Dear Mr. Williams,
I was shocked to learn that you are featuring Gov. Scott "Teachers Are Thugs" Walker on your program The State of Education, streaming online via the NBC News initiative Education Nation, at 1 p.m. on Monday, September 26.
Being familiar with some of your work on the Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, I'm aware you not only know that Scott Walker is an enemy of teachers, but have in fact slow-jammed that news yourself on at least one occasion.
Given your familiarity with Walker's attacks on educators and other public servants, you must be aware of his equally devastating attacks on public education itself in Wisconsin. But the fact that he has been invited to participate in this summit, and the eagerness with which he has already begun to reveal the lies he plans to further espouse on your show, compel me to provide you with a partial list of the many ways Scott Walker has waged war on public education in Wisconsin, and is shamefully ill-qualified to participate in a forum on education.
I hope you will use this information to expose him as the anti-education policy-pusher that he is, and use this opportunity to reveal the truth about his sinister plans to privatize public education rather than provide him with a platform to spout his usual lies about "reform" (which is his codeword for defunding public education).
- Walker cut $1.6 billion from Wisconsin's public education budget over the next two years, even as he passes out tax breaks like candy and increases public funding to private and charter schools. Most districts in the state had to deal with these cuts this year by forcing our top commodity, experienced teachers, into early retirement to get some short-term balance in hiring new, "less expensive" teachers.
Programming cuts are rampant all over the state. Districts are forced to raise taxes up to the existing levies, if they haven't already. Walker calls cuts "tools." Get ready to hear him say that word a lot on your show. He may also mention jobs, since he has a hard time not using "job" and "tool" in the same sentence, but don't fall for it. As the people of Wisconsin have been telling him since February, he needs to keep his brown bag full of "tools" away from our schools.
- Walker is heavily funded by, and answers to, anti-public education privatization policy-pushers like the Koch brothers, the Walton family and Betsy DeVos' ironically named American Federation for Children, at whose annual event Walker was a keynote speaker last spring.
These groups have the admitted goal of privatizing public education and are using Wisconsin as a staging ground for advancing their political aims for our schools. They're using the puppet Scott Walker, who is more than willing to sell out our kids to such high-rolling bidders. They have trained him to use words like "choice" and "merit" as codes for long-term agendas toward privatization and segregation of schools. His efforts to "reform" education in Wisconsin are little more than a financial venture.
- Scott Walker is a proven and habitual liar. His biggest lie is that Wisconsin is "broke" and that we need his "reforms" to "balance the budget." The financial "crisis," which Walker manufactured in order to attempt to illegally push through his draconian budget, was the direct result of the tax cuts he distributed to his cronies in the weeks before declaring this phony state of fiscal emergency.
Further, Walker pushes a myth that the Wisconsin education system is in need of major reform, often blaming our excellent teachers for problems that do not exist. Wisconsin public schools are a national model in many areas, and we are number one in the nation in graduation rates, even as we spend less per pupil than most other states. With many of our schools already running on bare-bones budgets, Walker's cuts are devastating. Our kids are paying the price as Walker's funders cash in their checks.
- The people of Wisconsin do not support Scott Walker. As soon as legally possible, recall efforts will begin full force and are in the planning stage as we speak. Educators throughout the state are near-universally opposed to his policies and further disgusted by his arrogant contempt for the welfare of our children and our education system. He has an approval rating around 40% and sinking. He is at the heart of an FBI "John Doe" investigation related to illegal campaigning. He engaged in campaign ethics violations at Marquette University, and he has made clear throughout his many campaigns that he did not value his own education; hardly the man we should trust to preserve and protect the education of our children.
Walker does not speak for the people of Wisconsin, who see his power grab for exactly what it was: a purely partisan bait-and-switch that led us down a path of abuses of power. It has produced painfully divisive policies that pit the erstwhile friendly and accommodating people of Wisconsin against each other.
When bragging about being part of your summit, Walker said, "I believe we have a great story to tell about our reforms and our bipartisan collaborations to further improve our schools." This from the man who famously said "There's nothing to negotiate" when revoking teachers' rights and lying about how doing so would help "balance the budget."
There has not been a single instance of bipartisan collaboration related to Walker's education agenda since he took office. And I've been paying attention. I watched live as citizen after citizen, teacher after teacher, expert after expert, testified in opposition to his budget, his education-gutting, his plans to expand charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools across the state. Walker shows open contempt for anyone who opposes him and refuses to even acknowledge citizens with whom he disagrees. (I myself have been writing to him regularly since February and have never received more than an automated email response).
Walker continues to this day to suggest that the educators who gathered by the thousands to protest his cuts to education and his abuse of power in taking away their rights were "a handful of out-of-state protesters." He is perhaps the most deceitful and divisive governor in America, and a staggering example of how to destroy public education. I trust you will expose him as such.
Heather DuBois Bourenane
Wisconsin parent, educator, PTO member, state employee and public education advocate