This blog represents my opinions and my opinions alone, and certainly doesn't represent the collective thoughts of any of the Boards or organizations that I serve on. Unfortunately I make all sorts of miistakes, I'm a picky eater, I can't sing and I just recently found out I have been spelling certain words in my vocabulary wrong my entire life. That being said, I still continue to muddle ever onward. Welcome.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Board President Susan Fox Addresses Budget Repair Bill.

Governor Walker,

Speaking as a local school board president, I appreciate some of the required contributions to health care benefits and even the retirement system, although I would not have enacted the level you chose all at once. That level of salary cut is very difficult for teachers and other public employees and it will have a significant negative impact on the local economy in the form of reduced discretionary spending. I do not support some other provisions of your "repair bill."

With regard to your budget proposal, the only interpretation possible is that this is an all-out attack on public education. The so-called "tools" you give us, in the form of employee contributions to benefits (salary cuts), will not come close to filling this hole. Additionally, if you really believe that we can lay off our most senior (expensive) teachers and replace them with people right out of college, or even those with a master's degree, you need to collect information from people working with schools. The negative impact on schools caused by the loss of this knowledge/experience base (these are the people who mentor our beginning teachers) is huge, to say nothing of age discrimination lawsuits. Schools improve in a collaborative culture with accountability built in.

We have worked hard at Monona Grove to build a collaborative process of using student performance data to inform teaching, and to build a process by which teachers share best practices. We are seeing positive effects, in early reading, for example, as well as in other skills. Your funding reductions threaten the gains we are making. When we increase class sizes to more than 30 (our current middle and high school max), we reduce the time teachers have to grade papers and provide meaningful feedback and re-teaching experiences for students. When we increase the number of classes teachers have to teach, we increase the exhaustion level, in addition to the number of students with whom to form relationships. Studies show that relationships between staff and students have a significant impact on student achievement. I seriously would like to see the critics of teachers spend just one day teaching a full class load, and of course a week would be even better.

I recognize that we need to make changes. We need to come up with a more equitable funding plan and re-invest in public schools. This is crucial to the economic success of our state as well as our country. How many businesses will want to locate in Wisconsin when the public school system has declined? Schools are a part of the high quality of life here. Private charter schools do not have any better track record over all than public schools. The method of school governance is not what determines school effectiveness; rather, the crucial elements are the teaching and the learning. At Monona Grove, we have worked with other districts on a curriculum delivery model that uses data heavily and which works to improve student performance. We use the research-based benchmarks set by the ACT, and are incorporating these with the national core standards. With the loss of the public school system comes a situation of increasingly random acts of improvement.

Please invite us to the table to talk about these issues. These sweeping changes will be devastating and cause damage that will be hard to fix when the pendulum swings the other way in a few years. When making significant changes, thought must be given to all the ramifications. Compromise is usually the best course.


Susan Fox


  1. Hes a member of the PCCA perhaps you should make a post there about it? im sure he would contact you

  2. go Susan! Granted, Walker would then have to listen to common sense (or be able to read).

  3. A couple of things. Excellent letter although why wasn't the one from the board just as pointed?

    Also I wish Ms. Fox would have mentioned the impact this will have on poor children, who are often also children of color. These kinds of funding cuts always hurt the most vulnerable worse.

  4. I agree that the Board's statement was pretty bland, however all seven members had to agree on language and so it couldn't be as pointed as some may like (or dislike for that matter).

  5. Jessica, Do you think Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature are committed to public education in our state, or are laying the foundation for privatization?

  6. Our state financing system is what is broken. The Walker proposal make an inadequate plan worse, and place more value on privatization than on public schools. One might ask the question: How much we value our children in Wisconsin?

  7. Sadly, what will be left in the schools will be the poor and special needs. The whole system is doomed. Since Scotty was unable to "complete" his education, he does not value it.

  8. Oops! This time without typos...Our state funding system is what is broken. The Walker proposal makes an inadequate plan worse, and places more value on privatization than on public schools. One might ask the question: How much do we value our children in Wisconsin?

    Seriously, it really is this bad. As with the so-called "budget repair bill," this bill goes beyond cuts. It ends the income eligibility requirement for parents to receive the state-funded tuition payment for participation in the Milwaukee parental choice program (school vouchers), for example. In other words, state-funded scholarships to private schools will now be available for wealthy people too. It expands the window for open enrollment to the end of April, making planning for staffing levels for the next year difficult.

    The bill eliminates some categorical aid, including grants aimed toward at-risk students, for: alcohol and other drug abuse prevention and intervention programs; alternative education; English for Southeastern Asian children; advanced placement courses; improving pupil academic achievement; for science, technology, engineering; mathematics (STEM) programs; and more. It provides funding for a new third grade reading test (we already have one) as part of his initiative to have all students reading at grade level by the time they complete third grade.

    All of this without input and leadership from DPI.

  9. Why did seven board members have to agree? You hold no other decision to that standard that I've seen. I would prefer to know which board members were against a more clear, strong stand on this bill and so would a lot of other people.

  10. I agree with anonymous .... We should ask everyone running for the local "non-partisan" offices how they feel about the budget repair bill and vote accordingly. Im guess you will get one of two answers right now. 1 they are against it and 2. they have "no opinion" because they cant control it(meaning they agree with it but are scared to tell you).

    Here are some Cottage grove responses...

  11. I won't speak for my board colleagues, but I would have preferred a much (much!) more strongly worded statement. In order to issue a statement from the Board, we needed to collectively agree on what it stated. That's what we could agree on.

  12. Is that a state statute? If not, then no, you did not need to agree on it 7-0. You may have agreed among yourselves that you were going to do this by consensus, but that itself was a choice. What would you have done if someone more or less supported Walker's budget? No statement?

  13. Jessica,

    I do not mean to be confrontational or contentious, but like many in the district I want to know how all the school board members feel about the Governors budget and budget repair bill. You and Peter do a great service providing information and a forum to the community via your blogs, but while Susan and Peter have made their positions quite clear you and the other 4 members of the board have been oddly quiet. Rather than have people inferring what the reluctance to comment might mean, will the 5 of you please respond to the following questions in some public forum?

    1) When Peter posted Susan's 3/3/11 letter he commented, "I agree wholeheartedly." What is your stand on her letter?

    2) Do you think Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature are committed to public education in our state, or are laying the foundation for privatization?

    3) Have you contacted the Governor, your State Representative, or Senator regarding the budget repair bill and/or the proposed 2011-2013 budget? If so, what was the gist of your message?

    Thank you

  14. I would really appreciate being able to see the tape of the discussion. I am told by someone who was there that one particular board member had to be appeased with the watered down statement, but I would not accuse that person until I've seen it myself. It's not on

  15. Thanks for your post, Bill.
    1)I agree with Susan Fox's thoughts in her letter to the governor 100%. Wonderful.
    2)I would be hard-pressed to find any indication that Governor Walker is prepared to stand up in support of public education in Wisconsin. I frequently visit the state of Alabama to see family and it scares the hell out of me that our public education system in Wisconsin will soon look like theirs. Great for all the affluent kids who will still get the karate lessons, French immersion programs and private golf tips. The rest of us shmoes who have to send our kids to public schools? Too bad for us and them.
    3)I have not contacted our legislators. Would it help? I'm not sure. It seems to me that this is the sword that Walker is willing to die on. I would rather put my energy into the recall campaigns under way.
    4)What are your plans?

  16. Thank you for the posts and your comments, Jessica.
    And, Susan, a terrifically cogent letter. Amen to all of it.

    I am wondering your take on what the citizens of this state can do to stop this catastrophe? As you mentioned, focus efforts on recall....??
    Thank you.

  17. There are many things the citizens of this state can do.

    It never hurts to give a quick call to your legislator(s) and let them know where you stand.

    Mark Miller - (608)266-9170
    Gary Hebl - (608)266-7678
    Joe Parisi - (608) 266-5342
    Scott Walker - (608) 266-1212 (if they are open for business they should be open for phone calls)

    Give time/money to the recall .

    Write a LTE.

    Talk to your friends/family neighbors.

    Pay attention and vote in the upcoming elections in April. Dane County Executive - Joe Parisi is clearly against this budget and bill, Eileen Bruskewitz is clearly for it.

    Wisconsin Supreme Court - David Prosser clearly stands with Scott Walker

    Joanne Kloppenburg clearly does not.

    Ask your local elected officials. In Cottage Grove, we have two power players in this debate on the ballot. Mike Mikalsen is a top aide for republican Steve Nass and Huge Supporter of the bill, Paula Severson is a registered lobbyist and when asked her opinion of the bill replied "why are you trying to ruin me?". If candidates like these lose, it will send a serious message to the politicians in Madison.

    Attend a protest at the capitol, the rumor is this Saturdays will be the biggest one yet. To see 100,000 people of very diverse backgrounds gathered together peacefully is life changing!

    just some quick ideas on what one person can do to make a HUGE difference.