Every child—regardless of their zip code—should have access to a great education. It is a moral imperative. Providing our children with a quality education will equip them with the necessary skills to thrive later in life.
The reforms we enacted over the past two years saved school districts hundreds of millions of dollarsii and allowed each district to put more money directly into our kids’ classrooms. According to a teachers’ union survey, schools fared better in the 2011-12 school year than in any year in the past decade, when it came to the prevention of layoffs, increases in class sizes, or the reduction of extracurriculars and the artsiii. Meanwhile, property taxes for a median valued home actually went down for the first time in over a decadeiv.
Due to our reforms, Wisconsin can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms—and we can pay them to stay there. School districts can now hire based on merit and pay based on performance. We finally have a way to recognize our exceptional teachers and reward them for the good work they do with our children.
Educational efforts must be focused on performance. During the past year, Governor Walker joined with the Department of Public Instruction to put together a diverse group of stakeholders from around Wisconsin—teachers, parents, school board members, taxpayers, business leaders, and others—to talk about school and school district accountability. After a lengthy process, the first report card evaluating each school in the state was released at the start of the 2012-2013 school year.
Wisconsin now has a transparent and objective system to measure school performance. Excellent and improving schools should be rewarded and replicated. At the same time, we have an obligation to help our failing schools fundamentally change their structure and dramatically improve their results. Our goal is to help each school excel, so every child in the state has access to a great education.
Governor Walker will continue to expand the number of choices for families in Wisconsin—whether in a traditional, a charter, a voucher, a virtual, or a home school environment. Moving forward, we want to dramatically improve existing schools and give parents the opportunity to choose legitimate alternatives to failing schools.
Read to Lead
Together, we worked hard over the past year to improve education—particularly in reading. Research shows kids learn through third grade and then read to learn in the following grades and for the rest of their lives. Those who struggle with reading at this age are already fighting an uphill battle.
We also put in place a series of other important reforms to improve our early childhood and elementary school reading skills. Funds in Governor Walker’s last budget provided reading screeners to assess kids as they come into kindergarten. This provides an additional tool to teachers preparing to address the individual learning needs of the children in their classes.
UW Flexible Option
Nearly a quarter of all adults in this state have some college credit without a degree. For many, time and money are the barriers to finishing that degree. One major innovation of the past year is the UW Flexible Option—the first public program of its kind—which will allow Wisconsinites to complete their college degree even on a tight schedule or tight budget.
The UW Flex Option allows adult learners to earn degrees in targeted fields and to get credit for their experience. It will help prepare more people to fill the critical needs we have in the workforce.
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