A Valuable Lesson in Gov. Scott Walker’s Education Record

The teachable moment is that behind every "bold" claim by Walker is a very different, cold, hard truth

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In a recent Iowa newspaper column, Gov. Scott Walker offered a Wisconsin state teacher’s story as evidence he’s earned top honors with his education policies. Readers in Wisconsin who have done their homework know the real lesson is Walker will say and do anything to get elected.

First and foremost, the teacher he cited has asked the governor not to use her as an example. Walker ignored her, despite her assertion, reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “I am hurt that this story is being used to make me the poster child for this political agenda.”

Our children’s education is among the country’s most important responsibilities. Education is society’s great equalizer. It can move a child out of poverty and it can bring technology and skills to rural communities. Education creates opportunity and wealth. Education creates jobs.

In Wisconsin, though, education has been a political punching bag for Walker. Under him, Wisconsin’s public school students have endured the biggest cuts to public education in our state’s history. Teachers have been laid off around the state. Schools have closed. He even equated his stripping of the workplace rights and protections for teachers to how he would deal with the terrorist group ISIS.

Walker’s credibility in the state on education has fallen so far that even his Republican allies in the state Legislature have balked at his latest round of education cuts.

In his piece for the Des Moines Register, Walker wrote, “Wisconsin students now rank second best in the country for ACT scores.” The fact is Wisconsin students ranked second before Walker ever took office.

Unfortunately for students in Wisconsin, Walker not only has been cutting education funds but also dramatically expanding entities that take even more resources away from our kids’ public schools.

These private entities, despite receiving our tax dollars, don’t abide by the same accountability as our public schools, and Walker has refused to remedy the situation and put in common sense standards.

Walker also created a new $30 million tax break that would put taxpayers on the hook to help finance the private school education of the sons and daughters of Wisconsin millionaires. And he has expanded a private school voucher program that in practice is simply using our tax dollars to pay tuition for students who were overwhelmingly already attending private schools.

The Walker piece mentioned none of this. Nor did it include that advocates for these private entities have donated $2 million to Walker’s political campaigns, and that his campaign co-chair runs an $830 million funding operation that has made the dismantling of quality public schools a high priority.

Wisconsin is 35th in the nation in job creation, dead last in the Midwest, and our middle class is shrinking. Wisconsin is divided as never before and in desperate search for leadership that brings us back together. Walker though, has put his personal, political ambitions before his responsibility to us, and has been crisscrossing the country preparing his presidential run instead of doing his job as governor.

The teachable moment is that behind every “bold” claim by Walker is a very different, cold, hard truth.

It’s a lesson the school children of Wisconsin know only too well.

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Scot Ross served as Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now & the Institute from 2007 to 2019.