by Michael Wille
Yesterday, Gov. Scott Walker signed the “Read to Lead” legislation into law aimed at improving education for Wisconsin students. Starting in Kindergarten, children will now be tested on literacy to set a benchmark of their skills and better understand what interventions are required to ensure reading capabilities are strengthened by third grade. In addition to focusing on students, the bill creates the Read to Lead Development Council that will ensure teachers are adequately prepared to assist students with reading instruction. Working together, students, teachers and communities will guarantee that students are grounded in learning from an early age. Tony Evers, the state’s superintendent at the Department of Public Instruction, said the following:
“I am also pleased that this new law includes provisions related to reading instruction and literacy, based on a path forward that was agreed to by the members of the Governor’s Read to Lead Task Force,” said Evers. “Reading is a foundational skill upon which all future learning is based, and provisions in this legislation will help Wisconsin better prepare educators to teach reading.”
The program is modeled off one from Massachusetts, demonstrating that states can learn from each other when they act as “laboratories of democracy.” Illinois can learn a lot from Wisconsin. In addition to this reform, last year’s contentious law that rebalanced the relationship between union members and taxpayers has saved the state millions of dollars as well as teacher jobs and course offerings. In the Edwardsville, Illinois school district, education leaders are taking note and pushing for unions to give up lavish benefits instead of raising property taxes on homeowners in a down economy:
“Seventy-six percent of our revenue comes from taxes, and I’ve watched as so many taxpayers have struggled with unemployment and trying to avoid foreclosures,” [Superintendent Ed] Hightower told EAG [Education Action Group]. “When do you get to the point where you’re overtaxed?
In his budget address, Gov. Quinn said Illinois faces a “rendezvous with reality.” Unfortunately, his rhetoric is not matched by his budget proposal. Without comprehensive pension and Medicaid reform, the state will continue to devolve into a death spiral of debt and decline. Fortunately, there is another way forward. The Institute’s Budget Solutions 2013 presents a responsible alternative to Gov. Quinn’s. It repeals the disastrous 2011 state income and corporate tax hikes and offers comprehensive pension and Medicaid reform to put Illinois back on a path to prosperity.
The state’s residents deserve a plan that works for them. Gov. Walker has shown us it can work in Wisconsin. Illinois’ elected officials should strive to do the same. To hear more about the stark contrast in paths Illinois and Wisconsin took last year, come to our luncheon with Gov. Walker later this month. Details for the event can be found here.