Record Spending and Inaction: ‘Vetting’ the Walker/Kleefisch Record on Schools

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It seems like the most popular word of the month is ‘Vetting’. Yes, it is indeed important to vet ALL candidates for governor and ask them all tough questions. After all it’s important to see how they respond and to make sure they are really up to the task of standing up to the certain onslaught the Democrats will unleash against the primary winner, and it will be unrelenting.

Unfortunately, one candidate and seems to feel they are above being vetted and asked tough questions. Well, feeling entitled, does not mean you get your way. Since Rebecca Kleefisch feels that she wants to run on the Walker record, then she must own it, ALL OF IT. I think it is time to do some ‘vetting’ and talk about some harsh truths regarding the Walker/Kleefisch record on education.

Education has increasingly become one of the top hot button issues across the country.  Wisconsin is no different.  Especially over the course of the past year or two, we have seen example after example of ordinary parents on the front lines fighting for their children.  Their chief opponent?  Left-wing indoctrination programs like Critical Race Theory (CRT) that have all but taken over our public-school systems.

How did this happen?  How did CRT so easily gain such an intractable foothold in our public schools in Wisconsin?  To show how we got to this place, a close examination of Act 10 might just shed some light.

Act 10 was the crown jewel of the Walker/Kleefisch administration.  Act 10 sparked a national debate.  Footage of waves of Madison protesters were beamed night after night across TV screens throughout the country.  Act 10 spawned a massive and costly statewide 2012 recall which served only to further propel Governor Scott Walker onto the national stage.  Fast forward to 2022… now, with Walker’s unfettered and unflailing endorsement, Rebecca Kleefisch hopes to ride those coattails right into the governor’s mansion. 

So, what was the primary goal of Act 10 anyway?  

We were told the objective was to save taxpayers money.  Assurances were made.  Collective bargaining would be limited.  Teachers would be required to pay a small and reasonable portion of their healthcare and retirement cost just like most other employees in the private sector.  The trade-off?  Walker/Kleefisch would be able to significantly cut K-12 education spending in their first budget to help offset and overcome a $3.2 billion dollar deficit left behind by the Doyle administration.  No other significant educational reforms were included in Act 10.  

Kleefisch and Walker stood firm on Act 10.  For their perseverance, credit is surely due.  Who can forget the Act 10 battle of 2011-2012?  Who can forget what the Teachers Union put the state through during their epic “temper tantrum”, dare I say, “insurrection”?  

Over the years, Act 10 did exactly what it was designed to do.  It limited the teacher union stranglehold on schools and was able to save taxpayers billions of dollars.  

Let’s take a closer look at the record.

The conservative education spending cuts of 2011 actually gave way to continuous increases in public school spending.  Might seem strange, but Republican majorities ruled both houses in the state legislature.  Actually, the Walker/Kleefisch administration, in step with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, substantially increased school spending in EVERY budget year that followed.  By 2016, education spending was significantly higher than before the Walker/Kleefisch administration took office, and those numbers just continued to rise.  This is not hyperbole.  Look at the DPI numbers and Walker Budget Numbers on school spending. 

2011$6,234,200,300.00 (Walker inherited this)
2012$5,802,070,600.00
2013$5,873,000,600.00
2014$5,947,372,600.00
2015$6,086,875,000.00
2016$6,258,778,300.00
2017$6,458,849,200.00
2018$6,731,701,400.00

With the extra half billion dollars in spending by 2018, what did taxpayers receive in return?  Higher student performance?  No.  Universal school choice for more parents to choose the best school for their kids?  No.  Closing the achievement gap for minority students?  No. Funding equity for charter and choice students?  No. 

Then, what was the trade-off for all of the extra spending on education in Wisconsin?  It appears that the major result was that taxpayers simply spent more on public schools under Walker/Kleefisch with no strings attached

The 2018 Walker/Kleefisch campaign was punctuated by numerous visits to school districts across the state where both boldly bragged about ‘historic’ increases in state aid to public schools.  In fact, these promised increases even surpassed what then DPI Superintendent Tony Evers had proposed that year. 

School spending went up.  In addition, a veritable explosion of local referenda to exceed revenue caps meant that taxpayers across the state actually funded more monies for the payment of basic operations, as well as the construction of new school facilities in many places.  All this occurred long before Tony Evers set foot in the Governor’s mansion.  But, if locals agree to spend more on schools through referenda, then Walker/Kleefisch can’t be blamed, right?

Well, what about academic results from this ‘historic’ spending?

All this additional school spending came with ZERO accountability.  Not surprisingly, academic outcomes actually suffered in spite of it.  After eight years of the Walker/Kleefisch Administration, and with Tony Evers at the helm of the Department of Public Instruction, most students tested well below proficiency levels on reading and English language arts.  Results for minority students in areas like Milwaukee were even worse.  Extended Covid pandemic-related school closures – demanded by several large urban teacher unions – exacerbated the achievement gap while deepening an already flourishing indoctrination of CRT and anti-American sentiment in the minds and hearts of our children.  

A strong GOP campaign this fall will emphasize the degradation of public education with Tony Evers in charge.  Evers expects as much.  Already, his ads are spinning him as a lifelong supporter of educating children, naturally sidestepping the small detail that public education in Wisconsin is largely a grotesque exhibition of abject failure overall.

In 2018, Evers got off the hook.  Why did Walker/Kleefisch never challenge the former DPI Superintendent about declining student achievement?  Why, instead, did they battle Evers on who recommended more education spending rather than on who demanded better student outcomes

Sadly, the situation for Kleefisch is bad.  Because of Walker/Kleefisch’s foiled political strategies, her ability to fight Evers on the education issue has been nullified.  Remember when Mitt Romney tried to fight Barrack Obama on Obamacare when Romney’s own plan was the very inspiration for Obamacare???

We are fighting the political battles of today because of the past battles Walker, Kleefisch, and Vos decided to fight in the past.  This is because they refused to fight other VERY NECESSARY battles when they enjoyed FULL POWER FOR EIGHT YEARS which would have made a substantial impact.  

By 2018, with runaway school spending, Republicans mailed the teacher union a ‘Blank Check’ to push their extreme indoctrination to levels never before seen in our state.  Yes, Walker/Kleefisch survived Act 10 until the 2018 election, but in the long run, our state reaped little else.  Instead of bringing people together to better the lives of our children around education, teachers felt insulted by Walker/Kleefisch.  Then, in a desperate last-minute move before the 2018 election, Walker/Kleefisch tried to play nice by throwing some money around in the hopes of getting teachers to ‘like’ them.  We all know how that worked out.  

What didn’t happen?  Never did they tackle big issues like Common Core.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of parents saw this as an issue.  So many of them begged the Walker/Kleefisch administration to do something about it.  The response?  Radio Silence.  Common Core sowed the seeds for the emboldened Critical Race Theory that now rules many school communities in Wisconsin.  Absent Common Core, CRT may never have gained a foothold. 

Leadership Really Does Matter

Wisconsinites are yearning for leadership, not rhetoric.  I don’t need Rebecca Kleefisch’s campaign to constantly remind me that Tony Evers is a bad governor.  I live here.  I’ve got that.

We want a vision for our state.  When you’ve had a past opportunity to lead, and you chose not to, why are you now asking me to vote for you?   

With a lack of leadership on important educational issues, we now have it worse than ever before.  We now face overt racist, sexual, gender, and political indoctrination in our schools.  The Left has now been emboldened.  As Kleefisch boasts about how successful schools were under Walker/Kleefisch, I cannot help but wonder where she’s been the past ten years.  Was she living in the state of Wisconsin? 

The Walker/Kleefisch administration’s tepid fears led to no advancements on issues like Universal School Choice.  GOP legislative majorities repeatedly modified or scrapped the Walker/Kleefisch smaller choice proposals.  Enrollment caps for Choice seats existed for five more years under a plan signed by Governor Walker.  No attempts were launched to level the playing field for the funding of charter and choice students.  Walker’s proposal decreased funding for new voucher families.  One child’s education turned out to be worth less than another child’s education simply due to the date parents signed the child up.  What?!?!?  Once again, KLEEFISCH WAS SILENT.

Our takeaways from Walker/Kleefisch?  Funding up.  Performance down.  Left-wing indoctrination gains a solid foothold in our public schools.  

Little wonder that more and more families recognize the benefits of choice, charter, and home-schooling.  Rebecca Kleefisch, Tim Michels, and Tim Ranthum all support Universal School Choice.  But, only Rebecca Kleefisch was in a position to advance that goal over the past decade.  She and the administration remained silent.  In other words, Kleefisch whiffed.

Engaging with many parents on the front lines of this battle recently, Rebecca Kleefisch seems to now get it.  But, is her newfound energy about these issues sincere or merely politically expedient?  Let’s just say, I found it ironic that Kleefisch was out there ‘helping’ with local school board races around the state this past year while her inaction for eight years set the stage for these parents to have to get into the fight in the first place. 

In a recent tweet, she said, Student scores are dropping, and mental health issues are skyrocketing. Wisconsin parents aren’t fooled. We need a governor who will put students first — not the union bosses.

This was probably the most ironic Tweet of her campaign.

Yes, there were many good things accomplished during the administration, and every time it’s brought up, it’s the Walker/Kleefisch administration, they did it together.  However, dare you bring up any negatives or missed opportunities, the answer is always the same: “I was not in the room when that decision was made.”  She actually expressed those words recently on the Jay Weber WISN morning show. 

In her speeches, Kleefisch claims to be the “BEST”, citing her Lt. Governor credentials as what makes her most qualified to serve as Wisconsin’s next governor.  Fascinating that, when the past is good, she was intimately involved.  When the past is bad, she was not.  Which is it?  You cannot have it both ways.  If you want to take credit for Walker accomplishments, then have the integrity and honesty to own the downside, too.  If you choose not to own the negatives, then do not feature Walker in your ads telling voters that Rebecca Kleefisch walked with him each step of the way.  

True, ultimately, these were all Walker’s final decisions.  When missteps were taken, voters have the right to know whether Kleefisch neglected to speak up and fight when we needed her to.  We have the right to ask her why she did not influence and effect change when she had the bully pulpit as Lt. Governor.  My advice? Admit that you could have pushed for Universal vouchers, accountability, better environments for better outcomes, limiting referendums, and maintaining spending cuts.  Seriously, it’s not like anyone could have fired her.  Even if Walker ignored her, we would have at least seen her fight for us and our kids.

Nowhere in the job description does it state that you must merely be a fly on the wall.  Sadly, looks like one of the only things she really fought hard for was to save her own job. 

Thank goodness people did not listen to the ‘inevitability of Becky’ talking points throughout her run.  Now, we thankfully have real options with far more real-world experience.  And yes, if Kleefisch does ultimately prevail in the primary, I will vote for her because nothing justifies another four years of the current train wreck. 

Unfortunately, she will likely be controlled by her good friend, Robin Vos, and we will be subjected to another full Republican administration with more missed opportunities.  After all, why else would Vos endorse Kleefisch?  Could this be Robin Vos’ way of running for governor without literally having to run for governor?

This begs the question:  Why should we believe that Rebecca Kleefisch will be a bold leader?  Will her new advisors exercise leadership?  If surrounded by the same people, lobbyists and insiders she calls “snakes and weasels” when they support another candidate, we know the answer.  (By the way, when will an enterprising reporter ask her to name these people?  Or will she just get a pass with the name calling?)

In reality, Wisconsin cannot afford to miss more opportunities and take a chance.  We really need to take away the power of the entrenched Madison establishment.  The choice is ours.  We can vote for more of the same, or we could actually vote for some fresh ideas and new leadership in the governor’s mansion. Until then, let the ‘vetting’ continue.

Remember to vote on August 9!

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If Paris is in a room filled with people, you will usually see him front and center talking and laughing with everyone. His effervescent, outgoing personality brings a refreshing change to the sometimes hostile political world. He takes advantage of his private sector relationship management and comedy improv experience to easily engage any size audience, from individuals to thousands. He has always had a passion for all things political and the world around us, and brings a unique and sometimes humorous, perspective. He has been involved in everything from working on individual campaigns to organizing large political rally's. While Paris is a solid Conservative, he takes the time to understand opposing viewpoints. He lives by the mantra, ‘Do not try to change the minds of others as someone else will easily change it back. Just simply state the facts and they may change their own mind, if that happens, you may have an ally for life.’