Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Category: Education

Homeschooling Surges

Perhaps a long-term positive effect of the pandemic will be more parents taking a more active role in their kids’ education whether they homeschool or not.

Although the pandemic disrupted family life across the U.S. since taking hold in spring 2020, some parents are grateful for one consequence: They’re now opting to homeschool their children, even as schools plan to resume in-person classes.

 

The specific reasons vary widely. Some families who spoke with The Associated Press have children with special educational needs; others seek a faith-based curriculum or say their local schools are flawed. The common denominator: They tried homeschooling on what they thought was a temporary basis and found it beneficial to their children.

 

“That’s one of the silver linings of the pandemic — I don’t think we would have chosen to homeschool otherwise,” said Danielle King of Randolph, Vermont, whose 7-year-old daughter Zoë thrived with the flexible, one-on-one instruction. Her curriculum has included literature, anatomy, even archaeology, enlivened by outdoor excursions to search for fossils.

 

The surge has been confirmed by the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported in March that the rate of households homeschooling their children rose to 11% by September 2020, more than doubling from 5.4% just six months earlier.

 

Conservative Group Floats Granular Funding Formula for Education

This is interesting.

Republican groups are calling for the restructuring of Wisconsin’s convoluted K-12 education funding system — including additional funding for students living in poverty — as education becomes a focal point heading into the 2022 midterm elections.

The idea that low-income students need more resources to succeed has long been championed by academics, public school advocates and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who in 2010 proposed an overhaul of the state’s now 30-year-old school funding system. Republicans have dismissed Evers’ so-called “Fair Funding” proposal as too expensive. Instead, they have focused on distributing an equal amount of new state aid to each student regardless of background while expanding the state’s private school voucher programs.

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty provided the Wisconsin State Journal with a new report calling for a more granular funding model for funding K-12 schools that focuses on the individual financial needs of each student, rather than each district — a concept similar to a proposal put forth by a statewide bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding in 2019.

I don’t think this is necessarily a conservative vs. liberal issue. If we accept that it is the role of government to fund education, then we’re talking about the how and who. Tailoring funding to the actual need of the student makes sense. In the past this would have been unachievable, but in the technical era, this is not difficult at all.

The next step is the who. Who will receive the money? If we are tailoring funding for government schools base on the students’ actual need, wouldn’t that apply to voucher funding too? But that gets the liberal nervous because if we treat students as individuals, then that moves us closer to making the money follow the kids instead of the institution. Personally, I think that’s where the focus needs to be.

WILL’s report also says it’s necessary for private voucher and public charter schools to be included in the proposed weighted funding formula.

Currently each student who receives a private school voucher gets between $8,300 and nearly $9,000. Public school districts are limited by the state to having between $10,000 and $24,000 to spend per student, depending on the district and not counting federal funds and certain other state aid programs.

Julie Underwood, a member of the blue ribbon commission and president of the liberal Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, pushed back against WILL’s effort, calling it a Trojan horse to get more money for vouchers.

California Chooses to Abuse School Children Despite Science

It’s not about the virus. It’s about control. And the children will suffer.

California will continue to require masks in school settings, state health officials announced Friday, even though federal health authorities released new guidelines saying vaccinated students and teachers no longer need to wear masks inside campus buildings.

 

“Masking is a simple and effective intervention that does not interfere with offering full in-person instruction,” said California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly. “At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated — treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment.”

 

The recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also said schools should try and keep desks three feet apart, are not a mandate. The CDC guidance said prevention strategies, including indoor masking, should be utilized when it’s not possible to maintain a distance of at least three feet in the classroom.

Wisconsin Fails in Teaching History and Civics

This report focuses on state standards. Wisconsin leaves most standards to the local level, but the results are clear. Wisconsin’s students, like most American students, are utterly ignorant about basic civics. I’d encourage local folks to look into the requirements and curriculum at your local school district.

In a new report, the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute graded states on their standards for teaching civics and United States history — and gave Wisconsin Fs in both.

 

According to the report, Wisconsin’s biggest flaws are that it does not specifically require U.S. history or civics courses in high school, instead saying students need three credits of social studies that include state and local government; and that it focuses on broad themes that need to be covered rather than mandating specific content — for example, that students must learn about the Civil War, or study the First Amendment.

 

“There’s a tendency to shy away from spelling out exactly what kids need to know, and what they should be covering. It’s just easier to stick to generalities,” said David Griffith, a senior research and policy analyst at the Fordham Institute and a former civics teacher.

 

The report focuses on state-level standards, but individual districts often have more specific graduation requirements.

 

[…]

 

Flynn, like other teachers in Wisconsin, talked to his students about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in different ways depending on how it tied into the material they were learning.

 

[…]

In its analysis of Wisconsin civics standards, the Fordham Institute says most standards are too broad and vague to be useful, that breadth and vagueness means most “essential” content is never mentioned, and there’s no attempt to assign content to specific grade levels or classes. Wisconsin history standards, according to the institute, also don’t assign specific content to specific grade levels, don’t have a discernable scope or sequence, and don’t make the priorities clear for what teachers should focus on.

 

Griffith said the analysis of state-level standards grew out of mounting concern that Americans are in a bad place, politically and civically, and that one way to address the problem is to make sure students develop the necessary skills and knowledge to better engage with political issues, so that five or 10 years down the road, those former students have the tools to discuss history and current events in context.

 

“It’s so obvious that we’re in a bad place,” Griffith said “It’s so obvious that the level of polarization and disunion that we’re seeing is not healthy, that really there’s a growing movement to do something about it.”

Madison Government Schools Set Priorities

This is what your taxes are being spent on.

For now, the preliminary budget approved includes the maximum possible raises for staff, investments in equity programs like full-day, 4-year-old kindergarten, an online school for students in grades 6-12 and student-led initiatives like menstrual products distributed for free in school buildings.

UW Applications Rise

Interesting, but I’m not sure it’s very useful information.

MADISON, Wis.—New fall freshman applications for University of Wisconsin System universities are up by about 30 percent over each of the last two years. Moreover, applications by Wisconsin residents, first-generation students, and underrepresented minorities are also up.

The increases are the result of several actions the UW System took over the last 15 months to simplify the application process, including waiving application fees, creating a new EApp (electronic application), allowing students to use a single application for multiple universities, and suspending
the requirement that students take the ACT.

The increase in applications does not necessarily reflect an increase in demand. With free, online applications, I expect that they are getting a lot of applicants who have little interest in actually attending. That seems to be what Tommy Thompson is indicating here:

Thompson cautioned that not all students who apply and are admitted will enroll. However, he said the increase in applications is a positive signal about first-year enrollments.

Here is the real number to watch – enrollment.

Largely due to the pandemic, enrollment was down at UW System universities in fall 2020 by 1.7 percent, according to final figures. That’s less than the national decline of 4 percent for public institutions, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

Evers Vetoes Education Expansion

Given the utter failure of so many government schools during the pandemic, it is unconscionable that Governor Evers would lock so many kids in failing schools by not allowing them access to the financial resources that taxpayers provide. Taxpayers gladly pay to educate kids, but Evers if forcing them to pay for failed government institutions

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers on Friday vetoed a bill that would have opened the door to more children going to private school using a voucher paid for by taxpayers.

 

The bill Evers vetoed would have raised the income eligibility for the voucher program to three times the federal poverty level.

 

Conservatives said the change was needed given increasing interest in sending students to private schools during the pandemic, which led many public schools to reduce in-person classes.

 

But the change was opposed by the statewide teachers union and groups representing public school administrators, school boards and rural schools — all traditional opponents of growing the voucher program. Evers said in his veto message that he objects to diverting resources from school districts to private schools.

Republicans increase school spending again

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

The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee is continuing to draft the state budget. Last week they took up the topic of K-12 school funding. Despite the Republican majority voting to increase spending by $128 million, Governor Tony Evers labeled the increase “paltry” and “an insult” and threatened to veto the entire budget because of it in the same week that he announced his intent to seek re-election.

 

Every budget season we hear the same ridiculous rhetoric about how Republicans are cutting education and hurting kids despite unending budget increases. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards went so far as to say that proposed budget “will be devastating” to students. While such inflammatory adjectives are exciting for politicos, the facts do not support the hysteria.

 

According to data from the Department of Public Instruction and the published state budget documents, the proposed spending on K-12 education for the 2022-2023 school year is $1.4 billion more than it was in the 2015-2016 school year when Republicans controlled the legislative and executive branches. That is an increase of 26% over just four budgets.

 

On a per-pupil basis, the increases are even more stark. For years there has been a steady decline in student enrollment driven by demographic trends. In the 2015-2016 school year there were 867,137 public school students in Wisconsin. This year, there are 826,935 public school students. That is a decline of over 40,000 public school students, but taxpayer spending continues to climb. On a per-student basis, state funding of K-12 education has increased by 32% since the 2015-2016 school year.

 

Throughout that entire period where state taxpayer spending on K-12 education increased by 26% as enrollment was dropping, Republicans controlled both houses of the state Legislature. For the first two budgets, Wisconsin also had a Republican governor. The fact is that Republicans have lavished the taxpayers’ money on the government education at every opportunity. Even though Democrats always want to spend more, the Republicans have been anything but stingy with education funding.

 

Government schools are swimming in even more billions of taxpayer dollars this year as they collect multiple rounds of COVID19 relief money spewing out of Washington. Democrats are attempting to claim that Republicans are endangering federal money by not committing more state taxpayer money. They claimed the same thing about federal funds for unemployment payments. Just like the unemployment funding, the federal dollars will flood our schools whether we want it or not. Democrats in Washington and Madison are not going to disappoint one of their strongest constituencies – government teachers.

 

While spending continues to rise with no consideration for the decline in enrollment, what are taxpayers really getting for their largesse? Even before the pandemic, student performance from our government schools was mediocre and had been steadily eroding for years. The curriculum was being infused with left-wing ideology and the building spree was unending.

 

But the pandemic really demonstrated how little some of our government schools care for the students and their obligations to the public. When the pandemic first emerged, schools rightfully closed as everyone worked to understand the virus. Within months, however, it became clear that COVID-19 posed almost no risk at all for children. This fact became even clearer when many private schools, and a few government schools, opened their doors to educate kids again as early as last spring. Even now, after over 600,000 COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, only three people under 19 years old have died with COVID-19.

 

We learned how the virus spreads and who is at most risk, yet far too many government schools remained closed to in-person education while the education and mental health of children deteriorated. Even now, some government schools do not plan to fully open until the next school year and then plan to perpetuate fear with useless and outdated mitigation measures.

 

When parents and communities needed their government schools the most, far too many of them abandoned their duty. For that, both state and federal taxpayers are rewarding them with billions of additional dollars. It is well past time to rethink our support for government institutions that are failing to meet their duty to the public. To rephrase the oft-quoted Robert Goodloe Harper, “billions for education, but not one cent for tribute.”

Republicans increase school spending again

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

According to data from the Department of Public Instruction and the published state budget documents, the proposed spending on K-12 education for the 2022-2023 school year is $1.4 billion more than it was in the 2015-2016 school year when Republicans controlled the legislative and executive branches. That is an increase of 26% over just four budgets.

 

On a per-pupil basis, the increases are even more stark. For years there has been a steady decline in student enrollment driven by demographic trends. In the 2015-2016 school year there were 867,137 public school students in Wisconsin. This year, there are 826,935 public school students. That is a decline of over 40,000 public school students, but taxpayer spending continues to climb. On a per-student basis, state funding of K-12 education has increased by 32% since the 2015-2016 school year.

 

Throughout that entire period where state taxpayer spending on K-12 education increased by 26% as enrollment was dropping, Republicans controlled both houses of the state Legislature. For the first two budgets, Wisconsin also had a Republican governor. The fact is that Republicans have lavished the taxpayers’ money on the government education at every opportunity. Even though Democrats always want to spend more, the Republicans have been anything but stingy with education funding.

“Endangering” Federal Money

This is not a problem.

A Republican lawmaker on the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee said the state would stay in compliance with federal guidelines, so as not to miss out on $1.5 billion in federal matching funds for education.

First, this is a good reminder that nothing is ever “free.” The federal money has demands that state taxpayers increase spending because it isn’t about COVID-19 relief. It is about increasing spending on a loyal Democratic constituency – government teachers.

Second, there is no way that the federal government doesn’t grant a waiver if necessary. Here’s how this plays out…

Step 1: Evers and Democrats beat up Republicans for a few weeks to get more K-12 spending in the budget.

Step 3: Irrespective of whether Republicans in the legislature increase spending or not, Evers calls Washington to make sure the money will flow.

Step 4: Biden’s administration sends money.

Step 5: Evers takes credit for “saving” billions in federal money and uses it as an “achievement” for his reelection campaign.

Republicans should hold their ground. There is no upside – politically or educationally – to spending more money on government schools.

“you can’t tell a kid they should feel shame because of the color of their skin.”

Good for Texas

Toth’s bill, which has passed in both chambers of the Texas Legislature and is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for signature into law, states that social studies and civics teachers are not allowed to discuss the concept that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” or the idea that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.”

 

The bill also states that teachers cannot be compelled to talk about current events, and if they do, they must “give deference to both sides.” While supporters say this provision promotes objective teaching, critics counter that it limits honest conversation around the deep-rooted issues surrounding the history of race and racism in the U.S.

 

“The more people learn about critical race theory, whether Republican or Democrat, the more they oppose it,” said Toth, who noted that he is also a preacher, and said God led him to write this bill limiting the teaching of what he termed “an offshoot of critical theory and Marxism.”

 

Yet he also said his bill wouldn’t prevent a discussion about critical race theory, but would prevent teachers from endorsing what he sees as its conclusions.

 

“We’re not saying you can’t talk about critical race theory,” he added. “We’re saying you can’t tell a kid they should feel shame because of the color of their skin.”

MPS Perpetuates Fear For Children

 

This is very, very far from a “return to normal” and completely unnecessary as evidenced by the thousands of schools that have been open since last year with minimal issues.

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — Milwaukee public school students will be back in the classroom full-time this fall. The school board approved the administration’s outline 9-0.

 

Classrooms will be set up to allow three feet of space between students where possible.

 

Students and staff will still be required to wear masks inside the buildings, but won’t have to outside.

 

“All of our problems are the same and we’re all doing everything that we possibly can to meet the needs of our students and to take them to better places,” said Superintendent Keith Posley.

 

He said the Milwaukee Public Schools reopening plan is designed to give students and their parents a return to normal.

UW Regents Swing to Left

Elections have consequences. But as the legislature looks to unleash their tuition authority, this decision may have an immediate impact on thousands of Wisconsin students.

Attention this week turns to the UW Board of Regents, which finds itself at an interesting inflection point in the political power struggle over control of the University of Wisconsin System with the board holding its first contested election in nearly a decade.

Appointees of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker led the 18-member board for the past six years, but the political balance tipped this month when Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced his newest regent picks. The board now includes nine Evers appointees, seven Walker appointees, the state superintendent and the Wisconsin Technical College System board president.

After the story has quote after quote of liberals bemoaning the influence of politics in the Regents, we get this little reminder:

There’s always been an element of political influence looming over the Regents by the very nature of their appointment and confirmation process.

In one of the most brazen examples, the Democratic-controlled Senate in the early 2000’s bottled up then-Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson’s regent nominations for so long that, after he left to become secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services, the picks remained held up for the entirety of his successor’s two-year tenure. When Doyle was elected, he withdrew the Republican appointees and then replaced them with his own.

 

Chicken Wings “No Longer Commercially Viable”

Ouch

New Hampshire restaurateur has apologized to customers for putting prices up after the cost of basic items like oil, meat and gloves rose by as much as 300%.

 

Alan Natkiel, the owner of Georgia’s Northside in Concord, says the price of brisket has gone up 185%, chicken breast is up 70%, and fryer oil costs have doubled in the past three months, while plastic gloves were three times as expensive as pre-pandemic prices.

 

Natkiel says the surge in prices has even forced him to stop serving chicken wings as a national shortage has made them so pricey they were no longer commercially viable.

 

Continuing supply chain disruptions from the pandemic are causing shortages in key fresh food and produce areas.

 

And a chronic labor shortage is placing added pressure on restaurants.

(hint: it’s not just supply chain issues causing the price increases)

On a side note, I hate the word “eatery.” The proper work for an establishment where they serve food in exchange for money is a “restaurant.”

Legislature Moves to Ends UW Tuition Freeze

Interesting… so the Democrats all voted to keep tuition frozen at UW.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Legislature’s Republican-led budget committee voted Thursday to end a University of Wisconsin tuition freeze that has been in place for eight years and has long been a GOP priority that had bipartisan support.

 

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers proposed, and the university supported, extending the tuition freeze for another two years, along with spending $192 million more on the UW System.

 

But the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee went in a different direction Thursday, voting to end the tuition freeze and adding just $8.25 million in state funding for UW, $9.5 million for technical colleges and $5 million for a nurse education program for students at both private and public colleges and universities in the state.

All 11 Republicans voted to end the freeze, while all four Democrats voted to keep it.

I’m dubious, but I see what they are doing. The legislature is increasing taxpayer funding to UW, but slowly enough that it is continuing the trend of reducing the percentage of taxpayer support in the UW budget. At the same time, they are lifting the tuition freeze to allow them to get more funding that way. The market will regulate increases, in theory, but the higher education market is warped by easy borrowed money from the government.

Still, if I am to choose between the taxpayers or the tuition payers supporting UW spending, I’d rather it be the tuition payers.

Legislature Considers Flat Funding for K-12

This makes complete sense.

MADISON – The president of the Wisconsin Senate doesn’t want to increase general aid for schools in the next two years because they have received billions of dollars in federal aid since 2020.

 

“I think we’re good for right now,” Senate President Chris Kapenga said in an interview Tuesday. “My gut is there’s not going to be a big push in the caucus to increase funding.”

 

[…]

 

Wisconsin schools are receiving an extra $2.6 billion in federal aid because of the pandemic. Congress approved that funding in a series of bills starting a year ago.

 

That funding comes on top of $12.6 billion that Wisconsin schools received this school year through state aid, federal aid, property taxes and other sources, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

 

According to a 2020 Wisconsin Policy Forum report, Wisconsin lags the nation in K-12 spending increases. Between 2013 and 2018, Wisconsin’s spending increased by 11%, while nationwide the increase was close to 18%.

 

Kapenga said the additional federal aid means the Legislature doesn’t need to allocate extra state money in the next two years for general aid.

School districts are flush with federal cash right now. Why should the state taxpayers spend even more on them?

I would go further and advocate that we reduce spending on K-12 education for the simple fact that we have fewer students to educate. Why do we continue to increase spending when there are fewer and fewer kids? I understand that it isn’t a direct linear equation, but at some point, we need to spend less.

In 2000, Wisconsin’s government school enrollment was 877,713 students; 871,550 in 2010; 829,935 in 2020. If the schools are educating 41,615 fewer kids than they were just ten years ago, why aren’t costs going down? That’s like six West Bend School Districts that we don’t need anymore. The kids aren’t there.

Keeping spending flat is generous. We should be reducing it.

Appleton School District Considering Renaming Lincoln Elementary

Hmmm

APPLETON – Residents of the Appleton Area School District will get their chance this week to provide feedback on the proposal to rename Lincoln Elementary in honor of Ron Dunlap.

 

[…]

 

The vision, written at the top of the survey, is: “Working together, students, family, staff and community will ensure that each graduate is academically, socially and emotionally prepared for success in life. Every Student Every Day.”

 

And, the survey says: “An important factor in pursuing this vision is the environment in which students learn. Students learn best when they are challenged and feel supported, welcomed and respected.”

 

Eggert questioned why the survey would include the district’s vision statement, saying the proposal to rename Lincoln Elementary stems from a community effort to honor Dunlap after his 2019 death.

 

Dunlap, who was named one of the most influential African Americans in the state, dedicated nearly four decades of his life to public education. Because Dunlap spent 16 years as principal of Lincoln Elementary before becoming the district’s first coordinator of minority services, the district-organized team landed on the proposal to change Lincoln’s name to the “Ronald C. Dunlap Elementary School, Home of the Lincoln Lions.”

Motives matter. If the district wants to rename a school to honor a local leader who made great contributions to the community, then that’s outstanding. Districts can rename schools (although, they must be flush with cash to spend money on something relatively trivial) at their discretion. If they want to honor a modern local leader instead of an old president from Illinois, then cool.

If they are renaming the school to send the message that Lincoln is not worthy of being honored and want to replace him with a token local leader as an excuse, then it indicates a much larger problem with the district. I hope some parents get to the bottom of what’s going on in their district.

New York Goes Back to School

Well, better late than never.

New York City, the nation’s biggest school district, will eliminate its remote schooling option this fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday.

 

“It’s time for everyone to come back,” de Blasio said during a Monday press conference. “Every single child will be back in the classroom.”

Scores of Schools Drop Mask Mandate

Excellent. Stop abusing the kids.

Dozens of school districts across the state have done away with mask requirements despite the latest CDC guidance saying masks should be worn in classrooms due to low vaccination rates among children.

 

[…]

 

Over the weekend, about 75 parents protested the Mequon-Thiensville School District’s mask mandate. Parents said they want the district to join a list of nearly 50 public school districts in Wisconsin that have either done away with masks in classrooms, or plan to do so for summer school. This includes school districts in Waukesha, Mukwonago and Cedarburg.

 

[…]

 

“We still have young children below the age of 12 who can’t yet get vaccinated, we have older children 12 and up who have only just become eligible, and so we need some time to make sure we can get all of those kids vaccinated,” she said.

 

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 15,000 kids in Milwaukee County have tested positive for the virus, according to county data. 236 children were hospitalized, and one child died.

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