Scott Walker on Education
Republican Wisconsin Governor
During the decade before our freeze, tuition went up 118%. Ironically, some of the people who were around when UW tuition went up more than 8% on average each year now want the state to create a new government bureaucracy to refinance student loans.
We found a better way to help people with high debt. Our administration has worked with Wisconsin's very own financial institutions to promote refinancing options available to those with student loan debt. Wisconsin credit unions and banks offer refinancing at rates that are the same or better than what is offered by many government-supported programs in other states.
WALKER: What I'm doing with the University of Wisconsin system, is I'm giving them the same sorts of tools I gave to public education four years ago: the same critics said that was going to devastate public education. I took away seniority in tenure and now, we can hire and fire based on merit. We can pay based on performance. We can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms
Q: But U.W. says they're going to have to raise tuition on students.
WALKER: But they're not. We have a two-year tuition freeze.
Q: But after that?
WALKER: Going forward, we have a cap on it tied to inflation. And so, we will be much more affordable than just about any other campus in America. We believe it's not about austerity, it's about reform. The reforms that worked before will work here.
In a statement later, Walker said "Both science and my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God" and that "I believe faith and science are compatible, and go hand in hand."
WALKER: They did. Yes, wide receivers.
Q: You love football. But when you look at the concussions, when you look at what's happened, can you imagine saying to your grandchildren, 'yes, go do that'?
WALKER: I think in a state like Wisconsin, we actually have pretty good standards. My kids, even a few years ago, one of them had an early concussion, and was out for 10 days. They wouldn't let him back in until he had a full checkup. That actually should have happened a long time ago, and I'm hopeful other states around the country will do that. Because I think a lot of us enjoy football.
Q: If you were out there in Arizona?
WALKER: I'd be in Phoenix watching the Packers take on the Patriots, but I still think, like anything in life, there's ways of doing it that are responsible, and I still think football can be responsible in America.
No need for bureaucrats or politicians to make that choice--I trust parents. Give them access to objective information and they will make the choice that is best for their children.
And speaking of what is best for our students, I call on the members of the state Legislature to pass legislation making it crystal clear that no school district in the state is required to use Common Core standards. Going forward, I want to eliminate any requirement to use Common Core.
We empowered local school boards to hire and fire based on merit and pay based on performance, so they can keep the best and the brightest in the classroom. And it's working.
Over the past four years, graduation rates are up. Third grade reading scores are up. ACT scores are up--and Wisconsin now ranks 2nd in the country.
Someone had to pay if we were to close a $3.6 billion deficit. We could take the money from schools and local governments. We could take the money from teachers and public workers through higher contributions to their health care and pensions. Or we could take the money from the unions.
I decided to take from the unions. We would cut about $1.25 billion in state aid, but the school districts and local governments stood to save about $1.5 billion--if they fully used the tools we would give them to control their budgets. By taking on collective bargaining, we had found a way to make everyone whole--everyone, that is, except the union bosses.
In June 2010, Ms. Sampson was named the outstanding first-year teacher by the WI Council of Teachers of English. A week later, she received another certificate--a layoff notice. My predecessor, Governor Doyle, had cut aid to schools without giving them any tools to offset reductions in state aid--which meant they had no choice but to lay off teachers.
But why on earth would they get rid of a great new teacher like Ms. Sampson? Well, under the collective bargaining rules, when there were layoffs the last teachers hired were the first to be fired. It didn't matter that she was one of the best new teachers in the state. She did not have seniority, so she was out. Our reforms eliminated these absurd rules. Now schools can choose whom to keep and whom to retain based on merit, not seniority.
News reports showed school districts saving millions thanks to our decision to break the union's near monopoly over the provision of health insurance to local school districts. This one reform saved school districts millions--money they were able to put into classrooms instead of union coffers. One school board official said, "We've pretty much made up most of the [reduced state aid] through the tools that Gov. Walker is giving us."
I am a strong supporter of expanding options at charter schools and choice schools--and we have done both. But even with those changes, between 80 and 85% of students in our state will still be educated in the traditional public schools for the foreseeable future. The reforms in Act 10 gave us a chance to make those traditional public schools better.
Then we expanded school choice geographically from Milwaukee to Racine, the next most troubled school district in the state, then to a statewide program. Because students get report cards, we established report cards for schools so that parents can see which schools are succeeding and which ones are failing their students. And we expanded charter schools by allowing any University of Wisconsin System 4-year campus to create a charter school.
We gave every public school administrator in Wisconsin the same freedom and flexibility that charter schools enjoy. They can now change the curriculum, expand the school day, reward good teachers, and get rid of failing ones.
School choice provides that incentive. If officials at weak or failing schools have to compete for some students, perhaps they will summon the will to change. We gave these officials the tools they need to turn their schools around. Expanding school choice will give them the impetus to use them.
I can relate. During my senior year at Marquette University, I was offered a full-time job at the American Red Cross. I thought I would squeeze in a course here or there and finish things off in a year or two, but then Tonette and I got married. Then we had Matt. And then came Alex.
Next thing you know, you're putting all your extra time and money into your kids. The UW FlexOption will provide a less time-consuming, less costly way to finish off a degree. It will help prepare more people to fill the critical needs we have in the workforce.