In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow strongly criticized Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers for the multiple instances of plagiarism in his state budget requests over the last six years.
“As a former teacher and co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, it really bothers me that Tony is not owning up to his plagiarism,” Darling said in a conference call with reporters. “You know, he is in charge of a $11.4 billion budget every two years. $11.4 billion. And that’s the biggest budget item in our whole budget. And he doesn’t even own up to the fact that he’s not taking the time to put the proposal from his department in his own words.”
Darling accused Evers, the Democratic candidate for governor, of “cutting and pasting ideas to get to the governor’s mansion.”
“What this really comes down to is his level of effort and his interest in protecting our students,” Darling said. “His campaign seems to brush it off as no big deal, but it’s truly concerning to me and it should be truly concerning to our voters that he has no energy to put into his proposals which are $11 billion, $11 billion, every two years.”
Under Evers, the Department of Public Instruction, DPI, has submitted budget requests each of the last three fiscal bienniums that have contained large sections lifted from various education think tanks without attribution. The latest budget request also contained sections taken without attribution from Wikipedia, which is usually not considered an acceptable source by educators.
Evers’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the latest plagiarism criticisms. However, Evers dismissed concerns about the plagiarism during his debate with Governor Scott Walker on Friday.
“If this is the best that Scott Walker has, he doesn’t have much, I’ll tell you that,” Evers said.“We dropped a few citations from the back pages of a budget. We talked to the people involved. It was a mistake and they fixed it.”
Since Friday, more instances of plagiarism in DPI’s budget requests, six in all, have been uncovered by the Walker administration and reported in the media.
As of Tuesday, Evers’ DPI has not identified any of the staff responsible for the missing citations. DPI spokesman Thomas McCarthy also told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday that no members of Evers’ department would be disciplined for the plagiarism.
Darling said that while Evers has staff that put together the budget, he’s responsible for what his agency presents to the legislature. The senator said that’s especially true for Evers considering that the DPI has a whole section dedicated to explaining plagiarism to students and teachers.
“It tells you about the consequences of plagiarism and what plagiarism is,” Darling said. “And yet he holds students accountable for plagiarism but he does not hold himself accountable for plagiarism.”
Darling’s remarks were echoed by former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow, who said she was also “very concerned” about the plagiarism in Evers’ budget requests.
“I would like to ask him who did it and what has he done in terms of reacting to that individual?” Farrow asked. “Because somebody was producing some of this work for him and he didn’t scrutinize it enough as it was going out the door. So how is he holding that person accountable?”
Farrow also said she was concerned what this indicates about a possible Evers administration.
“I want to know what he’s going to do if something like this would happen, God forbid from my attitude, if he becomes governor and starts doing this,” Farrow said. “So accountability is the main thing, lack of ideas and accountability are my two main concerns.”