Urban Education Task Force Holds First Hearing

The Assembly Speaker’s Task Force on Urban Education, chaired by state Rep. Jessie Rodriguez (R-Franklin) and vice-chaired by state Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains), held its first school tours and public hearing on Tuesday, September 29 in the Madison Metropolitan School District and the State Capitol.

The tour of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) included a visit to Samuel Gompers Elementary School that highlighted the district’s phase one technology plan.  The task force members then stopped by Madison East High School the AVID/TOPS program at the school was showcased. That program is a joint effort between MMSD and the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, which offers disadvantaged students tutoring, mentorship and paid summer internships, in addition to eligibility for college scholarships.

The task force then held a public hearing at the Capitol focusing on teacher recruitment and retention with invited testimony from:

  • Jennifer Cheatham, Superintendent, Madison Metropolitan School District
  • Ray Cross, President, University of Wisconsin System
  • Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
  • Michael Nguyen, Managing Director-Teacher Leadership Development, Teach For America
  • Aaron Seligman, Regional Director-Wisconsin, Leadership for Educational Equity
  • Pablo Muirhead, Coordinator of Teacher Education, Milwaukee Area Technical College

MMSD Superintendent Cheatham testified that programs like AVID/TOPS currently rely on generous donors, such as one that focuses on mentoring new teachers.  The CUNA Mutual Foundation covers the cost of all the mentors that work with teachers. Cheatham implored the legislature to step up and put some money behind similar efforts.

Another theme that came up during testimony was for the legislature to provide more stability for educators so they can better help students and have a work environment that good teachers want to stay in.  The legislature has recently made several changes to the standardized tests given in schools so that next year districts will be giving the third different exam in three years for example.

The Task Force will also be focusing on early childhood education and student behavior/mental health in future meetings in Kenosha/Racine, Green Bay, Eau Claire & Milwaukee. The Task Force Chair hopes to have recommendations developed by next year.