Can we get real in this race for governor?
One candidate, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, cheers our low unemployment and high labor participation rates, which are all good. The other candidate, Democratic challenger Tony Evers, pledges not to cancel the Foxconn deal, which will bring an international technology company to Racine County. That’s good, also.
But why isn’t there any mention that Wisconsin’s job-growth rankings, despite good retention rates, are in the bottom third of the nation. Or that our average wages are 10 percent below the national average? Why doesn’t the state have a sustainable plan or engage in serious discussion to improve state income? Despite our state’s lower living costs, income here is about $5,100 (11 percent) per-capita lower than Minnesota’s.
What we need to hear about in this race are a long-term commitment to producing a globally ready workforce and creating high-wage jobs. We need to hear how Wisconsin will attract science, technology, engineering and math — as well as blue-collar — workers from other states and abroad.
Gov. Walker is running as the education governor. Evers is running on his lengthy record as state superintendent of schools. Both seem to think more money per student will solve all of our problems.
But white fourth-graders in Wisconsin are now reading at levels below both white students in Alabama and Mississippi, according to last year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress. Our 15-year-olds are not even close to international levels for achievement in math, reading and science. Not even our “best and brightest” students do well enough, according to the Programme for International Student Assessment.
What we need to hear about in this race are practical and successful achievement programs from other states and nations, even if they are radical. We need to hear about creating a scorecard for our students that all citizens can understand and track. What will work in the future for real social mobility in Wisconsin?
The odds of this happening are poor. But let’s dare the two candidates to stop pointing fingers and instead focus on their long-term visions and shorter-term action plans to move us out of our complacency. We need truly accountable, practical and bipartisan results.
We should expect much more, Wisconsin.