Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Category: Education

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I sure did. As I settle in to watch the Packers and write my column for this week, here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

A few weeks ago, in a regrettable spurt of optimistic exuberance at the prospect of Tim Michels defeating Governor Tony Evers and ushering in an opportunity to make great strides in advancing progressive conservative policies, this column advocated that education reform should be at the top of the priority list. With Evers’ electoral victory and Wisconsin deciding on divided government for at least another two years, reforming Wisconsin’s education remains the absolute top priority, but the tactics and realistic goals must, necessarily, change.

 

By every meaningful measure, Wisconsin’s government education system is failing kids. There are, of course, individual success stories, but the overall performance is systemic failure at all levels. According to ACT Aspire, Forward, and ACT testing data from Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin’s kids are failing to learn basic reading, writing, and math in our schools. Roughly two-thirds of Wisconsin’s kids at every grade level are not proficient in language or math. It is utterly intolerable.

 

Bear in mind that those testing results are statewide averages. A large number of individual districts and schools are even worse. Again, according to DPI data, there are some Wisconsin schools where not a single child is proficient in language or math. President George Bush once lamented the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” There is nothing soft about the bigotry that abandons kids to ignorance.

 

Tony Evers and the Democrats like to sell themselves as the party of education. If that is the case, then they are terrible at it. The Democrats have had a stranglehold on the state DPI and most government education districts for decades. The result has been a steady decline in performance punctuated by catastrophic failures. They have abandoned at least two generations of kids as they continue to fund failing systems.

 

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.

 

I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.

 

In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.

 

What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.

 

Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.

 

Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

 

If Republicans play the same old Democrat game of pretending that the system is great and only needs more money, they will fail to capture the powerful electoral support of parents. Worse, they will doom yet another generation of kids to ignorance and exploitation. Our nation will be worse for their complacency.

Millions for education. Not one penny for failure.

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

To be frank, watching someone brag about our government education system when less than half of our kids can read at grade level makes me angry. They should be angry at such failure. It makes a lot of parents angry. It should make you angry. Republicans should be angry about it. Not only is fixing education a moral imperative, but it is also good politics. Whichever party actually fixes education and gets more than 96% of our kids reading at grade level will stay in power for decades.

 

I am firmly convinced that the best and fastest path to quality education for everyone is to privatize our education system. Getting the government out of the business of delivering education and unleashing the power of competition is the proven path to performance. Unfortunately, with a governor who is a wholly owned subsidiary of the state teachers union, such needed reform is unrealistic. Governor Evers has shown that there is no length to which he will not go, and no bill he will not veto, in order to protect the monied interests of the government-education-industrial complex.

 

In light of the political realities, the Republican leadership will not be able to make the substantial changes necessary to radically improve educational outcomes. What they will be able to do, and what they must do, is become the party of accountability. Over the last five years, state taxpayers have increased spending on education by 19% to over $16,000 per student. This was during a period when people were losing their jobs, paychecks were shrinking, and inflation was just beginning to bite.

 

What did taxpayers get for their generosity and willingness to invest in education? Dumber kids. Over that same five-year period, the slow decline that was happening before the pandemic accelerated into collapse after many government educators abandoned kids to their illiteracy while continuing to collect their paychecks.

 

Legislative Republicans must tie funding to performance and force the closure of failing schools. Speaker Robin Vos has floated the idea of passing a bill that couples universal school choice with more spending on government schools. This idea is flawed because Evers has the most powerful veto pen in the nation and could simply veto school choice while accepting the spending increase.

 

Instead, Republicans should freeze education spending at its already inflated level and impose performance goals for continued funding. There is no reason that taxpayers should pay for a school where less than 20% of kids can read. Funding failure is explicit support for failure. Republicans must stop supporting failure like the Democrats and become the real party of education.

Winning the election is just the start

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

The outcomes of elections are always uncertain and replete with surprises, but it is looking more and more like the Republicans are going to do very well next week. If that should come to pass, I fervently hope that the Republicans govern boldly. Winning elections is the goal of politicians. Leaders act to use the power loaned to them by the voters to solve problems for the betterment of our state and nation, and boy, do we have some real problems.

 

The biggest problem facing our nation right now is inflation. There are many other problems, but runaway inflation kills nations. America is not invulnerable to the whirlwind economic forces that inflation unleashes that have obliterated a hundred nations before us.

 

Simply put, inflation happens when there is too much money in the economy chasing too few goods. Prices naturally rise and our dollar buys less than it did yesterday. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the core inflation rate was 8.2% in September and has been in that range since last year.

 

The core inflation rate is misleading because it assumes a basket of goods that is not meaningful to everyone. Inflation hits different goods unevenly. In that same September report, it showed that the price of food is up 91.4%, utilities are up 33.1%, and health insurance is up 28.2%. For people who eat and heat, inflation is hitting much harder than 8.2%.

 

The Federal Reserve has been trying to squeeze money out of the economy by increasing interest rates, but Fed actions are blunted in an era when the federal debt is 125% of our nation’s gross domestic product, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and federal government policies are swamping the country with cash. There has been a structural change in our economy where the levers of inflation have shifted to the federal government’s policies and the central bank is relegated to being an interested bystander. Our nation-killing inflation is a policy choice. If we want different results, we will need to make different policy choices. The federal government must dramatically reduce spending to get inflation under control. Reducing federal spending is the surest way to protect Americans’ wealth from the wildfire of inflation.

 

Should Sen. Ron Johnson be reelected, I hope he will use whatever power he has as one of a hundred senators in a bicameral legislature to oppose new spending and pull back existing spending. Lest we become Venezuela or Zimbabwe, getting control of inflation must be our top national priority.

 

At the state level, Wisconsin’s biggest problem is the deplorable state of our government education system. Despite lavish spending averaging over $16,000 per child per year (an increase of 19% in just five years), our kids are learning less than ever. Test scores have plummeted to the point that barely a third of Wisconsin’s kids can read, write, or do math at grade level.

 

Our government education system is not just an embarrassment, it is a generational brutality committed on our own children. We are condemning a generation of Wisconsinites to be less educated, less capable, and more ignorant than we are. We are robbing them of their potential and a lifetime of opportunities. Our state government schools’ failure to provide our kids with even a mediocre education – much less a good education – is a cruelty for which our kids will rightfully condemn us.

 

We are well past a time when tweaks and nudges will fix the problems with our government education infrastructure. It needs substantive systemic changes at all levels.

 

Wisconsin’s Democrats are the party of perpetuating failure. Last weekend, they even held a rally with President Obama at a Milwaukee high school where zero percent of the kids can do math or science at grade level according to the state ASPIRE exam. The only “solution” that Democrats champion for failing government education is to spend more money on doing the same thing. Their policy choices are about perpetuating and funding a solid Democratic voting bloc irrespective of the quality of the education our kids are getting.

 

Should Tim Michels be our next governor, it is imperative that he immediately tackle the task of fixing our government education system with meaningful changes like universal school choice, outcome-oriented funding, and even privatization. It will be hard and will spark the same kind of radical protests that we saw from government school employees when Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 10. Our kids and their futures are worth enduring whatever the entitled defenders of the status quo might do.

 

Elections matter. Good governance matters more. Our nation and state have real problems that need real leadership.

Winning the election is just the start

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

The outcomes of elections are always uncertain and replete with surprises, but it is looking more and more like the Republicans are going to do very well next week. If that should come to pass, I fervently hope that the Republicans govern boldly. Winning elections is the goal of politicians. Leaders act to use the power loaned to them by the voters to solve problems for the betterment of our state and nation, and boy, do we have some real problems.

 

The biggest problem facing our nation right now is inflation. There are many other problems, but runaway inflation kills nations. America is not invulnerable to the whirlwind economic forces that inflation unleashes that have obliterated a hundred nations before us.

 

[…]

 

At the state level, Wisconsin’s biggest problem is the deplorable state of our government education system. Despite lavish spending averaging over $16,000 per child per year (an increase of 19% in just five years), our kids are learning less than ever. Test scores have plummeted to the point that barely a third of Wisconsin’s kids can read, write, or do math at grade level.

 

Our government education system is not just an embarrassment, it is a generational brutality committed on our own children. We are condemning a generation of Wisconsinites to be less educated, less capable, and more ignorant than we are. We are robbing them of their potential and a lifetime of opportunities. Our state government schools’ failure to provide our kids with even a mediocre education – much less a good education – is a cruelty for which our kids will rightfully condemn us.

Education Emergency

Alan Borsuk has a piece highlighting how bad education has become in Wisconsin and the nation and laments that people are not treating it as the emergency that it is.

How willing are people, including education leaders and politicians, to tackle the needs of kids? The generally predictable reactions to the NAEP scores don’t provide encouragement.

 

The huge disruptions in schooling nationwide are become matters more for unhappy memories than present concerns. And it appears that many aspects of education are returning to the way they used to be. That’s good in some ways — and worrisome in others. There were big needs before COVID. There are big needs now. Is there much willingness to address them urgently and honestly?

 

To paraphrase a comment I read, the biggest emergency may be if people don’t think there’s an emergency.

Well, there happens to be an election in a couple of weeks. Who is looking at our deplorable education system and calling for substantive changes to improve it? Who is saying that the only answer is to pour more money into the same systems and have the same failed leaders spend it?

Partisan School Administrators Endorse Evers

This says far more about school administrators than it does about Evers.

MADISON — Members of the School Administrators Alliance (SAA), representing more than 4,000 public school principals, special education directors, business officials, school personnel administrators and superintendents throughout Wisconsin, have endorsed Governor Tony Evers for re-election.

 

SAA Executive Director Dee Pettack has issued the following statement regarding this endorsement:

“SAA does not often get involved in endorsing candidates in gubernatorial elections, as school administrators are nonpartisan in their approach to working with policymakers. However, we recognize that elections are about choices and priorities. This year, we believe the choice is so compelling and clear that we cannot remain silent. It is with pride and a clear sense of purpose for the public school children we serve that we endorse Governor Tony Evers for re-election due to his policy agenda for public school children in Wisconsin.

By virtually every single measure, education is far, far worse now than it was when Evers took office. Despite a lifetime in education, under the Evers Administration test scores have plummeted, violence in schools is up, and kids are struggling thanks to the disastrous policies of Evers and his ilk. And yet, we are spending more money than ever on government education.

What does it say about these “non-partisan” school administrators that they support Evers despite the damage he has done to our kids and their futures? Any school administrator who doesn’t disavow this endorsement should be fired immediately. They do not have our kids’ best interests at heart. And if they claim that they don’t want to weigh in on a partisan political issue… BS. Too late. They already have.

Milton Teacher Quits After Being Exposed as a Perv

This is not normal or acceptable behavior from an adult in a position of authority.

There were two high school girls from Milton and one from another district. The girls from Milton claimed they were in college, but the teacher knew the third girl was a minor, according to police.

 

“A small part of the conversations could be considered risqué but would not be inappropriate if the conversation was happening between two adults,” according to the press release.

 

Three of the messages were shared throughout the community. They include an image of man in an orange shirt with the following captions:

 

“Damn you’re cute. Have a boyfriend?”

 

“Been single for about a month. But you’re hot too. What class are you in?”

 

“I can stop bothering you if you’d prefer. But I’d like to see more of you.”

 

Parents identified the man as 8th grade math teacher David Kroeze. He was also a soccer coach and an advisor for the “Genders & Sexualities Alliances” club. Given the content of the messages, parents find it hard to believe Kroeze did not recognize the girls as minors.

Governor Evers maintains light schedule while destroying lives

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

The point of this is not to ridicule our governor for his pathetic work ethic and disinterest in actually doing his job. The point is to highlight how easy the governor has had it while his actions have destroyed livelihoods, crippled kids’ futures, and forced families into dependency.

 

Throughout the pandemic, Governor Evers was never touched by the consequences of his decisions. He never went a single day without a paycheck or generous benefits. He never had to cut back on groceries, turn down the heat in winter, or skip paying a few bills to get by.

 

Governor Evers never felt the pain of a small-business owner who sat at her desk and made the hard decisions to drain her family’s savings to keep the business afloat for another couple of months in the hope that they might be able to make it. Evers never sat across the table from good people and had to take away their livelihoods because there was no more money. The governor was blissfully eating ice cream in his free mansion when single moms went home and had to explain to their children that they needed to save money because she had lost her job.

 

Governor Evers never had to hastily call his parents to watch the kids because schools and child care centers were suddenly closed. He never had to watch his kid, who struggled with school, sink into failure and depression because virtual learning was not working for him. Evers never had to go to work during the pandemic as so many “essential” people did, and then come home and work another four or five hours to help his kids navigate recorded lessons and homework.

 

While Wisconsinites were struggling with Evers’ idiotic and tyrannical edicts during the pandemic, the governor kept his lackadaisical schedule, ate his ice cream, played pickleball, and led his best life at taxpayers’ expense. It is offensive.

 

It is equally offensive that the governor is continuing to dole out our tax dollars in dribs and drabs as “relief” and expects people to be thankful. He behaves like an abusive husband who hands his wife a bandage after beating the snot out of her and expects gratitude. His actions deserve contempt, not appreciation.

Terrible school performance demands real action

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

In this column last week, I lamented the abysmal performance of our government schools. At all levels, barely a third of our kids are at least proficient in language or math skills. In some cases, it is far less than a third. Such poor performance demands action. What would I do? I’m glad you asked.

 

Before we begin, we must understand a few things. We, the people, have a Constitutional and moral obligation to provide for the education of our children. An education is not only a valuable asset for an individual, but an educated citizenry is a prerequisite for sustained self-governance.

 

There is no requirement, however, that the government operate the means of delivering that education. In fact, as the data shows, the government is really terrible at delivering education. While we are compelled to pay for education with our tax dollars, we are also obligated to find the best means of delivering that education.

 

Also, kids are individuals. They are not cattle. They learn at different speeds, with different methods, and with different styles. It is unrealistic to expect any single school to cater to the individual needs of students. Our kids are better served if we encourage the development of an educational heterogeny and trust parents to choose the best option for their children. All that understood, first, we must implement universal school choice with equal funding for each child irrespective of the school they attend. In Wisconsin’s current School Choice programs, taxpayers get a bargain because they provide much less money for a kid who attends a choice school than if the kid attends a government school. We must equalize funding to equalize choice. The current rate in Wisconsin is $16,017 per child. The full funding should follow the child.

 

Next, we should implement rigorous, focused, testing of core subjects for all schools that receive funding. The taxpayers are paying for a quality education and deserve to know that their money is being well spent. The key, however, is that the testing must only test true core subjects and not impose any other strictures on the schools. If 70% of the children are proficient in reading, writing, math, and civics, then that is more than twice as good as the current government schools are delivering. We should use the power of the purse to demand very high standards in a very limited number of key subjects.

 

Once the funding and testing infrastructure is in place, Wisconsin should privatize all K-12 government schools. All of them. We should get government out of the business of delivering education.

 

When I have suggested privatization in the past, people tend to have one of two sincere reservations. Some folks worry about for-profit schools. We have been culturalized to think that profit is incongruous with education. It is not. Capitalism and the profit motive have improved the lives of more people than any other system in the history of humankind. They have lifted people out of poverty and cured diseases. Education is not immune from its benefits. From a taxpayer perspective, if a school can deliver 96% reading proficiency and make a profit, we should be delighted.

 

Some folks also worry about schools that may teach values with which they disagree. They usually ignore the fact that our government schools are already teaching values with which many disagree, thus instigating controversy. Privatization must come with getting government away from dictating values and relegate it to simply enforcing core standards.

 

With diversity of schools, we may have schools that teach values rooted in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Critical Race Theory, secularism, or any number of different value systems. We have a diverse society, and that diversity will be reflected in our schools. Families will choose and government will leave them alone to believe what they will. We should abandon the notion that we must have uniformity of beliefs in order to have uniformity in education funding. If we truly believe in diversity, then we must actually practice it.

 

In all actions, we must be obsessive about educational outcomes and unapologetic about demanding them. If we can double proficiency in reading, writing, and math, our children will be equipped to build better futures for themselves and our entire society will benefit. If we can triple proficiency (sadly, there is room to triple it), the individual and societal benefits are immeasurable.

 

That is what I would do. What would you do to improve education for our kids?

Terrible school performance demands real action

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Readers of this blog won’t be surprised by the thoughts. Here’s a bit:

Also, kids are individuals. They are not cattle. They learn at different speeds, with different methods, and with different styles. It is unrealistic to expect any single school to cater to the individual needs of students. Our kids are better served if we encourage the development of an educational heterogeny and trust parents to choose the best option for their children. All that understood, first, we must implement universal school choice with equal funding for each child irrespective of the school they attend. In Wisconsin’s current School Choice programs, taxpayers get a bargain because they provide much less money for a kid who attends a choice school than if the kid attends a government school. We must equalize funding to equalize choice. The current rate in Wisconsin is $16,017 per child. The full funding should follow the child.

 

Next, we should implement rigorous, focused, testing of core subjects for all schools that receive funding. The taxpayers are paying for a quality education and deserve to know that their money is being well spent. The key, however, is that the testing must only test true core subjects and not impose any other strictures on the schools. If 70% of the children are proficient in reading, writing, math, and civics, then that is more than twice as good as the current government schools are delivering. We should use the power of the purse to demand very high standards in a very limited number of key subjects.

 

Once the funding and testing infrastructure is in place, Wisconsin should privatize all K-12 government schools. All of them. We should get government out of the business of delivering education.

 

When I have suggested privatization in the past, people tend to have one of two sincere reservations. Some folks worry about for-profit schools. We have been culturalized to think that profit is incongruous with education. It is not. Capitalism and the profit motive have improved the lives of more people than any other system in the history of humankind. They have lifted people out of poverty and cured diseases. Education is not immune from its benefits. From a taxpayer perspective, if a school can deliver 96% reading proficiency and make a profit, we should be delighted.

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.

Step 1: Admit that you have a problem

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

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…

 

[…]

 

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?

 

[…]

 

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.

Push for Teachers that “Look Like Me”

Here is a very long and very interesting article about the disparity between the racial diversity of teachers compared to students. The data and challenges are interesting, but this part troubles me:

Students benefit when they have teachers who look like them

 

[…]

 

When she got to middle school, Lor noticed teachers who looked like her for the first time. She wasn’t placed in their classrooms, but she wished she would have been; wished she would have had teachers she could relate to in that way.

 

[…]

 

“Having a diverse teacher in your classroom helps you realize that you can also become a teacher, you can become a doctor, you can do whatever you want,” she said.

I do think that diversity in teaching is important. I wish that we would take a more expansive approach to diversity to include things like ideology, sex, and background instead of just race. As a boy, I rarely – RARELY – had a teacher that “looked like me.” Since I went to school in Texas and Saudi, my teachers were overwhelmingly women, but were more racially diverse than in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, teachers are overwhelmingly white, middle class, liberal, and female.

BUT, while diversity is an important and laudable goal, we must purge this notion that kids can only learn, or learn best, from teachers that “look like them.” We are reinforcing that expectation in our kids, and it is damaging their ability to learn. If it is wrong to say that I learn better from white men (it is), then it is wrong to tell an Asian girl that she would learn better from Asian women. Teachers are individuals and should be treated as such.

Instead, we should be reinforcing the ethics of acceptance and respect for authority with our kids. We should be teaching them that they can learn just as much irrespective of the physical appearance of the teacher. By telling kids that they need teachers to look like them in order to learn, we are teaching them racism and bigotry.

Let’s continue to encourage racial minorities, conservatives, and men to join the ranks of teachers so that our kids will benefit from a broad experience, but let’s stop teaching kids that they should judge the quality of their teacher by the color of their skin.

Teachers Union Continue to Inflict Pain on Kids

They. Don’t. Care. About. Kids.

SEATTLE (AP) — Students in Seattle on Monday will miss a fourth day of school as teachers strike over pay and classroom support.

 

The school district Sunday afternoon announced the cancellation of Monday classes and said negotiations with the union were ongoing.

 

“We are optimistic an agreement will be reached soon so that students can begin school,” Seattle Public Schools said.

 

The strike began Wednesday, what was supposed to be the first day of school for the approximately 49,000 students in the district.

The University Money Pit

Yup

For all of the controversy over Biden’s decision, though, there’s one thing all sides agree upon: Erasing student loans balances won’t do anything to address the rising costs of higher education that caused all of that debt to pile up in the first place.

 

Over the past several decades the cost of attending college in the U.S. has skyrocketed. At the same time, average wages have stagnated, causing more and more students — and their families — to take on hefty loan balances in order to afford an education. In 1995, Americans held a total of $187 billion in federal student loan debt. By this year, that number had ballooned to $1.6 trillion. Today, the typical undergraduate student has about $25,000 in loan debt by the time they graduate, according to the Department of Education.

Teachers Strike

These kids haven’t had a normal school year in three years and this year won’t be normal either. They are being robbed of their futures.

The tens of thousands of students in the district are now starting the school year with remote education, made up of lesson plans and videos they can access through their schools without a teacher to guide them. It’s a start that has some parents concerned. Remote learning has contributed to students falling behind academically and to mental health and behavioral challenges.

Mayor Andrew J. Ginther announced in a news release that the city is partnering with recreation centers and area nonprofit organizations to open “support centers” with reliable internet service for students affected by the teacher strike.

 

The centers began operating Wednesday and are providing spaces for students to access online lessons, however, they are “not intended to serve as a substitute for in-person academic instruction.”

Minneapolis Schools Defend Racist Layoff Policy

If they think that laying off white teachers first is an appropriate remedy for past racism, imagine what they are doing to white kids in that district.

Minneapolis Public Schools is defending its deal with the teachers’ union to lay off white educators ahead of their less-senior minority colleagues, arguing that it is a necessary measure to remedy “the effects of past discrimination.”

 

The school district released a statement to the Washington Times on Tuesday, offering a full-throated defense of the groundbreaking deal with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, led by president Greta Callahan.

 

“To remedy the continuing effects of past discrimination, Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) mutually agreed to contract language that aims to support the recruitment and retention of teachers from underrepresented groups as compared to the labor market and to the community served by the school district,” the district said in an email.

WEAC’s priorities are not Wisconsin’s, but they are Tony Evers’

Here is my column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week. With all of the amazing news this week, we need to fight against Evers’ anti-education agenda so that our kids are smart enough to read and understand SCOTUS’ opinions for themselves.

Governor Tony Evers is famously opposed to using emails, having once told a reporter, “if I do one email a day, that’s an extraordinary day.” His staff, however, is not as uncomfortable with the newfangled 20th-century technology. Empower Wisconsin, a Wisconsin conservative news hub, recently acquired 256 pages of emails between Evers’ staff and the leaders of WEAC, the state teachers union. The emails reveal a familial relationship that confirms much of what we already knew, but also portends some of the disastrous policies that Evers may push if he is reelected.

 

What we have always known is that Tony Evers is a puppet of WEAC. Evers is a creature of the state’s government education bureaucracy and WEAC has been a major rhetorical and financial supporter of the governor for his entire political career. The emails confirm WEAC’s continued ownership of the governor. The emails are from the period in late 2020 when the Evers administration was bungling their way through the state government’s response to the pandemic. Several times, the emails show that Evers was making sure to keep WEAC involved and informed of the policy negotiations. WEAC’s president was invited by Evers to a live phone call to discuss policy matters. Given Evers’ continued stubborn averseness to even pick up the phone and call the Republicans in the Legislature, it is telling that Evers is willing to engage detailed policy discussions with the president of the teachers union. One wonders if Evers recorded that conversation as he did when he spoke with Republicans several years ago.

 

Evers also gave WEAC preemptive information long before he told the public. He gave WEAC a heads-up about vetoes before announcing them. When Evers was negotiating public policy with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Evers forwarded the draft legislation to WEAC to get their input.

 

It is clear that Governor Evers is a wholly owned subsidiary of WEAC who does not make a move without their input and direction, but the emails also tell us something about WEAC.

 

In late 2020, WEAC strongly pushed then Secretary-designee of the Department of Health Services Andrea Palm and Governor Evers to use state power to close all government schools. WEAC was flabbergasted that, “School districts across the state are caving to community pressure to remain open.” WEAC cannot stand by while local school boards listen to their constituents.

 

By this time in the pandemic, we already knew that the virus is a minimal risk to children and could already see the terrible impact school closures were having on our children’s education and mental health, but WEAC pushed for it anyway. Their concerns were, and are, not for the children. Their concerns are for money and power.

 

Given that WEAC’s motives are sordid, and they own Governor Evers, it is worth looking at WEAC’s top priorities that Evers may advance in a second term. Conveniently, Evers asked WEAC for their top five policy priorities. WEAC responded with their top four priorities. Even WEAC is failing at math and following directions.

 

WEAC’s first priority is to “remove all restriction related to compensation issues.” Currently, Act 10 limits compensation negotiations to the rate of inflation. Given that we are seeing over 8% inflation in Biden’s economy, WEAC would push for even more spending with which to burden the taxpayers of Wisconsin.

 

WEAC’s second priority is to place all government employees in the state health plan. In theory, this could be positive, but the emails also show that WEA Trust, the corrupt health insurance company owned by the teachers union, was an insurer for the state plan. Prior to Act 10, unions would negotiate into their contracts that the district was required to use WEA Trust. Then WEA Trust would charge above market rates. The union owns WEA Trust and forced school districts to use them at inflated rates. WEAC’s priority was to funnel more taxpayer money into WEAC via WEA Trust. Thankfully, Republicans in the Legislature would not support such a mandate and WEA Trust, unable to compete on a level playing field, has since exited the health insurance market.

 

WEAC’s third priority is to put a “just cause” provision in state law for government employees. Under current law, Wisconsin is an “at will” state where employers can end someone’s employment for any reason, or no reason, as long as it is not discriminatory. WEAC wants school districts to only be able to terminate teachers with just cause in order to prevent the “possibility of employee layoffs tied to budget shortfalls.” In other words, in an era of declining enrollment and people moving their kids out of government schools that failed them during the pandemic, WEAC wants to prevent school districts from reducing staff to be in line with lower enrollments. WEAC wants taxpayers to continue paying for government employees when there is not enough work to justify their jobs.

 

WEAC’s fourth priority is to eliminate the annual recertification requirement. This was a requirement from Act 10 that requires the employees of a government school district to recertify the union every year. Before Act 10, a local teachers union was perpetual even if the employees of that district had never voted for it. Under Act 10, the employees of a district must vote to have a union every year. The law holds unions accountable to ensure that they are serving their members. WEAC would rather that local unions be more accountable to WEAC than their constituent members.

 

WEAC’s Wisconsin is one of higher spending, less accountability, and more taxpayer money being funneled into WEAC to fuel their leftist activism and Tony Evers shares WEAC’s vision for Wisconsin. Wisconsin cannot afford another term of Tony Evers.

WEAC’s priorities are not Wisconsin’s, but they are Tony Evers’

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

Given that WEAC’s motives are sordid, and they own Governor Evers, it is worth looking at WEAC’s top priorities that Evers may advance in a second term. Conveniently, Evers asked WEAC for their top five policy priorities. WEAC responded with their top four priorities. Even WEAC is failing at math and following directions.

 

WEAC’s first priority is to “remove all restriction related to compensation issues.” Currently, Act 10 limits compensation negotiations to the rate of inflation. Given that we are seeing over 8% inflation in Biden’s economy, WEAC would push for even more spending with which to burden the taxpayers of Wisconsin.

 

WEAC’s second priority is to place all government employees in the state health plan. In theory, this could be positive, but the emails also show that WEA Trust, the corrupt health insurance company owned by the teachers union, was an insurer for the state plan. Prior to Act 10, unions would negotiate into their contracts that the district was required to use WEA Trust. Then WEA Trust would charge above market rates. The union owns WEA Trust and forced school districts to use them at inflated rates. WEAC’s priority was to funnel more taxpayer money into WEAC via WEA Trust. Thankfully, Republicans in the Legislature would not support such a mandate and WEA Trust, unable to compete on a level playing field, has since exited the health insurance market.

 

WEAC’s third priority is to put a “just cause” provision in state law for government employees. Under current law, Wisconsin is an “at will” state where employers can end someone’s employment for any reason, or no reason, as long as it is not discriminatory. WEAC wants school districts to only be able to terminate teachers with just cause in order to prevent the “possibility of employee layoffs tied to budget shortfalls.” In other words, in an era of declining enrollment and people moving their kids out of government schools that failed them during the pandemic, WEAC wants to prevent school districts from reducing staff to be in line with lower enrollments. WEAC wants taxpayers to continue paying for government employees when there is not enough work to justify their jobs.

Regents Bring California Values to Wisconsin’s Flagship Campus

Disgraceful.

(Reuters) – Jennifer Mnookin, the longtime dean of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, has been named the next chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Officials announced her appointment Monday, saying she will take over the top administrative post at the state’s flagship public university on Aug. 4. Mnookin has led UCLA’s law school since 2015, during which time the school has expanded student financial aid, increased fundraising and student diversity, and added several academic centers.

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