Guest post by Beth Goeddel
Our kids will shape the future of our state. It is our responsibility to make sure they are equipped to make it the best it can be. Ensuring they have a good education is key to preparing them.
I recently attended the Schools Make Madison Summit put on by the Madison Public Schools Foundation, of which I am a board member. There I learned of the dire straits school districts across the state face and began to understand the situation more clearly in Madison. It’s complex, for sure, but as a parent, community member, and business leader, it’s clear to me that change is needed, and I’m determined to help.
I’m a parent of school-age kids in Madison’s public schools, and I know firsthand that this generation has so much to offer, if given a fair chance. But our state is not giving our kids a fair chance today, nor has it for the past decade or more. To be sure, great things are happening every day in our public schools, but painful tradeoffs have become all too common.
A fair chance means investing in public education like it’s a high priority. It means funding public schools to adequately support the myriad of needs that come with being a public service, including support of special education, English language learning, mental health and wellness, and other essential needs that usually fall more heavily on public schools than other educational entities. We must invest in enriching public educational opportunities to ensure our state is full of well-educated people who can lead us to a bright future. This is not just a mantra. It’s a strategy to ensure our state’s future success. And now is the time to act.
We cannot leave our state’s future to chance. Wisconsin’s education funding is sorely inadequate, capped by an outdated model established 30 years ago. Think about how much has changed in the last 30 years! Think about how much inflation has changed our lives in the last two years alone. We are woefully behind. In the last 20 years, faced with widening funding gaps, Wisconsin’s schools have fallen from 11th to 25th in the nation for per pupil funding, and we are near the bottom in the U.S. for per pupil special education funding. We can and we must do better.
Insufficient funding is creating voids in our schools: we’re short teachers, classes, programs, materials, support staff, and more. All of which keep our students from realizing their full potential. To compensate for these shortfalls, districts fundraise through time-consuming referendums that voters typically approve (thank you!) but will eventually grow weary of approving. It’s not a sustainable model, nor an efficient one.
Now is the time to increase state funding for our public schools. Wisconsin has a $7 billion dollar surplus this year. This is an excellent opportunity to make things right. Let’s use some of that surplus to fund our schools and invest in our students and our collective future more adequately.
The Madison Public Schools Foundation, as you may know, does so much good in our public schools, in coordination with the district. The Foundation fills in where other forms of funding and resources fall short. The Foundation rallies Madison businesses, community organizations, and individuals to raise money, volunteer in schools, and provide much-needed resources to help our schools meet expectations. Every dollar you donate to the Foundation goes a long way. It gets school supplies into classrooms without teachers paying for them out of pocket; it gets modern PE equipment into gyms so students can safely play and does many other things that help students and staff feel valued and inspired to learn and grow.
Please consider giving your time and money to the Foundation. It’s an excellent investment! Their work makes a meaningful difference.
But please don’t stop there. Please speak up and advocate for our Wisconsin public school districts. Write to your legislator and ask them to support Governor Evers’s education budget and fund schools with the current state surplus. The Joint Finance Committee in the state assembly will determine the fate of the surplus in June. Now is the time to act. Write your elected officials today. It’s easy! Click here to find your legislator and email them to ask them to support our state’s public schools by approving Governor Evers’s proposed education budget and treat our schools and our kids like the high priority they are. Education and school funding should not be political. It’s about the future of our kids and our state. Help them both realize their full potential by advocating and giving today. Thank you!