Washington, education needs to be reformed and it’s time to take some tips from the state of Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, we have had a series of different measures to increase the quality of our schools and make them more fiscally responsible while increasing funding for worker training.
The federal government should look to Gov. Scott Walker’s school voucher program. The statewide program allows families at or below 185 percent of the poverty line to have the ability to apply for primary and secondary choice schools. The governor has also emphasized charter schools because they give students another option that may be superior to their public school.
These options give impoverished students at underperforming schools a better opportunity to learn. The state governments should fund the programs while the federal government establishes the outline for the states.
Another policy in Wisconsin that has helped improve education is Act 10. The reason Act 10 is a leading force in improving education is because of the removal of tenure. There are teachers out there that hold onto their job for one reason — tenure. This policy has proved to be a significant detriment to schools. For example, in Chicago there is a school district where only 28.5 percent of students in the 11th grade met or exceeded standards on their standardized tests 2010. In that same district only .1 percent of teachers were fired due to poor performance from 2005 to 2008. Walker was looking to avoid similar issues in Wisconsin by passing Act 10.
Since 2011, 18 states have changed their teacher tenure laws. They must have seen the system work in a state which was ranked 21st in 2010 but jumped to 15th in 2014. To make similar progress Wisconsin in education, other states should adopt similar reforms to Act 10 and do away with teacher tenure.
Think “free” community college is a good idea? How about following Wisconsin’s example instead.
Throughout his last term Walker allocated around $178 million toward worker training initiatives, including technical colleges. According to business leader Tim Sullivan, by 2018, 66 percent of Wisconsin’s workforce will require education above a high school diploma but not a bachelor’s degree. Walker has acted by placing money into career development in grade schools and technical schools. This can be implemented at the national level as well.
President Barack Obama’s proposed policy does not address the immediate needs of the education system. Free community college may be good for some students but it does not solve the skills gap we are currently experiencing. Obama and the federal government should reassess their priorities and begin to fund skill and worker development before trying to make community college more affordable.
Obama’s plan for community college doesn’t work fiscally. The overall cost of his proposal nears the $70 billion range and puts 25 percent of the “free” tuition burden back on state governments. According to our calculations, that’s $350 million per state. With states already having to make budget adjustments, making room for an extra $350 million is ludicrous. However, if getting the costs of community colleges down is a priority it can be handled by individual states. For example, Tennessee is providing free community college by using funds from the lottery, an optional taxable purchase made by citizens, in addition to a state endowment. So far this has worked well and is more evidence that education reform be left to the states.
Using Wisconsin’s reforms, the federal government and other state governments can lead the nation to better education. It’s time that Washington takes a look to a state with an upward trend.