The LWVNOW Focus Project on Education: 

We’re All about Education”, the title of LWVNOW’s 2014-2016 focus project, captures our belief that the success and well-being of everyone in every generation in all of our communities depends on the quality and availability of schooling for all of our children. 

Timeline:  Project began in September, 2014 and will conclude May, 2016.

On September 11, 2014 we sponsored the public forum about the future of public schools in Wisconsin, conducted by Senator Dale Schulz and Representative Mandy Wright.  This sparked our interest in the issue of funding public education. We consulted the National League and State League on how to set up a plan of study. Following the forum we held a luncheon with Superintendent Kelly Jacobi in December to hear about funding issues in the Rhinelander School District. Official study sessions began in November 2014. Our first step was to develop study questions to frame subsequent activities.

STUDY QUESTIONS:

Central Question: What are the constitutional and legal underpinnings or justifications that position public schools as an irrevocable public trust?  Related to this:

  • What is the role of government in supporting, funding, and sustaining public schools?
  • What are the proper roles of voucher programs and charter schools?
  • How can we influence career choices, training, recruitment, retention, and teacher evaluation to assure top quality teachers?
  • How should the funding formula be restructured to meet the needs of all communities and to fairly distribute the tax burden?
  • Should curriculum standards and student achievement testing be composed and controlled at the national, state, or local level?

PROCESS(STUDY/CONSENSUS):

  • Meet monthly to develop questions and share resources
  • Report at LWVNOW general meetings
  • Reach out to local resource persons affiliated with schools such as superintendents, school boards, classroom teachers, and retired teachers.
  • Follow reform groups currently active in Wisconsin, such as WIPPS.
  • Educate ourselves by reading articles and books, viewing videos or films, and/ or attending presentations regarding public education

Final Product: (Position, Actions)

1.  Written report: Include bullet point conclusion/positions; provide
      history and rationale; publish written report on the LWVNOW website; file the report
      and annotated resources on LWVNOW’s Google Drive.

2.  Presentations to local league and receptive community groups.
3.  Forums/discussions -  invite speakers on particular topics.
4.  Collaboration with outside groups to increase knowledge.

Accomplishments - to date, we have:

  • Established connections with other groups in WI such as Wisconsin Public Education Network , No Vouchers Coalition, School Funding Reform for Wisconsin.
  • Sponsored Schultz/Wright forum (September 14, 2014).
  • Organized luncheon to hear about the Rhinelander School District’s funding issues from school superintendent Kelli Jacobi and Director of Business Services Marta KwiatkowskiIn (December, 2014).
  • Attended listening session with Rep.Swearingen and Sen.Tiffany and voiced our concerns regarding funding for public schools (January 23, 2015).
  • Attended follow-up training session with Marta Kwiatkowski on the state funding formula and how it applies to the Rhinelander School District (February 11, 2015).
  • Organized presentation at the Tomahawk Public Library during which the Tomahawk and Merrill school district administrators explained what funding strategies those districts have used in the past and how they are positioning themselves to live within upcoming budget     constraints (February 24, 2015).
  • Attended presentation at Gaylord Nelson Center in Wausau on privatization entitled “Public schools and Privatization” where Dr. Julia Mead spoke (February 26, 2014).
  • Testified at  Joint Finance Committee satellite listening session sponsored by the Democratic party (March 21, 2015).
  • Worked with Rhinelander, Minocqua, and Tomahawk school boards to pass a resolution regarding the proposed WI budget.
  • Attended Wisconsin Public Education Network meetings and summits (2015, 2016)
  • Developed consensus statements which were discussed by LWVNOW membership (August, 2016)

Future and ongoing actions:

  1. Encourage and facilitate members’ contacts with their legislators by supplying talking points.
  2. Submit our study report to the Wisconsin and National League of Women Voters.
  3. Co-sponsor additional public forums and presentations.
  4. Generate press releases and make use of other media to educate voters.

Study Group Members: Debra Durchslag, Karen Kitze, Yolan Mistele, Louise Schotz, Dorothy Skye