Walker speaks on education reform at Milwaukee conference

Gov. Scott Walker (shown here at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration) made an appearance in Milwaukee Thursday to speak at the State Education Conference. Photo by Scott Bauer/Associated Press.

Thursday, Governor Scott Walker made his first major appearance – only blocks from campus – since the recall effort against him collected and delivered one million petition signatures.

Walker glazed over any mention of a possible recall election, but instead delivered an address on upcoming legislature for education reform at the State Education Conference at the Frontier Airlines Center.

Two years ago, Walker spoke at this same convention as a candidate for governor. All three candidates were invited to speak, but only Walker attended.

“I’m not going to talk much more about the past, what’s happened in the past year other than to say, that’s what I laid out two years ago at this forum as a candidate for governor, that’s what I’ve done in the past year as your governor, and that’s what I hope to continue to do as your governor,” Walker said.

Walker outlined reform legislation based on reading achievement, a new indicator of educator effectiveness and school accountability. He said the legislation focuses on recommendations made by three bipartisan task forces.

Walker said he has done what he said he would do as a candidate for governor: putting local power back into the hands of local officials, including schools.

In an effort to improve reading levels, Walker said the legislation will implement a state-funded mandatory screening test for all students entering kindergarten so that teachers will know their reading level before they ever enter the classroom.

Walker also said in order to evaluate educator effectiveness fairly, the new system will not focus on student test scores alone.

As an alternate to the No Child Left Behind Act, Walker said school accountability will be rated on multiple measures and be transparent and easily accessible.

“People crave information about their kids, about their education, about their schools,” Walker said.

The audience of more than 1,000 at the conference received Walker with a warm welcome and standing ovation, but not everyone was satisfied with the speech.

“I’ll give Scott Walker an ‘A’ for dishonesty,” said Graeme Zielinski, Wisconsin’s Democratic Party communications director. “He hasn’t collaborated with (state superintendent) Tony Evers. He hasn’t collaborated with the school boards of Wisconsin.  He’s told them what to do.”

Evers attended the conference, but did not appear on stage with Walker. He said he has been involved in the work of collaborative groups to improve education in Wisconsin.

In a news release following Walker’s speech, Evers said he would support legislation reflective of the work done in these groups, but he has not been a part of the legislation drafting.

“Clearly, it is essential to see the details of this proposed legislation and ensure they match the intent and spirit of all the work that so many groups and individuals put into improving schools and academic achievement for all students in Wisconsin,” Evers said in the release.

Zielinski said many of the issues surrounding the recall effort affect Marquette students as young voters. Topics such as voter IDs, transit cuts and future job opportunities garner interest from young adults.

Zielinski said it is clear Walker did not appreciate his Jesuit education at Marquette.

“He valued his Marquette education so much that he left,” Zielinski said.