Let’s Talk ESP Blog: Speak Up Now!
By Gail Kablau
I just finished reading through all of the proposed bills to break up Milwaukee Public Schools, and find myself, once again, horrified at the direction our lawmakers are moving – and at the speed in which they are now doing it. MPS School Board President, Bob Peterson, said it best when he stated, “Our students and families face the lack of family sustaining jobs, affordable housing, and adequate health care,” Peterson said. “If the senator really wants to help out Milwaukee, perhaps she should also look at those issues.”
For too long, Local and State lawmakers have put children and families on the back burner. While this particular legislation is once again aimed at our largest urban area, the problem is state-wide. This has happened before – it’s not the first time lawmakers have tried to break up MPS. The difference now is that they have more power than they had in the past, and with it a growing sense of urgency to get this done while they still have it.
We cannot stand by and allow this to happen – we must have the same sense of urgency to keep up with the growing intensity of this legislation. This has to be a call to action statewide, because it doesn’t just affect Milwaukee. It affects all of our public schools, and all of us who work in them. This legislative movement has been building for many years – Act 10, voucher expansion, and in this last budget when zero (0) dollars per pupil was passed for a two-year cycle. We are all hurting from that now, with less and less money every year staying in our public school districts statewide.
Education Support Professionals (ESP) are some of the hardest hit by the loss of the current funding problem, and will be again if this new legislation passes. Salaries, benefits, working conditions – all of these will be affected adversely. With very few exceptions, Districts are already holding ESP benefits back or decreasing them in order to offer more incentives for teaching staff. We all know the challenges our teachers are facing, but without enough quality support staff, their jobs will only become more difficult.
Many of you have heard me get on my soapbox about people burying their head in the sand and not getting politically active. Public schools are run by the political action that is happening in our local communities and by our regional and State politicians. If we don’t know how our elected officials are voting, and speak up to them when they are voting on legislation that affects our daily lives adversely, then we have not done our job as citizens in a free society.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. It doesn’t matter what party your elected officials belong to. If you disagree with what they are doing, say so. If they don’t hear from their constituents, they won’t know that they aren’t representing you. If you contact them, and they continue to vote against those things that are important to you, then it’s up to you – to all of us – to get the word out to family, friends, neighbors, anyone who will listen, to educate them on what the lawmakers are doing and then get them out to vote – and vote them out of office. If we don’t do that, then the legislative proposals will keep coming that continue to defund our public schools.
START TODAY – contact your legislator, and tell them how you feel about this legislation to break up MPS. Tell them you are not OK with more voucher expansion anywhere. Tell them to look again at where the needs are in your community and redirect the funding to overcome those disparities.
KEEP IT UP – stay informed – pay attention to other legislation that is coming out, continue to speak up when your elected officials do not vote in ways that represent you.
SHARE WHAT YOU KNOW – educate others about what’s going on, and encourage them to stay informed. Anyone can look up their legislators’ voting records.
- Congressional voting records
- Wisconsin State Legislature
- Attend School Board meetings, or check your School Board Meeting Minutes – most are online on your school district websites. If not, you have a right to ask for copies.
VOTE! – in every election – local, District, State, National – never allow an election day to go by without casting your vote. Regardless of whether it is a primary election or a general election, or even if there are no contested races. Vote!
Are you tired of how your lawmakers are doing business? Not sure how to tell them? Let’s Talk!
- WEAC ESP webpage
- Join the NEA ESP Facebook Group
- Follow @NEArESPect on Twitter
- Key Facts About ESPs
- Helping ESPs Cope Through SEL
- Education Support Professional Organizing Toolkit
Gail Kablau is the WEAC Education Support Professional (ESP)-at-Large Board Representative. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.