Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers plagiarized parts of his public schools budget, according to a report in Politico, purloining phrases for public education programs such as after-school programs. Evers is the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor.
From the story in Politico:
Evers told POLITICO that the lack of citations for the material shouldn’t distract from his “proactive, positive vision” for Wisconsin students, and agency procedures will be changed to prevent a recurrence.
A spokesman for Evers’ agency, Thomas McCarthy, said the lack of attribution was the result of “an oversight by staff when drafting the paper.”
The four pieces of text lifted from other sources cover summer learning loss, workforce experiences for youth, early childhood education and after-school programs. They are not specific to Wisconsin and don’t involve budget numbers or projections.
According to Politico, 15 paragraphs of Evers’ document were taken from a blog post written by an intern for the Fordham Institute. Material was also lifted from a 2011 brief published by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, a 2008 brief by the nonprofit Afterschool Alliance and a paragraph from Wikipedia.
Ironically, most educators do not allow students to use Wikipedia as a source for their homework. It is unknown how many Wisconsin school children will use the Department of Public Instruction loophole for using Wikipedia as a reference work in the future.
The plagiarism was discovered by Governor Scott Walker’s re-election campaign team using software similar to what educators use to detect plagiarism by students. (Politico has a misleading headline, “Scott Walker accuses opponent of plagiarism.” The Walker campaign provided the evidence and the Department of Public Instruction has admitted the plagiarism. The headline implies the charge hasn’t been proven.)
The video specifically warns students of the consequences of plagiarism and describes different forms of plagiarism.
Plagiarism can cause a public high school student to fail a class, but the punishment can be more severe for politicians. Mary Burke, the Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, was caught plagiarizing large portions of her campaign platform, undermining her campaign against Governor Scott Walker as it played into the narrative that she was unprepared to be governor. Burke fired a campaign consultant, but the damage was done.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday that Evers will not be disciplining anyone in the Department of Public Instruction. McCarthy refused to tell the newspaper who was involved in the plagiarism or how many people. “He said agency officials view the matter as an ‘honest mistake’ and will retrain workers rather than discipline anyone,” the newspaper reported.
Scott Manley, the Senior Vice President of Government Relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said Evers’ decision not to discipline anyone isn’t surprising.
“Evers also didn’t discipline a teacher who surfed porn in the classroom, threatened other teachers, and made lewd comments about female students,” Manley said on Twitter. “It doesn’t really seem like discipline and accountability are his thing.
As a self-described “lifelong educator,” the charge of plagiarism will likely sting the Evers campaign as most students in the public schools are often severely punished when caught using other people’s work without attribution in their homework assignments. Brian Reisinger, a spokesman for the Walker campaign, pounced on the irony.
“Tony Evers has staked his entire campaign on ‘what’s best for our kids’ but when it comes to the most important action he takes in his current job — preparing an education budget — he’s not only peddling empty promises but also stolen ideas,” Reisinger told Politico. “An educator would know the consequences of plagiarism, and this is damning proof that he’s a Madison bureaucrat who will always take the easy way out instead of providing the kind of leadership needed to stand up for hard-working families.”
The plagiarism revelation comes on the eve of the first of two debates between Evers and Walker. The debate is not expected to be widely watched as it’s a Friday night, the Milwaukee Brewers are in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, and it’s also the home opener for the Milwaukee Bucks. Walker even joked Thursday on the Mark Belling Show on WISN-AM that he will have his phone on the podium so he can follow the Brewers game during the debate.