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Summer Roundup and Fall Kickoff: #VOTEPUBLIC!

Summer 2020 has launched us into a full-steam-ahead #VotePublic campaign for kids, educators, and their public schools.

The Wisconsin Public Education Network and public school advocates have turned a busy and productive summer into a motivated, collaborative fall for our kids and their public schools. Read on for a summary of our sixth annual Summer Summit, spotlights on some news, resources, and actions, and information about the #VotePublic 2020 campaign and the #VotePublic Action Workshop Series!

Summer Summit Summary

The sixth annual Wisconsin Public Education Network Summer Summit took place virtually on Friday, July 24, 2020. Hosted by the Sun Prairie Area School District and the Sun Prairie Action Resource Coalition (SPARC), the summit’s theme was “Public Education and Democracy” and included a number of panels and breakout sessions focused on the role of public education in building and preserving a strong democratic society.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Stanford Taylor delivered pre-recorded remarks, and Governor Tony Evers delivered a live welcome address. The summit also featured pre-recorded cameos from U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and comedian Charlie Berens of the “Manitowoc Minute”!

The morning’s featured panel, “PUBLIC OPINION, PUBLIC EDUCATION, AND DEMOCRACY,” explored the relationship between people and their public schools, and how this relationship, when strong, is paramount to democracy. Angela Lang, a Milwaukee organizer and the executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) spoke with Charles Franklin, law professor and director of the Marquette Law School poll, the largest and most reputable poll in Wisconsin.

The day ended with the keynote conversation, “DESPITE THE BEST INTENTIONS: HOW RACIAL INEQUALITY THRIVES IN GOOD SCHOOLS, AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT,” between John Diamond, co-author of Despite the Best Intentions and current Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Gloria Ladson-Billings, the university’s former Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education. The two discussed the takeaways of Dr. Diamond’s book, their own relationships with public education, and the role of public spaces and institutions in both perpetuating and–with work and commitment–combating racial injustice.

Both the morning’s featured panel and the keynote conversation were moderated by Julie Underwood, dean emerita of the UW-Madison School of Education and president of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, the financial arm of the Wisconsin Public Education Network.

Over 450 people attended the summit in total, with the featured panels being among the most well-attended sessions, along with several morning and afternoon breakout sessions, and seven pre-recorded sessions, focused on school funding, embedding social justice in public schools, and more. A full archive of the day is available here, with video recordings of each session.

News and Advocacy

Wisconsin Public Education Network Executive Director Heather DuBois Bourenane published “Make the Best of Public Education” in the Progressive magazine on August 12.  In the article, she highlights our public schools’ desperate need for responsible resources in order to safely offer face-to-face instruction. She also draws attention to the hypocrisy of private, often voucher-funded, schools across Wisconsin have been eligible for federal PPP loans while our public schools have gone without the crucial-yet-insufficient funding embedded in the HEROES Act

This week, Wisconsin writer and photographer Barbara Miner published this interrogation in the Wisconsin Examiner, “School Vouchers, Black Lives Matter, and Democracy,” looking at parochial/voucher schools’ ability to sidestep nondiscrimination laws in the city of Milwaukee, ones who openly decry the Black Lives Matter movement. The piece reinforces the importance of investing in public education to strive for social justice and bolster our democracy.

Our Network Partners and friends of our Network have been busy echoing the calls to our lawmakers to “to your job” and asking them to prioritize children and families.

Superintendents are standing up for our public schools and calling for support from our state lawmakers, not just unfunded demands! The Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA) sent this letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos with nine requests for lawmakers. See our blog post spotlighting WASDA’s letter here. (Read the July 29 letter from 47 state lawmakers to superintendents across the state urging face-to-face instruction here, as published in UpNorthNews.)

These communications and efforts highlight the way educators, community members, and advocates are ready to do what it takes to keep kids safe and invest in public education. On that note…

Fall 2020: #VotePublic!

The Summer Summit also marked the launch of the Wisconsin Public Education Network’s #VotePublic campaign–resources (a new “Public School Proud” yard sign), events, connections, and opportunities are available at Public education advocates across Wisconsin are ready to take local level action for statewide impact and #VotePublic for the 860,000 kids that are counting on them!

One part of this non-partisan campaign is the #VotePublic Action Workshop Series, a set of events focused on equipping public school supporters with the information, skills, and resources they need to take local action for statewide impact before, during, and after the 2020 election.

On Thursday, August 21, we held the first workshop, School Funding 101. The event was well-attended, not only by network partners and advocates, but by officeholders and candidates and staffers for elected office at the local, state, and national levels. Julie Underwood led the two-hour workshop, covering the history of school funding in Wisconsin, the current funding formula, and equipped participants with the knowledge it takes to advocate for a robust, equitable budget as they cast their votes, take elected office, and hold leaders accountable! The link to its archive is available via

Partners are encouraged to JOIN US–there are six more workshops on the horizon! On September 2, we are partnering with the Sun Prairie Area School District on a BACK TO SCHOOL ACADEMY for Parents and Caregivers, and on September 3, we are offering a #VotePublic Messaging and Media Workshop. See all upcoming workshops and sign up at

Finally, we encourage partners across the state to #MakeItLocal and host your own non-partisan #VotePublic event in YOUR community! Get on the bus for kids and their public schools by doing your own thing–however big or small–and take local level action for statewide impact. Sign up to put your community on the Get On the Bus map and let us know what you’re up to and how you can help at

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@WiscEdNetwork), and Instagram (@WiscEdNetwork), and tell your families, friends, and neighbors to do the same. When we share our own stories, amplifying the needs of kids and families in our own communities, our collective voice is strong. We all have different stories, but our responsibility is shared. Tag us on social media to share YOUR #VotePublic story, and stay tuned for more!

It’s a challenging year, which makes it a GREAT year to support our public schools, the educators who bring them to life, and the kids who attend them. #VotePublic!

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