by Benjamin Yount
The head of one of Wisconsin’s government reform groups alleges the irony is thick in the state superintendent’s latest warning to state lawmakers about playing politics with kids in schools.
State Superintendent Jill Underly penned an op-ed on Monday claiming lawmakers are hurting public school students by considering plans to allow parents to opt their kids out of sexual orientation and gender fluidity classes, while also requiring schools to teach more about civics and American government.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: these legislators are using our children as playthings in a political game, and they will not win,” Underly wrote.
The superintendent is upset for many reasons, including her claim that lawmakers did not run the legislation through her office before holding a hearing.
CJ Szafir, head of the Institute for Reforming Government, told The Center Square that Underly doesn’t seem to understand her job or how laws are made in Wisconsin.
“Her job is to administer the public school system through the Department of Public Instruction. The legislature’s job is to make public policy for education,” Szafir said Tuesday. “It is well within the legislature’s right to decide what curriculum is best for children and pass laws pertaining to that. The Superintendent of Public Instruction cannot do that.”
Underly’s op-ed asks parents to call their lawmakers and ‘slowdown’ the vote on both pieces of legislation.
“Each one of these bills should take months of study with experts and engagement with stakeholders,” Underly wrote. “Educators should be interviewed, and school administrators consulted. We should ask the students what they think. None of this is happening, and it cannot happen unless we push the pause button on the process.”
Szafir said Wisconsin school kids have already lost too much time, and are too far behind to wait any longer.
“Far too many children lost a year of education that puts them at risk of forever being left behind,” Szafir explained. “And at a time when Wisconsin K-12 schools have received an “F” for teaching American history and 75% of students are not proficient in civics, it’s concerning that the Superintendent of Public Instruction, who manages our schools, would be opposed to more civics education.”
Both plans were up for hearings in the Assembly last week. It’s unclear when they could be called for a full vote. It’s almost certain that Gov. Tony Evers won’t sign either of the bills.
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