Category Archives: Education

Trump Denies Sanction Waiver to Exxon to Drill in Russia

Well, that’s going to make cabinet meetings awkward.

“The Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said in a statement Friday. Mnuchin said he consulted with President Trump on the decision.

Exxon had applied for a waiver from sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in a bid to resume its lucrative joint venture with Russian state oil giant PAO Rosneft.

In a statement, Exxon said “we understand” the decision by the Treasury Department. Exxon explained that its application for a license was aimed at meeting the company’s “contractual obligations” in Russia, where competitors are allowed to drill under European sanctions.

Walker Walks Fine Line on School Referendum

This looks like something of a semantic argument.

BLANCHARDVILLE (WKOW) — Gov. Scott Walker told 27 News Thursday he does not want to penalize school districts that increase operating revenues through referendum votes, putting him at odds with some Republican lawmakers who put forth that proposal last month.

Walker made those comments after speaking to students at Pecatonica High School.


“The question might be whether or not the aidable assistance goes up. realistically, if there was anything, that would be more of the adjustment, it wouldn’t be taking money away,” said Gov. Walker. “It would just a be a question of whether you’d be giving more to those districts who choose to do that, because one of the other complaints I hear from school districts is, if they choose not to do that, they feel like they’re penalized if they operate within their budgets and somebody else goes beyond that. But I certainly wouldn’t penalize it.”

As I read that comment, Walker does not want to “penalize” school districts that pas an operating referendum, but he is okay with an “adjustment.” Walker is saying that if a school district wants to increase their taxes and spending through a referendum, that’s fine, but state taxpayers won’t be kicking in anything extra.

Transgender Folks Sue UW for Free Surgery

One lawsuit to drive up taxes AND health care costs. Awesome

MADISON – Two transgender University of Wisconsin employees sued state entities Friday in federal court over their refusal to pay for their gender transition surgeries.

The two employees sued the UW System, the Board of Regents, insurers and others with the assistance of the national and Wisconsin arms of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“As a result of (state policies), plaintiffs’ health insurance plans single out transgender employees for unequal treatment by categorically depriving them of all medical care for gender dysphoria, a serious medical condition codified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and International Classification of Diseases,” attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Madison.

Former UWO Chancellor Responds to Allegations

And it’s laugh out loud funny.

In Wells’ response, his lawyers wrote that Wells was acting “within the scope of his employment” when carrying out the acts described by the UW lawsuit, and that collaboration and cooperation with the UW-Foundation was undertaken “with actual authority derived from the board,” along with the authority of state law, administrative code and practices and procedures of the UW System.

None of his actions, the document states, “constitute intention or negligent conversion,” but if they are ultimately found by a court to have happened as a result of Wells’ discretion as chancellor, Wells should not be held personally liable for them. His acts “were not malicious, willful or done with the intent” to violate any law or policy, the response states, but “were done for the benefit of UW-Oshkosh” and its students, “and in fact did provide significant benefits to UW-Oshkosh.”

Wells’ response also states that the UW System did not have in place a clear and concise set of rules, best practices and guidelines for universities and affiliated foundations that were applicable to UW-Oshkosh or known to Wells.

So how can he argue both that he followed the “practices and procedures of the UW System” AND “UW System did not have in place a clear and concise set of rules, best practices and guidelines?”

This looks like a “kitchen sink” response from someone who is caught dead to rights.

Bait and Switch in Kewaskum

This letter to the editor points out some screwy stuff happening in the Kewaskum School District.

March 28, 2017 – Kewaskum, WI – I have quite a few questions concerning actions by the Kewaskum School Board and how it affects the community. I’m not alone.

An article was published in the Feb. 9, 2017 Kewaskum Statesman, ‘Kewaskum School District Considers New Building Plan.’

It said after 18 months of development by administration, the Long Range Planning Committee, Bray Architect and CD Smith, that 60 days after the referendum passed a board member indicated, “The whole board will be eating crow because it is the right thing to do.”

How can that happen? How do you meet for 18 months and the building plan you forward to referendum is not right?

He brings up a good point. The Kewaskum School Board put a referendum on the ballot to borrow $28.4 million to do some substantial renovations to several buildings. They showed the public a plan, drawings, cost estimates, etc. and touted how they had spent such a long time developing a detailed plan. Here’s what they touted:


Then, within 2 months of the voters approving the referendum, the School Board scraps the plan upon which it was based and is going with something else? That has all of the hallmarks of corruption, incompetence, and/or dishonesty.

Shady Dealing at UWO

This stinks.

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Foundation bought Chancellor Richard Wells’ home for roughly $120,000 more than it arguably was worth before he retired — the same foundation he’s accused of illegally using to help cement his legacy.

In addition to that windfall, Wells saved roughly $27,000 in Realtor commission because the sprawling, classic midcentury modern ranch house with brick privacy walls never went on the market.
The chancellor continued to live in the house about a half mile from campus rent-free per a standard contract until he moved to Florida 20 months after the sale. After he left, the foundation sank another $62,000 into the 3,247-square-foot home on top of the $450,000 sale price. They updated the kitchen, added a half-bath and coat room, resolved serious water drainage issues and made extensive repairs, including replacing two bulging concrete patios, according to UW-Oshkosh records obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request.

Wisconsin Republicans Propose Reforms for Referendum Process

When the state passed Act 10 in 2011, it did a few things. It pulled back state funding, but gave districts much more freedom to actively manage their budgets. The intent was that school districts would be prudent stewards of the taxpayers’ money to provide the best possible education for the kids. Act 10 also left in place the ability for local district voters to decide for themselves whether or not to raise taxes and spending in their district via the referendum process. And oh, did some districts take advantage of that process.

In the past few years, school districts all around Wisconsin have passed massive building and tax increase referendums. The end result is that taxpayers are taking on massive new debt and increasing taxed. In the past 13 months alone, school districts in Wisconsin have taken on about $2 Billion in new debt. That’s a lot of money.

School Districts have sold some of these referendum like used car salesmen (no offense to used car salesmen) by being deceptive or downright untruthful about the finances. For example, in Kewaskum, the school officials flat out refused to talk about the total cost of the referendum including the interest payments. They would only talk about the actual loan amount as if the interest was not paid with real money. Some districts are drawing out the loan payments for 15 or 20 or more years to pull down the yearly payments, but increase the overall cost. Almost all districts sold their referendums by the tax levy increase instead of talking about the total amount. You heard the rhetoric: “your taxes will only go up by a $100 and who can’t afford $100 for THE CHILDREN!?!?”

(I will give credit to the West Bend School District in their last referendum. Although I opposed it, I thought that their discussion and “selling” of it was, for the most part, honest and straightforward.)

The problem with the referendum process is that while it does give the local school district voters the ability to raise (or, theoretically, lower) their taxing and spending in the spirit of local control, it is not just the local taxpayers who foot the bill for that decision. In Wisconsin’s system of shared government, state taxpayers fund a portion of every school district in the state – some more than others. So when Milwaukee or Arrowhead school district voters decide to pass that massive referendum, the citizens of West Bend and Green Bay get to pay for part of it too. Shouldn’t local control also mean local cost? If a school district’s voters want to jack up their spending and taxes, why should people in other districts, who have made a different choice, have to pay for it?

This is the problem that Republicans have set out to reform in a series of of six bills. Some of the reforms are better than others, so let’s take a look at them as characterized in the Madison State Journal.

Bill #1:

A separate bill authored by Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, and Stroebel would eliminate what are known as recurring referendums — ballot questions that raise property taxes permanently — and cap any referendum for operating costs at five years.

For school districts that have already successfully asked voters to approve recurring referendums, like the Madison School District did in 2016, the school board would have to return to voters in five years from the passage of the bill to seek another referendum.

Toward the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson was an adherent to the belief that no government should ever be able to bind future citizens to anything. In essence, he advocated a perpetual revolution whereby each succeeding generation of citizens would remake their government in their own image.

In the real world away from Monticello, this doesn’t work. Governments have to make decisions that may span years or generations. This is why our Constitution is still relevant today even though not a single American living was ever consulted on its creation. Yet there are boundaries that make sense. In a local school district, should the voters of 2017 be able to raise the taxes in perpetuity so that their grandchildren’s grandchildren have to pay it? Or, if those future generations object, couldn’t they just pass another referendum to lower those taxes? Theoretically, yes, but the insipid nature of government is to expand – not contract.

In the end, this is a good bill. We could argue over whether it should be five years or three years or 10 years, but there should be some reasonable sunset for tax increases that exceed what is already allowable under state law.

Bill #2:

Another bill authored by Stroebel and Rep. Tom Weatherston, R-Caledonia, would reduce state aid for districts that exceed their revenue limits through a referendum. The reduction in aid would be equal to 20 percent of the amount the district raises property taxes above their revenue limits. That state aid would then be redistributed to the rest of the state’s school districts through the state funding formula.

This is really the heart of the issue. If a district decides to increase their taxes, then why should the rest of the state’s taxpayers subsidize that decision? Again, we could debate the amount, but this protects taxpayers in frugal districts from the wasteful ones in other districts. And notice that the bill does not decrease aggregate state school spending. It merely redistributes the spending to other districts.

Bill #3:

When school boards could ask voters to approve spending and building projects would be limited to spring and fall general elections…

These next couple of bills are designed to prevent school boards from playing the election calendar lottery in search of a low-turnout election where special interest groups have more sway. This bill absolutely makes sense.

Bill #4:

Districts also would be required to include the cost of debt and interest payments in the total referendum amount presented to voters, which is currently not required, under a bill from Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, and Rep. John Macco, R-Ledgeview.

(Ahem, Kewaskum). I remember a time when liberals were up in arms about predatory lending by mortgage firms and credit card companies. One of their criticisms were that these companies duped homeowners and credit card customers into making poor financial decisions by being intentionally misleading on what the real costs were – including interest and overall debt. Consider this bill the Schumer Box for school referendums. It requires that school districts be honest about the totality of the financial decision they are asking of taxpayers.

Bill #5:

School boards also would be required to vote on seeking a referendum at their regular meetings, and boards could only vote on referendums that issue debt at their annual meetings, under a bill authored by Stroebel and Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville.

I like the annual meeting part, but the first part seems unnecessary. There are already laws requiring that school boards give adequate notice about agenda items in upcoming meetings. Sometimes it might make sense to hold a special school board meeting to talk about just a school referendum so that it doesn’t bog down other district business. I don’t have a problem with that as long as there is plenty of notice.

Bill #6:

And a bill authored by Stroebel and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, would provide 50 percent matching state funds for school districts that set aside money they receive under their revenue limits in a fund for maintenance and construction projects. If the district seeks a referendum within 10 years of using the matching funds from the state, the money is reimbursed to the state through a reduction in the district’s state aid.

I’m a little more uncertain on this one. While the goal is laudable in encouraging districts to save up and pay for new facilities with cash – the cheapest way to build anything – I am dubious about state taxpayers subsidizing it. Perhaps there are other ways for the state to encourage this prudent financial behavior?

It’s good to see the Republicans taking a serious look at this issue. In Owen’s perfect world, state school aid would not exist except in very targeted areas( like helping extremely rural districts) and every district would completely pay for itself. In that case, these kinds of laws would not be necessary and local voters would have full local control – with the full burden of the cost for their decisions. But as long as we have this Byzantine school finance system with a combination of state and local funds, the state voters have a vested interest in making sure local school districts are good stewards of the trust reposed in them.


Verona’s $182 Million School Referendum


VERONA — At $162.8 million, a referendum here to build a high school, convert the existing high school to a middle school and complete several other projects is one of the largest in state history.

Yet, if the April 4 ballot measure passes, the tax bite on the average homeowner will be smaller than other recently approved referendums.

That’s because $140 million of the construction costs could be absorbed by a tsunami of new money that flowed into the district this year after Epic Systems Corp. was fully entered on the city’s tax rolls.

Just a note… there’s an additional referendum that gets it up to $182 million.

The circumstances are pretty cool for Verona. They had a TIF that helped with the funding of Epic’s headquarters. Epic is a massive growing company that does EMR software. As Epic has grown, it has also brought in a lot of growth to Verona. It’s all upside. And now the TIF is expiring, thus allowing the property taxes from Epic to flow into the local tax base instead of paying off the TIF. This is exactly how TIFs are supposed to work.

Here are the tax implications:

To get a sense of the opportunity Verona faces, consider this: If the district does nothing, the school tax rate would drop from $11.98 per $1,000 of valuation to $9.45, saving the owner of a $250,000 home $527 a year.

But by tapping the Epic money to complete what district officials say is a much-needed expansion, the school tax rate would rise by 42 cents, costing the owner of a $250,000 home an additional $105 a year.


The Verona area is booming, too. Since 1989, the Verona School District has seen its enrollment more than double to 5,111 students. In that time, the district has built three elementary schools and two middle schools, but more students are on the way, according to district projections, with 4,400 housing units expected to be added by 2030.

Given the growth in the city, a lot of spending on growing the school district’s facilities is certainly justified. But it sure does seem like they are on a spending spree over and above what is necessary. We’re talking about a swing of $632 per year for a $250,000 home. That’s some real money.

So the TIF worked and brought in a large business that helps take some of the tax burden off of homeowners, so… the homeowners get to pay even more? Isn’t this supposed to work to lower the homeowners’ property taxes?

Time and time again – no matter what Wisconsinites do – it always seems to result in paying more in taxes.

Catholic School Sues MPS Over Busing Kids

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]
No, I don’t think that should be in the constitution, but it is. But WILL is suing in federal court, so it is unclear to me what basis they are suing under. Like I said, it will be interesting to watch.

West Bend School Board Candidate Forum

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.

One vote for Gieryn, Miller and Cammack

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.


The future of education in Wisconsin is on the ballot

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.


Delevan-Darien School District Tells Kids How to Avoid Law Enforcement

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.

MPS Continues Its Empty Building Hoard


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.

University Bans Group for Highlighting University’s “Very Intolerant” Ranking

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.

Wisconisn’s Pioneer Days Are Not Over

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.

UWO In Deep Poo


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.

UW TAs Fight Back Against Real Life

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.

Choice and Charter Schools Outperforming Public Options


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.

UWM Is Failing Black Students

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.