State and federal legislation has a powerful impact on public school curriculum, funding, and policies. Wisconsin Model Academic vouchers, and the Taxpayers Bill of Rights are some examples of how decisions made in Washington and Madison can determine what is taught, when it's taught, and how much it will cost to teach it.
Much, maybe most, of the information politicians base their opinions upon is provided to them by lobbying groups, among them the powerful Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC). WMC spearheaded the TABOR constitutional amendment, and its successor, the “Taxpayers' Protection Act (TPA).” TABOR, if enacted, could have resulted in the West Allis - West Milwaukee School District losing as much as $2 million in revenues this school year. Such a reduction would have been devastating to the educational program.
The TPA would have been just as detrimental to West Allis – West Milwaukee. School district aid under the TPA was tied to enrollment, just as it was with TABOR. TPA, however, brought two revenue limits into play: one based on inflation and one based on enrollment. Which ever provided the least amount would have been the option imposed.
Thanks to the lobbying efforts of organizations such as WMC, Wisconsin businesses are among the lowest taxed in the nation. In fact, some of the largest corporations in Wisconsin pay no taxes. Residential property taxpayers, on the other hand, pay a disproportionately large share of taxes.
Just as business has the WMC to speak for them, West Allis - West Milwaukee Schools have the PTA to represent them. In recent years, the district's PTAs mobilized to help save SAGE and Four-Year-Old Kindergarten when the funding of those programs was threatened and they were active in the fight against TABOR, and its heir, the so-called Taxpayers Protection Act.
Now, the West Allis - West Milwaukee School District PTA Council and District have formally forged an alliance to keep each other better informed of legislative initiatives and work in the interests of children. This alliance, currently referred to as the Legislative Awareness Committee, was initiated by Superintendent Kurt Wachholz, for the purpose of making the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District's voice heard in the state and federal legislature. The committee is comprised of representatives from each of the districts 16 school PTAs, as well as administrators, and soon, teachers.
The Legislative Awareness Committee will aggressively follow proposed legislation that pertains to education and let representatives know how it will affect district students. The group will track and post West Allis - West Milwaukee School District legislators' votes and comments as they relate to public education on the district's website. The group intends to regularly meet with legislators, sponsor legislative Listening Sessions, and inform district legislators of how they can best serve West Allis - West Milwaukee students and residents.
Much has been made in recent years of the importance of holding public schools accountable. The West Allis - West Milwaukee School District Legislative Awareness Committee believes that it's high time to hold our elected state and federal officials accountable to students, parents, staff and community. The committee was formed to do just that.