Republican lawmakers not expecting much from Wisconsin’s State of Education speech

(The Center Square) – Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin haven’t been given a preview of the state superintendent’s State of Education speech, but they have some guesses as to what they are going to hear.

Or more specifically, what they are not going to hear.

“We won’t hear about the terrible achievement levels we’ve been seeing in Wisconsin public schools,” Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, said Wednesday. “English Language Arts scores in 2021 were under 40% proficient. In math those scores were under 38% proficient.”

Wisconsin Superintendent of Schools Jill Underly is set to deliver her State of Education speech Thursday afternoon at the Capitol.

The state’s Department of Public Instruction says her speech will include “remarks regarding opportunities and challenges facing K-12 education.”

No one at DPI is offering a preview of the speech either.

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, on Wednesday said he doesn’t expect much.

“I fully expect to hear excuses for the current state of education,” Thiesfeldt said. “And that the solution is for hundreds of millions or billions of dollars to be sent to education in the state of Wisconsin.

Undelry delivered a budget proposal last week that asks for $2.5 billion in state funding in the next two-year state budget.

Her plan would spend more on per-pupil-aid, spend more on mental health services for school kids, and spend more state dollars to pay for school lunches for every child in the state.

Stroebel said he doesn’t see lawmakers wanting to simply hand more money over to Underly and the DPI.

Instead he said lawmakers will likely “look” at the Department of Public Instruction.

“We need to look at the actions that they are taking today,” Stroebel explained. “Right now we see DPI trying to stick their fingers into local school districts. We believe in local control, and that these local districts can do what they feel is in the best interest for their local communities.”

“Jill Undelry has completely politicized the Department of Public Instruction,” Thiesfeldt added. “[Past state superintendents] would sit and listen to you. It appeared they were interested in what you had to say. But no more.”

Stroebel is part of the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, where he specializes in education issues.

Thiefsfeldt is the chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Education and a teacher himself.