September 6, 2023: Voucher Transparency; Past and Upcoming Conferences

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    Wondering how to advocate for kids and public schools in a complex legal landscape? Wondering how some of the disparities facing kids in Wisconsin could possibly be legal? Public school champions from educators to board members to community advocates are invited to join us for a three-part, interactive, action-focused seminar series via Zoom for public school community members, board members, administrators and Network partners: how school law works, how to maximize opportunities for connections, and how to best advocate for the public schools all children deserve. Register via the hyperlinks below:
    A number of special guests are joining us for our September meeting of Wisconsin Public Education Network partners, this coming Monday, September 11, from 3:30-5:00pm via Zoom. State Representatives Francesca Hong and Kristina Shelton will share a report from their recent visit to the annual ALEC convention; Tom Wermuth will share his reflections as a member of the Act 89 committee tasked with designing the Department of Public Instruction’s new school finance database; partners from around the state will share legislative updates; and more.
    Registration is required. Our Network partner meetings are open to all who are committed to our shared values and who consider themselves good faith partners in our work! Register here.

    Team Public will be present at a number of fantastic events this fall, and we hope to connect with you there!
    • October 22-24, Wisconsin Dells: Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance Conference. Team Public will be there, presenting on Monday! Our session is titled “Building Successful Coalitions in Rural Wisconsin for Pro-Public Education Advocacy.” This is a great annual event bringing public school professionals, administrators, and supporters from across rural Wisconsin together. See the schedule at a glance below, and register here! (Wisconsin Public Education Network is a proud WiRSA partner; contributing partners of our Network may register using the member rate.)
    • October 28-29, Washington D.C.: National Network for Public Education Action Conference. Team Public is proud to join allies for public education from Wisconsin and around the country at this exciting annual event. Our executive director Heather DuBois Bourenane will sit on three panels throughout the event.
      • We will also be hosting a panel discussion on Sunday titled “Public Schools Unite Us: How Wisconsin Came Together to Protect Students’ Freedom to Learn and Elect Public Education Champions.”
    • November 16-17, Chattanooga, TN: National Rural Education Association Annual Conference. While we aren’t sure if Team Public will be able to make it to this event in person this year, last year’s conference in Green Bay was a huge success for rural public school advocacy and a fantastic opportunity to connect with rural educators, administrators, and advocates from across the U.S.

    The Herb Kohl Foundation, one of the sponsors of our recent Summer Summit, is taking nominations and applications for its annual student scholarship and teacher fellowship programs. Visit to learn more and make a nomination!

    Following the passage of a new literacy curriculum law this summer, a powerful new “Council on Early Literacy Curricula” will consist of three people from the Department of Public Instruction and six political appointees. Let’s make sure they get nominations from educators and those who know what these issues really mean to kids! Application deadlines are due by September 8. Public school champions are encouraged to apply here by September 8:

Register for the Public School Law series here, here, and here!


    State Superintendent Jill Underly will deliver her annual State of Education Address in the capitol rotunda on Thursday, September 21, at noon. We encourage public school champions to watch and hear what the Department of Public Instruction’s priorities will be for the coming year.

    Governor Evers has called the Legislature to a special session on Wednesday, September 20, to address a number of agenda items related to the workforce, including early childhood care and education (Child Care Counts programming) and teacher workforce (rehiring retired educators), and more.

    The Alverno College Research Center for Women & Girls is conducting a Women Leaders in Higher Education Study, related to the lived experiences of women who have held or currently hold leadership positions in education within the Great Lakes Region. Specifically, the study is intended to better understand the resources women, especially those without traditional resources of power, utilize to lead in a way that helps them be heard and taken seriously. If you or anyone you know fits these criteria, consider participating in the study by indicating your interest via this short questionnaire: If you have questions, contact Dr. Lindsey Harness, Director for the Research Center for Women and Girls.

    Wisconsin Public Education Network partners have been in the news a lot recently!
    UpNorthNews, August 21: Heather DuBois Bourenane and Beloit Superintendent Dr. Willie Garrison II on the referendum penalty box currently holding some districts back
    WORT “A Public Affair,” August 17: Christian Phelps and MTI President Mike Jones, MTI Executive Director Jeff Knight, and host Burt Zipperer
    UpNorthNews Radio, September 6: Dr. Julie Underwood and Martha Siravo discuss vouchers with Pat Kreitlow
    – Follow us on Facebook @WisconsinNetwork for regular news updates!

    The biggest news of the past week comes from the legislature, where the Joint Committee on Finance has rejected a proposal from the Department of Public Instruction to include the cost of private school vouchers in its upcoming public school finance database. The database creation was passed two years ago as Act 89 with the stated intention of requiring DPI to publish an accessible tool to “give taxpayers easy access to financial information about individual school and school district spending.” But after some pro-voucher lobbyists wrote the committee objecting to private schools’ public finances being included, the transparency proposal was rejected.

    Our Action Alert walks you through the details and what you can do about it.


    Speaking of the transparency issue…a number of our Network partners have shared with us the statements they’ve shared with their own lawmakers demanding transparency for all schools receiving public funds. See letters from Carol Lenz, Neda Esmaili, and Lance Bagstad here. If you’ve spoken up on this issue, please send us your remarks so we can add them and amplify them!
    Our friends at the Fox Cities Advocates for Public Education received a well-deserved recognition from Hortonville Area School District Superintendent Todd Timm at the district’s new school year breakfast for staff in late August. FCA4PE has advocated relentlessly for public schools across the Fox Valley, and it was beautiful to see them recognized for that advocacy!

    We congratulate our filmmaking friends Micah Davis and Steve Betchkal of Eau Claire on getting a Midwest Emmy nomination for one of their beautiful PUBLIC SCHOOLS UNITE US videos featuring Howard Lehman, retired Eau Claire band teacher, and his former student, Zach Halmstad, co-founder of Jamf Software and the Pablo Group.

    We’re proud to have sponsored this video series, which is an amazing showcase of the ways public schools unite our communities long after students graduate. This video in particular is a testament to the impact public schools have had on both Zach and Howard.

    Congratulations, Micah and Steve, on the well-deserved nomination for this remarkable piece of storytelling!

About the author: Christian Phelps

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