It’s not often a governor visits a Waukesha elementary school, but first graders in Mrs. Donna Hohl’s dual-language classroom at Banting Elementary had an exciting morning Friday when Gov. Scott Walker came to read to the class at the request of his niece, Isabella, a student of Mrs. Hohl’s.
Walker has visited a few other schools in the state promoting his Read to Lead task force, a literacy initiative.
The governor’s wife Tonette, brother David and sister-in-law Maria Walker, Isabella’s parents, were present during the reading, as were State Rep. Bill Kramer, Sen. Mary Lazich, School District Superintendent Todd Gray and School Board Member Barbara Brzenk.
Having a governor for an uncle has been exciting for the first grader.
“She’s been very excited since the election,” Maria Walker said.
Displaying an ease with the children, Walker warmed up the crowd of first graders by asking them what favorite their Dr. Suess books were.
The children knew their Suess, naming some favorites like The Cat in the Hat and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The governor read Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess to the children.
“Fame! You will be famous as famous can be, with the whole wide world watching you on TV,” the governor read from the book.
“Can you imagine that?” he asked in an aside to the children.
After a short time in the limelight Friday morning, maybe Mrs. Hohl’s first graders can.
The class expressed their thanks to Walker with a handmade card shaped like the state of Wisconsin: “Thank you for visiting our school and thank you for taking care of our state,” Mrs. Hohl translated from Spanish to English for the governor.
Outside the school gathered a small group of protestors who would disagree with that thanks. For some, it was ironic that Walker was visiting a school.
“I’m strongly believer in public education. It’s a shame what they’re doing to public education,” said Mary Busch, a retired teacher who came prepared to wait out the visit, using her walker as a small chair.
“We’re public employees, not public slaves,” she said.
In talking with reporters afterward, Walker said that he remains convinced that one way or another, his proposed budget reforms will be in place for next year.
His first step will be to “look at whether or not the Supreme Court is an option. If it’s not, enough lawmakers have expressed an interest in acting on it,” he said, adding that they are still weeks away from having to make that decision.
He understands, though, that time is short.
“Clearly, whether it’s for school districts like Waukesha, others across the state, other local governments, they’ve got to have some certainty by the time July 1 comes around," Walker said "... I’m convinced either through the court process or the legislative process, the reforms will be there."
He remains steadfast that the state needs the proposed reforms.
“We can’t pass the budget without those reforms, or it would be absolute chaos for school districts and local governments across the state," he said. "They need to have that certainty."
Prior to the read-aloud session with the children, Walker met with Waukesha School Superintendent Todd Gray, School Board member Barbara Brzenk and Banting Principal Cynthia Gannon.
“We didn’t ask him to promise us anything,” Brzenk said about the budget situation in Madison.
She said that Walker was “very impressed” with what the district "is doing to prepare children for the work world and for college, especially the new STEM school, our alternative school, how we’ve been graduating kids who normally wouldn’t have graduated … and what’s going at South with the engineering school and the health professions.”
“[He] said that Waukesha was probably one of the best kept secrets in Wisconsin,” she said.