This column has wasted enough space on the “breathtaking stupidity” of an inordinate majority of the American people. However, although one would hope, and actually expects that politicians would possibly be slightly above the “breathtaking” point of stupidity; it is certainly not the case in Wisconsin. It is true that Republicans typically contrive some seriously stupid agendas and policies, including banning other politicians and state employees from even uttering the words “climate change,” but Wisconsin Republicans have exceeded that stupid rule. Of course, anything ‘stupid’ Republicans conceive of is always at the behest of their funding machine the Koch brothers and their legislative arm the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC): the latest Wisconsin stupidity is no exception.
According to an ALEC template, Wisconsin Republicans have proposed an ALEC rule change that allows high school dropouts to “be licensed to teach” in public high schools. It is something that critics, and likely every conscious American, have labeled as “breathtaking in its stupidity.” The ALEC measure was slipped into a 1:30 a.m. Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee along with other underfunded K-12 budget items during a late-night session by Republican state Representative Mary Czaja. Koch Governor Scott Walker has tried to ‘sneak’ the ALEC legislation into the state budget for the past three years, and it appears that this year will be the year when high school dropouts will replace University-trained educators in teaching Wisconsin public high school students.
The previous ALEC legislation only allowed high school dropouts with no education background to teach only in the states already failing charter school system, but they upped the level of stupid and will allow any untrained, inexperienced, and high school failure teach other high school students; it is part of ALEC’s Alternative Certification Act and Koch Governor Scott Walkers “education reform” agenda.
The Republican Walker and the Kochs must have enticed Czaja with a promise of campaign contributions to introduce the rule change at the eleventh hour. Mary Czaja said the ALEC law was crucial to Walker’s education reform agenda. Unbelievably, Czaja also said with a straight face that “the new requirements were absolutely necessary to give rural school districts more leeway when hiring staff.” One wonders if rural school district parents believe it is a good idea to have people who failed to complete high school are qualified to teach their students in anything other than how to fail at a fundamental task like completing high school. Obviously, Scott Walker believes that dropping out, and not finishing, an educational program is a mark of excellence, or he is just committed to destroying Wisconsin’s public school system for his puppet-masters the Kochs and their legislation-factory ALEC.
The response from educators was, besides calling the rule change “breathtaking in its stupidity,” a giant step backward for education, and according to State Superintendent Tony Evers, “it is a policy that would drop the state’s teacher standards to the lowest in the nation.” While Czaja, Walker, and ALEC claim it is a gift to rural schools, Jerry Fiene of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance complained that the ALEC rule change “totally destroys any licensure requirements that we have in Wisconsin.”
However, what Fiene or Evers failed to say, and they know it is true, is that destroying Wisconsin’s public school system is precisely what Walker, ALEC, and the Koch brothers are aiming for; this incredibly stupid rule change is the second step in the process. Walker and Republicans have already taken the first step of slashing public education to the bone while increasing taxpayer funding for privatize religious failures they know and love; private for-profit corporate charter schools.
According to State Superintendent Tony Evers, the new ALEC rule essentially takes the licensing system out of the state’s hands and puts it in the hands of 424 local school district principles’ hands. Evers said the new rule will allow any criminal half-wit, or “buddy of the principal to go in and say, ‘Gosh, I want to teach here,’ he or she says yes, you’ve got a license.” The new law is also breathtaking in its stupidity because as the Department of Public Instruction pointed out, the state is forever “banned from any additional,” and universal in every state, “requirements on school staff, including criminal background checks and fingerprinting.” It basically removes any protections students once had from predators and criminals. But since the state is run by criminals, it makes sense they like the idea of criminals, and public school failures, teaching and interacting with young impressionable high school students.
There is a reason school teachers in every state, except Wisconsin now, are required to be University educated not only in their field of pedagogy, but in how best to teach. According to the chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Julie Mead, the rule change, along with many other ALEC-Walker proposals, “has the potential to radically change public education in the State of Wisconsin.” Mead continued that, “Teaching standards have evolved the way they have because research shows a high-quality teacher not only needs a background in the subject they are teaching, but also that they are schooled in pedagogy and classroom management. Teaching standards and training have evolved as a minimum way to guarantee to public and parents what they can expect when they enroll students.” With this ALEC rule change, parents can expect the worst education for their students in the nation.
Mead is also rightly concerned about the bigger issue of public accountability under taxpayer-funded schools with teachers who could not manage to graduate from high school, but can ‘ask’ for a job teaching Wisconsin students and get licensed. She said, “The Supreme Court has held that students have a constitutional right to a sound, basic education. If that is not provided, parents can press their policymakers to make improvements and satisfy that right.” Or, and this is Walker, the Kochs, and ALEC’s goal; parents can simply move their failing children into the failing for-profit private religious school systems. They would endear themselves to President Obama then.
All of this “education reform” is ALEC-driven and something Scott Walker had pledged as part of his “strip policy and pork projects from the state budget.” For the past three years Walker has lusted to include the ALEC proposal limiting local school board oversight for charter schools, expanding “voucher” programs, and creating new teaching licenses for individuals who could not manage to graduate from high school. The rule change is also a means of completely abolishing the public school system and deleting, once and for all, any qualified teachers and their unionization. Mead said it was interesting how an ALEC law that “created a new educator effectiveness evaluation system, which ratchets up state oversight over teachers by creating performance criteria based on student performance and other standards while simultaneously reducing requirements for becoming a teacher.
“They are lowering standards on one side while raising standards on the other,” and their Koch stated goal is wiping out public education by creating failing public schools.
To label this latest ALEC-Koch abomination as breathtaking in its stupidity is the epitome of understatement. Sadly, since it was ‘slipped’ into an eleventh hour budget along with other abominable cuts to K-12 public education is beyond devious; it is literally criminal. In what universe is it a good idea to put high school dropouts without a criminal background check in a position in and around high school students for six-seven hours a day? Only in the Koch universe to advance their ‘vision for America’ of a population of breathtakingly stupid people.
However, Wisconsin voters chose Walker, and by extension the Kochs and ALEC, to “reform education,” and although one grieves for the students, their parents will get exactly what they deserve; a new generation of failed students. Any real, University-trained and educated teacher knows that impressionable high school kids are going to emulate teachers who have no regard for public education; like the Kochs, ALEC, and Governor Scott Walker.