Improving Education Outcomes to Prepare our Children for Success
Every child—regardless of their zip code—should have access to a great education; it is a moral imperative. Providing our children with a quality education will equip them with the necessary skills to thrive later in life. It is also an economic imperative to ensure our children are ready to compete in the new global economy.
Governor Walker is making significant investments aimed at transforming education to equip our students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. Because of our tough, but prudent, decisions we are now able to invest in our public schools, as well as in charter and choice schools.
The reforms we enacted since 2011 saved school districts hundreds of millions of dollars and allow districts to put more money directly into our children’s classrooms. According to a teachers’ union survey, schools fared better in the 2011-12 school year than in any year in the past decade when it came to preventing layoffs, increases in class sizes, and the reduction of extracurriculars and the arts.
In the 2013-15 Biennial Budget, Governor Walker invests $380 million in new state funds into public education and quality educational opportunities for students throughout our state. This includes a $300 per pupil increase in school aids over the next two years. The budget also invests $250,000 in STEM grants for science, technology, engineering, and math.
Due to our reforms, Wisconsin can now put the best and the brightest teachers in our classrooms—and we can pay them to stay there. School districts can now hire based on merit and pay based on performance. We finally have a way to recognize our exceptional teachers and reward them for the good work they do for our children.
Since taking office, Governor Walker has joined the State Superintendent, teachers, parents, school board members, education leaders, taxpayers, business leaders, and others to create a report card to assess every school. The state report cards are a fair and transparent evaluation system for teachers and principals, and will be used to determine major reforms related to workforce readiness. The system measures academic achievement and growth, college and career readiness, and other factors. These reforms will ensure flexibility for local leaders and educators, but also oversight and accountability for results.
Tuition at four-year institutions in the UW System has increased by at least 5.5 percent every year since 2001, far surpassing the rate of inflation. For the first time since the UW System was created, in 1971, the budget freezes tuition for the next two years. This tuition freeze will help lighten the load for students and families, many of whom were hit hard by the recession.
We need to reward and replicate success and provide tools to struggling schools to help them improve. Our goal is to help each school excel, so all of our children have access to a world-class education.
Read to Lead
Research shows children learn to read until third grade and then use their reading skills to learn other material in subsequent grades and for the rest of their lives. Those who do not learn to read by the end of third grade will almost certainly face significant challenges.
Governor Walker’s bipartisan Read to Lead Task Force made a number of recommendations, which have now been adopted statewide, including reading screeners to assess the basic literacy skills of students in four-year-old kindergarten through second grade. In addition, Wisconsin increased the rigor of the preparation new teachers receive to ensure they have all the skills they need to teach their students to read. The state also created a Read to Lead Development Council, a public-private partnership tasked with raising funds to support worthy reading initiatives throughout the state.
The 2013-15 budget invests $2.8 million in state funds over the biennium to continue and expand the PALS reading assessments to ensure all students from four year old kindergarten through second grade are screened for basic reading skills. The budget also requires the addition of an oral vocabulary assessment in second grade.
For more on the Read to Lead initiative, please visit read.wi.gov.
University of Wisconsin Flexible Option
Nearly a quarter of all adults in this state have some college credit without a degree. For many, time and money are the barriers to finishing that degree. The UW Flex Option, the first public program of its kind, will allow hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites with some college experience, but no degree, to complete their course of study even on a tight schedule or on a tight budget.
The UW Flex Option allows adult learners to work at their own pace and test out of content requirements that they have already mastered. The University of Wisconsin will fund $2 million to support startup costs and to develop additional programs and course offerings for the new degree program. Funding will be affordable for students and they will even have the option of paying for unlimited access to courses. This groundbreaking program will help prepare more people to fill the critical needs we have in the workforce.
This first-in-the-nation program has the power to transform higher education in Wisconsin and beyond and was called, “the 21st Century face of the Wisconsin Idea” by former UW System President Kevin Reilly.
To learn more about the University of Wisconsin Flexible Option, please visit flex.wisconsin.edu.