In the last couple of weeks, we have heard how our state and country are doing through Gov. Scott Walker’s State of the State address and President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. The state of Wisconsin and the country are being led down different paths. Both the governor and the president touched on some major policy areas such as education and the economy but took different approaches on the issues.
One of the main focuses from Walker’s State of the State address with regard to education was school accountability. Currently, there are two bills being proposed by the Wisconsin Assembly and the Wisconsin Senate that would create a process for turning around perpetually failing schools. Walker called for the Legislature to pass one that leaves choices to local governments and parents.
“No need for bureaucrats or politicians to make that choice — I trust parents,” Walker said in his address. “Give them access to objective information and they will make the choice that is best for their children.”
Walker continued his common theme of trusting parents with regard to Common Core. High standards are needed in order to prepare the next generation of this world’s leaders, but who should be trusted to set those standards? Walker says, “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.”
Walker believes that those interacting with schools at the closest levels are the best option to turn around perpetually failing schools and set high, realistic standards. Obama also touched on education, saying, “I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.”
He wants “free” community college. This sounds like a fantastic idea, except that “free” really isn’t free. Under this plan, only 75 percent of the lost tuition will be from federal taxes while the remaining 25 percent will be the burden of the states. In Wisconsin, instead of just throwing money at the system in order to prepare more students to fill high-paying jobs, we have seen more than $100 million put toward worker training, partially through initiatives for technical schools.
Overall, in regard to education in Wisconsin, Walker said, “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.”
Alongside education, both leaders touched on a variety of issues regarding the economy. As far as Wisconsin’s economy goes, Walker said, “We finished each year with a surplus … Wisconsin’s pension system is the only one fully funded in the country. The state’s pension and debt ratio is one of the best. Our bond rating is positive. And the rainy day fund is the largest in state history — 165 times bigger than when we first took office.”
Walker also outlined details to merge two state entities which deal with economic development — the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority — into one. Again, shrinking the scope of government to make it more efficient.
In his speech, Obama touched on a couple “big ideas” he has for the economy. If you listened to the speech, you heard Obama say, “middle-class economics” about a million times.
“This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” Obama said in his speech.
Basically, this translates to increasing the scope of government to be more involved in our daily lives — more government oversight, more government rules and less economic growth.
Here in Wisconsin, Walker says there are now 7,600 more private sector jobs in Wisconsin than there were before the recession. In addition, the unemployment rate peaked at 9.2 percent in January of 2010 and now is down to 5.2 percent.
That’s not government growth. That’s pure, natural growth.
If you compare the two speeches, both leaders will tell you there have been successes. They will say they have helped education and they have helped the economy. They differ on how they measure these successes and how we continue these successes.
Walker said it best: “More people are working, while fewer are unemployed. State government is more effective, more efficient, and more accountable . . . Budgets are set based on the public’s ability to pay, instead of the government’s hunger to spend.”
While Walker and Obama disagree and the College Democrats will disagree with us on how we should best achieve successes, we all agree on one thing — freedom is the best form of governance.
Anthony Birch ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science and strategic communication. He is the media director of the College Republicans.