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school testingThis letter to the editor was written by Sam Wahlen.

As a recent college graduate, it is interesting to watch the next generation of students as they progress through the Racine Unified School District. Unfortunately, for many, they will not have the same level of opportunity that I have enjoyed. For years now, RUSD has fallen in the rankings of school districts in Wisconsin, produced more students who are barely proficient in reading and math, and failed to give students the education that they need to obtain employment that provides a livable wage. I believe that Racine’s unemployment rate, which is the highest in the state, is evidence of this fact. Recently, School Digger ranked RUSD 389th of 427 districts in the state. Furthermore, studies have shown that minority students have often been hit the hardest by the poor quality of education RUSD provides. However, these issues are not the fault of the teachers. Teachers, the most respectable of professions, are not given the support and tools they need to perform well and instruct their classrooms.

Yet, this problem can be solved. First, and foremost, RUSD leadership needs to decide on a vision for the district. Second, they need to reprioritize spending and, instead of constructing new buildings, focus on getting the money into the classroom. Third, they need to avoid undercutting their superintendent Dr. Haws and follow her leadership and insight. Fourth, the board needs to be willing to implement tough reform as other failing school districts in the country have done.

It is easy to blame the district’s problems on funding cuts from the state or partisan politics. However, excuses do not compensate for poor leadership. Racine Unified spends more per student then nearly any other school district in the state yet it is one of the worst performing. Furthermore, the amount of funding to the school district has increased while thousands of students have left the district to go to voucher schools. Caledonia and Sturtevant want to withdraw from RUSD because they feel the district lacks a vision and the will to address the problems that it faces and, unless RUSD changes, other municipalities will soon follow their example.

Sam Wahlen

(Thoughts and Opinions Are My Own)

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.