A WEAC Blog by Jesse Martinez
La Crosse Seventh Grade Teacher and
WEAC Minority Guarantee Representative
February is a big month for educators, even though it’s the shortest. We honor Black History Month and Black Lives Matter at School Week, as well as We Love Our Public Schools Week.
Black Lives Matter at School Week and Black History Month
Earlier this month, schools across the country celebrated Black Lives Matter at School. This movement calls for schools to end zero tolerance policies, mandate black history and ethnic studies programs, hire more black teachers and fund more counselors, not cops, in our schools. The week was celebrated across the nation, including in Wisconsin. Milwaukee’s efforts, for example, highlighted black students and the black community each night with a different event. Kudos to everyone involved.
We also honor our black brothers and sisters who work to make things better during Black History Month. I challenge all readers to learn about people you don’t normally hear about during Black History Month.
- Mary McLeod Bethune was a civil rights activist and educator who started a school which still stands today, Bethune-Cookman College.
- Ella Baker served as president of the NAACP and worked to register voters as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
- Lynda Blackmon Lowery was a young teen during the Selma to Montgomery March and now travels the country inspiring students through her book “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom.”
I Love My Public School Week
I Love My Public School Week is February 24-28. Public schools serve all students, no matter where they live or what their circumstances. In Wisconsin, educators work every day to provide the best education we can for our students. I commend each and every one of my public education colleagues for the incredible amount of work you do with fewer resources each year.
One of the reasons public schools have fewer resources, even though we teach the vast majority of Wisconsin students, is the amount of funding siphoned from local schools and sent to private voucher schools.
Vouchers divide our students, our families and our education system. If we want to improve education, we must invest in the public schools that serve all students. In 2017-18, taxpayers spent $269.7 million for private school tuition vouchers and that is money that is taken OUT of public schools.
Overwhelmingly, families choose public schools. Eighty-four percent of students who received vouchers in 2017-18 were already attending private schools, they weren’t leaving public schools.
There is hope. In 2018, pro-public education candidates won every statewide race. In legislative races, pro-public education candidates won more votes than their counterparts even though, due to gerrymandering, the legislature doesn’t look much different than it has for the past decade.
It’s time for action. As much as we need to focus on electing a president who believes in public education, we also need to focus on local and legislative elections. In order to stop the inequitable voucher system and reinvigorate public schools, consider phone banking, canvassing and informing voters as much as possible why they should be education voters. Together, let’s make sure our students have an equitable system that works toward their success in school. Here are two ways to get started now:
Jesse Martinez, an educational justice advocate, is a seventh grade science, social studies and Spanish Immersion teacher in the School District of La Crosse and serves as the Minority Guarantee Representative on the WEAC Board of Directors. He writes to bring forward information WEAC members of color and open the lines of communication about issues facing minority communities in the field of public education. He welcomes your perspectives and feedback to share with the entire WEAC Board of Directors. Send him an email.