Institute for Reforming Government, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Wisconsin, Federation for Children School Choice, Wisconsin Action ExcelinEd in Action, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy Badger Institute, FreedomWorks and Building Education for Students Together:
Dear Governor Evers, Speaker Vos, Majority Leader LeMahieu, and State Superintendent Stanford Taylor,
At last Thursday’s Joint Education Committee hearing on how to spend the American Rescue Plan’s billions of dollars in supplemental funding for K-12 education, a common, bipartisan theme emerged: policymakers in Wisconsin must find ways to help students who have fallen behind, failed courses, and gone missing. In response, our organizations are calling on lawmakers, to the greatest extent possible, to utilize the American Rescue Plan’s $1.5 billion in new K-12 funding to support course access for struggling students. This could:
1. Allow parents to choose the courses that best fit the needs of their children at the school they currently attend.
2. Fund after school, summer school, and other courses that meet each child’s individual needs and help them get caught up and ready to excel.
3. Ensure accountability by allowing only course providers—including other traditional public, private, or public charter schools, dual enrollment courses through universities or technical colleges, or other private providers such as tutors—to receive full payment only if the student successfully completes the course.
Wisconsin K-12 At a Crossroads: Before the pandemic, our reading scores were below the national average. Wisconsin’s racial achievement gaps consistently rank near the largest in the nation. The K-12 system simply prevented too many students from realizing the American Dream.
Our organizations are deeply concerned that COVID-19 has exacerbated the achievement gap while simultaneously lowering outcomes across the board, even for many students who once earned solid A’s. More troubling, Wisconsin public school enrollment has dropped by 25,000 in a single year. While some of those students simply fled schools that were closed in favor of private options that were teaching in person, many others are simply missing. For those who are logging into virtual learning, failure rates are skyrocketing. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel survey of 60 school districts in Wisconsin concluded that 90% of the districts had higher failure rates than the year prior. Around one in three students at Milwaukee Public Schools, according to the district, failed the fall semester. At Wausau Public Schools, around one in four middle school and high school students failed a course (a quadruple increase from the prior year).