VIROQUA, Wis.--With jobs and the economy being the major focus for candidates this election year, education is taking somewhat of a backseat. But that doesn't mean voters don't care about the candidates' plans.
We continue our series of reports with the We the People project, gathering different voices from the around the state on the big issues this election year.
According to new research, only one-quarter of America's 52 million K-12 students perform on par with the average performance of the world's five best school systems.
Most people agree, at the very least some reforms are needed to our education system, but there's very differing opinions about how to go about it.
71 year old Palmer Hoffland and his wife Martha of Viroqua are both University of Wisconsin graduates. And while Palmer believes his bachelor's degree has served him well, he's also a big proponent of technical schools especially in this day in age. "In the medical/healthcare field, there's just a ton of jobs out there that require that technical college degree, not a college degree, not a bachelor's degree," said Palmer.
But for the schools themselves, it can be a constant struggle to keep up financially with the changing times. In fact, Western Technical College in La Crosse is putting an 80 million dollar referendum before voters in November. Palmer said, There's a lot of immediate need, but it appears they're looking forward to the future too and I imagine that has to be tough for an administrator or school board."
Even though Palmer is retired and doesn't have any kids in school anymore, he doesn't necessarily find it any harder to support education with his tax dollars. "Anytime it will impact your taxes, you're definitely going to be concerned, retired or not. I guess you just want to be very, very certain the reasoning is solid and usually they are. I don't generally hear older, retired people singling out the schools and saying we've paid our share and that's always a lit bit of the fear, people that are retired are going to say hey, I did my job now back off, but hopefully they're looking to the future generations."
That being said, Palmer believes schools, for the most part, do have adequate funding to educate our kids. And he thinks they're doing a pretty good job too. "Schools are a bureaucracy. You can never give them enough money. You walk into facilities and they're nice, at least here in Viroqua, Westby, they have very nice facilities. I don't hear a cry that there are teacher openings that aren't getting filled cause we don't have the money to hire, I haven't heard that so I think the funding is adequate," said Palmer.