Educators are leaving the profession at an alarming rate, and there are fewer people entering the profession.  Teachers moving from district to district frequently is also causing a strain and instability on the workforce. One major reason for this issue is pay.  In Wisconsin, our average teacher pay has fallen to 33rd in the nation and districts have failed to provide a true inflationary cost of living increase year after year.  Do you support efforts by the State to attract and retain teachers including plans to improve teacher pay?  What are your ideas for improving the attraction and retention of teachers and support staff in our public schools?

Teachers, not politicians or parents or school board members with no teaching experience or knowledge of education, are the experts.  Teachers have been systematically reduced to being little more than classroom managers of rooms that have too many students, and too few resources to get any real teaching done.  In addition to the state and federal requirements that are mandated for teachers, districts continue to cut funding for schools.  Now is the time to put funding back into our public schools, and trust the experts—the teachers—to do what they do best, which is to teach.  Yes, their pay needs to be increased, along with benefits to ensure that they can continue in their chosen profession without fear of being bankrupted upon retirement.  If our schools are “failing” as some people like to say, it is only because this has been planned over decades.  We need someone strong in leadership who can make the kind of change we need. Offer competitive pay and benefits, and allow teachers to run their own classrooms.

It is time for the State to start treating teachers and other education employees like the professionals they are and stabilize the workforce. Education employees deserve a seat at the table.  WEAC supports legislation that will give public sector workers, including education employees, the ability to bargain for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions.  Do you support legislation to restore collective bargaining rights for public employees?

I have been fighting for the restoration of the HUMAN RIGHT of collective bargaining since the Walker administration destroyed it. Every campaign I have run has included this as one of my main concerns. I had an experience that sums this up that I would like to share.  During my last campaign, I was invited to a meeting to which candidates were included, along with school administrators, as well as sitting Assembly Representatives.  At no time during that meeting, which lasted well over two hours, did ANYONE mention teachers as a source of a breadth of knowledge when we (they) were talking about major changes to policy and procedure, a little about curriculum, and high-stakes testing.There were no teachers included in the meeting. When discussing what to do about mental health issues, for instance, there were a few ideas, mostly involving increased law enforcement presence. When I suggested they bring in teachers, who are intimately involved with these children I was told, “Don’t bring teachers into this.”  (An aside–we were sworn to secrecy at the beginning of the meeting.  After what I witnessed I could not stay quiet.) I did,on several occasions, bring up the fact that what was missing from this meeting were teachers, and I was rebuffed each time.  This attitude has to stop. As I said earlier, too many people who don’t know what it takes to be a good teacher are making decisions.  Again, it has to stop.  One way to do this is to bring collective bargaining back to the mis.

The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) is fully-funded and the envy of the nation. Along with other employees, educational employees can plan for retirement without worrying about changing or reducing benefits.  WEAC is committed to maintaining and preserving WRS.  Will you work to maintain and preserve the WRS?

My husband is a retired teacher.  We have many friends who are retired teachers.  At no time did any of these professionals have the potential to earn what others of like education (my husband came to teaching with a master’s degree) are able to earn in a private industry. Yet they do the work. They show up, they teach, they care.  And they spend their own money and many, many unpaid hours on lesson planning, grading papers, and filling out form after form after form required to maintain statistics on benchmarks and standards.  So they deserve, without reservation, these retirement benefits. It is called “deferred compensation” and every state employee deserves to be able to retire without fear of poverty after their years of employment.  The Republicans in the State legislature would love to get their hands on this fund.  I will fight with all of my strength to maintain and preserve it.

WEAC is committed to advancing a new system of school funding to ensure our schools have the funding they need for all students to achieve educational  excellence and retain quality educators. This new system should provide more funds to schools with low-income students by putting weights in the formula, fully fund special education, fully fund bilingual-bicultural education, adjust for inflation, and provide added help needed to address rural school challenges.  In the past, the state has committed to providing districts ⅔ funding but has fallen well short in recent years. Where do you stand on improving state funding for public school?

All schools need to be fully funded. Each school and its district are alike in that each one has unlimited needs with very limited resources.  Part of those resources are supposed to be from shared revenue from the state, which is woefully inadequate. Tax cuts for the rich have come at the expense of shared revenue, which could be bolstered by cutting those taxes, and putting the money back where it belongs.  Communities should not have to hold referenda (and even in that district hands are tied) or bake sales in order to get funding for basic needs. Put the money where the need is–not in the hands of the already-rich, who most likely send their children to charter or private schools anyway. 

Funds for voucher students come directly off the revenues for area public school districts, further crippling their ability to provide quality education. Do you support expanding or maintaining the voucher program, limiting the voucher program, or eliminating the voucher program?

I support eliminating voucher programs.They never did work the way they were intended, and only came about as anti-teacher, and anti-union voices got louder. I do not support voucher schools.

I would start by putting teachers and students first. This means, of course, decent pay and benefits, the ability to teach students how to seek the truth, and reinforcing the professional status which teachers/scholars deserve.  But it’s more than that.  I am very interested in school safety, and I have watched this current legislature, gerrymandered, for the most part, into a minority-rule situation, make gun access easier, including allowing students to bring guns to school.  This is a patently, colossally stupid idea.  So is the idea of arming teachers.  Students–and teachers and other school employees should be safe in their schools.  I would also defer to the public health experts on issues like vaccines and mask mandates. 

Contribute to Elizabeth Riley’s Campaign Here

To all of you who have donated to my campaign—a hearty thank you! And we still have a long way to go. Our campaign relies on small dollar donations from people like you, and our average contribution is around $21. This is our toughest race yet and every dollar makes a difference as we work hard to reach voters all across the Wisconsin 87th! Can you chip in $10, $23, or whatever you can afford today to help us get Elizabeth Riley into the Wisconsin Assembly? We are here for you! Help us get there for you.

Paid for by by Riley for Democracy, Carolyn Snyder, Treasurer