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Education

Despite significant increases in spending, we continue to have unacceptably high percentages of students who are not proficient in math and reading. The widening achievement gap is leaving students behind on the path to career success. We also have far too many students that do not have opportunities for work-based learning in manufacturing and skilled trades. The following reforms will help address our state’s education challenges, help students develop the “soft skills” to advance their career, and better prepare students to successfully enter the workforce.

Education

Agenda

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 was expanded statewide so students throughout the state have the ability to get a great education. Moving forward, Wisconsin should expand school choice opportunities by reducing barriers to entry. This includes removing enrollment caps, income limits, and grade entry points.

Every student in Wisconsin deserves a quality education, regardless of which school they attend. Unfortunately, Wisconsin funds students who attend parental choice and charter schools at an amount substantially lower than their government school counterparts. Our school financing must recognize that all students have equal value, and our investment in their education should not penalize them based upon which school they choose to attend.

New state education funding increases 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 technical education classes, dual enrollment, access to a career counselor, 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 access to dedicated career counselors 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, access to career counselors, etc.

Charter schools are providing innovative solutions to students outside of the traditional public schools. We should expand charter options and allow more authorizers in order to provide this option to more Wisconsin 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.

Only a third of Wisconsin students are able to read at grade level. This puts them at a significant disadvantage for their future. Wisconsin schools should add reading screening tests in grades Kindergarten through 3rd to identify at-risk students and require schools to create a plan for these students to get back on track.

Parents are the primary source of education for Wisconsin students. Therefore, they should have access to curriculum and education-related materials that are presented to their children. Unfortunately, not all schools make this information available and it should be clear in state law that this is required of the
school district.

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.

Many professionals would like to provide their expertise in the classroom, but do not want to step away from their full-time positions. School districts should be allowed to hire part-time teachers to teach specific subjects in their fields of expertise in order to help fill teacher shortages.

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

Questions?

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.

Education

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