The second leg of a 60-mile march to garner support for increased funding of public education stepped off in Fort Atkinson Sunday morning.
The four-day trek was organized by Wisconsin Public Education Network director Heather Dubois Bourenane and Milwaukee Public Schools Board director Megan O’Halloran in order to demand that state legislators restore $900 million that has been cut from Governor Tony Evers’ proposed education budget.
It kicked off Saturday in Palmyra — where the Palmyra-Eagle Area School District Board of Education soon will be voting on whether to dissolve the district due to a lack of funds — and will arrive at the state Capitol in Madison for a 2:30 p.m. Tuesday rally.
In between, the marchers were traveling through, and holding rallies in, Hebron, Fort Atkinson, Cambridge, Deerfield, Marshall and Sun Prairie.
As the marchers gathered beneath the historic 1901 watertower across from Fort Atkinson Middle School Sunday morning, Nick Niles of Milwaukee advised the group to contact their state legislators. Then Denise Engstrom, a third-grade teacher at Fort Atkinson’s Barrie Elementary School, took the microphone.
“In 2011, someone in Madison thought they were going to stop us for fighting for our kids, fighting for our members, and obviously, they didn’t succeed, because here we are, still marching and still fighting for our kids and those that really have a passion for education,” Engstrom, president of the Fort Atkinson Education Association, said, referring to then-Governor Scott Walker’s Act 10 bill that effectively eliminated collective bargaining for most public-sector employees.
“I work every day in the elementary building and I know every day that my kids don’t have the resources they need like paper or pencils and I have to go out and purchase them myself or ask for donations — there are great organizations now that will help donate to a classroom, but I just think that’s wrong,” Engstrom said. “I think that really should be supported by everyone, and our education budget should not be cut, whether it be services ... or school supplies that they need.
“We know that public education is a great source for our kids. We need to continue fighting for that, and that’s why, again, we march today,” she added.
After thanking Jones Dairy Farm and Kwik Trip for their support of the march, Engstrom said: “Fight for our kids. Our kids need us, and the more we can continue calling on legislators and letting them know that they are being held accountable, and speaking up for (our kids), whether it be on a march or whether it be on social media, we need to keep doing that because they deserve that and our public schools deserve that.”
Displaying a banner and signs, the marchers walked north on Main Street and then west on Madison Avenue en route to Cambridge for a mid-day rally.