What a year!

WHAT A YEAR! As we take inventory of everything public school champions around the state have done in 2023 to protect, support, and defend our public schools, we are full of gratitude, inspiration, resolve, and…exhaustion. We’re ready to take a short break, and invite you to join us in the new year as we launch an ambitious plan to fight even harder for the public schools Wisconsin students deserve.

But we can’t go into our winter break without thanking you for keeping the essential work of fighting for the public schools our kids deserve alive in Wisconsin, no matter the obstacles. Together, we have made remarkable progress even in the face of new, unforeseeable setbacks, and only this inspiring network of public education champions could have weathered the cheerless moments of a difficult year with the kind of strength and energy we have seen over the past year.

In the past year, thanks to you, Wisconsin Public Education Network partners around the state have:

  • Ensured that all eyes were on the state budget with unified asks for responsible, fair increases in public school funding to catch up with inflation and targeting funds where needs are greatest: closing the special education funding gap and the disparity between state funding of special education for public and private schools.

While the budget passed in 2023 fell short again, we amplified the advocacy of a majority of Wisconsinites and put public education issues front and center of public attention, positioning us well for stronger results 2024 and beyond.

  • Set the tone for a positive message and prioritization of the most urgent needs of our students, and provided support for that hard work even when things got ugly at the local level. Our staff and our partners have become trusted sources for statewide media on behalf of public school issues, amplifying local concerns and needs, and we continue to demand quality coverage of public school issues and presence of public school champions in the media.
  • Provided high visibility trainings and workshops directly to nearly 1,000 Wisconsin public school champions, on topics including putting together a local team, messaging and media, referenda, school funding basics, privatization, and more.
  • Continued our efforts to educate voters and support public education champions in nonpartisan election work around the state. We supported local referendum committees and provided workshops for public education champions considering running for school board.
  • Hosted an annual Summer Summit focused on the theme Accountability In Action, with state leaders (including Superintendent Underly) and local- and national-level presenters to connect community leaders, educators, board members, administrators, parents/caregivers, and legislators around how to hold ourselves and our leaders accountable for doing what’s best for students.
  • Highlighted and distributed the positive public school stories through our ongoing “Public Schools Unite Us” campaign to a large and growing list of Wisconsinites: over 7,000 on our mailing list, nearly 10,000 on Facebook, and countless others through digital and interpersonal communication.
  • Developed toolkits and supports for combating attacks on equity initiatives and inclusive teaching and learning practices, messaging guidelines for uniting around the public schools we all love, and direct support for those looking to maximize their local-level action. School board members and community advocates in urban, rural, and suburban communities regularly use our resources to keep the focus where it belongs: on kids.

We wish you a restful and joyful end to the year and beginning to 2024. We have huge plans for the new year that match the enormity of the moment we’ll be in for our public schools. Watch for information coming soon about the casual happy hour we’re hosting in January at the Hilton in Milwaukee, which we host during the annual State Education Convention for anyone at the school board convention – or just in the area, looking to swing by. Be sure to follow our Election HQ for tools and resources related to elections and referenda. And our calendar of events at WisconsinNetwork.org/events has all of the information on our workshops, our 10th Anniversary Party, Summer Summit, and partner events that will keep us all connected throughout 2024.

Here are two things you can do now to help keep up with these needs and ambitious plans.

  1. Help make sure public school champions have support with referenda and get-out-the-vote efforts, which promise to be busier than ever. If you’ve “been there, done that” with anything related to referenda and supporting public schools, sign up to be part of a support network and be available to others in your region who might need support or advice.
  2. Contribute to our work by setting up a monthly, sustaining donation to the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools and be the reason Wisconsin kids thrive. This holiday season, we invite you to make your donation “in honor of” an educator who means the world to you and send them a tribute note to let them know why you support the work we do together.

With appreciation,

— Heather and Team Public at Wisconsin Public Education Network

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