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Despite record spending on education, Wisconsin continues to have an unacceptably high percentage of students who are not proficient in math and reading. The widening achievement gap is leaving students behind on the path to career success. The state also has far too many students that do not have opportunities for hands-on learning in industrial arts. WMC believes Wisconsin should pursue reforms to address the state’s education challenges, help students develop the “soft skills” to advance their careers and better prepare students to successfully enter the workforce.



Public education currently receives more state funding than ever before. New state education funding should be tied to reforms that address the achievement gap, improve proficiencies in math and reading, and ensure that students have broad career opportunities presented to them, including industrial arts classes, dual enrollment, having a career counselor on staff, etc.

Too often we hear of guidance counselors overwhelmed by a multitude of tasks, leaving little to no time to help students and parents make career decisions. Having dedicated career counselors on staff would ensure that school districts are able to help students sift through career options and make class choices accordingly.

Once a student has identified a career through the Academic & Career Planning process, districts should have flexibility with respect to breadth requirements in order to allow students to place a greater focus on classes directly related to their career preparation.

Add criteria to existing school report cards that measure how well a school prepares students for career development, including having access to industrial arts and technical education classes, STEM curriculum tracks, dual enrollment opportunities, apprenticeships/internships as part of their coursework, career counselors on staff, etc.

In 1990, Wisconsin led the nation by creating the parental school choice program in Milwaukee to bring education options to low-income students stuck in failing public schools. Since then, it has been expanded statewide so that students anywhere have the ability to get a great education. Moving forward, Wisconsin should continue to lead and innovate in this area by removing enrollment caps, expanding eligibility criteria, expanding authorizers of public charter schools, and exploring education savings accounts for students.

Too few students today have a strong knowledge of the American founding principles, nor do they understand the idea of American exceptionalism. These principles are key to having a vibrant democracy well into the future. Local schools should teach the founding principles and American exceptionalism as part of a strong civics education throughout K-12. The United States’ continued success depends on future generations rightfully understanding those ideals.

Apprenticeships and internships give students hands-on experiences that lead to meaningful job opportunities. Students with an apprenticeship or internship are also more likely to stay with an employer long term. We need to do more to give students practical work experience while they are in high school. Wisconsin should incentivize schools to partner with their local employers to offer students these important real-world career experiences as part of their high school coursework. At the university level, all UW System graduates should be required to have an internship in their field as part of their coursework.

Wisconsin should continue to expand dual enrollment opportunities so that more high school students can earn college credits through the UW System or private colleges and universities, or make progress toward a degree or certificate through the Wisconsin Technical College System, while they are in high school.

The state has made good progress in recent years to reintroduce students to technical education and the skilled trades through hands-on learning, but more must be done. Too many students still do not have an opportunity to explore technical education or receive hands-on training in our schools, despite the desperate need for these vanishing skillsets from our workforce. School districts should continue working to bring these important classes back to expose all students to these broad career options.

Student smiling
Rachel Ver Velde


If you would like to learn more about our stance on education reform or have questions, contact Rachel Ver Velde, WMC’s Director of Workforce, Education and Employment Policy.


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