Walker Visits New Berlin

Talks education, career opportunities

Liz Liska, Editor in Chief

On January 25th, Governor Scott Walker made a visit to School District of New Berlin offices to speak about Dual Enrollment and Youth Options opportunities in New Berlin High Schools.

New Berlin is one of 25 schools receiving grants from the Department of Workforce Development’s Fast Forward grant program for $96,000. This grant supports the health care, technical, and engineering departments to give high schoolers an opportunity to become certified in their field before the end of their high school career.

“It’s important to think about [your career] now,” Walker stated, “not to wait until 6 weeks before graduation.”

The CNA class gives high school students the opportunity to become certified by the state within the time frame of a single semester, along with after-school clinicals at Linden Grove. This allows for students to begin their career before the end of high school.

“I want to go into physical therapy, so CNA was really just a way for me to get a head start in the medical field,” stated Nicole Dorshorst, a senior at New Berlin Eisenhower previously enrolled in the CNA program.

Although Dorshorst stated that she intends to continue her education at a four year university, paying for college has always been on her mind. She intends to work as a CNA during her college years. “You always hear about student debt,” she stated. “[Working as a CNA] is a good way to supplement and keep up with the financial stuff during school.”

Other programs receiving funding include the TechKnow department, a technical training service offered at the high school that prepares students for a career in technology.

The school also offers dual enrollment at WCTC, which provides students with the chance to be enrolled in high school and college at the same time. This is most typically used for welding, printing, and manufacturing.

Sterling Leathers, a Sophomore at New Berlin West enrolled in a manufacturing course this past semester. His experience was mostly exploratory. Going into the semester, Sterling stated that he “…had no idea what this class was going to be about.”

According to Leathers, the class served as a positive opportunity. “It really sparked my interest and opened up a whole new world to me in engineering,” Leathers stated.

“We want students to be using these because it’s something that really fits their plans for the future. not just to get free credits,” stated Dual Enrollment and Youth Options Consultant, Kevin Miller.

Walker recently stated that an additional $3 million will be set aside for dual enrollment options in the future.

“We talk about student loan debt.” Walker stated at the conference. “The best way to deal with student loan debt is to keep the cost down in the first place.”

As for school districts who have not been given grants, opportunities like these are more of a challenge, but they are possible.

“It’s hard,” Miller stated, “but partnerships [are] usually the key.”

According to Miller, future progress in funding, and the parameters set on such funding,  is up to the governor and legislature to decide.

From 2011-’13, Walker cut about 1.1 billion dollars in education funding, including a 30% decrease in funding for state technical colleges.

Tech schools are not the only higher level institutions facing budget cuts. In July of 2015, Walker signed a new state budget that takes away $250 million from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This also took away from state tenure laws for UW professors that, according to the Washington Post, “will seriously harm the school’s ability to retain and attract talented faculty.”

This is in addition to recent state voucher expansions for private schools, or school choice facilities. Vouchers are a type of grant that are given to students in private schools to supplement their funding. The money for this voucher then comes out of the public school funding, as it is meant to replace the money that would have been spent on the student in public school and instead give it to the private school. Typically, it is around $7,000 per student.

With expansion of the voucher program comes increasing concerns about special education. Many private schools are not equipped to provide certain needs for all students. The private schools receive these vouchers for the student, but if the student gets transferred into a public school where their needs can be more properly met, the voucher money never shifts hands. This results in public schools facing the responsibility to educate the student without the state funding to do so.

In response to this issue, Walker stated that “[private choice schools] have to abide by the law, just like they have for the last 20 years.”

Wisconsin has a long history of supporting industrial work preparation. In 1911, Wisconsin became the first state to place state funding in the hands of technical schools and preparation programs.

In the 2014-’15 school year, Wisconsin administered their first free ACT for all juniors in the state. This was in addition to the previous ACT installment, the WorkKeys, a $12 million dollar initiative. The WorkKeys provide a state administered test to assess a student’s workplace readiness. This test, like the ACT, is also taken in junior year and is recognized nationally as a formal assessment of career readiness by businesses and industries.

Despite these funding improvements in recent years, Walker has yet to bring Wisconsin back to previous funding rates. Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk stated that Walker is responsible for “the biggest cuts to education in our state’s history.”

Wisconsin is one of 12 states that continues to make cuts despite an improving economy. The most controversial of these cuts came with the passing of Act 10, which took teacher’s collective bargaining tool in order to lower property taxes.

Walker has also promised to make reforms to the healthcare system, stating that 100% of the funds saved from these reductions will go towards education, but has not stated exactly what they will be used for.