Tommy Thompson on Education

Former Secretary of H.H.S.; former Republican Governor (WI)

School funding & mandates from states, not Feds

Question 2. Are you willing to help eliminate federal mandates and federal funding for education and reallocate those funds to the states?

Mark Neumann: Yes

Tommy Thompson: Yes

Source: 2012 Wisconsin Tea Party Senate Debate Questionnaire , Aug 13, 2012

Let’s eradicate illiteracy in Wisconsin

Let’s eradicate illiteracy in Wisconsin. We’re setting up reading academies to train teachers in the best ways to teach children to read. And we’re developing web-based reading methods for elementary school teachers.

Eliminating illiteracy will require the dedicated effort of us all -- from parents to teachers to employers and churches. There’s no greater legacy we can leave our next generation.

Source: 2001 State of the State Address , Jan 31, 2001

Choice and local accountability are keys to good schools

At the root of Gov. Thompson’s nationally recognized education reforms is the belief that parents know best how to educate their children. Government’s role is to provide parents with the tools, the choices and the foundation for providing their children with a world-class education. He has worked tirelessly to shift authority over education from a centralized bureaucracy to the parents in Wisconsin’s communities. And he’s making schools more accountable to the people they serve.
Source: WI Governor’s website , Jan 8, 2001

End Social Promotion; establish standards instead

In order to maintain the high level of achievement we have come to expect from our students, the days of promoting students to the next grade solely because of their age - “social promotion” - is over. Gov. Thompson believes we owe it to our students, parents, schools and communities to guarantee that public education in Wisconsin has meaning.

Students should be advanced to the next grade level based on academic performance that meets local expectations, not based on their age or social skills. Under the governor’s plan, local districts would be required to adopt policies prohibiting social promotion and establish standards by which this is accomplished using the fourth- and eight-grade tests. The locally developed academic standards will allow schools to gauge student performance against a set benchmark. Students who do not meet local criteria will not be advanced to the next grade.

Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site, “Budget” , Dec 25, 2000

Teacher-led voluntary prayer in public schools

Source: WI Gubernatorial 1998 National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 1998

Tommy Thompson on School Choice

Use Milwaukee charters & private choice as model for US

We’ve learned that just spending more money doesn’t buy you more success in the classroom. Nowhere was this more evident than in Milwaukee Public Schools, which were lagging behind. This despite the state increasing its aid to MPS by 55% and funding 82% of its costs. So we started with the principles that every student can learn and parents must be empowered with more choices.

This philosophy spawned some of the nation’s most innovative education reforms. Charter schools. Public school choice. Private school choice for Milwaukee. Charter schools operated by the city of Milwaukee, UW-Milwaukee, and MPS. Nowhere in America does a parent have more choices than in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And it’s making all the difference. Parents are now more involved in their children’s lives. The public schools are rising to the challenge of competition. There is no doubt in my mind that Milwaukee will become the national model for renewing urban education in America within a few years.

Source: 2001 State of the State Address , Jan 31, 2001

Created the nation’s first private school choice program

Frustrated that low-income parents in Milwaukee had few education alternatives for their children because of their economic status, Thompson pursued a landmark school choice program that empowered those parents to determine which school their children would attend.

In 1990, Thompson created the nation’s first private school choice program. This initial program allowed low-income parents in Milwaukee to send their children to a private non-sectarian school if they chose. This program was an important first step to providing low-income families the same educational opportunities available to families with greater resources.

In 1995, Thompson expanded the private school choice program to include religious schools-another national first. The expansion gave parents a true choice in schools, including more schools in walking distance of their homes. Thompson believes it makes no sense to bus poor Milwaukee children to a failing school across town when a very good school exists down the street.

Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site, “Budget” , Dec 25, 2000

Instituted $5,100 vouchers for religious schools

The religious school choice program gives vouchers to parents, who then choose the school for their child. The money follows the child and is not to exceed the tuition costs of the private school. The amount of the voucher in 1999-2000 will be about $5,100 per pupil. (Including those state aids and local taxes, the cost of educating each child in Milwaukee’s public schools is about $7,500.) If the actual cost at a chosen private school is less than $5,100, the voucher payment for that child is reduced accordingly.

To be eligible for the program, a student must come from a family whose income is at 175% of the poverty level or below - about $29,225 for a family of four.

After the religious school choice law passed just weeks before the start of school in 1995, about 3,000 low-income parents moved quickly to sign their children up for the religious school choice program. “Religious values are not our problem,” Gov. Thompson said. “Drop-out rates and low test scores are.”

Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site, “Budget” , Dec 25, 2000

Instituted statewide Charter School system

Wisconsin was one of the first states to have a statewide charter school program, providing the ultimate in local control - the ability for parents, teachers and the community to literally create their own school. This gives communities remarkable flexibility to meet the unique needs of their students, a stark contrast to the one-size-fits-all education system of the past. School districts can create unlimited charter schools under the law.
Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site, “Budget” , Dec 25, 2000

School choice has made a difference for low-income families

Surely many never thought our landmark school choice program would see the light of day. But finally, low-income parents in Milwaukee can freely send their children to the best school possible - no matter what its affiliation.
Source: 1999 State of the State speech , Jan 27, 1999

Other candidates on Education: Tommy Thompson on other issues:
WI Gubernatorial:
Scott Walker
WI Senatorial:
Herbert Kohl
John Schiess
Mark Neumann
Ron Johnson
Tammy Baldwin

WI politicians

Retiring as of Jan. 2013:

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Page last updated: Oct 22, 2012