Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Owen

Everything but tech support.
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0736, 16 Sep 22

Step 1: Admit that you have a problem

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week. It is particularly apropos in light of the state DPI releasing their budget request asking for more and more money.

The data is telling. The more we have spent on K-12 education, the worse the results have gotten. If we are to make data-driven decisions, there are only two conclusions. 1) There is no correlation between money spent and educational outcomes. The outcomes are a result of other inputs. 2) There is a negative correlation between money spent and educational outcomes. More money actually results in poorer outcomes.

Personally, I think the answer is #2. Here’s why: once basic needs are funded (we did that a long time ago), more money becomes a distraction from core education. Every administrator, department, specialist, etc. who is hired is looking for something to do. They create new curriculum, new programs, change standards, create study committees, have meetings, and on and on and on. All of that is time that is not being spent in classrooms teaching core subjects in proven ways.

This happens in corporate America too. When companies get fat, they spend a lot of time-wasting energy around the edges of their core businesses and profits erode. That’s why the market tends to love it when a company cuts fat in a deep layoff.

Anyway, here’s the column. Look at the data:

The first step in the renowned twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit that you have a problem. One cannot begin the path to recovery if one does not admit to having a problem. Well, Wisconsin has a huge problem. Our government education system is utterly failing our kids and it is getting worse every year. Our governor, Tony Evers, with a lifetime spent in government education, accepts such failure as normal and acceptable. It is not.

 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, every significant benchmark of student achievement is in freefall since well before the abysmal response of government schools accelerated the decline. Student proficiency on the ACT is down.

 

Between 2016-2017 and 2020-2021, the percentage of Wisconsin eleventh graders who were proficient or better on the English language arts part of the ACT, which measures understanding of English, writing, and knowledge of language, dropped from 39.5% to 33%. That is a 16.4% drop in scores in five years.

 

Math scores are even worse. Over the same time span, the percentage of Wisconsin’s eleventh graders who were proficient or better at mathematics dropped from 35.7% to 25.5%. That is a 28.6% drop in proficiency in just five years.

 

The story is the same for the ACT Aspire, which is given to ninth and tenth graders. Proficiency in English dropped from 41.2% to 32.4% between 2016-2017 and 2020-2021. In Mathematics, proficiency dropped from 37.1% to 29.8%. Those are declines of 21.4% and 19.7%, respectively.

 

Looking at the younger students between third and eight grades who take the Forward exams, the decline remains consistent and persistent. On the Forward exam over the same five years, the number of students who were proficient or better in English language arts declined 24.1% from 44.4% to 33.7%. In mathematics, their scores declined 21.5% from 42.8% to 33.6%.

 

But let us step back from the cold numbers for a moment and put them in perspective. The fact than only 33.7% of Wisconsin’s students between third and eighth grades are at least proficient in English language arts is abysmal. According to the DPI, the Forward Exam tests what, “students should know and be able to do in order to be college and career ready.” That means that barely a third of Wisconsin’s students are meeting grade-level standards to be ready to attend college or start a career. Only one in three of Wisconsin’s kids are proficient in English or math — two key skills for success as an adult.

 

What the heck are we doing? Is that really good enough? Two-thirds of our kids are falling behind and we collectively shrug and accept it? Have we been so cowed by the government education bullies that we are willing to accept that their failure is normal and satisfactory?

 

Our governor thinks it is. On his campaign website, he brags about his accomplishments on education. As proof, he noticeably fails to mention anything about student achievement. Instead, he cites the fact that the state spends more money than ever on K-12 education. If the spending is not resulting on better results for our kids, then what is the point?

 

In fact, the more we spend, the worse our student achievement is getting. According to DPI data, between the 2016-2017 and 2020-2021 school years, total state and local spending on government K-12 schools ballooned 14.8% from $11.5 billion to $13.2 billion. Over the same period, total enrollment declined 3.6% from 855,307 to 823,827 students. That is a whopping 19% increase in spending per student over just five years.

 

What are we getting for our money? Why are we continuing to pump more money into government bureaucracy who produces increasingly poor results every year? Governor Tony Evers recently announced that he wants to spend an additional $2 billion on K-12 schools. Given that a $1.7 billion increase in spending over the last five years resulted in a 24.1% drop in English scores on the Forward exam, will another $2 billion push scores down further?

 

Like any addiction, spending more money on it makes it worse because the spending obscures the real problems. In Wisconsin, we have been failing our kids and making ourselves feel better about it by spending more money on them. They do not need more money. They need a quality education and our government education establishment is increasingly unable or unwilling to give them that education.

 

It is time to stop. Stop the excessive spending. Stop the pretending that our government education system works. Stop accepting abysmal performance as normal or acceptable. Stop rewarding failure. Admit that we have a real problem and we are failing our kids at every grade level.

 

We cannot begin on the path to fixing our government education system until we admit that it has failed. As a lifelong insider of that system, Governor Tony Evers is never going to take the first step to recovery. We need a governor who will.

 

We need a governor who will focus on outcomes instead of inputs. We need a governor who will value our kids more than the system. Let me rephrase that … our kids need a governor who will value them more than government workers. Tony Evers is not that governor.

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0736, 16 September 2022

34 Comments

  1. penquin

    Might have to print up a bunch of bumper stickers that say “Defund Education!”. Color it red/white/blue and make it look really nice.

    That’d probably sell like hotcakes, eh? Tho “Defund Edacution” with the GOP elephant on it would probably sell even better…

  2. Jason

    Maybe a bumper stickers with the slogan

    ” 33.7% of students are proficient, hey that’s pretty good. T. Evers”. Maybe a photo of his gaunt face and dead eyes with his hand in his hand asking for money. I know a bunch of nitwits like you that would have them all over your green carbon offset vehicles.

  3. penquin

    >I know a bunch of nitwits

    I bet you do

  4. Jason

    >like you

  5. dad29

    ” 33.7% of students are proficient, hey folks, that’s pretty good. T. Evers”

    Fixed it for ya. Put it on the back of that Chevy pickup he NEVER drove except once……

  6. penquin

    >like you

    While that’s sweet of ya to say, you sure got a weird way of showing it.

  7. Owen

    The problem with having a serious discussion about education with the relative costs and performance metrics is that most of the people with whom you have to have the discussion were educated in these schools. They are burdened with a bad education and not enough of them have been able to correct it on their own. They lack some fundamental skills and knowledge necessary to engage intelligently in the discussion

  8. penquin

    >They lack some fundamental skills and knowledge necessary to engage intelligently in the discussion

    You mean ad homiems and weird slurs about the vehicles those people drive isn’t considered intelligent discussion?

    huh – whowouldhavethunkedit?

    Anywhos – Would much rather talk about your ideas on education reform, but thought it would be rude to just ignore the other commentators remarks (Especially since they are part of your regular crowd).

    While I do agree that things need to change…perhaps some major overhauls, I ain’t convinced that defunding public education is the automatic solution. But am willing to listen if you’re willing to explain your vision – If you were Governor what specific steps (other than just cutting their budget) would you take in order to increase test scores in public schools?

    Am truly curious to know more details on your ideas to improve the test scores in our public schools, no joke at all. Whatcha got in mind?

  9. penquin

    >They lack some fundamental skills and knowledge necessary to engage intelligently in the discussion

    You mean ad homiems and weird slurs about the vehicles those people drive isn’t considered intelligent discussion?

    huh – whowouldhavethunkedit?

    Anywhos – Would much rather talk about your ideas on education reform, but thought it would be rude to just ignore the other commentators remarks (Especially since they are part of your regular crowd).

    While I do agree that things need to change…perhaps some major overhauls, I ain’t convinced that defunding public education is the automatic solution. But am willing to listen if you’re willing to explain your vision – If you were Governor what specific steps (other than just cutting their budget) would you take in order to increase test scores in public schools?

    Am truly curious to know more details on your ideas to improve the test scores in our public schools, no joke at all. Whatcha got in mind?

  10. penquin

    (Feel free to delete the 2:08 message, as well as this one, if you wish to reduce the clutter)

  11. Owen

    Ah, the “were I King for a day” fantasy :) It’s always a fun day dream.

    With the strong evidence that the current system is failing, we have an obligation to provide a quality education to our kids, that kids are individuals and learn differently, and it is ultimately parents and kids who can best make decisions… I would:

    1) Decouple the obligation to fund education from the delivery of education:

    2) Implement universal school choice with equal funding for kids irrespective of their school of choice. Include in this full funding for kids with identified special needs. Perhaps consider 8/1 teacher/admin ratio to qualify.

    3) Privatize government schools.

    4) Implement rigorous testing for participant schools that they must pass in order to receive taxpayer funding. These tests would only focus on core subject proficiency. I’d consider tiered funding based on % proficiency. Reward outcomes – not inputs. I’d also consider regionally based proficiency targets to account for different student demographics.

    5) Open teacher certification to more people with reasonable proficiency tests. Leave final certification decision and accountability to school administration.

    6) Trust parents.

  12. penquin

    Thanks for the response Owen. Wish I had time for a more detailed comment, but am heading out the door at the moment.

    Would like to say real quick that I have a huge problem with allowing for-profit companies & religious organizations to run the schools paid for with my taxdollars. Among other things, what happens to the gay teenager who lives in a rural area where the only schools are ran by churches which won’t allow that “lifestyle”? With public schools, at least we get to vote for the school board…where is that accountability with the corporate-own schools?

    I am also a lil’ concerned about #5. Good idea, for sure, but am a lil’ worried about how it could turn out. Schools which refuse to certify any teacher who won’t teach about Flat-Earth is a very real possibility, no?

    Anywhos – will be happy to continue this when I have more time. Thanks again for dropping down into the comment section…I beleive this would be a much better place if you did so more often.

  13. dad29

    As per usual, Purple Pee doesn’t want a serious discussion, so he makes up ridiculous either/or propositions, like using ‘lifestyle’–vague and largely un-definable–and “flat-Earth” faddlebazzle.

    I would add ‘rigorous financial audits’ to #4 above and some pro–active measure to make sure that certifications of faculty and staff include nation-wide criminal/civil records searches.

    One last thing: Kick around supplanting all prop-tax for schools with State funding.

  14. Owen

    Not bad adds, Dad29. All-state funding would eliminate the taxpayer-funded inequities in school funding.

    As for religious or for-profit schools, I am willing to accept diversity of values as long as the kids can read, write, do math, figure out how their mortgage works, and knows how government works. The priority is education – not enforcement of uniform dogma. Also, profit has proven to be a powerful motivator improving outcomes. I don’t care if people make a little money if the result is that kids get a good education.

  15. penquin

    >As per usual, Purple Pee doesn’t want a serious discussion

    As per usual, Dad29 is trying to use the Heckler’s Veto in order to stifle the discussion and drive away opposing viewpoints…which is a very common occurrence on this blog. To paraphrase what was said earlier: They lack some fundamental skills and the manners necessary to engage intelligently in a serious discussion

    The issues I brought up are valid, and the childish name-calling doesn’t change that.

    >I am willing to accept diversity of values

    Are you talking about the schools being allowed their diverse values (even if those values are “No gays” or “No Jews”) or do the schools have to accept a “diversity of values” when it comes to enrolling students?

    Based on your other comments, am having a hard time thinking you mean the latter but don’t wanna assume anything.

  16. Owen

    I’m saying that if you want to send a kid to a school infused with BLM and CRT teachings, fine. If you want to send your kid to a strict Catholic school, fine. If you want to send your kid to the school of Ayn Rand, fine. If you want to send your kid to the school with strict Islamic teachings, fine. If you want to send your kid to a school that is strictly secular and just dives deep into STEM, fine. As long as our kids are receiving a quality education that allows them to understand and excel in the world we live in, then I accept that people will think different things and have different values. I’m cool with that kind of society.

  17. Jason

    >I am willing to accept diversity of values as long as the kids can read, write, do math, figure out how their mortgage works, and knows how government works.

    You mean…. as long as more than 33.7% of them are, right? I need that bumper sticker revenue!

  18. Jason

    >I’m saying that if you want to send a kid to a school infused with BLM and CRT teachings, fine. If you want to send your kid to a strict Catholic school, fine. If you want to send your kid to the school of Ayn Rand, fine. If you want to send your kid to the school with strict Islamic teachings, fine. If you want to send your kid to a school that is strictly secular and just dives deep into STEM, fine. As long as our kids are receiving a quality education that allows them to understand and excel in the world we live in, then I accept that people will think different things and have different values. I’m cool with that kind of society.

    That’s the type of true tolerance that the Left can only imitate and yearn for, and for that they hate people like us. Instead we get the village idiots, some of them even posting here, who want to make sure it’s all blocked by the almighty administration just in case Flat-Earth turns out to be a viable matriculation option, as patently silly as that is.

  19. penquin

    I agree that if a parent wants to send their children to a school which doesn’t allow Jews or whatever then they should be allowed to, I simply disagree with your proposal that I should be required to finance that desire of theirs. If they want the entire village to help raise their child, then the village should get a vote in how that is gonna be done. If you don’t want my input then don’t take my money.

    And no offense meant, but it is kind of weird how in some comments you are openly advocating for taxpayer money to be funneled to schools which openly discriminate against students, yet in your latest comment you seem to imply such a thing is morally and ethically failing. How are you able to hold both of those opinions at the same time?

  20. dad29

    Purple Pee makes s**t up, then decries it. He gets his ‘victories’ from knocking down straw men. Manly!!

    As to who pays for what: so sorry, but Choice is constitutional, been so for decades. If you don’t like it, move to another State. There are 49 others!!

  21. Owen

    Here’s a fun little thought experiment I ran during half time.

    Let’s take a district about the size of West Bend – 5000 students.

    Fund it with revenue of $16k per student (that is the 2020-2021 state average according to DPI data)

    Have a student teacher ratio of 18:1

    Have one administrator/staff/admin for every 10 teachers.

    Pay an average salary of $100k ($130k fully burdened)

    20% of revenue spent on facilities (that’s about what most districts do)

    Run the numbers… I can run a 30% profit. Ratios all seem pretty reasonable and we’re paying teachers more. Plenty of profit if there are holes to fill. Makes you wonder where all of that money is going…

    Students 5,000
    Revenue / student $16,000.00
    Total Revenue $80,000,000.00
    Students per teacher 18
    Total number of teachers 277.7777778
    Admins per teacher 0.1
    Total admins 27.77777778
    Total Employees 305.5555556
    Average Total Comp $130,000.00
    Labor cost $39,722,222.22
    Revenue less labor $40,277,777.78
    Facilities @20% revenue $16,000,000.00
    Net Income $24,277,777.78
    Net income % 30.35%

  22. Jason

    Owen they have to pay those fancy high priced consultants to sell the referendum on increasing the taxes. That’s probably half the income every other year!

  23. MjM

    Pay an average salary of $100k ($130k fully burdened)

    Waddya nuts? You want us to pay 130 Gs for 2/3 work?

  24. dad29

    18:1 student/teacher ratio is very generous to the students. I graduated from a high-performance high school which had a 25:1 (or even 28:1) student/teacher ratio. We had a principal, an assistant principal, a librarian, two secretaries and a couple of maintenance men. That was “staff” for a school with 1,000 students.

    Granted, 5,000 students may call for more “staff”, but you’d have to tell me what those “staffers” actually DO. Shrinks? “Guidance”? (What the hell is that, anyway?)

    By the way, your p/l forgot cost of library. Lots of stuff is on-line, but the schools pay for that privilege. You also forgot–or decided not to purchase–laptops/printers/modems for the little darlings.

    And your salary average is high. Fully-qualified RN’s in Minnesota earn an average of $84K. Toss in 30% burden of bennies and miscellaneous and you’re at less than $110K.

  25. Owen

    Like I said… a fun thought experiment. I went with student teacher ratios and salaries that would actually be better than most schools today. Cut back on admin. 20% for facilities is a bit high, but I lumped in capital costs and grounds. It still plentiful.

    But yes, you could run a high achieving school with much, much less. But that’s kind of the point.

  26. Owen

    “And no offense meant, but it is kind of weird how in some comments you are openly advocating for taxpayer money to be funneled to schools which openly discriminate against students, yet in your latest comment you seem to imply such a thing is morally and ethically failing. How are you able to hold both of those opinions at the same time?”

    Bless your heart, but it would take far more than that to offend me. My skin is quite thick.

    But to answer your question, I can think an opinion or value to be abhorrent and not think that it is my government’s responsibility to correct it. We spend tax dollars on private enterprises all the time that support values that aren’t mine. In today’s government schools, I think the CRT and CRT lite agenda is pure bigotry.

    Your confusion rests in the assumption that it is up to government to relegate a moral society by using its violent and coercive power. I do not. I believe our government is a reflection of society and should be confined to a role of subservience to society rather than master of it. I believe that our government should be empowered to regulate conflicts between individual rights, but not to regulate individuals. Simple, really.

  27. dad29

    I believe our government is a reflection of society and should be confined to a role of subservience to society rather than master of it. I believe that our government should be empowered to regulate conflicts between individual rights, but not to regulate individuals.

    And there is the hairy part of the project!

    Both ‘pursuit of happiness’ and ‘ensure domestic tranquility’ have meaning and connotations which imply Government direction in certain matters. The question is not really “should” but “how much.” A lot of scholars have the opinion that “happiness” is not limited to material satisfaction, and of course ‘domestic tranquility’ suggests more than arbitration/resolution of disputes between individuals, although that is certainly part.

    PJBuchanan wasn’t the first, but was certainly a loud and persuasive voice in asserting that a nation’s culture must be ‘oriented in one direction’ in order to achieve that domestic tranquility.. Breitbart came along and noted that politics is downstream from culture–but did NOT note that culture is downstream from cult–that is to say that what you worship has a very great deal to do with the culture, thus with politics.

    So far, by and large, the US has avoided a clash of cultures. The Civil War was not that; it was, rather, an economic war with a very serious cultural background. You could argue that it was a culture war with serious economic background, too–except that the commonality was a professed (but not perfectly practiced) Christianity.

    We are told that Islam is a cult which opposes Judaeo-Christianity. There have been obvious kinetic manifestations of that condition over the centuries. Marxism, which is the cult of atheism (but not the only one) opposes Judaeo-Christianity as well, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that it is waging an active war right now, some of which is kinetic.

    There is a Right Order and under the Constitution (and Declaration) the Government of this republic must enforce that, or domestic tranquility and the real ‘pursuit of happiness’ goes away.

    And somehow, Biden and the Democrats are given responsibility to manage that. Egads.

  28. dad29

    But that’s kind of the point.

    Your lips to Michels’ ear!

  29. Tuerqas

    Penquin’s meaningful discussion:

    >Might have to print up a bunch of bumper stickers that say “Defund Education!”. Color it red/white/blue and make it look really nice.
    That’d probably sell like hotcakes, eh? Tho “Defund Edacution” with the GOP elephant on it would probably sell even better…

    Nobody does it like you there, Penquin…but to your slightly more serious and slightly less slurred commentary:

    >Would like to say real quick that I have a huge problem with allowing for-profit companies & religious organizations to run the schools paid for with my taxdollars. Among other things, what happens to the gay teenager who lives in a rural area where the only schools are ran by churches which won’t allow that “lifestyle”? With public schools, at least we get to vote for the school board…where is that accountability with the corporate-own schools?

    I would also have a problem with a ‘for profit’ school and would need a better definition. I would be against any sort of corporation, but I would be fine with some sort of set up where admin and teachers would earn bonuses for better outcomes from any extra monies (profit) in the budget. You still have the possibilities of cutting corners to have more ‘profit’, but you have it now in Gov’t run schools in all the waste we have now. Some level of for profit would keep the gay teenagers in school too. No one can afford the court costs involved in keeping them out and corporations are not going to exclude a paying client simply because they are gay even if they wanted to. This may be overly simplistic, but you have the same sorts of problems today anyway. The inner cities have the worst outcomes. Those schools have the agendas of those cities and States to contend with and pay for. They also have the largest per student dollars which supports Owen’s base post pretty accurately. Take it out of the hands of the moneycrats for a little while and see what can be made of it.
    There are not currently any areas in the US only served by religious schools. You are bringing up red herrings.

    >I am also a lil’ concerned about #5. Good idea, for sure, but am a lil’ worried about how it could turn out. Schools which refuse to certify any teacher who won’t teach about Flat-Earth is a very real possibility, no?

    You are again targeting religious schools that consistently have much higher outcomes than public schools and again with contemptuous verbiage. Why would you ever expect respectful treatment from others when using a phrase like flat earthers? Can you name any schools or religions that teach that the earth is flat? Hint: Youtube is not a school or a religious institution. They have between 10 and 12% of the students in the US. Are you most worried that religious school attendances would explode? Why? The facts show that kids get a significantly better ‘basics’ knowledge than in public schools. They also get some religious indoctrination, but it is your perception that that is so bad, not everyone’s.
    I happen to agree with you that religious school attendance would explode. There are plenty of Christians who do not send their kids to private schools only because they cannot afford to. You begrudge the ‘possible’ lone gay person in a currently fictional district where only religious institutions exist. I begrudge the many thousands who simply cannot afford a quality education in a religious run school under the current system.

  30. dad29

    By the way, T: I am aware of a Catholic grade school which admitted a girl whose “parents” are “married” lesbians. That grade school is in a chi-chi part of Greater Milwaukee. As you noted, Purple Pee likes to invent straw men so he can knock them down. Makes up for the fact that he has no useful arguments to put forth.

  31. penquin

    >Bless your heart, but it would take far more than that to offend me. My skin is quite thick.

    Oh, bless yours twice as much! Nice to know you’re not nearly as sensitive as some of your regulars are…just asking questions gets ’em really worked up & all kinds of upset.

    >In today’s government schools, I think the CRT and CRT lite agenda is pure bigotry.

    And in those situations, you have a voice and a vote. If you disagree with how your tax-dollars are being used than you can work to enact changes, no? However, under your proposal the average citizen would have less democracy and less representation in our gov’t…which is the wrong direction for our country to be heading.

    If you’re gonna use violent and coercive power to take away my money, then I should at least get a voice in how it is being spent.

  32. Jason

    >then I should at least get a voice in how it is being spent.

    Just don’t voice it too much, you might get labelled a domestic terrorist by your local school board and the FBI. Right?

  33. Tuerqas

    >However, under your proposal the average citizen would have less democracy and less representation in our gov’t…which is the wrong direction for our country to be heading.
    How/where do you identify less Democracy and/or representation under Owen’s ‘proposal’?

    >If you’re gonna use violent and coercive power to take away my money, then I should at least get a voice in how it is being spent.
    I think you do not understand what the phrase ‘violent and coercive power’ means. That is the same as saying you should expect a robber to listen to any suggestions you may make on how to spend your money as he walks away with your wallet, isn’t it?

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