On Saturday I wrote about how Rose Fernandez waffled on a question, about accepting federal stimulus funds. As I have already mentioned, this appears to be little more than a Walker-style pander to the furthest of the right wing that makes up her base. The obvious problem is that she apparently is willing to put her base before the education needs of the kids in this state. Rose Fernandez should be pressed further about her troubling response because these stimulus dollars will have a real impact on education in Wisconsin.
According to the Recovery.Gov website, Wisconsin would get significant help in some very important areas of education. Here are just some of the items that Rose waffled on in the last debate:
- $208,200,000 for Special Education Part B, Section 611
- $180,929,364 for Title I Education for the Disadvantaged
- $9,276,172 for Head Start
Special Education funding has consistently been a top challenge for the states and Wisconsin is no exception. To have someone waffle on further federal help in this area, makes zero sense and would only hurt students, their parents, and education in general. Similarly, Title I funding is critical to ensuring solid education opportunities for disadvantaged students. The extra funding in these two areas alone would be huge for districts like MPS which has large numbers of students that fall into both of these categories.
Less investment in education can often lead to larger class sizes and laid off teachers, neither of which are good for students. In these desperate economic times, that is exactly the kind of thing that the stimulus funding is meant to avoid. Refusing funding based on little more than ideological purity, would constitute a serious dereliction of duty. The case can also be made that refusing the stimulus funds for education could actually translate into higher property taxes. We have to run these programs and they have to be paid for in one way or another. The less that we get from the federal government, the more that the school districts will probably need from property taxpayers.
Rose Fernandez may have managed to stay ideologically pure for her fans on the extreme right, but her waffling on such a basic question should give the rest of us pause. Larger class sizes? Teacher lay-offs? Higher property taxes? Less quality? Those are certainly changes, but they are not the kind of changes that we need in Wisconsin education.
UPDATE: Walker, Fernandez and now Sarah Palin. What a cast of characters!