Betsy Kippers Outlines Her Vision For WEAC

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Betsy Kippers Outlines Her Vision For WEAC

Premiere Date: 
August 1, 2013

Betsy Kippers, the new WEAC president, outlines her vision for the teachers' group.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

This week, we learned that 90 private, mostly religious schools, registered with the state to be part of the expanded voucher program. The largest number of schools registering was in Green Bay, where six schools, including four Catholic and two Lutheran schools, signed on. The new statewide school choice program has a cap of 500 students for the upcoming year. If more students want to enroll, the 25 schools that have the most applicants can participate. To enroll as state-paid voucher students, a family's income must be less than 185% of the federal poverty level. The private school would receive $6,422 for each eligible Choice student. The online application window opened yesterday and continues through August 9. Well, even as President Reilly announced his departure this week from the UW System, new leadership took the reins over at the state's largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC. Racine physical education teacher Betsy Kippers' first day on the job was Thursday. She joins us now. Thanks.

Betsy Kipper:

Thank you for having me.

Frederica Freyberg:

Sorry for butchering your really easy name, too.

Betsy Kipper:

[laughs] No problem!

Frederica Freyberg:

Tell me, why do you want this job?

Betsy Kipper:

You know, I have so much energy and excitement looking forward to just promoting great quality schools and quality public education in Wisconsin.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, this job is vastly different, I would assume, from a couple of years ago, now that we are post Act 10. How relevant is WEAC minus its kind of moneyed political clout, with its reduced membership and then reduced dues-paying members.

Betsy Kipper:

You know, I think our members just really want to make sure that public education continues to be at the forefront of all of our communities. They so strongly believe in quality education, and they want to have a collective voice on behalf of public education. That's why they're joining the union, to stand with their colleagues, to make sure that we are a strong voice on behalf of public education, preschool through higher ed.

Frederica Freyberg:

And how do you maintain that strong voice, really, with the reduced budget?

Betsy Kipper:

It's really starting at a grassroots level. It's starting local by local, member by member, having them reach out to their community, their parents of their students, their students, to find out what issues are most important to them that will help us provide that great education that makes every community in Wisconsin stronger.

Frederica Freyberg:

You know, over the years we have talked a lot about the changes that Act 10 would mean for teachers in the classroom, teachers in the district, as well as at the level of the state teachers union. Has it meaningfully changed the day-to-day job of teachers?

Betsy Kipper:

I think in some ways it has, but it's not just because of Act 10. There are so many other regulations coming down from both the federal and state that have significantly impacted the workload of teachers, more and more requirements both related to teacher practice and related to student performance. Just the number of tests alone that have to be given that are either districts or state tests is just overwhelming at times.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, so how is morale, if you can speak for the entire gamut of teachers across Wisconsin?

Betsy Kipper:

People are willing to move forward. They realize it's time for us to stand up, speak together with a loud voice on what's best for students, and they're ready to do it.

Frederica Freyberg:

And what will those loud voices be expressing?

Betsy Kipper:

I'll go back to it's all about making sure we provide a good quality education for our students. We were part of the educator effectiveness framework, and we want a high-quality educator and high-quality support personnel in all of our schools and classrooms.

Frederica Freyberg:

Go ahead.

Betsy Kipper:

We also want to hold our legislators' feet to the ground on voucher accountability.

Frederica Freyberg:

Speaking of vouchers, we just led into this interview with that, and now that it's gone statewide in a limited way, what do you expect going forward? I mean, a lot of people are saying, well, by next year or next budget cycle it will be wide open.

Betsy Kipper:

If public money is going to private schools, then they should be held to the same level of accountability as public schools.

Frederica Freyberg:

What do you bring to this job?

Betsy Kipper:

I think I bring a lot of energy and compassion for education. I loved my 30 years teaching in Racine. I miss the classroom. And my favorite part of this job is going out to be with my members in their classrooms. So I just think I bring the energy and compassion for quality education.

Frederica Freyberg:

Betsy Kippers, thanks very much.

Betsy Kipper:

Thank you. 


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