Posts Tagged 'Scott Walker'

P.S. Governor Walker

I sat down a few weeks ago to knock out my monthly blogpost the night before deadline. Little did I know that my Open Letter to Governor Walker would go viral, traversing the Internet, radiowaves, and newsprint, even landing (still surreal to me) in the New York Times. It seems to have struck a chord with many. And it seems, whenever that happens, a slew of corrections is not far behind. So here are mine, a “P.S. Governor Walker” addendum to my original letter.


Dear Governor Walker:

Please note the following corrections to my earlier letter:

Though you didn’t respond directly to me (I didn’t suspect you would) I’d like to start by correcting the indirect response you gave reporters when asked about my letter. You called it a distraction and you insisted that the story you had told was true. I take issue with both points. First, calling educational policy, the state of Wisconsin schools, and the concerns of those teaching our children a distraction wholly disregards and disrespects the children of Wisconsin and those who care about their future. Another gaffe, or was that your intent?

I’m also offended by your evolving characterization of teachers: In 2011, you called us “thugs”; in reference to my letter, we were a distraction; and most recently, you actually likened us to “terrorists(equating your ability to handle the 2011 Wisconsin protestors with your ability to handle the Islamic extremist group, Isis).

To be honest, we are far too busy trying to educate Wisconsin youth and far too exhausted trying to do more with less these days than to partake in terrorist activities unless questioning policies which harm Wisconsin children truly is, in your mind, tantamount to terrorism.

As for your truth telling, I’ll leave that to Politifact Wisconsin which generously declared the anti-union story you wove at the Iowa Freedom Summit “half true.”

The next correction concerns my own words. In my letter, I  mentioned that you were waging war on public education in Wisconsin through your draconian budget cuts and questionable reforms. Therein lies my error. In reality, you are not only waging war on public education in Wisconsin, you are waging war on the entire middle class.

While running for re-election, you repeatedly voiced your intent not to move forward with Right to Work legislation. After re-election, however, you swiftly and proudly announced that you’d sign Right to Work into law. It’s pretty clear now that was your intent all along. Interesting that the timing of your announcement so tightly coincided with your presidential fundraising tour. Most clear, despite your claims to the contrary, is the ruinous legacy this legislation will leave Wisconsin families: plummeting wages, reduced benefits, and increased poverty.

So where did all of this come from?

It turns out that Deep Throat’s famous “Follow the money” mantra coupled with Elizabeth Warren’s recent tweet (“If Scott Walker sees 100,000 teachers & firefighters as his enemies, maybe it’s time we take a closer look at his friends”) makes for a fruitful examination.

A closer look at your friends, Governor Walker, reveals the impetus for your educational “reforms” and your Right to Work legislation. A closer look divulges your BFF status with ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council] a private organization of lobbyists, politicians and multinational corporations which have included Coca-Cola, ExxonMobile, GE, Walmart and others whose aim is to push pro-corporate legislation nation-wide, state by state, at the expense of the American public.

Your ALEC loyalty is now well documented and astonishingly reveals that Wisconsin’s Right to Work legislation was lifted verbatim from ALEC model legislation. I hope Wisconsin citizens learn about your special friendships and the lasting impact they will have on Wisconsin families. While you can certainly be accused of fleecing Wisconsin, no one can ever accuse you of not being a good friend to your corporate BFFs.

My final correction concerns my signature: I signed my letter in the singular, and at the time, I thought that was appropriate. But after realizing 300,000+ people read my blogpost and after receiving a barrage of grateful calls and emails from teachers, parents, and other citizens, many of whom I’ve never met, it’s clear to me that my letter voiced not just my concerns, but the concerns of many.

Once more, my letter was not an isolated incident. In recent weeks, an abundance of letters to the editor, penned by school boards, administrators and teachers from localities across the state, have been published in newspapers and distributed to local taxpayers, Wisconsin legislators and the Governor’s office. I hope that you have not ignored these many letters, Governor Walker.

They differ in their local details, but they collectively express the deep concerns of those of us who have experienced your “reforms” first hand and those of us who have carefully examined your most recent proposals and projected their impact on the children in our local schools. It seems that all of these letters converge on one perpetually unanswered question:

Governor Walker, what exactly is your real vision for Wisconsin Schools?


Claudia Felske
(and many others)

An Open Letter to Governor Walker

Dear Governor Walker:

I was both surprised and bewildered last week when I saw a news clip of you stumping in Iowa about Megan Sampson, whom you called “The [2010] Outstanding Teacher of the Year in my State.” This was baffling to me since in 2010, I was named Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year (Maureen Look-Ainsworth, Middle School Teacher of the Year; Peggy Wuenstel, Special Services Teacher of the Year; and Michael Brinnen, Elementary Teacher of the Year). In a most humbling ceremony, we were each surprised at our respective schools by State Superintendent Tony Evers and later honored at the State Capital as the Wisconsin Teachers of the Year.

And so, as one of the bonafide 2010-2011 Wisconsin Teachers of the Year, I feel the need to engage in one of the most valuable skills we teach our students, critical analysis.

Verified by multiple news sources, it turns out that Megan Sampson did win an award in 2010, but it was the Nancy Hoefs Memorial Award given by a relatively small organization of Wisconsin English teachers (WCTE) for “an outstanding first year teacher of language arts.” She was one of fewer than a dozen teachers across the state nominated for the award.

You failed to mention these details as you used Sampson’s lay-off from her first year teaching position as an opportunity to bash Wisconsin schools on the national stage. You blamed the seniority system for Sampson’s lay-off when, in good conscience, you should have done some serious soul searching and placed the blame squarely on your systematic defunding of public education to the tune of $2.6 billion that you cut from school districts, state aid to localities, the UW-System and technical colleges.*

This Wisconsin Teacher of the Year would like to clarify precisely what you’ve done for education.

2010-2011 was a surreal school year to be named Teacher of the Year as that was the year your passage of Act 10 marked the exodus of thousands of outstanding veteran teachers from the profession they love and marked the beginning of an extreme strain on our ability to continue providing the excellent public education Wisconsin has always been known for.

And what have you done lately?  In just the past month, it seems you have once again actively declared war on education in your own state:

  1. You’ve directed the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to devise content exams that would certify anyone with a degree to become a licensed teacher. The ramifications of this move are nothing short of catastrophic and would grossly diminish what data has repeatedly shown to be the single most important factor in student learning: the quality of the classroom teacher. Allowing someone to teach without any training in HOW to teach, in effective pedagogy, in student behavior, brain research, motivation, and classroom management is akin to allowing someone who says  “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on t.v.” to give you a heart transplant.
  2. Continuing your bellicose streak (war is war, right?) you cut to the jugular by proposing a 13% across-the-board budget cut from the Wisconsin University System, our cornerstone of higher education, the source of much of our skilled and educated workforce, the center for research and development for our state. Aside from clearly being anti-education, this move is clearly anti-growth.
  3. Psychological warfare has been your most recent tactic when you attempted to (and later tried to blame it on a clerical error) revise “The Wisconsin Idea” the sacred credo of the UW system articulated over a century ago. You sought to omit mention of public service and improving the human condition (you do realize that as Governor, you are considered a public servant?) You also tried to delete the phrase: “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.”  Truth. Hmm…I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about that one.

Your tenure as Governor has demonstrated nothing less than a systematic attempt to dismantle public education, the cornerstone of democracy and the ladder of social mobility for any society.

How our paths have diverged from that August afternoon in 1986. True story: it was freshman orientation just outside Memorial Union. We were two of a couple thousand new Marquette University freshman wistful about what our futures held. Four years later, I graduated from Marquette and later became Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year. You never graduated, and you became the Governor of the State of Wisconsin bent on dismantling public education. Ironic, isn’t it? Situational irony at its best. I’d laugh if its ramifications weren’t so utterly destructive for the state of Wisconsin.


Claudia Klein Felske
2010-2011 Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year
Marquette University Class of 1990


*Regarding the chronology of Sampson’s layoff notice and Governor Walker’s term in office, I stand corrected [2/17/15].

Setting the Record Straight on the “Great” Wisconsin Reading Debate

By Bill Henk – Having followed the ongoing debate in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the best way to teach reading over the past few weeks, I’m ready to weigh in.    Hopefully I’ll be neither too simplistic nor too technical in addressing some ultimately pretty heady stuff.

It started with a column arguing for a “science-based” approach to reading instruction on the op ed pages, and it’s been followed by letters to the editor on both sides.  The contention has centered on what Governor Walker’s third-grade “Read to Lead” initiative ought to conclude and recommend as far as beginning reading instruction.  The task force has an extremely important overall charge, and its work is rooted in some heavy-duty stipulations about children’s reading proficiency determining whether or not they are promoted to fourth grade.

The members of the task force, including the author of the op ed piece and one of the letter writers, are being asked to decide issues that could conceivably lead to legislation about how children must be taught to read and about how teachers must be trained to instruct them.  In other words, this is a VERY big deal for K-12 education in Wisconsin.

And for what it’s worth, my personal feeling is that these are NOT the types of matters that ought to be grounded in politics or legislated, and I’ll say why in the remainder of this post.  Continue reading ‘Setting the Record Straight on the “Great” Wisconsin Reading Debate’

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