By Aaron M. Rodriguez
In the DPI race, we have two candidates that share the same goal of fixing the problems in our school districts, but they differ sharply in their methods. Come April 7th, voters will be asked which candidate is more likely to reform Wisconsin’s schools in a manner that is both timely and cost effective. So, let’s introduce our candidates. Our first candidate has many years of experience in the education establishment. He is pro-spending and innovation, wants to recruit and retain more quality teachers, and aims to increase overall accountability. Our second candidate is an outsider to the education establishment. She expects a good return on investments, prefers funding with fiscal restraint, wants taxpayer protection, thinks teachers should be rewarded for good performance, and wants to provide parents with a variety of school choice options that lie outside of traditional schools. Given the problems we currently face with MPS and school districts like it, who is the better candidate for reform?
Evers’ biggest selling point is his “know how,” he doesn’t need a learning curve, and he calls for more rigorous testing standards for school children. By electing him, we will truly have an experienced Superintendent at the helm that will hopefully hold MPS accountable to our parents and the taxpayers. Fernandez’ biggest selling point is her platform of providing more school choices to parents while saving taxpayers a substantial sum of money in the process. If most taxpayers really knew that vouchers would reduce state spending while providing the disenfranchised with equal opportunities for quality education, it’s my belief we wouldn’t have much of a race on our hands.
The biggest problem with Rose Fernandez is her lack of experience. In a time of recession and poor school performance, her detractors will argue that the safest choice is her opponent. The biggest problem with Tony Evers is his lack of a reformist record and his relationship with the teacher’s union. In a time of recession and poor school performance, his detractors will argue that our community cannot withstand higher taxation and receive the same destitution in educational achievement.
Tony Evers will not consider breaking up MPS into smaller districts for the purposes of efficient manageability. He will not lift enrollment caps on virtual schools, which means that the state will continue to limit the amount of students allowed to enroll in the 18 virtual schools available in Wisconsin. And he will not lift the enrollment caps for the voucher program in Milwaukee. The voucher program provides kids, from low-income families in poverty-ridden areas, an opportunity to receive the same level of education that kids from the suburbs receive. This program not only provides a better education, but it does so at nearly half the cost to the Wisconsin taxpayer.
Rose Fernandez wants to implement a three year turnaround team – an independent group of seven empowered to reform curriculum, reduce overhead, negotiate teachers' pay and benefits, and determine whether MPS should be partitioned into sectors. (Such a concept is valued by business corporations particularly during times of duress in order to stop the bleeding and maximize the return of their investments.) Fernandez is for breaking up MPS into smaller more manageable entities for the purposes of measured control and secured results. She supports merit pay for teachers so that they are rewarded for good performance. She believes that our children deserve the best that the school system has to offer. She is for lifting the caps on virtual schools and the voucher program so parents are ultimately the ones responsible for where their kids go to school, not the government.
It’s clear who the reformist candidate is. Rose Fernandez has the right ideas for DPI, and no amount of “guilt by association” ploys can tarnish the fact that she’s the right candidate for the job. I get a kick watching liberal bloggers make a big deal about Fernandez receiving $1,300 in campaign donations from Virginia based K-12 Inc, when WEAC (Wisconsin’s largest teachers’ union) spent more than $570,000 on Tony Evers in the past couple of months. If I'm not mistaken, that's more than 430 times the amount in campaign donations. And folks, K12 Inc is nothing comparable to the teachers’ union. The teachers’ union will not promote more options for parents or greater school choice opportunities for students, but rather tie the hands of the state superintendent so reform cannot be implemented.
Opponents of Fernandez will be quick to point out her inexperience in the education establishment. They will say it's unwise for unhealthy patients to choose inexperienced doctors for their care, so why would be choose an inexperienced politician? But politics is not medicine. Doctors don't run campaigns, nor are they elected by a public vote. They aren't backed by lobbyists, and they aren't hired based upon their ideology. They are hired because of their license and skill. Only in politics do people have the chance to go from an ordinary plumber to an important public figure. People choose politicians based upon their values and ideas, not based upon expert knowledge of a particular trade or craft. President Obama was a junior senator from the state of Illinois who had no executive experience. Those liberal bloggers jumping on Fernandez' inexperience are the same folks who hypocritically pulled the lever for Obama.
When it comes to politics, the citizenry are more concerned about ideas and policies, not about how many years a person spent entrenched in a bureaucracy that has done nothing to improve education, but everything to waste taxpayer money. Our education system doesn't need more status quo; it seriously needs change.