Boots & Sabers

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0812, 22 May 19


Mark Belling has a good column today about the generational decline in the birth rate and its impact on schools.

Downsizing a school district shouldn’t be difficult. You just reduce administrators, teachers and buildings in the same proportion as your enrollment declines. The problems are: The administrators don’t want to downsize themselves, the teachers are overly specialized and parents go ballistic when somebody proposes to close their kids’ school. One local district even decided to keep an elementary school open for one more year even though its enrollment is down to 50 (for the entire school!).

Districts got overbuilt when my generation’s parents were spitting out kids like rabbits (thus, the baby “boom”). Then my huge generation and the Gen Xers decided to sprawl out to the suburbs, creating need for more buildings in the Brookfields, Mequons and Burlingtons of the world. Along came the millennials and all of their idiosyncrasies, including an evident dislike of large families (or any families). What we have are massively overbuilt school systems with ridiculously bloated staffs of specialists, counselors, directors of this, that and the other thing, and in-house custodians, groundskeepers and nurses.

The only way out of this mess is to: a.) force the millennials to have kids (you can’t do that); b.) hope the incoming Generation Z kids revert back to wanting kids (unlikely); or c.) downsizing. The worst option of all is to borrow globs of money, increase your spending and put up even more buildings. That disastrous option is exactly the one most Wisconsin districts are taking.


0812, 22 May 2019


  1. jjf

    I only skimmed.  At any point does he suggest that boomers should pay for it?

  2. Mar

    jjf, I’m.pretty sure baby boomers have been paying and paying most of their adult life.

  3. Jason

    >I only skimmed.

    And yet you took the time to write and post a question. Troll.

  4. jjf

    What, boomers get to stop paying for all the stuff they built?

  5. Mar

    “What, boomers get to stop paying for all the stuff they built?”
    What the hell are you talking about?

  6. Jason

    Don’t worry Mar, he’s only skimmed – just like he lives his life. No depth and no thoughts.

  7. Mar

    I guess jjf got back to the home too late yesterday.

  8. Mark Hoefert

    Mark Belling makes good points about the need to balance changing demographics against future building needs, considering that today’s investment is payable many years into the future. The last two elections in Wisconsin (fall 2018 & Spring 2019) approved almost $2 Billion in referendum spending. The lion’s share of it, plus interest, payable over the next 20 years.  That money is a “hard cost” – payable no matter what. The schools could become under occupied or vacant (think of big box stores/malls).   Those debt payments have the potential to squeeze out spending on soft educational costs (like staff salaries).

  9. guinness

    People need to hear about these things and the mass media is not going to do that. Resources like this forum, mailers being sent out and talk hosts like Belling are critical. Prior to the West Bend referendum, I learned about it here and from the mailers I got. In my morning fitness class at the YMCA, I shared what I had learned with everyone in my class, which is mostly young mothers. None of them knew the details and had planned on voting yes. They all changed their minds and planned to share the details with all of their local friends and family. If we all make an effort to spread the word, we can easily outnumber and out vote the handful of bad leadership pushing bad agendas. Sources like this forum do make a difference.

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