Our history is one of progress, but also of the reality that kids have been denied opportunity based on skin color, gender, ability, orientation, and socio-economic status. It’s past time to tackle the inequity plaguing our public schools.
My vision for PK-12 public education in Wisconsin is rooted in equity. I want to solve problems of inequity, and that starts at the beginning of a child’s life and then at the start of their public schooling career. When people have asked me “why” I want to run for State Superintendent, my response is, “I want to disrupt the systems of inequity that plague our public schools.”
We have inequity and that translates to what people commonly call “achievement gaps.” However, when we call it an achievement gap we put the onus or blame on the lack of achievement on our kids. In reality, it is not our childrens’ fault that they live in a state or within a system that penalizes them for where they live, their zip code, who their parents are, or what their race, gender, or socio-economic status is. What we have are opportunity gaps. There are children in our state who are afforded more opportunities and they will achieve more as a result.
My platform is rooted in equity and the game-changers that can disrupt these systems of inequity and afford all children the opportunities that will set them up for a lifetime of success:
- Fully funded early childhood programming that is full-day and every day, and is high quality and assured to give all children the start they need to be successful.
- Teacher recruitment and retention, particularly in rural and urban areas, that brings the best and brightest into our schools and values them.
- Mental health support and resources for our students, particularly during the aftermath of a pandemic when there is so much trauma.
- The way forward is through a revision of our school finance system, and that will be my highest priority during my tenure. We need a school finance formula that works for all public schools in Wisconsin.
Supporting Students of Color
The disparities between black, brown, and white children have only been growing. We have tremendous work to do, to dismantle more than four centuries of racist national, state, and local policies.
For all students, especially students of color, English Language Learner students, our students in poverty in urban and rural settings, and our students with disabilities in both settings, having access to fully funded preschool and early childhood programming where they can socialize, be well supervised, get access to interventions in literacy and mathematics, behavior, and speech, language, and OT/PT, are important building blocks for future academic success. When all kids get the strong start they deserve, they are much more likely to be successful academically, to thrive in school, and graduate high school.
We also need to reevaluate the institution of public schools inside and out. We need to root out racist disciplinary policies, attract and retain educators of color, and listen to our students of color when they tell us something isn’t right.
Supporting LGTBQ+ Students & Staff
All means “all.” All kids need to be included in our schools, and they need to be safe. This is an equity issue – our students and staff have a right to feel safe and comfortable in our public schools. Anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies and enforcement of those policies is an imperative for our LGBTQ+ community. One way to ensure this is happening is to provide an outlet for kids so that they can talk to trusted adults. We need to foster school cultures where adults truly listen and can help students identify resources they need to grow in a safe and healthy way. It is also an imperative that students get access to support, to mental health resources as needed, and representation in our school culture and activities.
It is also an imperative that students get access to support, to mental health resources as needed, and representation in our school culture and activities. Additionally, our trans and non-binary students and staff deserve to use the restrooms and changing facilities that match their gender identity.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Education
Wisconsin’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) communities have been underserved by our public school system. My platform is centered around disrupting the systems of inequity that plague our public schools — and that includes the inequity faced by our DHH students and families.
One of the biggest things we can do to tackle this inequity is to expand our early childhood education, especially around language skills, for our DHH students. Home visits by DHH mentors are a core component of this and our schools need the funding and resources to provide these and other services that set up our DHH students for success.
Additionally, we need to ensure that we can recruit and retain the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters that our schools are both morally and legally obligated to provide so that we can give our DHH students the high-quality education they deserve. On top of this, we also need to expand our efforts to recruit DHH teachers and educators.
As Superintendent, I would also encourage and promote ASL learning for anyone. You don’t need to have a DHH family member or friend to learn ASL, and the more people in our community who learn ASL, the easier it is for all DHH people to fully participate in society.
There are many other areas of DHH education that need improvement, and I’m ready to begin this work as Superintendent.
I am committed to establishing a cabinet-level officer in DPI Administration that will oversee the equity work in our agency as well as in our school district programming.
One of my passions is “equity audits.” Equity audits are a way to look internally at our policies and practices in school, in our curriculum, handbooks, and participation/engagements in clubs, activities, classes that fully shows us that kids are not feeling unsafe or unwelcomed in our school culture (like certain classes, spaces, extra-curricular), and that everyone is represented.
Through equity audits we identify areas that are not working for all kids, or areas that need additional resources to make them truly equitable for our students. I am excited to get to work on this very important initiative – through the equity projects within my platform, to the equity audits in our schools, I am committed to ensuring that every child, every day, thrives in Wisconsin’s public schools.