Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Category: Education

Another Teacher Rants at Kids on Zoom

Can you really claim to be a professional if you behave this way?

‘If your parent wants to talk to me about their profession and their opinion on their profession, I would love to hear that,’ she says.

 

‘However, if your parent wants to come talk to me about how I’m not doing a good enough job in distance learning based on what you need as an individual?

 

‘Just dare them to come at me.

 

‘Because I am so sick to my stomach of parents trying to tell educators how to do their job.’

Far too many of these government teachers and administrators feel absolutely no accountability or responsibility to the communities they serve. They are offended that parents and other school stakeholders even have an opinion about how our schools operate.

The really troubling part of this is that this kind of ranting and unprofessional behavior has likely been going on in our schools for years – DECADES. The only reason it is a story now is because the “teaching” is happening virtually and can be recorded and viewed by someone other than the kids. We should be extremely worried about what happens behind closed doors in our schools.

Perhaps it’s time for teachers to wear body cameras? Or, at least, a camera with audio in every classroom? It would be pretty easy to archive footage to protect both teachers and students when there is an accusation of wrongdoing.

Systemic Racism in Our Government Schools

This disparate treatment is not by accident. It is because of intentional policy choices. Our government schools are at the very center of systemic racism in our country. If we want to fight racism, we should start there – NOT by more indoctrination, but by dismantling them and putting power and money in the hands of parents.

MADISON – Most schools in Wisconsin were delivering at least some in-person instruction to students during the first half of the school year but students in the state’s urban centers were most likely to be learning virtually, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review of initial state data shows.

 

Students learning from home during the fall were more likely to be living in poverty and to be children of color while many children living in suburban and rural areas who are more likely to be white had the option of attending class in person, raising concerns over the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on Wisconsin’s longstanding and massive gap in academic achievement between its Black and white students.

 

[…]

 

By March, nearly every school in Wisconsin was conducting at least some coursework in person, according to a review last month by the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

 

But for Milwaukee and Madison the availability of in-person education was sparse at that time, with both districts holding classes almost entirely virtual. The two districts — the largest in the state — are in the process of returning most students to in-person classes part of the time.

 

Preferences for West Bend Elections

While I don’t live in West Bend anymore, I do have a strong interest in the community in which I raised my kids and in which I have so many friends. I’ve been asked to share my views on the local elections. So, were I to vote in the local elections there, here’s what I would do:

City of West Bend

The even-numbered Aldermanic seats are up for election. I agree completely with former mayor Kraig Sadownikow. The common council has lurched to the left, or at least, become very pro-government. The council is largely serving the interests of the employees instead of the taxpayers. There are two conservatives on the council of 7. Both of them are up for reelection and should be rewarded for their good work. That’s Randy Koehler in District 4 and Meghan Kennedy in District 8.

The remaining two seats are held by two aldermen who consistently vote to enlarge the scope and expense of government. They should be replaced with two conservative candidates, Chris Thompson for District 2 and Tracy Ahrens in District 6.

The opportunity is there to turn the council to a 4-3 conservative majority in a single election. Don’t pass up that chance, Benders.

West Bend School Board

There are three candidates running for two seats. Both of the incumbents are running for reelection.

The West Bend School Board is in an interesting place. They did a good job with hiring the new superintendent and they managed to be ahead of most other public school districts in opening their doors partially during the pandemic. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that they have continued to raise taxes to most allowed by law and introduced some truly leftist indoctrination into the curriculum. Both of the incumbents advanced the misguided referendum in 2019 that failed and are almost certain to support any future referendum effort. As a whole, the board votes are almost always unanimous while the entrenched special interests and “good ol’ boys” have lined up behind the incumbents. There is a reason for that. Follow the money.

Unfortunately, there is not an opportunity to change the direction of the school board this election, but there is an opportunity to start down that path. At the very least, there is an opportunity to elect someone new to the board who will offer a different perspective and be willing to occasionally break ranks with the majority. Disagreement is healthy in a diverse community with conflicting interests. It should worry you when disagreements in the community are not reflected in elected bodies. It is an indication that the elected board is not representing all stakeholders.

Were I to vote, I’d cast a single vote for Jody Geenen. One of the incumbents will win the other seat. It really doesn’t matter which one. They vote the same way.

UW System Sees Budget Hole

So

While UW is experiencing a budget hole of $170 million, Thompson said the losses related to the pandemic were more than $600 million dollars before federal and state Covid-19 relief funds helped fill some of that gap.

 

“We implemented employee furloughs. We also restricted traveling. We also didn’t fill some vacancies and we’ve also had to institute layoffs,” Thompson said.

How much of that is because of the policy choices made by UW officials? More to the point, how much of that budget hole are they responsible for? Many UW campuses chose to stay closed or only very limited opening well after it was clear that young people were not in a high risk category. Many campuses remained mostly closed. Even for next year…

As Action 2 News previously reported, UW schools are planning to have at least 75 percent of all classes in-person this fall.

Part of the traditional university experience is the on-campus learning and social environment. UW stripped that experience away and many students chose to take a break or go somewhere else. How much should the taxpayers be on the hook for a budget hole that was partially created by policy decisions? Thompson lists out some measures that UW officials took to mitigate the issue, but did they do enough? Should taxpayers expect more aggressive actions before providing additional funds? I truly don’t know the answers to those questions. They are not meant to be provocative, but I do think they are questions that need to be answered prior to throwing more taxpayer money into the system.

Kids need state superintendent who values them more than the unions

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

The COVID-19 pandemic and our policy responses to it will have long-lasting effects throughout our society. Perhaps none will feel those impacts more severely than the children who were abandoned by our government-educational complex. On April 6, Wisconsin’s voters will choose the next superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction and the choice could not be clearer.

 

The two candidates to lead the DPI are similar in many respects. Both candidates have spent their careers progressing through schools to leadership positions. Both candidates are highly educated with doctorates in educational leadership. Both candidates are lifelong Democrats and believe that many of the answers to the challenges facing education can be solved with more taxpayer money.

 

While the two candidates are similar in many respects, it is where they differ that makes Deb Kerr the best choice for our children.

 

The most pressing issue confronting education right now is the fact that too many government school districts are refusing to return to in-person education despite the overwhelming evidence that it can be done safely. Many schools around the world have remained open throughout the pandemic or only closed for a short time without significant issues. The evidence is clear that COVID-19 is not a significant threat to the vast majority of those in schools — students and staff. Despite this clear evidence, some government school districts refuse to fully open under withering fire from the teachers and their unions. The damage to our kids’ education, mental health, and futures cannot be understated.

 

On this issue, Dr. Deb Kerr has made it clear that all government schools should reopen immediately. Her opponent, Dr. Jill Underly, is toeing the line of the state teachers union (which has endorsed her and poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into supporting her) in throwing up multiple conditions that must be met before those schools can open. Kerr is following the science and prioritizing kids’ lives and futures. Underly is determined to use the crisis as a political wedge to gain more concessions for the unions.

 

The second paramount issue on which the candidates differ is on school choice. Here again, Kerr is prioritizing children and their futures while Underly is defending the union’s priorities.

 

The pandemic pulled back the mask of our state’s education infrastructure to reveal some glaring inequities. Some of the government schools stepped up and responded heroically with a swift and thoughtful shift to virtual learning and an equally swift move back to hybrid and in-person education when the evidence supported it. Other government schools — particularly some of the state’s largest districts that serve economically disadvantaged communities — utterly failed at virtual education and are still resisting a return to in-person education.

 

The fact that some schools performed better than others through the pandemic is manifest. The powerlessness of some parents to make get their kids into a school that is actually providing an education is a calamity. Some families were able to support their children’s education throughout the pandemic with relative ease. They have the time and money to support a virtual learning environment or move their children to a private or parochial school that is providing a higher-quality education.

 

Many families, however, are not able to fill the gap left by their failing schools or have the means to send their children to a successful school. When schools have utterly failed at virtual education and refuse to reopen their doors, the parents are left with few choices other than to watch their children slip further into the achievement gap as kids in other districts thrive. This is precisely the problem that school choice helps remedy. School choice provides the financial means for all families to choose the best educational option for their children, whether it be the local government school or a private option. School choice prioritizes children and education over propping up failed government institutions. Deb Kerr is a vocal supporter of school choice and has worked outside of the government school system. While she supports government schools as a vitally important part of our educational system, she recognizes that families need choices when that system fails. Rich families have always had choices. School choice enables poorer families to have the same options.

 

Jill Underly is a vocal opponent of school choice. She has stated unequivocally that she opposes school choice and would advocate for more regulations of the private schools that participate. Even though Underly chose to send her own children to a local parochial school to avoid an underperforming government school, she would deny that choice to families of lesser financial means.

 

The pandemic is groaning to an end, but it has highlighted some stark gaps in our government school system. Deb Kerr is the best candidate to begin to close some of those gaps.

30% of MPS High Schoolers are Failing

And that’s WITH grade inflation. Perhaps the most stunning part of this story is that almost 20% fail in a “normal” year.

District data shows 30.3 percent of high school students were considered to have failed the fall 2020 semester. It’s a sharp increase compared to the previous school year in which 18.8 percent of students failed courses.

 

“It really comes down to ultimately, ‘have you submitted your assignments in Google Classroom or have you not,’” said MPS teacher Angela Harris.

Kids need state superintendent who values them more than the unions

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

Despite this clear evidence, some government school districts refuse to fully open under withering fire from the teachers and their unions. The damage to our kids’ education, mental health, and futures cannot be understated.

 

On this issue, Dr. Deb Kerr has made it clear that all government schools should reopen immediately. Her opponent, Dr. Jill Underly, is toeing the line of the state teachers union (which has endorsed her and poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into supporting her) in throwing up multiple conditions that must be met before those schools can open. Kerr is following the science and prioritizing kids’ lives and futures. Underly is determined to use the crisis as a political wedge to gain more concessions for the unions.

 

The second paramount issue on which the candidates differ is on school choice. Here again, Kerr is prioritizing children and their futures while Underly is defending the union’s priorities.

 

The pandemic pulled back the mask of our state’s education infrastructure to reveal some glaring inequities. Some of the government schools stepped up and responded heroically with a swift and thoughtful shift to virtual learning and an equally swift move back to hybrid and in-person education when the evidence supported it. Other government schools — particularly some of the state’s largest districts that serve economically disadvantaged communities — utterly failed at virtual education and are still resisting a return to in-person education.

 

[…]

 

The pandemic is groaning to an end, but it has highlighted some stark gaps in our government school system. Deb Kerr is the best candidate to begin to close some of those gaps.

Liberal San Fran School Board Member Refuses to Resign After Racist Tweets

Wow. And this wasn’t 30 years ago… it was 5 years ago.

The entire senior staff of the San Francisco schools has denounced a black school board member’s tweets that claimed Asian Americans use ‘white supremacist thinking’ to get ahead.

 

In her tweets, she also referred to Asian Americans as ‘house n***ers’.

 

On Sunday, 19 top administrators at the district’s central office condemned the 2016 tweets from the board’s Vice President Alison Collins, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

 

[…]

Their statement addressed Collins’ tweets that she shared on December 4, 2016.

 

[…]

She also included a reference comparing Asian Americans to ‘house n***ers’.

 

‘Where are the vocal Asians speaking up against Trump? Don’t Asian Americans know they are on his list as well? Do they think they won’t be deported? profiled? beaten? Being a house n****r is still being a n****r. You’re still considered “the help,'” she tweeted at the time.

169-year-old Mills College to Close

Many more to come.

Since 1852, Mills College has brought transformative learning opportunities to many by breaking barriers, forging connections, and changing lives. Today, because of the economic burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic, structural changes across higher education, and Mills’ declining enrollment and budget deficits, Mills must begin to shift away from being a degree-granting college and toward becoming a Mills Institute that can sustain Mills’ mission. The Mills College Board of Trustees, after careful consideration, has decided that after fall 2021, Mills will no longer enroll new first-year undergraduate students. We will focus our resources on building degree pathways for our continuing students, and supporting the new first-year undergraduate, transfer, and graduate students who will join us this fall. Mills will most likely confer its final degrees in 2023, pending further consideration and action by the Board of Trustees.

There a number of trends at work. First, there has been a broad demographic shift with just fewer kids coming through the pipeline. Second, the value proposition of an on-campus college experience has been devalued by how many schools reacted to COVID. Third, the ROI for many college degrees isn’t what it used to be. It’s not the ticket to the middle class that it was 40 years ago.

Kerr Insists that Wisconsin Opens Schools

The science is quite clear about this. Many schools have been open all over Wisconsin for months with almost no issues. The refusal to open them know is an act of wonton cruelty against our children.

“We need our schools to open because we know our schools are the safest place for our students to be,” Kerr told reporters. “Excuses mean we are not doing enough for our kids. It’s time to get our kids back to school.”

 

Additionally, she said she wouldn’t adhere to “Madison bureaucracy” and would fight to give every school the resources it needs to fully reopen, including a call for the state to spend its federal COVID relief dollars on reopening schools.

 

Underly in a virtual press conference Saturday after Kerr’s event said Kerr was “pandering for political purposes” when she said scientific evidence shows schools can reopen for in-person classes safely.

 

The Pecatonica School District superintendent said forcing schools to open that are not able to implement social distancing guidelines is wrong and puts kids and teachers at risk.

 

“Kerr clearly did not read the research and she is lying about what it says,” Underly said. “Forcing schools to reopen for in-person learning is simply irresponsible and wrong.”

“Government Schools”

A letter to the Washington County Daily News complains about my use of the phrase “government schools.”

To the editor: Language and the meaning of words are important. Among many other disagreements I have with Owen Robinson regarding political philosophy and policy, an important pet peeve of mine is the distorted use of language and adjectives used for propaganda purposes. There is no such thing as “sanctuary county.” The term should not be used by the public, by the media or the propagandists. There also is no such thing as “government schools” in our nation. The correct term is “public schools,” financed by taxpayers, locally overseen by an elected school board, with more oversight by the elected Legislature, the governor and the superintendent of Public Instruction. Suggest not using the propagandist language and calling it out when heard.

 

Stephen Roberts

 

West Bend

Who gets to decide what the “correct” term is? Isn’t “public school” just as much propaganda (if you want to use that word) as “government school?” The word choice conveys a message and carries a different connotation even though both are accurate.

I choose to call them “government” schools because I think it is more accurate. There are many things that are “public” that are not owned and operated by the government. For example, grocery stores and restaurants are open to public access, but not operated by the government. Utilities are considered a public entities, but not owned and operated by the government. Even some prisons are public institutions, but not owned or operated by the government. So for me, “public school” is too broad a definition. It could include Choice schools and even some Charter schools – institutions that are funded by taxpayers, but not operated by the government.

“Government” schools, however, is a more precise definition for what I am talking about. I’m talking about institutions that are owned and operated wholly by the government. All of the employees are government employees. And it is governed by an elected body. I prefer this more accurate characterization than the gauzy term “public school.”

What the pandemic taught us about prioritizing education

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

One of the ways we show what is important to us is by where we spend our money. We have seen a great variance in the response by government school districts with some of them utterly abandoning our children. Given what we know about the virus today and the experience with schools that have been open all year, taxpayers should question whether they should continue to fund schools that remain closed to in-person learning. Teachers are receiving vaccines today and the expectation is that every teacher who wants it will be vaccinated within the next month. There is no rational reason for schools to remain closed.

 

If we truly care about education, then we must be willing to put our money where our mouths are and defund schools that refuse to teach our children. In the same thought, we must be willing to shift funds to the schools are, and have been, faithfully educating our kids throughout this pandemic. Throwing money into schools that have been failing our kids is not caring about education. Funding failure is an affront to education.

 

Irrespective of the public policy choices we make, the primary educators of any child remain their parents. Every parent should take a long, hard look at their kids’ school and the education their kids have been receiving. Is it good? Has the school been holding up their end of the bargain in the educational partnership? Have the kids been successful? If not, why not? And if not, why would you continue to send your kids there? Prioritizing education starts at home.

Government Response Harmed Kids More than Virus

This.

As time has gone on, evidence has grown on one side of the equation: the harm being done to children by restricting their “circulation.” There is the well-documented fall-off in student academic performance at schools that have shifted to virtual learning, which, copious evidence now shows, is exacerbating racial and class divides in achievement. This toll has led a growing number of epidemiologists, pediatricians and other physicians to argue for reopening schools as broadly as possible, amid growing evidence that schools are not major venues for transmission of the virus.

As many of these experts have noted, the cost of restrictions on youth has gone beyond academics. The CDC found that the proportion of visits to the emergency room by adolescents between ages 12 and 17 that were mental-health-related increased 31% during the span of March to October 2020, compared with the same months in 2019. A study in the March 2021 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, of people aged 11 to 21 visiting emergency rooms found “significantly higher” rates of “suicidal ideation” during the first half of 2020 (compared to 2019), as well as higher rates of suicide attempts, though the actual number of suicides remained flat.

Doctors are concerned about possible increases in childhood obesity — no surprise with many kids housebound in stress-filled homes — while addiction experts are warning of the long-term effects of endless hours of screen time when both schoolwork and downtime stimulation are delivered digitally. (Perhaps the only indicator of youth distress that is falling — reports of child abuse and neglect, which dropped about 40% early in the pandemic — is nonetheless worrisome because experts suspect it is the reporting that is declining, not the frequency of the abuse.)

Finally, the nationwide surge in gun violence since the start of the pandemic has included, in many cities, a sharp rise in crimes involving juveniles, including many killed or arrested during what would normally be school time. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, a Washington, D.C., suburb where school buildings have remained closed, seven teenagers were charged with murder in just the first five weeks of this year.

Teachers Worry About Returning to School

The science is clear, but if this teacher is this concerned about getting COVID, then she should take her healthcare into her own hands and find a different job that allows her to live her lifestyle. It is not a reasonable expectation that an employee dictate the terms of employment based on her personal health risk calculation.

MADISON (WKOW) — As some Madison students prepare to return to classrooms next week, teachers in the district are split about the reopening plan.

 

“Some people are really ready to come back, but lots of people are scared of being back,” an MMSD Kindergarten teacher who’s opposed to reopening told 27 News. She requested to stay anonymous because she fears backlash from the district and community members who support a return to in-person learning.

 

“I’m feeling scared for my safety and my family’s safety because we have been 100% COVID-free all year because we’ve been so strict about making really hard choices to stay safe,” she said. “I’m feeling really heartbroken now that my employer is forcing me to put my family at risk.”

 

MMSD’s slow return to in-person instruction is set to start when kindergarten students return to classrooms on Mar. 9.

Non-Partisan School Board Races

The race for School Board is on in West Bend and, once again, we have some conservatives trying to unseat the lefty-leaning incumbents. I was amused by this letter to the editor in the Washington County Daily News. 

Here we go again. A partisan request to vote for a “conservative” for a School Board position. There are two problems with this request: (1.) School boards are nonpartisan for good reason. Members must be able to work with everyone for the good of the students, community and taxpayers — not represent a particular viewpoint or push an agenda. And (2.) there is no universally accepted definition of what being a “conservative” is.

 

As the last few years have shown, working to divide the population based on political party has had no lasting benefit to the country as a whole or West Bend in particular. Rather than pushing propaganda and a political point of view, we need to hear why the candidates are able to work with everyone in the community to educate each child to their full potential.

 

I, for one, don’t care what political party you belong to. I want to know you understand how schools work, teachers teach and students learn. And I want a fair hearing of all points of view. You get no points for wearing your political party or religious beliefs on your sleeve.

 

— Joan Thompson, West Bend

“Conservative” is not “partisan.” Conservatism is not a political party. It is a philosophy. And while the definition covers a range of variance, it is a useful shorthand to describe a political candidate. It is very telling that no school board candidate in West Bend ever runs as a “liberal,” despite many of them being just that. And “liberal” also covers a range of variance in philosophy, but nobody wants to use it.

In any case, do you know who constantly gripes about school board races being nonpartisan? Liberals. Because they can’t use their label and they want to take the ability of opponents to label themselves. Liberals running for nonpartisan races in conservative areas like to create a great beige slate of candidates so that they don’t have to explain their own philosophy.

Racine’s Sheep

This made me roll my eyes.

“I would equate it to the Wild Wild West of Wisconsin,” said Angelina Cruz, Racine Educators United president. “There’s no clear rollout plan anywhere that I know of.”

[…]

Cruz said the Racine Unified School District has not shared a formal plan to get teachers vaccinated, so she’s advising teachers to call their doctors.

Are Racine’s teachers so inept that they need their employer or their union boss to tell them to call their doctors to get a vaccine? Were they really sitting around doing nothing waiting for the school district administration to make a “rollout plan?” Why would anyone even think that’s the district’s responsibility? If an adult can’t manage to figure out how to get in line for a vaccine somewhere without their employer or union boss telling them too, then they are too stupid to be teaching.

West Bend School District Advances Activist Environmentalism in Curriculum

I have been receiving a National Geographic every month for my entire life. It is a wonderful publication with magnificent pictures and some very educational content. They have also been hard core wacky environmentalists for more than a decade. I can tell you exactly what is in this curriculum and it is far from a balanced presentation of facts.

February 22, 2021 – West Bend, WI – Proposed curriculum for 6th graders in the West Bend School District will be available for review this week, starting February 22 – February 26.

The proposed curriculum is published by National Geographic. There are 12 books in the series including, (listed in alphabetical order):

 

“Climate Change”; “Energy Resources”; “Food Supply”; “Globalism”; “Habitat Preservation”; “Health”; “Human Rights”; “Migration”; “Pollution”; “Population Growth”; “Standard of Living”; and “Water Resources.”

Click HERE to review what is presented in a brief format on the social studies segment from National Geographic.

UW-Stevens Point Returns to Class

Well done!

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is planning for a return to a more familiar, engaging campus experience in the Fall 2021 semester.

“We are excited to welcome you in fall to the campus experience you expect: One that is engaging in and out of the classroom. One that helps you learn and grow in many ways. One we all crave,” Chancellor Thomas Gibson told students and employees.

This includes:

  • A vast majority of courses in-person
  • A restored sense of community in residence halls
  • In-person student support services
  • A return to live entertainment, including music and theater
  • In-person recreation and intramural sports schedule
  • In-person student organizations, activities and hanging out with friends
  • Athletic competition with fans

Faculty and academic support areas are planning for a full return to in-person teaching. They are working on fall schedules, which will be available in early March for students to register. UW-Stevens Point is committed to student success, which including in the course format that meets students’ comfort

School Board Resigns After Mocking Parents

Disgusting.

Every member of a school board in Northern California resigned on Friday after a video revealed they mocked parents during a virtual public meeting about reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Lisa Brizendine, president of the Oakley Union Elementary School District, resigned with members Kim Beede, Erica Ippolito and Richie Masadas, Fox News reported.

 

Schools Superintendent Greg Hetrick described the comments as ‘truly inappropriate’ and issued an apology on Thursday.

Kerr and Underly Move on to General Election for DPI Head

At least there is a choice.

Pecatonica School District Superintendent Jill Underly and former Brown Deer School District Superintendent Deborah Kerr won the top two spots today in the state schools superintendent primary, moving on to face off in the April 6 general election.

 

According to unofficial returns, Underly edged out Kerr as the two advanced out of Tuesday’s primary. Underly had 27.3 percent of the vote, while Kerr had 26.5 percent.

 

Assistant State Superintendent Sheila Briggs came in a distant third with 15.6 percent.

 

Behind Briggs, Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams took fourth with 11.3 percent followed by Troy Gunderson with 8.4 points, Steve Krull with 6.3 points and Joe Fenrick with 4.5 points.

From a conservative’s perspective, Kerr is clearly the better choice. It will be an uphill battle, but so vitally important that we try to bend the curve back on education.

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