Resurrecting Wisconsin's Rich Labor History by Saving Our Public Schools

Resurrecting Wisconsin's Rich Labor History by Saving Our Public Schools

This weekend marks the end of the summer, and yesterday we gave our last summer beer tasting to customers visiting our Tap Room in Minocqua.

Throughout these summer tastings (affectionately referred to as the “Kirk Show” by my employees), I often wandered far afield from beer descriptions and waded into national, state, and local political issues--with an occasional German drinking song thrown in for good measure.
While tasting beer and discussing the importance of the word “Labor” in “Labor Day Weekend,” a customer from the DuPage County Democratic Party in Illinois reminded me that collective bargaining for public employees was born in Wisconsin.
I looked it up, and by golly he was right! In 1959, Wisconsin was the first state to allow its public employees the right to form organizations to represent them in negotiations with employers.
Unfortunately, while collective bargaining for state public employees was born in Wisconsin, it only survived in our state for about 50 years. Republican Governor Scott Walker, with a gerrymandered Republican-majority legislature, killed it with the passage of Act 10 in 2011.
Public school teachers comprised the largest group of these public employees who lost their right to collectively bargain, and what we saw after the passage of ACT 10 was a mass retirement of Wisconsin teachers and a mass migration of younger teachers to other states that gave them more respect.
Oh how lucky those Minnesota kids were to get so many of our great teachers.
The war against Wisconsin teachers was just one front in the war against our state’s entire public education system. The parasitic private school voucher program has been used to siphon tax dollars away from public schools for decades, and the program continues to grow. Not only are shrinking teacher contracts driving teachers away, but shrinking school budgets give those teachers that remain in Wisconsin larger classroom sizes and fewer tools to work with.
In 2023, after Governor Evers’ signed yet another budget that increased funding for school vouchers at the expense of Wisconsin’s public schools, our state is at a breaking point. I’ve spoken with leaders within the Milwaukee Public School system that tell me that unless MPS gets more funding, they will experience catastrophic breakdowns within a few years.
Luckily, we now have a way to reverse much of the damage that Scott Walker and his cronies wrought on Wisconsin 12 years ago.
With the election of Judge Janet Protasiewicz to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court last April, which shifted the court’s ideological balance to the left, there is hope that we can save Wisconsin’s public schools through legal action.
Two weeks ago, I announced the legal team hired (through your donations to the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC) to bring a lawsuit against the Republican Legislature to end the parasitic private school voucher program. The team consisted of DC Lawyer Greg Lipper, Madison-based partner at Perkins Coie Brian Potts, and Fred Melms of Wausau, who has worked with the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC on prior lawsuits.
Well, I didn’t want to publicly announce the 4th member of our legal team because she was on vacation, but now that she’s back, I’m excited to introduce a long-standing fighter for Wisconsin’s public schools, Dr. Julie Underwood.

Dr. Underwood was formerly the Dean of the University of Wisconsin’s School of Education, and is one of Wisconsin’s foremost experts not only on the private school voucher system, but more broadly on how our state funds its public schools in general.
Through her work within many organizations, including serving as Executive Director and General Counsel for the National School Boards Association and managing the 3,000 member Council of School Attorneys, Underwood has been fighting for kids and public schools for much of her career. 
Dr. Underwood joins our team as a member of Wisconsin Public Education Action, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that "supports Wisconsin student’s freedom to learn in thriving public schools."
As I write this weekly essay, Julie and the rest of the team are working hard to get this lawsuit ready to file by early October, because Wisconsin’s public schools can’t wait any longer.

In addition to introducing Dr. Underwood, I would also like to introduce a key partner in our strategy to “de-mystify” the misleading term “school choice,” and help explain how private school vouchers are terrible for public education throughout America. Her name is Patti Vasquez, and she is a rising star in progressive talk radio. Patti's home base is with WCPT, the progressive AM radio station in Chicago, but her daily program “Driving It Home with Patti Vasquez” is now being aired in Minneapolis, and hopefully soon in Wisconsin.
Patti has agreed to dedicate one hour of her show every week (Thursdays at 6 pm starting September 14), to discuss America’s “War on Public Education,” and that program will be merged with the Minocqua Brewing Company’s “Up North Podcast” throughout this fall and into the holidays.
Not only will this show be aired on Chicago and Minneapolis progressive talk radio, but it will be live-streamed on Minocqua Brewing Company’s Facebook page for our 81K followers and our "Up North Podcast" can be downloaded from Spotify/iTunes/etc or watched on YouTube. We will also post highlights of the show on our TikTok channel and through FB/IG Reels and YouTube shorts, so anyone paying attention can get the truth on how bad private schools vouchers are for public education.
The Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC, as it has done for the last three years through the “Up North Podcast,” will hire the necessary producers, editors, directors, and social media managers to make sure these weekly shows are professionally created and seen by as many voters as possible.
We know that many Wisconsinites and Americans have been duped into thinking that “school choice” is a good thing, just like they were duped into freaking out whenever they heard the acronym “CRT” without really knowing what it meant.
We plan to not only win the lawsuit to end private school vouchers in the Wisconsin and US Supreme Courts, but we also plan to win in the court of public opinion. We will be talking to education experts every week to help explain how public education is purposefully being dismantled across the US for political gain and for the enrichment of those 1 percenters in the voucher school lobby.

As of today, almost 1K of you have donated on average $48 to raise approximately $47K for this effort. We’re hoping to raise $200K, which includes funding the entire lawsuit as well as the money needed to communicate our message to voters via our the aforementioned weekly radio show. If you can chip in, please donate here.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be announcing more partnerships with statewide organizations who have a vested interest in saving public schools, and we’ll invite key members of those organizations to our weekly radio program to help everyone understand why this issue is so important.
And as always, we’ll be selling beer and t-shirts to also help get the message out.

Look for our new “School House Bock” in stores throughout WI, MN, and IL, and buy our official t-shirt for this campaign, “Hot for Teachers,” by going to our online store.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking with the Minocqua Brewing Company.
Together, we’ll bring the word “public” back into “education,” one beer at a time.
Kirk Bangstad
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC

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