Category Archives: Education
This will be an interesting case to watch.
Officials at a private school say the more than $100,000 they’re paying to bus its 70 students could be better spent on academics, and they’ve filed a federal lawsuit to get Milwaukee Public Schools to cover the costs.
St. Joan’s is represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (W.I.L.L.), which says busing costs are an issue for the 27,000 kids in the Milwaukee Choice program.
“This is a justice issue,” said Paul Gessner, SJA’s Head of School. “Our kids really deserve to have safe and reliable transportation to and from school. That’s why we’re doing this.”
The state Constitution calls out transportation to school as a right:
Transportation of school children. Section 23. [As created April 1967] Nothing in this constitution shall prohibit the legislature from providing for the safety and welfare of children by providing for the transportation of children to and from any parochial or private school or institution of learning. [1965 J.R. 46, 1967 J.R. 13, vote April 1967]
The West Bend Chamber of Commerce held its forum for the candidates for the West Bend School Board. You can find a run down of the questions and responses at the Washington County Insider.
My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. The resignation of Therese Sizer last night puts it in a different context this morning. Here you go:
April 4 brings us another opportunity to exercise our right to elect our political and judicial leaders. While the national and state elections tend to get all of the attention, it is our local elected officials who arguably have more of a direct impact on our everyday lives. It is also our local officials who often work long hours, deal with a lot of quirky citizens and do so for little money or fame. We should all give our neighbors a big “thank you” for being willing to serve our community.
One of the important races on the ballot in West Bend and neighboring communities is for the West Bend School Board. Three of the seven board seats are on the ballot with only one incumbent running for re-election. The results of this election could push the school board in an entirely new direction.
Two incumbent school board members decided to not seek re-election. President Rick Parks and Vice President Bart Williams are both concluding their second terms and deserve a sincere thank you. While ideologically different, both Parks and Williams went about their business on the school board in a thoughtful, thorough, collegial, and effective manner. During their tenures, they navigated the district through the aftermath of Act 10, implemented a merit pay system for teachers, started a charter school, started a clinic for district staff, hired a new superintendent and many other things for which they should be proud. Thank you, gentlemen.
The third incumbent school board member did choose to seek re-election. Ryan Gieryn is running for his second term and wants to see through some of the issues he worked on in his first term including continuing to refine the teacher merit pay system, evaluate the effectiveness of the district’s testing regimen, direct the new superintendent that he helped hire and look ahead to replacing Jackson Elementary. While I did not support Gieryn when he ran the first time, his thoughtful and measured service on the board has been commendable and he has earned my vote for a second term.
There is also the issue with experience on the board. Our republican form of government is kept healthy by the constant refreshing of elected officials, but some experience in governing is necessary. An inexperienced and naïve school board shifts power to the unelected administration. If Gieryn does not win re-election, then every board member except one, Therese Sizer, would be serving their first term. Gieryn’s experience on the board will be particularly important as the new superintendent settles into his role.
Bob Miller is running for the school board for the second time having fallen just short last year. He has spent the past year talking to people, participating in school events and learning more about the district. Miller is a graduate of the district with three kids attending schools in West Bend.
He is a fiber optic technician, school bus driver, Boy Scout leader, father and husband who has some great common sense ideas to improve the district’s outcomes. A fiscal conservative, Miller wants to ensure that the district spends money wisely and has seen enough working and volunteering in the district to have some tangible ideas on how to save money. The second time is the charm for Miller and he deserves a seat on the board.
Richard Cammack has lived in West Bend for 22 years and wants to see the district improve in many areas. He believes in the importance of family, students, teachers and business and a school district that serves all constituents. Cammack considers himself a realist who needs to fully understand an issue and listen to the district’s stakeholders before making a decision. Cammack is receiving my third vote April 4.
The remaining three candidates, Tonnie Schmidt, Joel Ongert and Nancy Justman, are running as a bloc with virtually identical platforms. They all claim to be conservatives (one stands little chance of winning election in a district that is 70-plus percent conservative if one does not claim to be one). They trumpet “accountability” but only seem to want to hold administrators accountable. While that is a laudable goal, their reluctance to continue or strengthen even the mild performance pay standards for teachers is troubling.
Their repetition of the talking points coming out of the local teachers union and lefty talking heads leads one to believe that these three would be reliable agents for whatever the West Bend Education Association wants. Many of the yards in West Bend whose Hillary and Bernie signs died during the winter have now sprouted signs for Schmidt, Ongert and Justman with the coming of spring.
I will note that all three of these candidates refused to be interviewed for this column. Despite claiming to be conservatives, they had no appetite to be probed by the district’s only resident conservative columnist.
Once again West Bend is privileged to have some great people running for local office. I am happy to support three of them for the West Bend School Board. I will be happily voting for Ryan Gieryn, Bob Miller, and Richard Cammack on April 4.
My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
For years the teachers unions and the rest of the liberal education establishment has considered the Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction to be their exclusive domain and rightfully so. Almost all previous superintendents in the past several decades have been put into office by the money and power of the teachers unions and each superintendent has returned the support by pushing the union agenda. The current superintendent is no exception. Fortunately, Wisconsin has a real opportunity to make a change April 4 and elect a superintendent whose values and priorities are more in line modern educational thought.
The Department of Public Instruction is a somewhat unusual department in Wisconsin. Although part of the executive branch headed by the governor, the superintendent of the department is a constitutional non-partisan office that is elected every four years. The state constitution simply says that the state superintendent is responsible for the supervision of public instruction and that their “qualifications, powers, duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law.”
In the 169 years since the office was created, the legislature has granted more and less power to the office and shifted the responsibilities with the needs and wants of the time. The DPI is responsible for a wide swath of responsibilities including distributing state money to local districts, administering federal programs and money, providing operational and technical services to local school districts, crafting curriculum, compiling state education data and many other things. With a budget of over $6 billion per year, it is one of the largest state agencies.
The incumbent superintendent, Tony Evers, is asking for a third term in office. Evers’ agenda for the previous eight years has been to advance the liberal and union education agenda. He has passionately and aggressively fought back against the expansion of school choice in the state. Evers has been in step with the Obama Administration’s federal intrusion into education including pushing Common Core. After eight years of Evers’ leadership, the state’s education infrastructure is still languishing in mediocrity and he has fought every innovation coming from the legislature to try to improve it.
Thankfully, Wisconsin has an excellent alternative to just doing the same tired thing and getting the same disappointing results. Lowell Holtz, a selfstyled “Kidservative,” plans a new path for Wisconsin education.
Holtz has a broad and varied resume. He was a teacher in both private and public schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin. He was once Wisconsin’s Principal of the Year and was recognized as a National Distinguished Principal. Holtz has been the superintendent or district administrator of three Wisconsin public school districts in Palmyra-Eagle, Beloit and Whitnall. What is interesting about these districts is that they cover a range from rural to urban, small to big and homogeneous to diverse. In every leadership position, Holtz can point to a strong record of making a positive change.
More importantly, Holtz has a vastly different vision than Evers for improving education for Wisconsin’s kids. In fact, Holtz’s vision for education is much more in alignment with what the voters have been supporting as reflected in their choices for state and local leaders in the past several years. Holtz breaks down his vision into three basic categories.
First, Holtz wants to push more control back to the local districts and pull back state and federal mandates – including Common Core. Second, he wants to improve the graduation rate and close the achievement gap. He proposes to do this by providing resources and collaboration to the school districts who need it. Third, Holtz wants to empower teachers by pulling back burdensome administrative hurdles and improving classroom discipline.
Perhaps most importantly, Holtz supports innovation in educational choices including choice, charter, and online school options. Instead of trying to maintain the education establishment of the 1950s, Holtz welcomes a 21st century educational infrastructure to serve 21st century kids.
April 4 is a chance for Wisconsin to force the Department of Public Instruction to look to the future instead of protecting the past. Vote for Holtz.
That’s a heckuva value lesson for kids.
It was a clear and pointed message to the Delavan-Darien School community: If immigration agents knock, don’t open the door, don’t sign or say anything and fight back.
It caught a lot of parents by surprise.
“I was surprised to receive that and have the school district giving advice on how to deal with a non-academic situation,” parent Sara Deschner said.
But school leaders said it had to be done.
March 10, 2017 – Milwaukee, WI – A new WILL report explains how the City of Milwaukee is failing to follow state law, preserving the never-ending vacant school building crisis. In total, Milwaukee has at least 15 empty school buildings and taxpayers have spent over $10.2 million on maintenance for empty buildings in the last decade.
This problem was supposed to be solved. In 2015, the state legislature, led by State Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Dale Kooyenga, passed a law to force the City to sell its empty school buildings to private and charter schools. But, two years later, the City is ignoring state law and the vacant schools problem remains – even though seven different private and charter schools have attempted to purchase these buildings.
Universities have become some of the least tolerant places in this nation.
A student union has banned a university Conservative society from using its social media accounts – because they challenged its position on free speech.
Lincoln University’s Conservative Society has been censored by its student union after it posted an image online showing that the university had been ranked “very intolerant” on free speech in a recent survey.
In response, the Students’ Union swiftly suspended the society’s social media accounts, on the grounds that highlighting the university’s ranking had brought it into disrepute.
My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty’s Will Flanders has released a study comparing the recent test performance of Wisconsin’s children from Wisconsin’s public, charter, and private schools. The results confirm that Wisconsin needs to continue to lead in education reform.
The study, called “Apples to Apples,” evaluated the results of the 2016 Forward Exam and the ACT. The Forward Exam is required in all Wisconsin public school and private schools that participate in any of Wisconsin’s three school choice programs. The ACT is also required for all public and choice students. While there are exceptions for private schools that do not participate in a choice program, home-schooled kids, and kids whose parents opted to not have their children take the tests, the wide participation in these two exams give a broad view of the academic performance of Wisconsin’s schools.
The results of the study show that, “private schools in the choice programs and public charter schools in Milwaukee and Wisconsin perform significantly better on the ACT and Forward Exams than traditional public schools.”
These results are hardly groundbreaking. Various studies have been done for years and have consistently shown that choice schools and charter schools outperform the public schools in the same communities. In the past, these studies have been dismissed by anti-school choice advocates. They claimed that the only reason for the better performance of choice schools was because they could skew the results by only accepting the “best” students.
But the WILL study took it a step further. The key difference in WILL’s study is that it isolated school performance by accounting for the students’ socio-economic status and demographic differences. After adjusting for these variables, the study still shows that choice and charter schools outperform their public school counterparts.
Some of the details are further enlightening. In Milwaukee, while choice and charter schools outperform Milwaukee Public Schools, long-standing Catholic and Lutheran schools are top performers. Faith-based education works. Also, the best performing charter schools are those authorized by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Perhaps the most troubling result in WILL’s study is the racial achievement gap. The study shows that racial achievement gap is massive and it cuts across every kind of school. Specifically, “a school with a nonwhite student make-up is predicted to have 52.9 percent lower proficiency in English/Language Arts and 46.5 percent lower proficiency in math than a school that is all white.”
That is a massive problem and is also reflected in a recent study about the next step in education — college. A recent report from The Education Trust showed that UW-M has one of the worst graduation rates for black students in the nation. Only 21 percent of full-time black students at UW-M graduate within six years.
Given that UW-M and MPS are both, obviously, in Milwaukee, and that many MPS graduates feed into UW-M, the results of both schools are irrevocably linked. The graduation rate for black kids at MPS has been falling in recent years. The four-year graduation rate for black kids in MPS was 54.7 percent in 2016 and 67 percent after five years.
What all of this data reveals is that while choice and charter schools improve the probability of educational success for the majority of kids, none of them improves the achievement gap between white and non-white children. There is an expansive and pervasive issue that is holding back Wisconsin’s non-white children — particularly black ones. Since WILL’s study corrected for socioeconomic and demographic differences, there is something beyond poverty or unemployment driving the gap.
Flanders’ study reminds us that Wisconsin, once at the forefront of education innovation, still has a lot of work to do. We must continue to offer more Wisconsin families the opportunity to send their kids to the school of their choice, but that is only the beginning. We must also get serious about breaking the fetters that are preventing Wisconsin’s non-white kids from achieving their God-given potential.
UW-Oshkosh’s foundation has spent heavily in recent years on technology that converts manure and other organic material into electricity — a strategy that is both legal and mirrors a trend among colleges of using private foundations to generate revenue.
But the university is running into problems for funneling public money through its foundation for projects, which UW System officials say is illegal.
The funding included the development of a waste-to-energy system at Wisconsin’s largest dairy farm, where costs escalated, prompting administrators to divert school funds to help pay for the project, according to court records.
UW System officials filed the suit Jan. 18 against former Chancellor Richard H. Wells and Thomas G. Sonnleitner, the former vice chancellor for administrative services, for tapping school funds that should have come from the foundation.
This is a big poo storm that involves the illegal use of taxpayer funds and such, but it also reveals some more fundamental problems with the decision making within the UW System. The University and the Foundation are allegedly committed to providing an excellent education for students. The Foundation’s webpage even says:
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation contributes to academic excellence. It is an organization committed to advancing higher education and ensuring that UW Oshkosh students enjoy successful futures.
So during the years in which the Foundation and the University were planning and spending millions of dollars on a biodigester did anyone posit the question, “how does this contribute to academic excellence for our students?” If so, what was the answer? If not, why not? Why are they doing it?
Stories like this reaffirm the opinion that there isn’t too little money in our UW System – there is too much. There is so much money lying around that officials are literally throwing taxpayer, tuition, and donated money at shitty projects because they can’t think of a better use for it. When resources are truly scarce, things like this don’t happen.
Too cute. They want to spend their lives in the bosom of academia where they can be shielded from market forces or disparate outcomes based on demand and performance.
A controversial pay plan for graduate students who assist faculty at University of Wisconsin-Madison will be introduced as planned, despite continuing opposition from the student workers’ labor union.
The pay plan increases base pay for teaching assistants, research assistants and program assistants by 3.5 percent, but also lets colleges and schools set higher minimum pay instead of paying assistants in all fields from the same pay scale, as in the past.
The changes are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, according to a Jan. 24 memo from Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf and William Karpus, dean of the Graduate School and Laurent Heller, vice chancellor for finance and administration.
The new pay structure opens the door to growing disparity between pay to graduate students studying and working in high demand fields and those in other fields, said members of the Teaching Assistants’ Association.
The study, Apples to Apples, released on Wednesday, shows charter schools and private school voucher programs doing better at educating students than public schools in Wisconsin.
Will Flanders, education research director for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty said students in Milwaukee’s private school voucher program performed significantly better than their public school peers when controlling for socioeconomic status.
It isn’t unique to UWM, but it’s among the worst.
Only one in five black students (21%) who enroll full-time at UW-Milwaukee graduates in six years, and the completion gap between black and white students is 24.3 percentage points, according to the report from The Education Trust, which analyzed graduation rates for black students at 676 traditional public and private nonprofit colleges and universities.
About 35% of UWM’s incoming freshmen graduate in the bottom half of their high school class. And the most recent four-year graduation rate for black students in Milwaukee Public Schools — a major feeder school district for UWM — is 54.7%. Wisconsin also has the nation’s widest gap in high school graduation rates for white and black students.[…]
Many black students encounter financial, academic and social challenges that can make their path to a degree more difficult, the report says. Increasing college costs have a disproportionate effect on black students and contribute to higher debt levels. And inequalities in K-12 education mean too many black students start college in noncredit remedial courses, the report notes.
What appears is happening is that UWM has lowered admission standards to inflate the enrollment of minority students – an effort fueled by easy money from the federal government and other sources. Many of the students entering were not equipped to succeed, so they didn’t. this also left many of them with debt and no degree to show for it.
The answer is not to lower the standards for graduation or to funnel more money into remedial programs, thus inflating the price of college even more. The answer is to acknowledge that there are many post-high school educational opportunities including skilled trade apprenticeships, tech schools, two-year schools, community colleges, industry training, and yes, four-year universities. The admission standards for any of these options should reflect the basic skills needed so that people entering them will succeed completing the school and set them up to be successful in their careers. We do more damage than good by admitting people to schools in which they are ill-equipped to succeed.
This is beyond incompetence. This is the deliberate squandering of the public trust.
That was just the beginning. By the time Chromy and the district’s auditors finished digging, they would find at least $14 million in overspending during the 2013-’14 and 2014-’15 school years alone — on everything from salaries and benefits to teacher training and technology — and questionable practices dating to at least 2007.
By the summer of 2016, it appeared that West Allis-West Milwaukee had accomplished what at least one state auditor said he had never seen before: In the course of a decade, the suburban Milwaukee district, one of the state’s largest, had blown through $17.5 million in reserves and posted a $2.1 million deficit.
It takes a lot of bad decisions to get into this financial state. Here are just a few:
The district offices complex, which the board is now selling to a developer, was supposed to pay for itself and generate additional revenue. Instead, it only added to the losses. Initially, tenants generated more than $800,000 annually. But over time, most have moved on and the rental space is largely vacant.
In addition to the big-ticket items, the district overspent its budgets on dozens of accounts between 2013-’14 and 2014-’15 alone, often by staggering amounts: $3.7 million in overruns for salaries and benefits, $146,000 for teacher training, $786,700 for technology; and $671,738 for a soccer complex board members say they thought was entirely grant-funded.
Some expenses have drawn state and federal scrutiny. Last year, auditors at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction were called in to assist the U.S. Department of Education, which had raised concerns about West Allis-West Milwaukee’s handling of three federal grants. In the end, the district agreed to return $73,000 of the $1.6 million it received to federal officials.
And, of course, now the same school district who squandered the taxpayers’ money for a decade wants the taxpayers to pay more to fix their mismanagement. If the taxpayers refuse, the district will cut popular educational offerings.
In April, it will ask taxpayers in its modest communities to authorize an additional $12.5 million — or about $290 per student each year — beyond what they already pay in taxes for operating costs over the next five years.
Without the referendum, Superintendent Marty Lexmond says, the district may be forced to cut programs such as art and music and shelve ideas for new ones — a language-immersion school, for example, or a next-generation high school — that are designed to keep families in the district.
This school district is like the deadbeat brother-in-law who keeps borrowing money for get rich quick schemes. He’s always broke, but this time – THIS TIME IT WILL WORK! The root of the problem is in the last phrase of this excerpt:
Sources have suggested a litany of possible factors: the opaque accounting system and lack of routine monitoring of expenditures; a top-down administration in which then-Superintendent Wachholz was the nearly exclusive conduit of information for the board; annual audits devoid of red flags until 2014-’15; and the failure of school board members to exercise adequate oversight.
Yes, the school board. Far too many school board members take their financial responsibilities lightly. They don’t ask the hard questions or demand to see the numbers behind the PowerPoint presentations. Or perhaps worse, they are complicit in the fleecing of the taxpayers because it’s “for the children.”
There is a lesson here for Wisconsin voters as they consider the candidates in the school board elections taking place all over Wisconsin in April.
The Milwaukee School Board voted, 8-1, Thursday night to require student uniforms for all schools in the district, beginning this fall.Individual schools and individuals students will be allowed to opt-out of the requirement, but it is likely there will be far more students attending public schools in the city wearing polo shirts and khakis.School Board member Carol Voss suggested at the meeting that the vote would switch the “default position” for MPS students and schools from not requiring uniforms to requiring uniforms.Currently, about a third of the 150 schools in MPS have uniform codes. Participation is voluntary and ranges widely from school to school.MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver said uniforms improve the learning environment in schools and increase safety, improve discipline and enhance school unity.
About a dozen people testified before the board, most of them in opposition to the policy, saying it will stifle individuality and creativity among students.
MPS schools are expected to offer families $20 for each student as a start on purchasing uniforms.
I don’t know why the taxpayers need to give parents money for uniforms. Presumably, the parents clothe their children now. They just have to buy different clothes. Still, uniforms are a positive step. They eliminate a lot of disruption, division, and anxiety from the learning environment.
Maybe the district got the message this time?
WATERFORD — Waterford Union High School District voters have once again rejected a proposal to fund a new fieldhouse, fitness center and related building remodeling at the high school, 100 Field Drive.
Unofficial results from Tuesday’s election showed the $12.21 million referendum being defeated 2,199 to 1,832. The only district municipality that voted in favor of the referendum was the Village of Waterford, where the high school is located. A similar referendum was rejected by voters last April.
The school district includes the Village and Town of Waterford, portions of the Village of Rochester and parts of the towns of Dover, Norway and Raymond.
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.
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.
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 WisPolitics.com, 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.
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.