Public education advocates celebrated as 2018 Friends of Education

     September 20, 2018

To support local level action with statewide impact, click here or text GIVE to (608) 530-6667 to support thriving public schools.

Public education advocates celebrated as 2018 Friends of Education

Parents and supporters of Wisconsin’s public schools gathered in Madison today as they were recognized by the Department of Public Instruction as a 2018 Friend of Education in the State of Education Address by Superintendent Tony Evers. With over 60 Network partners from Superior to Kenosha in attendance, the award was accepted by representatives of grassroots teams from around the state.  

“We accept this award on behalf of the countless individuals and groups around the state who are standing up where they live for local students and demanding fairness for all of the 860,000 children in Wisconsin’s public schools,” said Heather DuBois Bourenane, proud parent of two students in Sun Prairie public schools and member of Support Sun Prairie Schools and the Sun Prairie Action Resource Coalition  (SPARC). She serves as executive director of the Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN), a nonpartisan coalition of parents, students, educators, school board members, administrators, community leaders and education policy experts united behind one objective: uniting to ensure the success of the 860,000+ students attending Wisconsin public schools.

Superintendent Evers had warm hugs for the Wisconsin Public Education Network partners receiving the Friend of Education award on behalf of advocates around the state.
The “sea of blue shirts” in the crowd at the Capitol for the State of Education Address included teachers, parents, board members, community advocates, and superintendents from Superior to Kenosha and Manitowoc to La Crosse! The Friend of Education honor was shared by many attending in person and many more who were there in spirit throughout Wisconsin.
From left: Jenni Hofschulte, Melissa Prochaska, Chris Hambuch-Boyle, and Marcia Engen. Parents, educators, board members, and retired educators from around the state – representing the heart and soul of the work being done around the state to stand up for our students and their public schools.

“WPEN has made it possible for citizens to care passionately and speak loudly in support of public schools, the heart of communities large and small in Wisconsin” said Marcia Engen, a retired Appleton Area School District teacher and member of Fox Cities Advocates for Public Education.

“This Network helps us do what our kids need us to do most: stand up for them” said Jenni Hofschulte, proud MPS parent and president of Parents for Public Schools-Milwaukee. “We can’t do this work in silos. We need to connect. That’s why our motto is ‘local-level action, statewide impact.’ We need to understand each other’s challenges and then share ideas, expertise, so we can take action. When urban, rural and suburban parents unite to make real change, our communities take notice – and so do local and state level decision makers.”

Eau Claire Area School District board member Chris Hambuch-Boyle has been a leader in supporting passage of board resolutions on public school funding and private school voucher transparency, and has relied on the Network both to draw support for local action and help amplify the message statewide. “I am grateful that the WPEN shines the light of day on public school funding in Wisconsin,” she said. “And I’m grateful that this work is being recognized as more and more people begin to understand what’s at stake for the public schools we love and depend on.”

Melissa Prochaska, an educator and founding member of the Community Advocates for Public Schools (CAPS) team in Watertown, connected with the Network when her team was looking to get organized to stand up for local students. “Wisconsin Public Education Network has been instrumental in empowering advocates to take action locally and lift up the cornerstone of communities, our public schools,” she said. “We put together an advocacy group in Watertown in under three weeks because of the unbelievable resources and network of WPEN. Our request for help was met with endless connections and people extending assistance from communities near and far all to help kids in our public schools.  I’ve never experienced such a support system before.”  With a major operational referendum facing the district, she also sees the critical need for supporting local communities as they engage in local action: “This referendum is critical to the success of our children in Watertown. If it doesn’t pass, our district faces a million dollar deficit and students will pay the price. It gives me hope to know that Wisconsin Public Education Network is working to both support us at the local level and to fight at the state level for the funding reform our schools so desperately need.”

In his annual address, Superintendent Tony Evers applauded the work of public education advocates: “The people of Wisconsin know there’s a better way. We see it in the conversation around school funding. Over the past few years, folks across Wisconsin began meeting and giving up their free time to learn about school funding. Go figure. They took that knowledge to their communities and local school boards and formed groups, like the Wisconsin Public Education Network. And because of their advocacy, we have seen over 1.1 million residents from Shullsburg to Manitowoc rally behind public education and vote to raise taxes on themselves to support their schools. Over half the school districts in the state have passed referenda since 2011, and the success rate of questions jumped to roughly 70 percent. State leaders in Madison aren’t getting the job done, so people of Wisconsin are doing it themselves.” We are proud to be among those people and thank Superintendent Ever and DPI for the recognition! Local level action, statewide impact. Join us! Full speech here:

Click here for more photos!

Wisconsin Public Education Network invites all who agree that every student in every public school deserves an equal shot at success to join and support them. Follow WPEN on facebook, learn more at

To support local level action with statewide impact, click here or text GIVE to (608) 530-6667 to support thriving public schools.

If you missed the State of Education event today, check out the video!

AMAZING rendition of the National Anthem by Madison East High School student Reegan Olson 5:00m
Superintendent Tony Evers WI State of Education Address 10:00m
The WI Public Education Network award 34:20m



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