Underly likely to use speech to continue throwing political elbows to support Evers’ reelect
Expect Superintendent to dismiss those opposed to hyper-sexualized/CRT classroom content as intolerant zealots
Today at noon, the DPI Superintendent of Public Instruction will deliver the annual State of Education speech at the Capitol. Days ago, DPI submitted their annual budget request to the governor, which gives a window into one of the topics we can expect to hear about today – chief among them, a $2.5 billion spending increase. But since Underly took office in July of 2021, she has taken an even more aggressively political approach to the job than many of her predecessors. We can expect to see more of that in her speech today.
Our top predictions on her message:
Cash is the Only Way to Show You Care
We can expect her to say that school funding has decreased, despite all evidence to the contrary. She has said – in defiance of the facts – that the decline in our test scores is the result of a decline in funding, a decrease in teachers, and a decline in mental health funding.
Underly will claim education is suffering because the legislature doesn’t care about children or education. She’s said previously that if the legislature were serious about improving education they’d put more money in to schools as a “value statement.” In Underly’s view, caring about education can only be evidenced by pumping more money into a system where most kids are failing, without requiring accountability, or even setting goals for the “education experts” in charge.
The problem for many is that the “experts” are falling short in teaching kids the basics. The billions of pandemic relief dollars pumped into schools to prevent learning loss were apparently squandered, because our proficiency scores have plummeted, with only a quarter of kids at grade level in English and math. At those levels, it’s hard to believe any of those dollars were effectively spent.
Parental Input is Welcome, as Long as it Does Not Include Actual Input
Underly has been quick to claim that the legislature is proposing bills – like the Parents Bill of Rights and requiring a tiny 1 credit in civics to graduate – not because parents are asking for input or that civics is important, but because of a vast political conspiracy to defeat Evers this fall. She said education bills proposed by Republicans “don’t make sense,” are not helpful, that the education experts at DPI had not been sufficiently consulted, and the bills were aimed at getting vetoes – again all as ploys to harm Evers’ reelection.
But if Evers is harmed by vetoing bills presumably because they enjoy broad public support, he does have another option: he could sign them.
But in Underly’s hyper-partisan view of education, that would give the legislature (and parents) a win, which is unacceptable.
We can expect Underly to patronize parents who are asking for more input into what their children are learning – and if they’re learning – by claiming that they have been tricked by the legislature to turn them against their schools. She’s said in a Wisconsin Eye Interview that schools welcome “authentic engagement” from parents – things like going on field trips, reading to their child, or implementing strategies suggested by schools in their home. But guaranteeing parents a voice in their child’s education isn’t “authentic” engagement, it’s micromanagement.
We can expect Underly, as she has earlier this year in a speech to the Wisconsin State Education Convention, to wax eloquent about treating people kindly, common goals, and teaching future citizens to make informed decisions. And odds are, she will follow that with a call to educators to stand lock-step against “science-deniers,” to reject “certain people” who have exposed the indoctrination of students using Critical Race Theory (CRT), and to ignore misguided parents who demand a voice in the schools their tax dollars fund.
There is a Vast Teacher Shortage
Underly and the education establishment have been ringing alarm bells about a vast teacher shortage, to great effect, with many on both sides of the aisle accepting it as fact. Although enrollment is declining – even more precipitously post-pandemic as parents put their children into private schools because of aggressively unresponsive public school administrations – Wisconsin had more teachers in the 19-20 school year than at any time since 05-06, despite having 5% fewer students. Our 14.3 student-teacher ratio in Wisconsin has only been this low twice in the past 30-plus years, is lower than the national average, and in fact declined substantially during the Walker years from 15.1 to 14.4. We can safely expect Underly not to mention any of that.
Nationally, policy researchers at the Rand Corporation say there “has not been a mass exodus of teachers across the country.” And the Edunomics Lab says “the public narrative has gotten way ahead of the data and is even misleading in most cases” and that we’ve “actually gained classroom teachers in the last year, because of new hiring after federal stimulus bills.”
What has sharply dropped is public school enrollment, but that’s not likely to be mentioned by Underly today. It simply doesn’t fit her narrative.
The education establishment regularly and increasingly claims that teachers are the most burned-out professionals in the nation. It’s hard to process that as one considers actual, fact-based health care worker shortages, a group of people who work year-round and have just come through a pandemic that undeniably stressed the healthcare system. But since the education establishment wants to also be the main health care providers as well as teachers, perhaps they have taken on all that stress too?
Schools Need More Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Wokeness, Politicization
Underly is deeply supportive of the movement that is hyper-sexualizing school curriculum, using CRT to indoctrinate kids, and teaching teachers to hide information from parents about their child and their physical and mental health. She won’t speak about that support in those honest terms, but will use the code-words of the left, and discuss diversity, inclusion, and equity.
The speech starts soon.