MADISON—On Sept. 22, 2022, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jill Underly delivered her second state of education address. Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb) released the following statement in response:
“The Ministry of Public Instruction has put in place a solid budget that makes smart investments in the academic success and mental health of our students. As an outgoing member of the National Assembly, I will not be present at the next legislative session to support this budget. That’s why I want to take this opportunity to voice my support for DPI’s plan for our public schools and urge my colleagues in the state legislature and the citizens of Wisconsin to do the same.
“State Superintendent Underly and Governor Evers have always prioritized what is best for our children. They do this knowing that when students are provided with the tools to succeed academically and a school environment where they feel safe and supported, our communities and the entire state ultimately benefit.
“A large majority of Wisconsin families choose to send their children to local public schools. Unlike private schools which can choose which students can attend, public schools are required by law to educate all children until the age of 21, regardless of their needs or abilities. That’s why it’s so critical that we invest in our public schools and provide them with the resources to ensure success for every student, regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status. For Wisconsin to prosper, it is imperative that the Legislature ensure that we invest in the fairness and financial stability of our local school districts.
“Supporting our public schools is not and should not be a partisan issue. Sadly, for more than a decade now, Republicans in the state Legislature have made one by inadequately funding public schools, vilifying the teaching profession and making students pawns in their political games. . I served on the GOP-led Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding in 2019 when a bipartisan group of lawmakers and education experts formulated and released several realistic, common-sense recommendations to give our schools more resources and flexibility. It is disappointing that Republicans have repeatedly failed to follow their own advice. Wisconsin has the resources available to solidly fund our public schools to minimize the need for districts to make tough decisions about which programs or positions to cut, or whether or not to go to the referendum. The solutions are there but are willfully ignored by GOP leaders
“Having served as both chair and senior Democratic member of the Assembly Education Committee during my 20 years in the Assembly, I have been deeply engaged in the issues that affect our students, our educators, our administrators and our schools. Throughout this period, I have witnessed the evolution of our political landscape and, with it, the state of our public schools. I have deep concerns about the direction our education system is taking in Wisconsin under Republican leadership. Wisconsin, once a bastion of progressivism, now finds itself at the mercy of a legislature that refuses to invest in its public schools. Continuing on this path will do great harm to our economy, our workforce and our democracy.
“Every child deserves access to quality education. The DPI budget proposal is a step in the right direction for our students, educators and parents, and I hope this plan will be passed by the Legislative Assembly and implemented in the years to come.