Gov. Walker on facts: Truth-O-Meter Says ‘False’
Posted on: Monday December 5th, 2011
Thomas Beebe, Executive Director of Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools
Two very different stories have been duking it out in Wisconsin newspaper articles, editorial pages and airwaves in the aftermath of Gov. Scott Walker’s $1.6 billion cut to the state’s public schools.
In one corner is Walker himself. Reacting to suggestions that the quality of the state’s public schools will be hurt by the largest cut to education in the state’s history, Walker has defied logic by repeatedly saying that Wisconsin schools will be “the same or better” as a result of the cuts.
In fact, Walker’s refrain of “the same or better” has become so much a part of his public comments that Wisconsin residents have come to expect to hear those same, exact words whenever and wherever the governor speaks.
In the other corner is, well, the truth.
Common sense tells us that hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to education will have a negative impact on children’s opportunities to learn. After nearly 20 years of a failed state school funding formula that has decimated schools, cutting an additional $750 million and further limiting local school districts’ ability to raise revenue is not going to make things “better.”
In addition to common sense, we also have the facts. In a recent survey (http://dpi.state.wi.us/eis/pdf/dpinr2011_127.pdf) conducted by the Wisconsin Association of District Administrators (http://www.excellentschools.org), a majority of Wisconsin’s school districts talked about rising class sizes, a reduction in programs and services, huge numbers of layoffs and, next year, much more of the same.
In response, Gov. Walker has stuck to his Pollyanna talking points when asked specifically if his budget had resulted in significant educational cutbacks in school districts across the state. He continued to claim that everything is OK for our public schools and that our children’s educational opportunities are the same or better — a statement the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s “Truth-or-Meter” found to be false (http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/nov/27/scott-walker/…).
For example, referring to the governor’s claim that school staffing around the state was “the same or greater” after his budget, the Journal Sentinel wrote that “Walker’s fuzzy math flips reality on its head.”
For most politicians who have been caught in these types of word games, the Journal Sentinel’s investigation might signal the end of the dispute. However, the governor has shown no sign of backing away from the house of cards he has built around his budget. As a matter of fact, with a gubernatorial recall effort now in full swing, Walker seems poised to double down.
The simple fact is that as a result of Walker’s budget, Wisconsin is in a situation where, for the first time ever, the quality of the state’s schools will be worse for current and future generations of students than it was for the generation that preceded them.
This is because we cannot make our public schools better by taking away the opportunities that students need to learn in school and succeed in life.
Just ask yourself — who are you going to believe?
Thomas Beebe is Executive Director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, a coalition of school districts, students, parents groups, teachers unions, faith-based organizations, other groups and many individuals committed to changing the way Wisconsin funds its public schools.