Education is an essential ingredient for a society to function effectively and improve itself over time. Wisconsin has had a rich history of efforts to provide that opportunity to its citizens at all levels. Our public schools, vocational/technical schools, extensive higher education system, and Cooperative Extension, served our citizens very effectively at all levels for many years. There was a time in the 1950s and 60s when many of us could get a four-year college degree and beyond fully paid for by having a summer job and maybe a part-time job during the school year because the state funded about 75 percent of the cost. The state now funds a much lower level of the cost of higher education.
In 2010 Governor Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues saw a need to reign in this progressive trend in the education of our society in the name of fiscal conservatism. Act 10 severely cut school funding, denigrated teachers to the point of making them enemies of society, handcuffed school boards and school districts from adequately funding schools, and discouraged many of our young people from pursuing careers in education.
Since 2010, our Republican-controlled state government has further reduced or barely maintained educational funding at all levels via the state budget allocations, restrictions on the funds local school districts can raise, and limiting the tuition our higher education system charges. Then in 2020-21 when the Federal government provided funds to help alleviate some of the deficiencies in schools caused mainly by COVID-19 our Republican-controlled Legislature was dead set against those funds - until they were finally shamed into accepting them. They took the federal money, reduced or maintained the sub-standard state funding, and then back-filled with the Federal dollars. Now a couple of our western Wisconsin state Republican legislators and others of their ilk have the gall to brag about how they are supporting education in Wisconsin by providing greatly increased funding - but with Federal, not state dollars. After subtracting and holding back state funding for over a decade there isn’t much to brag about.
Good citizenship is made possible by having a basic understanding of economics, sociology, political science, health care, environmental sustainability, food production; and, nowadays some awareness in the use of computers, iPhones, and digital communications. Truly educated citizens are better able to make decisions and come to agreement about which policies and priorities are of most benefit to our society. We also need to be grounded in the basic principles of truth, honesty, and kindness to each other. We need to accept responsibility for our own actions and the policies we support in an increasingly complex society. Finally, we need an ability to think for ourselves and separate the wheat from the chaff and fake news that is so very plentiful these days.