Boots & Sabers

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Category: Education

Milwaukee Teachers Still Want Virtual Schooling Despite Vaccine

Did you really think that the vaccine would get Milwaukee teachers back into the classroom? Think again.

Milwaukee teachers are next on the list to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The school board will decide later this month if students will go back to class for the first time this school year.

Teacher vaccinations could be the deciding factor.


The state’s biggest school district has nearly 5,000 teachers.

They’ve been virtual since the start of the school year.

But just because teachers will soon be able to get the vaccine, doesn’t mean they all will.

“I’m suffering from a little anxiety about taking this vaccine because I don’t even take the flu shot,” Roosevelt Middle School teacher Rochell Wallace-Haley said.

She wants to go back to class but doesn’t want the vaccine.

“I would rather they give us the option to take the vaccine and still give us the option to go back in the building,” Wallace-Haley said. “We need to be back in the buildings ASAP. Parents are struggling, teachers are struggling, it’s hard and being a parent and a teacher, it’s even harder.”

The school board could consider a hybrid learning model.

It’s not about the kids. It never was.

Government Schools Fail Kids During Pandemic

And we don’t even know how badly they have failed because we suspended tests. BTW, Evers wants to suspend testing for another year. These poor kids are going to pay for these decisions for the rest of their lives.

Those responses came from a survey of 3,227 Wisconsin parents and students in 16 Wisconsin districts — most from the northern, rural part of the state — conducted by Curtis Jones, a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Socially Responsible Evaluation in Education program. It found nearly half of the students were failing to keep up with homework as much as they had before the pandemic.


As the first full semester of U.S. students learning under the pandemic comes to a close, experts like Jones are particularly concerned about young people who already were behind. Only 15% of survey respondents said their child was learning as much as before the COVID-19 crisis. Some policymakers are pushing for a massive tutoring effort to help students catch up.


“Any type of negative impact on the education system hits people who have privilege less hard,” Jones said. “They can pick up that slack themselves. People who have less privilege, it’s more impactful. It hits harder.”


The full scope of the pandemic’s effect on academic progress is still unknown in Wisconsin. As part of a pandemic relief bill, the state Legislature suspended student testing requirements for the 2019-20 school year and prohibited the Department of Public Instruction from issuing school and district report cards covering this school year.

School Funding Should Follow the Students

Here, here. Emphasis mine

Yet across the U.S., many school districts, especially those in large metro areas, still remain closed to in-person learning for some if not all grades and may not reopen at the start of 2021.


According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of parents in lower-income brackets report being “very” or “somewhat” concerned this fall that their children are “falling behind in school as a result of the disruptions caused by the pandemic.” With thousands of students not in class, even virtually, and falling grades among those who are attending, who can blame them?


For taxpayers and policymakers looking for lessons in the pandemic, the utter failure of school assignment systems to provide quality-learning options to all students, especially the most vulnerable, is clear.


The quality and consistency of the education a child received during the pandemic has been dependent on the attendance boundary in which that child’s family lives. At the same time, so many of the issues plaguing education during the pandemic—and for that matter, the entire century leading up to the pandemic—are rooted in policies that fund school systems, rather than individual students.


Allowing dollars to follow children directly to any public or private school of choice is a critical emergency policy reform that states should pursue. Such a policy change is overdue.

Madison Government Teachers Are a Disgrace

Absolutely disgraceful. They do not care about the kids at all. And it isn’t even close. 94% would rather sit on their butts and phone it in even though the risk to them and the kids is minimal. And yet… I bet they are all finding their way to Starbucks, grocery stores, and other places.

The Madison teachers union is signaling strong opposition to a return to in-person learning, even as local public health officials haven’t reported any school-linked COVID-19 hospitalizations or deaths and as some private schools that have been open for in-person instruction since the beginning of the school year report few major pandemic-related problems.


The Madison School District has also refused to release many details about the experience of a subset of students who have been receiving care and academic help in school buildings since September — potentially crucial information ahead of a decision on whether there will be a broader return to classrooms this month.




According to the results of a survey of MTI members posted to a member’s public Facebook page, about 94% of the approximately 1,000 teachers who responded opposed returning for in-person classes in the third quarter. Sadlowski declined to release the full survey but said the results the member posted were accurate.




Separately, Public Health Madison and Dane County reports that since Sept. 1, it’s identified 22 clusters of coronavirus transmission and 121 cases linked to schools, including two clusters at schools in another county. None of the cases resulted in hospitalization or death, according to spokeswoman Sarah Mattes

These teachers clearly don’t believe that they are essential.


Improving Grades By Eliminating Bad Grades

Remember that the kids who are learning nothing in these schools will one day be your mechanics, doctors, employees, and maybe your boss. Let’s hope that the can find an education after leaving school.

The San Diego Unified School District, for instance, moved this fall to abolish its traditional grading system. Students will still receive letter grades, but they won’t reflect average scores on papers, quizzes, and tests. Under the new system, pupils will not be penalized for failing to complete assignments or even show up for class, and teachers will give them extra opportunities to demonstrate their “mastery” of subjects. What constitutes mastery is not quite clear, but grades “shall not be influenced by behavior or factors that directly measure students’ knowledge and skills in the content area,” according to guidance from the district.

Renting Castles

Speaking of fat in university budgets… this blurb caught my attention while looking up stuff from a show I’m watching.

Dalkeith Palace has not been lived in by the Buccleuch family since 1914 and has been leased to the University of Wisconsin system for a study abroad program since 1985. Approximately 60-80 students a semester live in the palace, where they also take classes from U.S. and U.K. faculty members.


Parents Are Voting with their Feet

As expected.

A new study shows school districts that began the year with virtual education lost more students than districts that began the year with in-person education.

The study, “Opting Out: Enrollment Trends in Response to Continued Public School Shutdowns” by Will Flanders with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), said, “Districts with exclusively virtual education saw a 3% decline in enrollment on average relative to other districts in the state.”

School enrollment is down overall as parents deal with difficult choices during the Covid-19 pandemic. On average, according to the study, school districts saw a 2.67% decline in enrollment this year. In previous years the drop was 0.3%.

“Everyone has had to make adjustments due to the pandemic. But the decision of many teachers’ unions to oppose any attempt at in-person learning appears to have consequences,” Flanders said about the study. “Many Wisconsin families have opted out of schools that are not even trying to accommodate in-person learning.”

There were schools that did see an increase in enrollment, virtual charter schools and parental choice schools.

Declining University Funding


Wisconsin ranks 41st in the nation for total revenues going to higher education, according to a new report from the non-partisan Wisconsin Policy Forum. It shows the state ranks last in the Midwest.

The study shows that between 2000 and 2019, adjusted state and local tax appropriations per college student dropped from $10,333 to $6,846, which was 16.5 percent below last year’s national average of $8,196.

Between 2011 and 2019, the report shows state and local revenues dropped at the sixth-highest rate in the nation.


For the UW System, full-time enrollments have dropped by an average of 8.4 percent since a peak of 142,907 in 2010. Enrollments at the state’s two-year colleges fell by more than 47 percent between 2011 and 2019. Last year, two-year UW campuses in Baraboo, Barron County, Manitowoc, Marinette, Marshfield, Richland Center and Sheboygan each enrolled fewer than 300 students.

The report also noted enrollment at the state’s technical colleges has fallen by 22.5 percent since peaking in 2011.

The balance between funding sources is a policy decision. What has happened here is that the UW System has driven up spending despite declining enrollment. State and local lawmakers resisted maintaining the taxpayers’ commitment to the spending and the percentage share declined. For some numbers:

In the 2010-11 operating budget, the UW System spent $5.591 billion to educate 178,909 students. That’s $31,251 per student.

In the 2018-19 operating budget, the UW System spent $6.349 billion to educate 164,494 students. That’s $38,597 per student.

If you want to claim inflation… nope. $31,251 in 2010 inflation-adjusts to $35,988 in 2018. UW is still spending $2,609 more per student for no rational reason at all.

The problem here is just that the UW System spends far too much. They can increase the percentage of public support by just lowering their overall spending. But they won’t… because it’s not about the share of public support. It’s simply about the fact that they want even more money to waste.


Wisconsinites See Second Highest Tax Hike in Decade from K-12 Schools

And in a year where far too many schools chose not to educate. Unconscionable

Statewide, residents of Wisconsin will see a 3.3% increase in property taxes going towards K-12 schools on their December bills to nearly $5.4 billion. Though this represents a slowdown from the 4.5% growth in 2019, it is still greater than any other year over the past decade. The increase likely reflects the high rate of passage for recent district referenda and – for certain districts at least – increases in state revenue limits for schools.

Shawano to Return to In-Person Classes


Multiple parents told Local Five they pulled their children from the Shawano schools so they can attend in person school elsewhere.

Ginger Huntington, another concerned parent and member of Shawano S.O.S. said, “I transferred my daughter to a parochial school. As a ten-year-old, a fifth grader, she was in tears that she could not attend class.”

During the meeting another parent said, “This is not fair to any of these students. You go into this profession to make differences in these children and you are failing them. You are failing them.”

After the community feed back the board discussed the gating criteria used to shut down schools and the board voted on a reopening plan.

Bruce Milavitz a Shawano School Board Member made the motion that said, “All buildings, except the high school, on the 4th [of January], would be five days a week and then on the 19th [of January], when it’s able to start a fresh semester for the high school, we would go in person learning five days a week at the high school”

The school board passed the motion to open the schools in January tonight with plans to revisit the topic during the January 4th school board meeting should things need to change.

Schools Are Failing Kids

This is a national travesty.

School districts from coast to coast have reported the number of students failing classes has risen by as many as two or three times — with English language learners and disabled and disadvantaged students suffering the most.

“It was completely off the rails from what is normal for us, and that was obviously very alarming,” said Erik Jespersen, principal of Oregon’s McNary High School, where 38% of grades in late October were failing, compared with 8% in normal times.

And this is failing them even more.

Now, teachers have been instructed to give less homework, prioritizing the most important assignments. They’ve been encouraged to find alternatives to traditional lectures. Grading has been changed from a 100-point system to a 50-point so that missed assignments with zeroes hurt students less.

If you aren’t educating anyone, then you aren’t an educator.

Teachers Unions Really Don’t Want to Educate Kids

They are pretty adamant that their union members are non-essential workers.

“Members of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association have passed away from complications from COVID-19,” Mizialko said.

She says the union does not intend to comply with the Republican legislation that would put teachers back in classrooms.

“This will not go on on our watch. We will not have our students and families shoved into buildings that are unsafe.”

The bill would require school boards to ensure “all hours of direct pupil instruction are provided by a teacher who is physically located in a school building.”

The Racine Unified School District (RUSD) says they think they can comply with a teacher in the room, but students learning virtually at home, which they were doing earlier in the year.

“They were teaching from their classrooms at their schools in a safe environment while students were safe at home,” said Stacey Tapp of RUSD. “So moving them back to their classrooms wouldn’t be a big switch.”

Bug virtual learning would be a big cost. The bill would require school boards to pay each parent $371 for a semester that is at least 50% virtual.

The Milwaukee School Board estimates that would cost $30 million.

“We would not be able to pay that. We don’t have $30 million. Where would we — where would we get it?”

$371 for a semester is a pittance. When schools decide to close, they are imposing thousands of dollars in costs and lost wages on families who are also paying for the closed schools. Frankly, I don’t thing the GOP bill goes far enough. The purpose of public education is to provide education. If the government schools won’t do it, then shift all of the money to schools that will.

Spend Money on the Education that Families Want and Need

I made this point in shorter form as part of my column yesterday. Adam Peshek does it better.

The first step toward realizing a more resilient and family-centered system is to reimagine how we fund education. In short, it’s time to start funding families, not the buildings that are meant to serve them.

Americans spend at least $720 billion on education each year. At around $13,000 per child, that puts the U.S. among the highest-spending countries in the world.

Instead of providing this benefit directly to families — as we do for higher education, childcare, and health care — in K-12, we send this money directly to school buildings. Taxpayer dollars are collected and sent to a central office, and zones are drawn around individual schools where students are required to attend or forfeit the funds raised for their education.

The pandemic has exposed the flaws in this system. School closures, loss of childcare, and difficulties transitioning to online and hybrid-learning models are having devastating effects on children. According to one report, an estimated 3 million students have received no formal education since schools closed in March. That’s the equivalent of every school-aged child in Florida failing to show up for school.


To create a more effective and more resilient education system, we must learn from what has proven effective during the pandemic — namely, the ability of those with resources to identify and pursue a variety of individualized learning opportunities to meet children’s needs. To provide these same opportunities for all families, governments should prioritize direct grants to families, education spending accounts, refundable tax credits, and myriad other ways to get money into the hands of families so they can build an education that fits their needs.

State DPI Wants More Money

Um… no. There are fewer and fewer kids in public education. Ergo, the budget for it should decline with the number of kids we are educating.

MADISON, Wis. — The state Department of Public Instruction wants $1.6 billion more included in its budget over the next couple years than the last budget, but that might not be a request the Republican-led finance committee will grant.

The department is asking for a total of $7.4 billion in 2021-22 and $7.7 billion in 2022-23, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. This compares to $6.7 billion in 2020-21.

Mike Thompson, the deputy state superintendent, said the extra money will go toward initiatives in special education, equity and mental health aid.

“We think it’s a realistic budget,” he said. “We think it’s a budget that prioritizes what the citizens of Wisconsin want for educating their kids. It makes investments in kids, and what better investment can we make than in children?”

West Bend School District Sees Dramatic Decline in Enrollment


On Friday, the district also had released its third Friday count to determine the full time equivalent of district membership.

WBSD serves more than 5,900 students. There are 312 students in early learning, 1,760 students in 5K through fourth grade, 835 students in fifth and sixth grade, 899 students in seventh and eighth grade and more than 2,000 high school students.

The district’s 2019 3rd Friday count was 6,388.91 FTE. If it’s 5,900 now (that appears to be a rounded number), then that’s a decline of almost 500 kids, or 7.6%, in a single year.

This is sharply down from the enrollment projections that the district released in November of 2019. In those projections, it forecasted an enrollment of 5,727 students (not including 4K). The actual looks to be about 5,494.

The enrollment  confirms what we have known for some time. The West Bend School District is in for a long term enrollment decline before it levels off. This is being driven by demographic trends and the proximity of several outstanding private/parochial schools in the area. COVID19 may have played a part this year, but given the district’s hybrid approach, I don’t think it has as much of an impact enrollment as in some other districts.

UW Implements Furloughs AND $15 Minimum Wage

So if you’re lucky enough to keep your job, you’ll make more. Of course, more people could keep their jobs if UW didn’t set an artificial wage floor, but that’s how the minimum wage works.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will implement more furloughs for spring semester to help offset revenue losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. The first round of unpaid leave, announced in August, ends this month.

Furloughs will begin Jan. 1 and last through June 30 to allow time for employees’ pay to return to normal, Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in an email Monday. They will have the same graduated structure as the current furloughs, ranging from three monthly furlough days with a 2.5% pay reduction to six monthly furlough days with a 4.6% pay reduction.

The university estimates that revenue between March and the end of this fiscal year in June 2021 will be about $320 million less than anticipated, Blank said. Some of the shortfall was offset through cost savings efforts, such as $27 million in savings from furloughs and salary reductions.


UW-Madison will also continue moving forward with its commitment to a $15 minimum wage for all hourly employees. Though it temporarily halted the plan earlier this year, Blank said it will go into effect Jan. 17, mainly affecting custodial, animal care and food-service employees.

Government Employees Monitoring Homes

Many people have a government employee monitoring their homes throughout the day. I say that a little glibly, but only a little. This implications are widespread.

HealthChristi Brouder had finally gotten her 10-year-old daughter settled on the hallway floor with a laptop and signed into a video class on Google Meet when the girl’s 6-year-old brother leaped over computer the screen “in his birthday suit” to get a juice box.

To Brouder’s surprise, a social worker from the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families called her later that day; someone had reported an adult male exposing himself during the class. That was followed by a visit from a police detective sent by the school to do an in-person wellness check.

Brouder explained that her son has epilepsy and autism and sometimes takes his clothes off to feel more comfortable and the inquiry ended there.

But the experience left the mother in the city of Haverhill incensed, and underscores the challenge on educators to make judgments based on fleeting scenes or sounds from a webcam.

“The teachers never asked to speak to me. Nobody said anything” during the class, Brouder said.

Child protection laws require school personnel, along with health care workers and other professionals, to report any suspicions of neglect or abuse. The coronavirus pandemic and virtual instruction have only raised the stakes; in the absence of daily in-person school and extracurriculars, a teacher’s video contact may offer the only window to spot potential problems in students’ lives.

Wisconsin Public School Enrolment Declines 3%


Enrollment in public school districts dropped 3 percent from September 2019 to September 2020, compared to a 0.4 percent drop in the previous 12-month period.

School enrollment in Wisconsin, and in other parts of the country, has been on the decline since the late 1990s, when the children of baby boomers — who themselves drove record enrollment numbers — were in their peak schooling years. However, amid uncertainty and near-constant changes in plans because of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools around the country have been seeing larger enrollment drops, especially in 4K and kindergarten classes.The 4K enrollment drop is particularly significant, as the introduction of 4K programs at more Wisconsin schools helped offset the decline in enrollment numbers for many school districts during the post-millennium decline. September 2020 numbers show a 15.8 percent decline in4K and preschool special education, as well as a 4.9 percent decline in kindergarten enrollment.

Because attendance is not legally required for4K and kindergarten, DPI School Financial Services Director Dan Bush noted the drop in enrollment for those two age groups could reflect more families choosing to keep kids home, possibly out of health or school safety concerns surrounding COVID-19.

The enrolment data indicates that a lot of parents are choosing to keep their kids home or just get them out of traditional public schools.

Independent charter schools saw an increase in enrollment, but a smaller one than previous years. Enrollment was up 1.6 percent in September 2020, compared to 2.8 percent the year before. Their 4K enrollment decreased by 16.7 percent, while kindergarten enrollment decreased by 0.1 percent. Grades 1 through 12 drove the increase, with enrollment growing 3.9 percent from the preceding year.

Wisconsin has four private school parental choice programs, which reported a 5.9 percent increase from September 2019 to September 2020, compared to 8.3 percent from 2018 to 2019. Enrollment increased by 2,577 students and 26 schools over last year. Like the independent charters, they saw a drop in 4K enrollment by 3.5 percent, though kindergarten enrollment increased by 5.1 percent. Grades 1-12 saw a 6.7 percent increase.

Appleton Public School Sees Enrolment Decline

We’re seeing this all over. What we are seeing is parents make choices for their kids based on their learning style.

APPLETON, Wis. (WLUK) — It has been a frustrating start to the year for many parents in the Appleton School District.

The district says enrollment is down almost 400 students this year. Some parents say it’s because of the district’s decision to continue all virtual learning.

George Brown and Keith Doszak say all-virtual learning wasn’t working for their kids.

“We felt we had to do something,” Brown said. “Now, she’s enrolled at Little Chute, and it’s been a complete 180.”


According to the Appleton Area School District, 916 open enrolled students have transferred out of the district.


Overall enrollment dropped from 16,067 students last year down to 15,690 this year. The district says 220 of these students are in 4K.

1,000 Students Leave Madison Public School District

Utterly predictable. And yet another 1,000 or so families who are paying taxes for schools they aren’t using. We need more School Choice.

The Madison Metropolitan School District has 1,006 fewer students this year than last.

Projections before the COVID-19 pandemic anticipated a drop of only 51 students from the 2019-20 school year to 2020-21, but a survey this summer indicated it was likely to be much larger. The count of 25,877 students is based on the annual “third Friday count,” which is taken on the third Friday of September to determine state aid.

Elementary and 4-year-old kindergarten enrollments account for 90% of the overall decrease, according to a memo to the School Board, which will discuss the budget and enrollment Monday evening. In 2019-20, 1,717 students enrolled in 4K, but that number is down to 1,415 this year. The elementary school total was 11,789 last year, but is down to 11,173 for 2020-21.

That fits with a national trend of declining kindergarten enrollment this year, as many districts nationwide remain virtual.



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