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Op-Ed: Kids Do Not Have Time to Wait For Politicians to Fix Broken Schools

By: Kevin Nicholson

As the father of 3 children (who attend and will continue to attend school in Wisconsin), I have collectively experienced about 20 different individual school years between our kids (and have about that many to go). Each has been different – a product of the school and its curriculum, the teachers, the world around us, our family’s situation, and our individual children. Some years have been great, some have been okay, and 2020 was truly awful. That said, every year in school has been of great importance for each student in our family, and a stark reminder that no child has the time to wait for politicians to fix broken schools.

To that end, I am now running for governor because we need to get our society on track, and, to accomplish that goal, we must urgently address and resolve severe problems within our schools.

We face a stark educational reality in Wisconsin: the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) reports that Wisconsin’s K-12 students scored an abysmal 27% proficient in math and 27.5% proficient in English Language Arts in 2021. Beyond shameful proficiency statistics, Wisconsin also has the widest racial achievement gap in the country, and ample examples of highly problematic and inappropriate materials being taught to students and teachers throughout our state (e.g., recent instances in Eau Claire, Elmbrook, Madison, and Middleton.)

In fact, across Wisconsin, through the tenets of critical race theory (CRT), our children are being taught to hate themselves, their country, and their fellow Americans on the basis of their race. Make no mistake: in its attempt to twist the facts of our history and to assign blame for historical actions to living Americans on the basis of skin color, CRT is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin). We must teach the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly of our history, because our children must grow up understanding the mistakes and successes of their forbearers, and they must do so with proper context.  CRT accomplishes none of the above.

As the next Governor of our state, I pledge to respond to this educational crisis by signing universal school choice legislation to attach state funding of education to individual students, instead of school buildings. This action will empower Wisconsin families to immediately get their kids out of failing environments – or environments where they are being taught intellectual poison like CRT – and into successful schools. Because funding will follow students, it will be easier to found new schools, while failing schools will, appropriately, close.

I will also sign legislation that will create complete curriculum transparency and put all student curriculums and teacher training materials online where they can be easily accessed by the people of Wisconsin.

Further, I will sign legislation that will enact a parental bill of rights that will ensure that Wisconsin parents have: access to all of their children’s instructional materials, the right to have their children opt out of certain educational content, the right to determine their child’s medical care, the right to choose the name and pronouns used by their child, and the right to be notified about any student surveys and school safety concerns.

By doing the above, we will create a transparent market where universal school choice, complete curriculum transparency, and a comprehensive parental bill of rights, will get kids into successful schools, and force school administrators to respond to the concerns of parents.

Thanks to former Governor Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin has long been an education innovator, demonstrating the value of school choice, particularly in disadvantaged communities. However, Wisconsin’s current school choice program contains stringent income and geographic limitations. Even so, demand for the program is overwhelming, and parents are clamoring for new options. It is unfortunate that elected Republican officials did not act sooner to implement universal school choice when they previously controlled both the governor’s office and the legislature over the past decade.

Meanwhile, during his decade as DPI Superintendent, and his time as governor, Tony Evers has long failed our kids and families when it comes to education (as evidenced by the academic performance statistics shared above.) Today, nearly 60% of Wisconsin’s registered voters support, “allowing all students statewide to use publicly funded vouchers to attend private or religious schools if they wish to do so.” Despite this demand, Evers vetoed legislation that would have implemented universal school choice and a parental bill of rights in April of 2022. Last December, Evers vetoed legislation that would have guaranteed curriculum transparency in Wisconsin.

As such, any path to establishing a functioning and transparent market for education in Wisconsin must include removing Tony Evers from office.  That said, it is not enough to just defeat Tony Evers.  We need to elect a governor who understands the urgent need to implement universal school choice, curriculum transparency and a parental bill of rights in our state, and who is not part of a Madison-based political machine who has allowed these issues to fester for years.

I am running for governor because we must move with urgency to get our society back on track, and nowhere is that urgency more critical than in the case of fixing education in our state.  Republicans in Wisconsin have now lost 11 out of the last 12 statewide elections, and the consequences of losing to Leftist extremists, like Tony Evers, are severe. It is past time to throw out the old playbook, to defeat Tony Evers, and to provide new leadership and real solutions to the people of Wisconsin.

Kevin Nicholson is a businessman and candidate for governor of the state of Wisconsin.  He is the former volunteer president and CEO of No Better Friend Corp., a conservative public policy group in Wisconsin. A combat veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps (Iraq, 2007 and Afghanistan, 2008-2009) he was also a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2018. Follow him on Twitter @KevinMNicholson.


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