seems to be this kind of an organization and seems to be doing their job – but the mainstream media is not doing theirs by being a mouthpiece for their phony fear mongering.

Read more at The MacIver Institute.

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