'Here & Now' Highlights: Abigail Swetz, Shawn Johnson

Here's what guests on the October 28, 2022 episode said about gaps in test scores between Black and white students in Wisconsin and the historic number of vetoes signed by Gov. Tony Evers.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

October 31, 2022

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Shawn Johnson and Frederica Freyberg sit facing each other on the Here & Now set.

Shawn Johnson and Frederica Freyberg (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

Wisconisn’s candidates for governor have very different ideas for how to boost achievement among K-12 students and the Nation’s Report Card found Wisconsin has the widest gaps in the nation between Black and white students — Abigail Swetz in the state Department of Public Instruction said it comes back to opportunities that not all students are able to access equally. Wisconsin Public Radio Capitol bureau chief Shawn Johnson discussed the historic number of vetoes Gov. Tony Evers has signed and how that raft of Republican legislation can sail into law depending on the outcome of the election.


Abigail Swetz
Communications director, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

  • Wisconsin scores worst among all states for gaps between Black and white students in 2022 national achievement tests. For 8th grade math, Black students had an average score that was 53 points lower than for White students, according to the Nation’s Report Card. These scores are not significantly different from 2003. Similar disparities were found in math scores for 4th grade students, and for reading scores in both grades.
  • Swetz: “It’s incredibly unfortunate and frankly, unacceptable. It was unacceptable before. It’s unacceptable now. And it’s why we need to really make focused investments to try and move that needle. I’ll give you an example. One of the places we’re seeing the most struggle in addition to this gap we’re talking about, is that students who are struggling before are struggling even more. Now, the lower scores we saw the steepest decline. And it’s one of the many reasons we’re trying to really increase our reimbursement rate for special education funding in Wisconsin, because we think not all students in that category are special ed students, but it is a way to really move that needle and to make sure that the funds that are designed to get to where they need to get to really, really do impact where we need them to impact.”


Shawn Johnson
Capitol bureau chief, Wisconsin Public Radio

  • The stakes in the 2022 election for governor are high for both sides of the political aisle. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has batted back bills from the Republican-controlled Legislature like no other chief executive in state history. Evers vetoed bills on everything from education and election administration to abortion and guns. In the case that Evers loses the election or faces a legislative supermajority, that legislation could serve as a blueprint for the direction of Republicans.
  • Johnson: “Ever since Wisconsin has been a state — so going back to 1848, no governor has vetoed more bills in a two year session than he has: 126. The next closest is like 90. So Evers has it by a mile. And so if you’re watching this session thinking, hey, it doesn’t look like they’re getting along too well, you are factually, objectively correct.”
  • The vetoed legislation could be seen as an indication for the direction of Republicans if they hold the Legislature and the governor’s office in 2023.
  • Johnson: “I think those election bills would be coming pretty fast because the Republican base has said they want them. I also think that they’re probably not all the changes that Republicans are going to be doing when it comes to election laws. There’s going to be a push to possibly eliminate the Wisconsin Elections Commission. There’s a whole bunch there that Republicans have talked about in their primary campaign the Republican base wants. And, obviously, we have an election coming up in 2024 that’s going to be pretty closely watched here in Wisconsin.”


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