Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Category: Education

School Boards Meet to Talk About COVID Policies for New School Year

In West Bend and Germantown… if you are a stakeholder in those districts, you might want to show up. From the Washington County Insider.

The West Bend School Board meets Monday, August 23 in The Silver Lining Auditorium at the High Schools beginning at 5:30 p.m. Click HERE to review the agenda. Click on ‘MEETINGS’ in the upper right corner and then on August 23, 2021 Regular Board Meeting.

 

[…]
The Germantown School Board meets Monday, August 23 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Germantown High School Performing Arts Center.

 

Florida Threatens School Districts With Defunding if they Implement Illegal Mask Mandates

Huzzah

(CNN)The Florida State Board of Education has sent an order to Broward and Alachua counties’ school board officials stating that they have 48 hours to comply with the state’s wishes to allow an opt-out option for masks or the state will begin withholding funds, according to copies of the orders shown to CNN.

If the school districts do not comply and continue to keep their mask mandates in place, the districts will start facing financial penalties. The state is requesting a list of the annual salaries of all board members, and the State Board of Education will then begin withholding 1/12th of that amount each month from the district’s funds, according to the document.

People Want Open Schools

The framing of this story is very, very slanted. Here’s the headline:

Many Wisconsin School Boards, Overwhelmed By 18 Months Of Community Pushback, Aren’t Taking Up Mask Issue
One could also say, “Schools Boards Respond to Community Demands to Not Require Masks for Kids.” But no… when people push back on liberal initiatives or the nanny state, the story is framed as if those who oppose such things are radicals. Just notice the word choices:

School board members around the state who supported phased returns to the classroom and disease mitigation efforts like masks and social distancing have faced vitriolic school board meetingsrecall attemptselection challenges and threats over the past 18 months.

 

Now, as COVID-19 is again surging around the state and hitting kids harder, many boards aren’t putting any mask requirements or precautions into place, to the distress of some parents who are worried their kids will get sick — and despite clear guidance from state and federal agencies that say universal masking is the best way to keep students safe and prevent schools from having to shut down.

People who support masking kids when the science is clear that it is almost worthless in terms of mitigating the spread of the virus but incredibly damaging to kids are simply “supporting phased returns” and “disease mitigation efforts.” Those who oppose those things are “vitriolic” and engaging in “threats.” And school board that aren’t abusing kids by unnecessarily masking them are doing so “despite clear guidance.”

The good news is that, thankfully, the public is speaking up and at least some school boards are listening. It’s taken a lot of hard work and organizing, but representative government is working.

Differences in Education Impact Decision to Get COVID Vaccine

Interesting.

People with a PhD are the most hesitant when it comes to getting the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a paper by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

 

Researchers surveyed just over five million US adults in an online survey, with 10,000 reporting that they were educated to PhD level.

 

The report showed a surprising U-shaped correlation between willingness to get a Covid vaccine and education level – with the highest hesitancy among those least and most educated.

Legislature Debates Teaching Racism in Schools

Don’t you kind of wonder why this isn’t already the law? Or, at least, the policy in every district in the state? And why, pray tell, are the Democrats fighting so hard to prevent the prohibition of teaching racism in schools? They are fighting anti-racism racism like they did in the 1960s.

The legislation would require teachers to post their syllabuses online and districts to provide copies of curriculum under the state’s open records law, without charges or delays, and would establish a complaint process for parents, staff or groups who object to the materials being taught.

 

[…]

 

Under the bills, violations include teaching that one race or sex is superior to another; a person is inherently racist by virtue of his or her race or sex; a person’s moral character is determined by race or sex; a person should feel guilty for past acts committed by people of his or her race or sex; and systems based on meritocracy are racist or sexist or designed to oppress people of another race.

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.”

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