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Education Must Remain Our Top Priority

John Lehman (D-Racine) made comments at the Patch forum last week about private schools that the American Federation for Children took issue with. They are calling on him to apologize and Lehman is responding to their letter to the editor.

Editor's note: This letter to the editor was written in response to the letter written by Brian Pleva, of the American Federation For Children. To read his letter, click .

As a father and retired Racine Unified School District teacher, I understand the importance of having and maintaining a solid education policy in government. After all, how can we create a 21st century economy without the groundwork of a strong 21st century education system for our children?

In Racine, and all across Wisconsin, we have seen more and more independent charter schools and voucher schools come forward to meet educational demands.  We have seen many success stories from voucher schools and independent charter schools, but we have also seen our share of bad actors.

Despite the best intentions of teachers and lawmakers alike, the truth is that independent charter schools and voucher schools are not directly accountable to our elected school boards.  Using taxpayer dollars for an unaccountable educational system is of concern, but we have opportunities to ensure accountability for all of our schools.

Throughout the last session, we have seen an unprecedented attack on our public education system – an attack which will have detrimental effects on Wisconsin’s economy.  We cannot cut 1.6 billion dollars from education and expect to create 250,000 jobs or 10,000 new businesses. Just yesterday, on the front page of a local newspaper, we read about the devastating nature of the voucher school program.  How can we give our kids the best education in the world when our schools can't even make the grade to provide adequate funding for their classrooms? 

As a teacher, when I saw a student struggling in the classroom, that affected me. And I know seeing students struggle affects every teacher.  Every person who has spent time in a classroom knows how hard each and every kid works to be successful.  We need to invest in our education – now is not the time for 2.3 billion dollars for tax breaks to the wealthy and out-of-state corporations.

We can do better for our children and we can do better for Racine County taxpayers by investing in education and stopping the out of control tax breaks to the rich and out-of-state corporations.  Racine County parents and taxpayers cannot continue to fork over money for tax breaks while watching our children’s education erode.

The election next Tuesday is about priorities.  The Walker-Wanggaard extremist agenda, has left our schools behind for political gain.  In place of solid support for schools, Senator Wanggaard has proposed extreme legislation -- such as Senate Bill 555,  whereby officers would be allowed to carry concealed weapons in our schools.  SB 555 would also forbid our local school board from doing anything about it. This needs to stop. Instead of doing what is right for our kids, Senator Wanggaard has played all sorts of “dodge and hide” and “divide and conquer" political games.

I ask everyone to step back, take a deep breath and join me in moving Wisconsin forward with more reasonable, thoughtful education.

Dean May 31, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Dear Mr. Lehman, Why do you and the left continue to not tell the whole truth in regards to the cuts that were made to schools. The school districts that have restructured their contracts with the unions and are having the teachers contribute for their benefits are doing just fine. My children attend Oak Creek Schools through open enrollment. Why? Look at the state of Racine Unified. My taxes keep rising and there is no return on the investment. The fact that Act 10 is working to balance budgets and keep funds in schools instead of in pensions or WEA Trust is Crystal Clear. With the results that Unified is producing, i would not want the charter schools to be accountable to the Unified School Board.
upset father May 31, 2012 at 09:36 PM
A bold face lier
James R Hoffa May 31, 2012 at 10:09 PM
@Mr. Lehman - The parent has the choice to either send their child to the charter school or public school. If the charter school isn't performing to expectation, then the parent doesn't have to send their child to the charter school. Isn't that accountability, in its very finest of forms? Are you really this unintelligent, or do you think we're all stupid? Your entire letter is filled with nothing but the party line propaganda, rhetoric, and talking points - in other words, outright and intentional lies and half-truths. Proof once again that Lehman and the Dems are targeting the low information, non-thinking voter!
mau May 31, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Oh blah blah blah. It's the elected school boards who aren't accountable to the taxpayers. I.E. RUSD mysteriously can come up with $43M for energy savings without approval of the taxpayers. The same RUSD who whines and cries that Walker cut funding. The same school board who miraculously was able to open, negotiate and close a contract before Act10 went into effect.
Tuco June 01, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Dear mr Lehman, I had to lift my feet up after reading your letter. The BS was to deep to keep my shoes clean. If you could have even gave us your own ideas and thoughts instead of the union-owned party line crap, I would have been more receptive. Great job parroting the lib mantra. FYI you may want to check your job numbers. Feds say Mr. Walker is right.
Kevin Presser June 01, 2012 at 02:38 AM
To the editor: You noted that this letter from John Lehman was in response to a letter from Brian Pleva of the American Federation of Children. If this was truly a letter in "response," shouldn't it have addressed the issues that were the basis of the letter? Lehman disparaged the hard earned reputations of all the private schools in the voucher program, save the example of the high school in its first year of operation. He did not address the issues; therefore, this really should not be a "letter of response" to anyone.
James R Hoffa June 01, 2012 at 03:59 AM
RUSD Board of Education and RUSD administrator = union stooges! The good people of Racine had a chance to do something about the dire state of their public school system, but instead choose to keep the same leaders that put them in the situation that they now find themselves in. What is it that the left likes to un-intelligently claim that we on the right like to do... oh yeah, let me try it - Why is it that the people of Racine continuously vote against their own self interests?
James R Hoffa June 01, 2012 at 04:04 AM
Duh - that's the kind of leadership that Lehman represents: unresponsive to the questions asked or situations present!
James R Hoffa June 01, 2012 at 05:25 AM
Mr. Lehman - I agree that public education is important and should be a priority. But perpetually throwing more and more money at education hasn't produced better results, despite the past promises of yourself and your fellow Wisconsin Democrats, has it? In fact, the more money we were forced to throw at public education under your leadership, the worse our public education system actually became in terms of producing acceptable results. So, my question to you sir, is how will you fix education if elected, without raising revenues - as you've already demonstrated to us that such an approach just doesn't work. I'm waiting to hear your detailed and specific plan, as I'm sure the rest of the voters in the 21st district are as well. But whenever anyone asks you this question, all you do is repeat the irrelevant and non-responsive party line propaganda/rhetoric/talking points, as indicated by this letter to the editor. That is not an appropriate answer to this question Mr. Lehman, and quite frankly, is an insult to the intelligence of the voters of the 21st District. We will not let you fool us ever again Mr. Lehman! Go back to Canada and try to convince them of your lies. Vote WANGGAARD on June 5th!
Paul Walker June 01, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Does Anyone care that Lehman was teaching and dating his wife while he was at park high. or that he spent time in federal prison. All facts know one wants to talk about.
Keith Best June 01, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Van Wanggaard is doing an outstanding job as state senator. Realize this recall is a blatant attempt to seize power by the Democrats since they started this "civil war" as Barrett calls it, the night of the election back in November 2010. That's a Fact Jack!
Michael Zarling June 02, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Mr Lehman, you are generalizing and grouping "bad actors" of charter and voucher schools with excellent schools who are making use of the School Choice system. There are parochial schools in our Racine area that have been educating children for decades. The children from these classrooms have become teachers - parochial and public, musicians, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, etc. Now, the governement is simply allowing parents in our community to make use of these excellent Racine schools. Why are you pitting public schools against parochial schools? There are some things that public schools do well with their funding that parochial schools cannot. And there are things that parochial schools do better than public schools. One of the things that our parochial school can do is educate a child with the $6400 that it receives for each Choice student, while it costs between $10,000-$12,000 to accomplish the same thing in the Racine public schools. Allow parents to have a choice. If their public school is failing their child, why throw more money at the problem? Why not give that parent the opportunity - the Choice - to take that voucher of $6400 and receive an education for their child that works?
Michael Zarling June 02, 2012 at 11:18 AM
Mr Lehman, Before you start criticizing all the parochial schools that are opening their doors to Choice students, why not walk through our halls? Our grade school is not in this for the money! We've been around for almost 40 years, educating hundreds of Racine children. Wisconsin Lutheran School is open for you to come and visit. Better yet, talk to our students and parents before you so easily criticize.

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