May 8, 2015

Mother’s Day: Program cuts in schools

By Sen. Lena Taylor

Having been born, raised and educated in Wisconsin, we know our education afforded us the honor and responsibility to serve. That is why, on this Mother’s Day, we want to thank fellow mothers for the roles they play in their children’s education.

Mothers in Wisconsin have seen firsthand the impact of Governor Scott Walker’s historic cuts to public education. When the people of Wisconsin elected Governor Walker, they thought they were electing a man of principle. But to hear the other side of that argument, just ask a real principal. Principals throughout Wisconsin are struggling with tight budgets to do one of the most important jobs in our society; educating our children.

I’m sure you hear spin all the time from politicians, but there’s no spin here. You can look this up. Governor Scott Walker made the single largest cut to public education in the history of Wisconsin in 2011, $792 million of which is attributable to our public K-12 schools.

Simply stated, we have an education crisis in Wisconsin. Our system is failing far too many of our children. Often, the first things to get cut from public schools are music, the arts and extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, often some of the most impactful learning happens outside the confines of a traditional classroom. Providing those other opportunities often opens doors for college enrollment. If we cannot afford to fund these important programs, we have failed our students.

Governor Walker isn’t the only politician failing to invest in our children. Congress has become an expert at shortsighted fiscal policies as well. While in Governor Walker’s Wisconsin, he prioritizes corporate tax breaks over our children’s education, Congress spends too much on the Pentagon.

Mothers want the best for their children, both inside the classroom and the broader world around them. We want peace, prosperity and public education. As state legislators, the decisions that we make address the needs and improve the livelihood and wellbeing of our constituents.

However Congress is not making the best decisions for our children, for the world they will inherit and for our security. Federal budgets passed in recent years cut the arts, music, and education in favor of weapons systems. It seems politicians are prioritizing the Pentagon budget over our children. Meanwhile, much of the Pentagon’s funding doesn’t do the men and women serving in the military and their families much good.

Each year Congress circumvents the restrictions of the Budget Control Act’s spending caps when it comes to finding money for the Pentagon. So far this year resolutions seeking to place $90 billion in an unrestricted war spending slush fund, ambiguously named the Overseas Contingency Operations, will be removing those dollars from places where the funding is needed – our communities.

A dollar spent in educating a child has a more profound effect on the world and creates more jobs than a dollar spent on weapons development. In light of Governor Walker’s backward fiscal priorities, Wisconsin moms need the federal government to invest in education now more than ever because our children deserve the American dream.

Senator Lena Taylor and Representative Melissa Sargent serve Wisconsin state directors for the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL), a program of Women’s Action for New Directions.