Election, Tax & Spending Climate: As new year school year begins, Wisconsin’s education scene lacks energy

Alan Borsuk

In recent years on this Sunday, the last before most kids start school, I have offered thoughts on what is new and worth watching on the school scene in Wisconsin and particularly in Milwaukee.

I started to make up a list for this year and was struck by how, um, boring it was. Permit me to try a different approach, namely, a debate with myself (I win!) over this proposition:

Wisconsin education is suffering a serious case of the blahs.

In defense of this statement, I point to how few new schools, new programs and initiatives there are this year, particularly in Milwaukee.

With its large voucher and charter sectors and with Milwaukee Public Schools frequently undergoing changes, you could count on Milwaukee to offer new developments each fall in recent years.

This year, there’s not much. A few programs are being launched or growing, such as the addition of parent centers in many Milwaukee schools that didn’t have them until now. But it’s really kind of status quo out there. And it’s a status quo in which less than one in five MPS students are rated as proficient or better in reading.

Consider my snapshot summary of the three big sectors of Milwaukee schools:

Unfortunately, status quo governance has become the norm in Madison and generally across the Badger State. Our agrarian era K-12 governance structures persist, mostly on the fumes of the past. Yet, spending continues to grow, with Madison’s $15,000+ / student double the national average, despite long term disastrous reading results. A 2012 comparison with the Austin, TX school district is worth a look.