Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The hypocritical and partisan push to change the Wisconsin Department of Education

Rep. Sanfelippo OK with Attorney General election (currently held by GOP), but wants changes to DPI (held by Dems)

The plan to make the Statewide Superintendent of Schools, the head of the Department of Instruction, a governor-appointed post, is a move that is mostly partisan and equal parts hypocritical.

So, par for the course when it comes to the Wisconsin Republican Party.

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo
Currently the DPI is led by Tony Evers, a duly-elected Superintendent of Public Schools who won re-election in 2013 to his post with 61 percent of the state supporting him, a margin that is difficult to come by in a statewide race these days.

Evers is also a Democrat, which paints a huge target on his back for Republicans to aim for.

But a proposal to change the state’s constitution, introduced by Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) would change that. Sanfelippo wants to make the position one that’s appointed by the governor, and approved by the State Senate.
“[This procedure] needs to be improved and the only way we can do that is by holding DPI more accountable, and with an appointed superintendent, we can do exactly that,” Sanfelippo said.
It’s unclear what needs improvement in the DPI. Wisconsin schools are often touted as being some of the best in the nation.

And while it’s true that appointing the head of our schools through the governor’s choice would streamline the process, it isn’t a move that has been proposed on in other offices by the GOP -- say, for the statewide Attorney General position, currently controlled by Republican Brad Schimel.

Were he to be consistent on the issue, Sanfelippo and his colleagues would call for that position to be a governor-appointed one as well. But there’s been no word on that thus far.

Sanfelippo seems concerned about just who is in charge of the DPI, citing that all-to-common (but rarely delved into) talking point Republicans love the most -- special interests (PDF).

“The students of our state should not be held hostage just because special interest groups can get someone without the proper qualifications to win a popularity contest every four years,” Sanfelippo said in a recent press release. “Our children and teachers deserve much better.”

Why doesn’t he seem concerned about the office of Attorney General, which has no requirements or qualifications either? Or for that matter, where is Sanfelippo's call to have special interests stay out of the election for governor itself?

And why is Sanfelippo pushing for a PARTISAN -- yes, PARTISAN -- Government Accountability Board? He even says it’s crazy to think that such a government post can’t be partisan in nature, so why bother trying?
To be quite honest, it’s rather na├»ve to believe the six former judges and staff members who make up the GAB can be completely nonpartisan.
Let’s recap this: Attorney General, elected and fine. State elections officials, partisan so let’s change it to be more so.

But the State Superintendent of Public Schools being elected? So disgraceful!

It seems pretty clear, even if they’re not saying it out loud, that Republicans are pushing this idea to change the DPI on a partisan basis rather than a necessary one. Changing who is in charge of our public schools through a governor's appointment will do little to nothing to improve them.

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