School and Community: Local Education Discourses Robert Asen and Kelly Jensen, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison WiRSA Conference, October 29, 2019 Session plan I. II.
Project background Interviews with community advocates for public education III. Discussion of interview patterns & themes IV. Q & A National and State Developments National-level discourses on public education, especially, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos DeVos has been a prominent advocate for school choice DeVos speeches and public statements advocate for market-based reforms
State-level policy discourses on public education, especially, the legislatures Joint Finance Committee The committee majority has strongly supported vouchers and market-based reforms Privatization development in legislature from 2013 to 2018 Act 10, 2013 initiation of statewide vouchers, 2015 expansions Project Background Need for community-level discourses on public education Highlight community voices as essential to public education discourse
We suspect how people talk about public education at the communitylevel differs from state and national levels Wisconsin state-level officials do not hear community voices enough Need to feature community-level voices to address where there are gaps Raises questions: How are public school advocates talking about public education at the community-level? How do conversations at the community-level articulate a different vision of education than what were seeing at the state and national levels?
Community Advocate Interviews 35 interviews Ranged from 50 min - 1 hr 45 min. 19 questions ranging on topics related to education policy and advocacy in Wisconsin Assessment of states commitment to public education, most pressing policy issues in the state, whose voices are being heard in education policy debates, importance of local public schools in their communities
Spoke to participants across the state Green Bay, Superior, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Fox Cities, Stevens Point, Lake Mills, Wauwatosa, Palmyra, Watertown, Milwaukee metro, Madison metro, Racine, Wausau, etc. Representative of a range of perspectives 7 African American, 2 Native American, 2 Latinx, 24 white 9 participants advocacy explicitly involved rural communities Interview themes 1. Schools and Communities
2. Building Networks 3. Legislative Challenges 4. Action Steps Schools and Communities Schools as community keystones Schools hold communities together Schools serve various needs in their communities Modeling democratic practice Students can practice democratic skills in the classroom
Schools can be organized by democratic principles Building Networks Connecting rural and urban communities Rural and urban districts share some interests and concerns Bringing people together through dialogue changes perceptions and promotes mutual recognition Overcoming division Even in a single district, different people may have different visions of community
Interviewees reported local divisions of race, religion, and class Legislative Challenges Relationships to legislators Legislators are not necessarily responsive to the communities they represent Legislators have expressed inconsistent commitments to public education School funding Revenue limits create resource disparities across communities
Funding formulas create confusion among communities School funding should be more transparent Action Steps Telling stories Schools need to address the negative perceptions that people may have about public education Schools should share their success stories about students and the ways they connect to their communities Practicing advocacy
Sustaining the effort is hard work Appreciating the challenges of policymaking and the state legislature Finding joy and camaraderie in the work Questions? Thank you! Robert Asen [email protected] Kelly Jensen [email protected]
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