Talk is cheap when it comes to our kids

As a mother and a Senator, I know our children are among our most precious parts of both our families and our community. As parents, it is our responsibility to nurture our children and ensure that they are equipped with the proper tools to succeed. We parents can’t do this job alone, however; our schools and educators also play an integral role in preparing our children for the challenges ahead. That’s why I’m such a fierce proponent of funding our schools.

As legislators, it is our obligation to prioritize education. My record shows that I have been unequivocally committed to funding, reforming, and supporting the K-12 education system during my years in the Senate.

Throughout my career, I’ve secured $139 million for our school children. I tried to make it an even $140 million with additional funding for a summer reading program, but a fellow Democrat  voted against teaching kids to read, killing otherwise bipartisan legislation. When we invest in our children, we invest in our community. You can count on me to continue securing funding for our schools and educators.

Funding is only one component of a school’s success; accountability is the other. I had a leading role in the most comprehensive reform of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. These sweeping reforms included many accountability measures that forced voucher schools to adopt new academic standards, administer the same evaluations that public school students receive, as well as require that choice schools receive accreditation from an independent agency and that their teachers have a bachelor’s degree.

Now to be clear, I have voted against every single one of Walker’s voucher plans. Regardless of what you may think about the voucher program, I think we can all agree that first and foremost we need to ensure that our schools are performing to our standards, especially if they’re receiving taxpayer dollars. I am proud to have championed these reforms, and I believe our students will see the benefits in the classroom.

Defending our public schools is a constant battle. In the 2015-17 budget, I introduced several amendments attempting to lessen the impact of the Republican takeover of MPS. The Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSSP), authored by two suburban legislators, takes struggling MPS schools away from the democratically-elected school board and places them under the supervision of an unelected commissioner who has unchecked power to privatize schools and fire teachers.  I hope it’s clear that the MPS takeover was the absolute wrong choice for our schools.

Though the amendments I introduced to limit the damage of the takeover were rejected by Republicans in the Joint Finance Committee, my dedication to Milwaukee schools has not wavered. I knew going into this job that supporting and reforming the schools of Milwaukee would be a demanding job that requires passion and resilience, but it’s a job I enjoy doing even on its tough days.

Many talk a good talk about education. But when it comes to our children, talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. The role that our schools and teachers play in our children’s future should not be understated. It is because of a public education that I am a Senator today. Education can break the cycle of poverty and violence. It can mean the difference between a lifetime behind bars and a lifetime serving our community. When I find myself frustrated and upset by attacks on our schools, I remind myself of the powerful notion that a good education can change lives.

To learn more about Senator Taylor’s record on education, click here. Connect with Senator Lena C. Taylor on social media on Facebook.com/SenLenaTaylor, Twitter.com/SenTaylor or follow her at Instagram.com/Lena.Taylor.