Category Archives: Education

Top Two Advance in DPI Race


State Superintendent Tony Evers will face off against Lowell Holtz in a general re-election bid for his post, according to the Associated Press.

Eliminated in today’s primary was John Humphries, former Dodgeville administrator who also worked at DPI.

Evers gathered 69 percent of the vote, while Holtz has 23 percent and Humphries has 7 percent, according to unofficial election results from AP.

With turnout so low in the state, the reliable union voters were likely over-represented a tad. This presents a good, clear choice for the April election.

Primary Election Tomorrow

There’s a primary election tomorrow in Wisconsin. It’s mostly school boards and such. The only statewide race is for the State Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction. There are three candidate on the ballot. The top two will move on to the general election. Here are the candidates:

Tony Evers (inc.) is an anti-choice teachers union toadie seeking a third term. He has attempted to stymie or stall virtually every educational reform coming out of the legislature while educational outcomes in Wisconsin have remained stagnant or declined. He has not earned reelection.

John Humphries is a liberal trying to run as a conservative. He opposed Act 10, signed the recall petition for Governor Walker, voted against Walker, voted for Hillary Clinton, and has generally been a lefty his whole life. He claims that his education reform plan has garnered conservative support, so now he likes conservatives… or something like that. Whether he is still a liberal or he has seen the light and converted to conservatism is immaterial given his shady and misleading campaign tactics. He should not be trusted with the job.

Lowell Holtz is a former superintendent in Beloit (urban) and Whitnall (rural). He is a conservative who supports Act 10, school choice, and supports many of the reform efforts being championed in the legislature. Holtz is the clear choice for conservatives.

There is technically a primary for the West Bend School Board too. There are three seats on the ballot and seven candidates. The top six will move on to the general election. But one of the candidates has withdrawn even though her name remains on the ballot. Make sure you get out and vote for the three candidates of your choice. I will be attempting to interview and evaluate the candidates before the general election.

DPI Candidate Accuses Opponent


John Humphries charged fellow state schools superintendent challenger Lowell Holtz promised him a six-figure job at DPI if he dropped out of the primary and Holtz beat incumbent Tony Evers in the April general election.

But Holtz on Wednesday said the offer was a “rough draft” of ideas and that the deal wasn’t aimed at getting one of them to drop out of the race. Rather, he said, the job offer was part of a possible deal to ensure the primary loser backed the other challenger in the general election against Evers.

The document, which Humphries’ campaign provided to, called for one of them to get a three-year contract with annual pay of $150,000, full benefits and a driver.

Holtz brought the document to a Dec. 22 breakfast meeting at a Milton family restaurant.

Here’s the thing that bugs me about this… if this really did occur, Humphries sat on it for almost two months for the express reason of dropping it into the news cycle the week before the election. I got the long, detailed accusation in my email from Humphries’ campaign manager a few days ago like everyone else. That was after I saw both of these candidates at the CSCWC meeting a couple of weeks ago and Humphries didn’t mention a thing about this. If this was so outrageous, then why would Humphries sit on it for so long? Obviously it was to time it to enact maximum political damage, but that just belies a lack of sincerity.

Humphries has struck me as a slimy character and this move just enhances my gut feeling about him.

UW Officials Balk at Free Speech on Campus


The proposed companion budget bill elaborates, stating among other things, that:

  • The UW Board of Regents and each college campus “shall guarantee all members of the system’s community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn.”
  • “It is not the proper role of the board or any institution or college campus to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”
  • Members of the system’s community are free to criticize and contest views expressed on campus and “speakers who are invited to express their views, (but) they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe.”
  • “The board and each institution and college campus has a responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.”

Walker’s proposal is raising concern among some members of the UW-Madison campus community that it might, in fact, stifle speech.

Perhaps if UW officials actually respected and protected free speech on campus today, such requirements would not be necessary.

Democrats Stand in Schoolhouse Door

The Democrats are literally blocking the schoolhouse door from someone who wants black kids to be able to go to better schools. Where have I seen this before?



Oh yeah…



MPS Principal Arrested for Intimidating Witness


The criminal complaint alleges the Washington High School principal tried to silence the victim in a sexual assault because she was dating the man police said committed the assault.

Washington High School Principal Valencia Carthen, 42, is facing a felony charge and word of her arrest is spreading through the school.

“Everybody was on Facebook posting her mugshot and stuff,” Washington High School student Cherish Smith said.

The charges stem from a case last September in which Jason Cunningham is charged with sexual assault and strangulation/suffocation.

Carthen is accused of trying to intimidate the victim in that case, allegedly to get the woman to leave town.

Court documents show “Carthen told (the victim) that she knew where (the victim’s) family was in Mississippi.” And that the victim knew Carthen was an MPS principal, “which caused (the victim) to fear for her children’s safety as MPS students.”

Federalizing Education is Already Underway

This report from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is stunning.

Currently, 302 DPI employees, measured as full-time equivalents, out of 634 are paid fully by the federal government — a dramatic increase over years past.

A look back over the past two decades at the department shows that, while DPI has remained approximately the same size (total employment is actually down 4 percent since 1995), federal influence has grown swiftly and steadily.

In 1995, 185 DPI employees were paid by the federal government — 28 percent of the total. Today, the 302 workers in DPI essentially on the federal payroll amount to 47 percent of the total.

The bureaucracy alone that is needed to keep track of all of this is immense and complicated. Some DPI workers were paid from as many as seven separate federal funding sources, according to 2014-’15 records reviewed by WPRI.


But 45 percent of federally paid DPI staffers appear to have little or no direct impact on educating children. That group of 135 employees included administrators, accountants, attorneys, grants specialists, budget analysts, auditors, operations management, clerical assistants and others. Within DPI alone, there were eight grants accountants and specialists earning a combined $464,736 in 2014-’15, according to state records.

That, of course, does not include anyone processing or tracking federal money or keeping track of grant requirements in either Washington, D.C., or at the local school level throughout Wisconsin. Many districts employ people whose primary job is to manage federal grant dollars and make sure they don’t run afoul of federal rules.

The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District, for instance, hired a grants specialist in the fall of 2015, at a salary of $112,000, to manage its grants program after years of miscues had cost the financially beleaguered district hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties.

West Bend School Board Forum

I attended the school board candidate forum hosted by Common Sense Citizens of Washington County this evening. It was a great introduction to the candidates and they all represented themselves well.

As usual, the Washington County Insider has a thorough recap, so I’ll spare you all from reading mine. Head over there and read all about it!

Feb. 8, 2017 – West Bend, WI – About 75 people turned out for the candidate forum at the West Bend Moose Lodge on Wednesday night. West Bend School Board candidates included  Rick Cammack, Ryan Gieryn, Nancy Justman, Bob Miller, Joel Ongert, and Tonnie Schmidt

Bill Introduced to Abolish Dept. of Education

Yes! One would think that with the Democrats’ visceral opposition to Secretary DeVos that even some of them would support this bill.

On the same day the Senate confirmed President Trump’s secretary of Education pick by a historically narrow margin, a House Republican introduced legislation to abolish the entire department Betsy DeVos will lead.

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie’s bill is only a page long, after merely stating the Department of Education would terminate on Dec. 31, 2018.

Massie believes that policymakers at the state and local levels should be responsible for education policy, instead of a federal agency that’s been in place since 1980.

Education on the Docket Tonight

FYI. Ignore the date on the post. The forum is tonight.


DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary


WASHINGTON (AP) — Charter school advocate Betsy DeVos won confirmation as education secretary Tuesday by the slimmest of margins, pushed to approval only by the historic tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence.

DeVos is a passionate advocate for better education who has put her time and money into improving education for decades. She will be a breath of fresh air. Hopefully her affinity for pushing education decision-making as close to the kids as possible will remain strong and she will force the federal government to retreat from setting education policy altogether.

Walker Proposes Massive Increase in Education Spending

Here’s a list of specifics:

The governor’s budget would provide over the two years:

  • $509 million for broad public school aid that districts could spend on teaching: a $200 per pupil increase for the 2017-’18 school year and an additional $204 increase in the 2018-’19 school year. This increase wouldn’t go through the state’s general aid formula, flowing instead through a special aid category with its own formula and the possibility that it could benefit suburban schools more than urban ones.
  • A similar increase in money per student for taxpayer-funded private voucher schools to meet a requirement previously approved by Walker and lawmakers.
  • $11.5 billion in total state spending on education, a new high before accounting for inflation, and enough to cover 64.6% of the cost of K-12 schools statewide. That would be below the state’s onetime target of paying for two-thirds of the cost of schools but is the best level since 2009, when the state hit 65.8% under then Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat.
  • Total state school aid per public school increases — both general and special categories — to $6,588 in 2017-’18 and $6,902 in 2018-’19, a 3% bump in the first year and a 4.5% increase in the second from the current level of $6,376.
  • $5.6 million in the 2018-’19 academic year for low-performing schools in Milwaukee to encourage improvements. Public, charter and taxpayer-funded private voucher schools could all compete for that money in the city, where 42 public schools didn’t meet expectations in the most recent report card.
  • $2.8 million toward Milwaukee Public Schools’ summer school program.
  • A range of funding for students with mental illness, including $2.5 million to connect students with mental health services; $500,000 more for students in Milwaukee through a different program; $3 million for school social workers in public and charter schools that are independent of public districts; and $1 million to train school workers on mental health screening.
  • $7.6 million to help school districts connect disabled students with jobs.
  • $300,000 for an online-based anti-bullying program being developed by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the Department of Public Instruction.

As we have definitively determined, more money does not necessarily lead to better outcomes. I’d like to see what specific outcomes these expenditures are designed to improve.

UWO Foundation Paid off Former UWO Chancellor


OSHKOSH – While the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh foundation grapples with whether to declare bankruptcy to cover $14.5 million in debt, the fate of the chancellor’s foundation-owned residence remains unclear.

The foundation bought the home at 1423 Congress Ave. in January 2013 from then-Chancellor Richard Wells and his wife, Christie, according to Winnebago County property records. The foundation bought the home for $450,000 — nearly $120,000 more than fair market value — about 1 ½ years before Wells retired in August 2014 and moved to Florida.

Let’s understand what happened here… according to accusation in the lawsuit, then-Chancellor Richard Wells illegally used public funds to guarantee and fund private, for-profit building projects to the tune of millions of dollars. Now we find out that the same foundation bought Wells’ house for over $100k more than fair market value in the same time period that Wells was allegedly illegally funneling them public funds. Sure looks like part of a payoff…

Former UWO Chancellor Claims Widespread Knowledge of Illegality

Well, well… the plot thickens.

A former UW-Oshkosh administrator says the financial decisions that the University of Wisconsin System is now suing him for making were widely known and once encouraged by UW’s leaders.

That’s the opposite of what UW officials have claimed since they filed a lawsuit earlier this month against UW-Oshkosh’s former chancellor and Thomas Sonnleitner, its chief business officer from 2000 until last year, for using the university’s money and credit to help fund several UW-Oshkosh Foundation building projects.

System leaders said Sonnleitner and the former chancellor, Richard Wells, illegally arranged for the university to provide millions of dollars in funding and write guarantees backing the foundation’s loans for the projects. They described the actions of Wells and Sonnleitner as “isolated behavior” that was done without the knowledge of UW leaders, who said they quickly investigated the financing when they learned about it in 2016.

Hearkening back to my column that was published this morning, neither contradictory claim covers UWO administrators with glory. If the current Chancellor is right and the former Chancellor allegedly committed these illegal transactions on the sly, then it reveals woefully incompetent and/or corrupt oversight at the university. If the former Chancellor’s claims are accurate that he acted with the widespread knowledge and consent of the leadership at the university, then it reveals a poisonous culture that carelessly accepts the illegal and wasteful spending of public funds.

Either way, there’s a problem.

More Money Does Not Necessarily Equal Better Education

Once again the evidence is that more money does not automatically lead to better educational outcomes.

MacIver News Service | January 30, 2017

[Washington, D.C…] A new report from the federal Institute of Education Sciences has revealed that the Obama administration’s School Improvement Grant (SIG) program failed to create any academic gains for students. The controversial grant program spent $7 billion over eight years, and was the largest-ever federal investment in failing schools.

Then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan promised that the major effort would turn around 5,000 failing schools through a series of incentives. Duncan declared it to be the administration’s biggest bet.

Now we know – as some have been warning for years – that the schools which received federal dollars posted no significant differences in academic outcomes, graduation rates, or college enrollment than the schools which received no money under the program.

May we please dispense with the false equivalence that more money leads to better education? Once a minimum threshold of funding is met, any additional expenditure should only be tolerated if it can be proven to improve outcomes.

Humphries Supported Walker Opponent

He’s sure campaigning like a conservative now, but it’s difficult to reconcile that with his apparent opposition to the single-most empowering education reform to come out of the legislature in generations.

State superintendent candidates backed by mostly conservatives once donated money to a former opponent of Gov. Scott Walker, campaign finance records show.

John Humphries, a former Dodgeville School District administrator, donated $35 to Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett’s campaign against Walker during the 2012 recall election.

The donation came after Humphries also signed the 2011 petition that triggered the recall after the passage of Act 10, Walker’s signature law…

Waging Intellectual Battle While Unarmed

There has been a notable decline in the quality of debate. I just assumed it was me getting older and less patient with stupidity.

Much attention has been given to the non-college-educated voters who rallied to Trump. Insufficient attention is given to the role of the college miseducated. They, too, are complicit in our current condition because they emerged from their expensive “college experiences” neither disposed nor able to conduct civil, informed arguments. They are thus disarmed when confronted by political people who consider evidence, data, and reasoning to be mere conveniences and optional.

Evers Blasts School Reform


Wisconsin school Superintendent Tony Evers is blasting a plan from a challenger that would make it possible for low-performing public schools to be converted into private charter or voucher schools.

The idea comes from John Humphries, a former Dodgeville school administrator who is challenging Evers. His proposal would allow the lowest-performing schools with a high percentage of low-income students to be reorganized, possibly as a private voucher school.

Evers says Humphries has no vision and wants to dismantle public schools. Evers says Humphries is peddling ideas that haven’t worked and won’t be accepted.

Yes, I agree with Evers. Instead of trying something different with failing schools to help them succeed, let’s just keep doing the same thing /sarcasm.

It’s an old saw, but it’s true. If you keep doing the same things the same way, you will get the same results. Apparently, that is the core of Evers’ “vision.”

West Bend School Superintendent Slaps Down Union Propaganda

This is hilarious. The West Bend School Board dipped its toe into Act 10 a few years ago by integrating teacher scorecards into the teacher compensation system. Essentially, it is an effort to tie teacher compensation to teacher performance. The teachers’ union, West Bend Education Association (WBEA), hate tying pay to performance. They prefer the old compensation system where compensation is a factor of getting older and getting more degrees, whether the degree is needed for the job or not.

One of the ways that the union has been attacking the new compensation system is by bemoaning its cost. To that end, last week they released a “cost estimate” for the teacher scorecards that was based on uneducated (ironically) and uninformed guesses. It was comical.

Yesterday, the Superintendent smacked them down. Here is a comparison of their propaganda versus the actual numbers:


Read the superintendent’s full statement at the Washington County Insider.

Funny stuff. I can’t wait to see the union’s response.

Former UWO Coach Says There’s More to be Found

This could be the grumbling of a disgruntled former employee, but the allegations paint a picture of rampant illegal mismanagement of funds.

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) – A former UW-Oshkosh baseball coach says he wasn’t surprised to hear about a lawsuit filed against two former UW-Oshkosh leaders accused of mishandling funds.

Tom Lechnir says he was let go in May of 2013 after 25 seasons with the school when he raised concerns about the university’s accounting practices.


He also secured donors who provided financing for Alumni Stadium, which opened in 2007, but he voiced concerns when he says the university diverted some of the funds to support other building projects, like the Oshkosh Sports Complex.

Lechnir said, “When I could not or would not ask them to donate more to give to other places, then obviously they threatened me with my job — and to my surprise he somehow followed through with it and got away with it.”

That sports complex was specifically named in court documents filed this week as one of five projects on which the university spent more than $11 million — funneling those funds through the UW-Oshkosh Foundation.

State law prohibits the use of public funds to support a private organization like the foundation.

“What I’m going to tell you guys is, don’t stop digging, because there’s a whole lot more than what’s out there,” said Lechnir.