Post 7 in a weekly series.
Before I begin today’s post, I’ll mention that there is now an announcement at the Whitewater Unified School District’s webpage about academic success at one of our schools despite economic hardship. It’s a prominent mention, and that’s a good decision – we should lead with what we have truly done. For more on this topic, see Whitewater’s True and Worthy Success.
For today, it’s a working thesis of sorts, that came to me after a conversation with an education policymaker in Madison. It goes like this. While there are concerns about funding education at both the public school K12 and university levels, these programs would face markedly different futures if spending cuts continue.
Although local school districts must by law offer a minimum core of courses, and by law a core of the same courses as other school districts, that’s not true at UW System schools, where one could by restructuring treat the UW System (or much of it) as a single entity, and allocate previously-considered vital subjects between parts of the System. Over time, UW System schools would look less like separate, comprehensive universities and more like unique branches of a larger tree.
That’s not possible for K12 education. No one could offer science in Whitewater, with the expectation that students would take language arts in Fort Atkinson, and calculus in Jefferson.
One could, by contrast, divide subjects between System schools (far more than is true today).
My point is not that this would be desirable, but that it would be possible. It would mean that our comprehensive universities would be less comprehensive, so to speak. (In fact, the risks to a school like UW-Whitewater – and our city – might be considerable.) Cuts within (public schools) and cuts within, but presented as across (branches of a university system), would have a different character in description and impact.
In one case labor would (mostly notably) face layoffs, in the other wage stagnation.
We are not yet at the point of divergent futures, within a common, low-funding environment. We could be on our way, though, by the end of the decade.
I don’t know; I’m persuaded after my conversation that it’s at least one possible shape of things to come.
THE EDUCATION POST: Tuesdays @ 10 AM, here on FREE WHITEWATER.