Chicago’ teacher contract shows why Scott Walker got it right (with act 10)

David Blaska: [The contract] will boost Chicago teacher compensation — already among the highest in the nation … to nearly $100,000. (By contrast, the median Chicago household earns $52,000.) Teachers will now be permitted to bank an incredible 244 sick days (up from 40) and claim full pension credit for those days upon retirement, creating … Continue reading Chicago’ teacher contract shows why Scott Walker got it right (with act 10)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sets goal of topping nation in high school grads in four years

Molly Beck: Gov. Scott Walker said he wants Wisconsin high school students to graduate at a rate higher than any other state in the nation by the end of his third term should he be re-elected this fall. Walker, who in an interview late Monday called himself “an education governor,” set the goal to coincide … Continue reading Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sets goal of topping nation in high school grads in four years

At Democratic forum Matt Flynn says Scott Walker will eat Tony Evers for lunch

Matthew De Four: It wasn’t until the end of Wednesday night’s Democratic gubernatorial forum at the Madison Public Library that someone took a swing at the candidate who has led in all of the polls. Former party chairman Matt Flynn in his closing statement called State Superintendent Tony Evers “Republican lite” and criticized him for … Continue reading At Democratic forum Matt Flynn says Scott Walker will eat Tony Evers for lunch

Supreme Court gives win to Tony Evers over Gov. Scott Walker in case challenging authority

Molly Beck: “The constitution creates the role of a state superintendent and gives the superintendent authority to supervise public instruction. That is all the constitution confers upon the superintendent,” Bradley wrote. “The majority creates a dangerous precedent. It brandishes its superintending authority like a veto over laws it does not wish to apply. In doing … Continue reading Supreme Court gives win to Tony Evers over Gov. Scott Walker in case challenging authority

Democrats say they would repeal Act 10 if they unseat Scott Walker

Patrick Marley: The Democrats running for governor are pledging to end GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s union restrictions, while Walker is promising to veto any changes to Act 10 if he wins re-election and Democrats take control of the Legislature. Act 10 — adopted amid massive protests shortly after Walker took office in 2011 — brought … Continue reading Democrats say they would repeal Act 10 if they unseat Scott Walker

Scott Walker vs. Tony Evers: The governor and a Democratic challenger go before the Supreme Court

Patrick Marley: Attorneys for Evers contended Schimel and his aides were violating ethics rules for lawyers because they were not pursuing the case in the way Evers wanted, were not conferring with him and did not honor his decision to fire them. Past court rulings have determined the schools superintendent has broad authority and that … Continue reading Scott Walker vs. Tony Evers: The governor and a Democratic challenger go before the Supreme Court

Gov. Scott Walker, AG Brad Schimel block Tony Evers from getting his own attorney

Patrick Marley: Superintendent Evers should welcome greater accountability at (his Department of Public Instruction), not dodge it,” Evenson said in his email. “It’s not politics, it’s the law.” The lawsuit centers on the powers of Evers. It was brought Monday by two teachers and members of the New London and Marshfield school boards, represented by … Continue reading Gov. Scott Walker, AG Brad Schimel block Tony Evers from getting his own attorney

UW-Madison wins, UW-Milwaukee and Parkside lose under Scott Walker’s performance funding plan

Karen Herzog: Consider the highly touted goal the UW System announced in April 2010 to boost the number of four-year degree holders in Wisconsin. At the time, 26% of Wisconsin residents had a four-year college degree — a bit lower than the national average and significantly less than the 32% of Minnesota residents with a … Continue reading UW-Madison wins, UW-Milwaukee and Parkside lose under Scott Walker’s performance funding plan

Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would shift Wisconsin’s approach to school funding

Jason Stein and Erin Richards: Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would do more than just increase state aid to schools — it would also double down on a significant change to how that aid gets divvied up among districts. Under the GOP governor’s two-year budget bill, the state would put $509 million more into a relatively … Continue reading Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would shift Wisconsin’s approach to school funding

Scott Walker proposes 5% tuition cut, $135 million more in funding for University of Wisconsin System

Karen Herzog and Jason Stein: After extending a tuition freeze into a fifth year for resident undergraduates at University of Wisconsin System campuses, Gov. Scott Walker announced Tuesday that he wants to cut tuition by 5% beginning in fall 2018. He said he would make up for the lost tuition dollars by giving campuses $35 … Continue reading Scott Walker proposes 5% tuition cut, $135 million more in funding for University of Wisconsin System

Wisconsin schools chief urges Scott Walker to veto education measures

Erin Richards: Education issues have been some of the most controversial elements of the 2015-’17 state budget. The proposal calls for allowing much more public money to flow to private, mostly religious schools while keeping public school funding mostly flat. Public schools would see a modest increase in funding in the second year of the … Continue reading Wisconsin schools chief urges Scott Walker to veto education measures

Scott Walker Is Undermining Academic Freedom at the University of Wisconsin

Nancy Kendall: Walker has said that the proposed tenure changes will provide “more autonomy” for the UW system’s Board of Regents (the governing body that oversees the UW system) and for chancellors to manage the cuts. It would do so by allowing tenured faculty to be laid off at the discretion of the chancellors and … Continue reading Scott Walker Is Undermining Academic Freedom at the University of Wisconsin

They really are the party of stupid: The real story behind Scott Walker’s war on higher education

Heather Cox Richardson: Movement Conservatives made Reagan’s anti-intellectualism an article of faith. Although George W. Bush held degrees from both Yale and Harvard, his supporters portrayed him as an outsider from Texas, cutting brush on his newly purchased Texas ranch. Movement Conservative personalities increasingly made whipping boys of members of the “liberal academy,” with hosts … Continue reading They really are the party of stupid: The real story behind Scott Walker’s war on higher education

Jerry Brown, Scott Walker confronting universities

Dan Walters: Brown, meanwhile, is negotiating privately with Napolitano – herself a former governor of Arizona – to see whether compromise is reachable. A first increment of the threatened tuition increase has been postponed, but publicly Napolitano is threatening to cap admissions by California students. The amount of state UC aid involved is relatively tiny … Continue reading Jerry Brown, Scott Walker confronting universities

Scott Walker, and the problem with valuing credentials over competence

Edward Morrissey: My father hadn’t followed his own advice. He dropped out of the University of Arizona much like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did later at Marquette, closer to a degree than I ever got, for personal reasons unrelated to academic achievement. He went into the aerospace industry and spent 29 years working on the … Continue reading Scott Walker, and the problem with valuing credentials over competence

Court rules against measure letting Scott Walker halt school administrative rules

Patrick Marley: Parents of students and members of teachers unions sued Walker over the law as it applied to rules put together by the Department of Public Instruction, which is headed by Evers. Walker is a Republican and Evers is aligned with Democrats, though his post is officially nonpartisan. The state constitution says that “the … Continue reading Court rules against measure letting Scott Walker halt school administrative rules

What choice schools don’t like about Scott Walker’s voucher plan

Alan Borsuk: An important thing to understand about Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal for making an unlimited number of private school tuition vouchers available across Wisconsin is how unattractive, as a practical matter, his plan is to the schools that it could serve. An upcoming gusher of private school vouchers? More likely, as it stands, it … Continue reading What choice schools don’t like about Scott Walker’s voucher plan

Why Scott Walker’s allegedly mistaken attempt to change the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement is an omen for big changes to higher education in America

Alia Wong: Last Wednesday, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker released a biennium budget plan that had a strange twist nestled inside. This line item didn’t have much, if anything, to do with how he intended to spend the state’s money; it had no numbers, dollar signs, nor provisos. It did, however, deal ever-so-vaguely with Wisconsin’s … Continue reading Why Scott Walker’s allegedly mistaken attempt to change the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement is an omen for big changes to higher education in America

Dormant for now, expect Common Core to flare in next Scott Walker term

Alan Borsuk: January approaches and so, presumably, does the first hot round of education action of the second term of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. There will be many other rounds, especially by the time the state budget is completed in June. In solidly re-electing Walker on Tuesday, Wisconsin voters made clear which side is going … Continue reading Dormant for now, expect Common Core to flare in next Scott Walker term

Governor Scott Walker asks Wisconsin DPI to begin hearings on revoking license of teacher who viewed porn at school

Molly Beck:

Gov. Scott Walker has asked State Superintendent Tony Evers to begin hearings on revoking the teaching license of a Middleton teacher reinstated to his job earlier this month after being fired in 2010 for looking at pornographic images at school.
“After hearing from concerned parents, I am asking you to act efficiently in your investigation into the actions of Mr. Harris and to initiate revocation proceedings,” Walker wrote in a letter dated Jan. 28. “The arbitration process afforded to Mr. Harris failed the school district and the students. It has taken both a financial and emotional toll on the district. Cases, such as this one, are a good example of why our reforms are necessary.”
Walker also wrote cases like the one in Middleton “prompted me to sign 2011 Act 84 giving the State Superintendent clear authority to take action.”
The law allows the Department of Public Instruction to revoke a license for immoral conduct, defined under state law to include looking at pornography at school.

Democrats testing the waters for Scott Walker challengers, including Madison School Board Member Mary Burke

Patrick Marley:

With a recently leaked poll, the first contours of the 2014 race for governor are coming into view.
Democrats have contended for months that they see Gov. Scott Walker as vulnerable, but they have not offered a candidate to run against him. But last month a poll was conducted testing the viability of Mary Burke, a former state commerce secretary and former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive.
The poll was conducted around the same time an unknown person registered five Burke-themed Internet addresses, such as and None of the websites are active.
Burke, who was elected to the Madison School Board last year, has not responded to interview requests since the poll surfaced in June. Mike Tate, the chairman of the state Democratic Party, issued a statement at the time saying Democrats were conducting polls for “several potential strong challengers” to Walker.
Democrats are hungry for a victory after Walker became the first governor in the nation’s history to survive a recall election last year. Republicans are equally motivated to keep him in office after having to elect him twice for one term.
Democratic strategists said Burke is seriously considering a run but has not made a final decision. They noted others could run, but they hoped to have just one candidate to avoid a Democratic primary.
Democrats said they liked Burke’s background in business and economic development — as well as the personal funds she could bring to the race — while Republicans pointed to her ties to former Gov. Jim Doyle and other issues as matters they could exploit.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: Future voucher expansion should be based on student performance

Matthew DeFour:

“If the students are performing at or better than they were in the schools they came from, then that would be a compelling case to offer more choices like that to more families across the state,” Walker said. “If the majority are not performing better, you could make a pretty compelling argument not to.”
Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said work on an accountability bill is wrapping up and he hopes it will begin circulating for sponsors by the end of this month. He hopes hearings will be held in late summer and early fall with a bill sent to the governor by the end of the year.
“I hope that everyone comes away happy that this is the right thing to do,” Olsen said. “The voucher people want a bill like this because they’re only as good as their weakest school.”
Olsen said the bill will not only apply the report card system to schools participating in the voucher program, it will also make changes to the report card for public schools.
The report card released last fall didn’t measure high school student growth, because it was based on one test taken in 10th grade. The state budget the governor signed Sunday expands high school testing to grades nine and 11. The accountability bill will ensure future report cards include those tests, Olsen said.
Democrats have been skeptical that Republicans will follow through on holding private voucher schools accountable. Earlier this year Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, compared talk of a bill to Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.
In February, Walker told the State Journal editorial board that he hoped to sign a voucher school accountability bill before the budget was approved. That didn’t happen, but Walker said there was push back from the Legislature.

Much more on vouchers, here.

Madison progressive political machine hands Scott Walker another school victory

David Blaska:

Congratulations to Madison’s white power elite, especially to Democrats, organized labor, John Matthews and his teachers union. You very well may have elected a teachers union-first (“Collectively we decide …”), children second school board. You also just handed Scott Walker a powerful case for expanding private school vouchers.
What are you afraid of? That more parents might not choose the taxpayer-coerced public school monopoly? What do you expect, when you leave them no (ahem) … choice.
I would like to hold out hope that absentee ballots will make the difference, but 279 votes is probably too many for Wayne Strong to overcome to defeat Dean Loumos, who holds an 18,286 to 18,007 lead. If there are 1,333 absentee ballots that need to be counted, as the city clerk’s website advertises, Strong would have to beat Loumos 806 to 527 in those uncounted votes.
(BTW: Is this the new normal? As absentee voting becomes more popular, winners won’t be declared for a week after the election?)

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Wisconsin schools superintendent: Lawmakers should reject Scott Walker’s voucher expansion

Jason Stein:

Addressing the most contentious issue in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill, state Schools Superintendent Tony Evers on Thursday called on members of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to reject a proposed expansion of voucher schools and to give more money to public schools.
Citing figures from the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office, Evers said the $129 million in new state aid Walker included in his two-year budget bill drops to $39.2 million after accounting for how part of that money would go to private and charter schools under the proposal. Walker seeks to increase funding for existing and future voucher schools, expand them to nine new school districts and allow special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
At the same time, Walker wants to use the state public school aid to hold down local property taxes rather than increase spending on education.
Evers, who is running for re-election on April 2 against Rep. Don Pridemore (R-Erin), said Walker’s budget pitted public schools against private schools by increasing state funding for voucher school initiatives by 32% while keeping overall revenue to schools flat.
“This has to stop. The state cannot continue to play favorites. We can and must meet our constitutional obligation to invest in all of our kids,” Evers said.
In its third straight day of budget hearings, the Joint Finance Committee took testimony Thursday on Walker’s 2013-’15 budget proposals for Wisconsin’s K-12 schools, technical colleges and universities. The hearing made clear that the governor’s education proposals will face resistance from some senators in the Republican-controlled Senate and have strong support from Republicans in charge of the Assembly, leaving its future in doubt.

Key Senate Republicans say changes needed for Scott Walker’s Wisconsin voucher-expansion plans to pass

Erin Richards:

When Miriam Oakleaf was 10 months old, her parents noticed something was wrong.
By 2 1/2 she had been formally diagnosed with autism, epilepsy and a rare skin and central nervous system condition called linear nevus sebaceous syndrome.
Now 8 and in second grade at Crestwood Elementary School in Madison, Miriam’s schooling requires extensive support and planning from a variety of education professionals – administrators, therapists, teachers and aides – in addition to her parents.
The story of Miriam and children like her is at the heart of a $21 million proposal in Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget that would allow 5% of kids with disabilities in Wisconsin to attend private or public schools outside their home districts on a taxpayer-funded voucher.
The proposal has driven a wedge through the state’s network of special-needs parents. Some believe it would open up more schooling options for their children while others contend it will drain more resources from their local public schools.

There was more to Scott Walker’s fight with unions than speeches and protests

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley:

Hunkered down in Illinois to block labor legislation back in Wisconsin, 14 Democratic senators gathered in Libertyville two years ago for a secret meeting at a teachers union office.
Arriving at the Illinois Education Association branch on Feb. 26, 2011, some Democrats in the group were surprised to find that they would be strategizing not just among themselves but also with three labor officials. That trio included the incoming head of a national teachers association, the biggest union in the country, who had worked with the Wisconsin lawmakers in the past and had just registered to lobby them again.
One senator skipped the meeting out of concerns over appearance and propriety. The other lawmakers got a pitch from the union leaders on why they should stay in Illinois to prevent a vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to repeal most collective bargaining for most public employees.
“The undercurrent message was, ‘You’re winning; stay out,’ ” recalled former Democratic Sen. Jim Holperin of Conover, one of those attending the meeting.
Behind the scenes, there was more to the Republican governor’s fight with public employee unions than just Walker’s speeches and the massive protests of union supporters. An in-depth review reveals a rich backstory, including the undisclosed visit to Wisconsin by President Barack Obama’s campaign manager just before the effort to recall Walker; the role played by a conservative Milwaukee foundation in pushing labor legislation in Wisconsin and elsewhere; and the tension between Walker’s office and law enforcement over handling the demonstrations that greeted the governor’s proposal.
Walker emerged from the legislative fight and the subsequent recall election with a majority of support among Wisconsin voters, deep opposition from Democrats, and a hero’s status among conservatives nationally. Public worker unions lost fundamental powers and in some cases their official status altogether.

Scott Walker’s budget proposal could increase charter school growth

Alan Borsuk:

Just what is a charter school? That’s the question I get most often when I talk to people in the general public. It’s a good question. What’s going on with charter schools around here is both important and tough to grasp.
Gov. Scott Walker unveiled ideas last week for momentous steps related to education around the state as part of his budget proposal for the next two years.
One of them was not allowing public schools to spend more money for operations in the next two years than they’re spending now. I was betting Walker would back a modest increase, at least in line with increased state aid for schools. By not increasing what is called the revenue cap on schools, Walker effectively proposed using increased education aid for property tax relief, not education. That would mean putting public schools statewide in increasingly tight circumstances. Will Republicans in the Legislature accept that or moderate it? A big question for the coming months.
Another Walker proposal would allow launching private school vouchers in as many as nine more cities in the state (Milwaukee and Racine have them now). It’s very controversial and we’ll talk about it in coming weeks.
But Walker’s budget proposal also includes important charter school changes. Those have gotten less attention, so let’s focus on them here, mostly in the form of a primer on charters.

Wisconsin Governor: Scott Walker proposes expanding voucher school program, raising taxpayer support

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley:

Gov. Scott Walker is proposing increasing by at least 9% the taxpayer funding provided to private and religious voucher schools – an increase many times larger in percentage terms than the increase in state tax money he’s seeking for public schools.
The increase in funding for existing voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine, the first since 2009, comes as the Republican governor seeks to expand the program to nine new districts, including Waukesha, West Allis-West Milwaukee and Madison. Walker is also proposing allowing special-needs students from around the state to attend private schools at taxpayer expense.
Even after the proposed increase to voucher funding and the substantial cuts Walker and lawmakers approved for public schools in 2011, the aid provided to voucher schools would still be substantially less on a per-pupil basis than the overall state and local taxes provided to public schools.
But to provide that bigger increase to voucher schools, the Republican governor will need to persuade lawmakers to break a link in state law that currently binds the percentage increase in aid to voucher schools to the percentage increase in state general aid given to public schools.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Proposes a 1% K-12 Redistributed State Tax Dollar Spending Increase

Associated Press:

Gov. Scott Walker will propose a modest increase in funding for Wisconsin public schools in his budget to the Legislature on Wednesday, two years after his steep cuts and all but elimination of collective bargaining for teachers sparked the unsuccessful movement to recall Walker from office.
Walker is also making incentive money available, which could be used as incentive payments for teachers based on how well schools perform on state report cards, Walker told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.
Walker provided details of his education funding plan to the AP ahead of its public release Sunday. Not only will he put more money into K-12 schools in his two-year budget, Walker will increase funding for the University of Wisconsin System and technical colleges two years after their funding was also slashed.
The roughly 1 percent increase in aid to schools Walker is proposing comes after he cut aid by more than 8 percent in the first year of the last budget. Schools would get $129 million in aid under Walker’s plan, but total K-12 funding would go up $276 million

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding (2008).
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to propose modest increase in public school funding by Erin Richards & Scott Bauer::

Tom Beebe, project director for Opportunity to Learn Wisconsin, a liberal-leaning group and former executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, has been critical of Walker’s cuts to education.
He said the amount of general aid increase proposed for this next biennial budget – $129.2 million over two years – only amounts to about $161 for each of Wisconsin’s 800,000 public-school students.
“If the revenue cap does not go up, then there is no new money going to schools no matter how much aid increases,” Beebe said. “The increase in school funding simply goes to property taxpayers not into the classroom.”
Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, said the modest increase was really just keeping overall revenue for schools flat.
“The stagnant revenue on top of the largest cuts to education funding in Wisconsin history in the last budget is another clear indication that this governor has no intention of supporting neighborhood schools,” Bell said in a statement.
“(Walker’s) real focus is privatizing public education with another infusion of resources to the unaccountable taxpayer-funded private school voucher program while leaving our neighborhood public schools on life support,” she added.

Scott Walker Tilts K-12 Education Toward the Needs of Business

Rebecca Kemble:

Under Scott Walker’s reign in Wisconsin, multinational corporations are given undue influence over public policy. Nowhere is this more evident than in public education. Some of the largest corporations in the world – GE, Caterpillar, Koch Industries – have privileged seats at Walker’s policy table, but they don’t necessarily show up themselves. Instead, they activate a whole network of local actors to do their bidding.
In his seminal work, Propaganda (1928), the “Father of Public Relations” Edward Louis Bernays wrote:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.

Putting ideology aside, how have Wisconsin’s K-12 policies over the past few decades improved student learning, at all?

Madison Teachers, Inc. Executive Director John Matthews on the achievement gap, Act 10 and Scott Walker

Pat Schneider:

CT: What about the training and capabilities of Madison school teachers and how they deliver in the classroom day to day — is there room for improvement there?
JM: Well, there’s always room for improvement — there’s room for improvement in what I do. I can only say that the Madison School District has invested all kinds of things in professional development. One thing teachers tell us if they have time to work together, they can make strides. I found early in my career if I’m having a teacher identified as having a performance problem, ask the principal who is the best at doing what they want this teacher to do. Then you go to that teacher and say: “You have a colleague who needs help, will you take them under your wing?” I don’t have access to any of what they talk about, management doesn’t have access to that — it’s been a remarkably successful venture.
CT: In discussion of the achievement gap in Madison I’ve heard from African-American parents up and down the economic spectrum who say that their children are met at school with low expectations that really hamper their performance.
JM: I’ve heard that too. The Madison School District has an agreed-upon mandatory cultural course that people have to take. But there are people in society who don’t like to be around other races. I don’t see that when teachers are together. And we have a variety of people who are leaders in MTI — either Asian or Indian or black — but there are people who have different expectations from people who are different from them.
CT: Does the union have a role in dealing with teachers whose lowered expectations of students of color might contribute to the achievement gap?
JM: The only time MTI would get involved is if somebody was being criticized for that, we’d likely be involved with that; if someone were being disciplined for that, we would be involved. We’ve not seen that.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other state leaders concerned with education should work toward a common school evaluation system.

Milwaukee Journal – Sentinel:

Wisconsin needs a new system of school accountability, but implementing effective measures will be difficult because there are so many different ideas about what it takes to make a good school.
The best schools have high standards in the basics – reading, math, science and writing. But they also excel at art, music and gym. They are places with strong leadership, inspired teachers and an organic system of training and mentoring.
To create more such schools and hold all schools accountable in a fair manner, though, requires all those with an interest in that issue to be at the table. Unfortunately, that’s not the case now.
When Gov. Scott Walker and State Superintendent Tony Evers formed a team to improve school accountability, the Wisconsin Education Association Council chose to sit this one out.
We get it: The state’s largest teachers union has plenty of reason to be upset with Walker for stripping it and other public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights – and for cutting funding to schools. But we still think the union’s refusal to take a place at the table was a mistake. The union needs to be involved in such efforts. Now, it’s on the outside looking in.

Wisconsin’s current assessment system is the oft-criticized WKCE, which has some of our nation’s lowest standards.
A Closer Look at Wisconsin’s Test Scores Reveals Troubling Trend by Christian D’Andrea.
WEAC’s Mary Bell advocates a “holistic” approach to school accountability.

Scott Walker Tilts School Accountability Standards to Favor Charter and Private Schools

Rebecca Kemble:

Scott Walker is now waging his war on public education by coming up with accountability standards that favor charter and private schools. His School and District Accountability Design Team consists of thirty business and education professionals from across the state.
The Design Team is led by “Quad-Chairs” Governor Scott Walker, Senator Luther Olsen, chair of the Senate Education Committee, Representative Steve Kestell, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, and Tony Evers, State Superintendent of Schools in Wisconsin. The proceedings are being facilitated by a team of high-paid consultants working with the American Institute for Research (AIR), a company that racked up $299 million in revenue for the 2009 fiscal year.

Arne Duncan Meetings With Rahm Emanuel, Scott Walker Don’t Address Teachers Union Controversy

Joy Resmovits:

Stopping in areas notorious for volatile labor relations this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrapped up his Great Lakes bus tour in Milwaukee and Chicago on Friday with little talk of teachers union battles.
In Milwaukee, Duncan was joined by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who outraged educators by signing a budget in June that severely limited their collective bargaining rights, at a town hall event focused on connecting learning to career skills.
“All of us feel your presence today but appreciate your interest in Milwaukee and particularly the Milwaukee Public School system,” Walker said in the library of Milwaukee’s School of Career and Technical Education.
“You’ve done some things we agree with, and you’ve done some things that we don’t agree with,” Duncan said, addressing Walker. “Limiting collective bargaining rights is not the right way to go,” he added, garnering applause.

Scott Walker and Mitch Daniels on Public Employee Unions

Ira Stoll:

The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, and the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, were both in New York City earlier this week for a Manhattan Institute conference about a “new social contract” with public employees.
Mr. Walker spoke first. He said the changes enacted in Wisconsin that had opponents sitting in and sleeping over in the state capital in protest earlier this year had saved $1.44 billion for state and local governments combined. He said school districts had used the savings to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes and to offer merit pay.
Mr. Walker said voters are looking for “not Republican leadership, not Democrat leadership, they just want leadership.”
Mr. Walker contrasted his approach with that of Governor Patrick Quinn, a Democrat, of Wisconsin’s neighbor Illinois, who “laid off thousands” of state workers after “massive tax increases.”

WEAC head Mary Bell stands up to Gov. Scott Walker with sometimes controversial tactics

Roger Bybee:

Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, is quiet and thoughtful in one-on-one conversations. She’s a middle-aged, cheery, bespectacled woman whose dimpled face is surrounded by a thick corona of whitish-gray hair.
But when fighting for her members, Bell forcefully projects her belief in teachers’ right to respect, decent pay and union representation. At a rally with tens of thousands at the Capitol on a snowy, bitter Feb. 26, Bell expressed outrage at Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals for the near-total stripping of union rights for teachers, librarians, highway workers, prison guards and other public workers across the state. Yet her anger was tempered by her humor and her belief in Wisconsinites’ fundamental commitment to fairness and public education.
The rhetoric Mary Bell used that day about “Wisconsin values” was no stretch for her, because she perceives herself as a typical Wisconsinite, sharply different from the image of the insular Madison insider, as Walker likes to portray his enemies.

Reforming Wisconsin education Gov. Scott Walker and state schools superintendent Tony Evers should be inclusive in their efforts.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Creating a new system of accountability for schools in Wisconsin could be a great help to parents and school districts and, thus, an important educational reform for the state. If the new system is fair and done right, it would provide plenty of clear information on which schools are achieving the right outcomes.
Ideally, it would measure schools not only on whether they have met certain standards but how much students and schools have improved over a certain time period. It also would measure all schools that receive public funding equally – public, charter and voucher – so that families would have the information they need to make good choices. That’s all important.
Gov. Scott Walker, state schools superintendent Tony Evers and others have signed on to create a new school accountability system and to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Education to allow the system to replace the decade-old, federally imposed one they say is broken. The feds should give that approval, and the state should move forward with this reform and others.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s school choice bills face some hurdles

Susan Troller:

Republican Gov. Scott Walker will be on a national education stage tonight to tout his efforts to expand charter school and voucher programs, but he is running into obstacles back home, and not just from those you might expect.
At an Assembly Education Committee hearing last week, for example, a bill Walker backs that would allow parents of special education students to use state tax dollars to pay for private school tuition hit significant roadblocks. In fact, the Republican chair of the committee, Rep. Steve Kestell of Elkhart Lake, called the funding mechanism for the legislation in its current form a “fatal flaw” in a telephone interview Friday.
“The bill is an intriguing proposal,” Kestell says. “Where we have a big challenge is how to pay for it.”
Kestell and other representatives grilled the authors of the bill during committee testimony. The language of the proposal appears to be taken fairly literally from generic legislation used in other states that have passed special education voucher programs. Kestell says the legislation would have to be “Wisconsinized” to be acceptable.
The bill was also sharply criticized by disability rights groups, who say it would strip hard-won legal rights from families with special-needs children, and by the state Department of Public Instruction, which faults the bill for demanding no accountability from private schools for actually providing the special education services that would be the basis for the vouchers.

Gov. Scott Walker can thank Michelle Rhee for making teachers unions the enemy

Richard Kahlenberg:

Education writer explains how the former D.C. schools chief helped stoke anti-union fires
A half-century ago, Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to pass legislation allowing collective bargaining for public employees, including educators. At the time, teachers across the country, who make up a significant share of public employees, were often underpaid and mistreated by autocratic administrators. In the fight for greater dignity, union leaders such as Albert Shanker in New York City linked teacher unionization to the fledgling civil rights movement.
Today, Wisconsin is again at the forefront of a union battle – this time in Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to cut his state’s budget deficit in part by curtailing collective bargaining for teachers and other public employees. How did it become okay, once more, to vilify public-sector workers, especially the ones who are educating and caring for our children?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin Governor Candidates Tom Barrett and Scott Walker: Both run as budget hawks

Jack Craver:

A couple weeks ago Scott Walker proudly released Milwaukee County’s budget numbers, which showed the county with a surplus, after a deficit had been projected at the beginning of the year.
Not to be beaten (unless there’s a metal pipe around) Tom Barrett released the city of Milwaukee’s numbers today:

WisPolitics Lunch (2/3/2006): Mark Green and Scott Walker is hosting a lunch for Republican Gubernatorial candidates Mark Green and Scott Walker who are facing off to run against incumbent Democrat Jim Doyle this fall. Cost is $15 for Madison Club members and $19 for non-members. Call Loretta to RSVP at the Madison Club, 608-255-4861. This is perhaps one of the best local … Continue reading WisPolitics Lunch (2/3/2006): Mark Green and Scott Walker

Scott Milfred talks Madison Prep, Walker recall, Iowa results on “For the Record”

Wisconsin State Journal:

Click here to watch Sunday’s “For the Record” on WISC-TV (Ch. 3) with Neil Heinen. Panelists include State Journal editorial page editor Scott Milfred, Republican insider Brandon Schulz and The Progressive editor Matt Rothschild. They bantered about the recent Iowa caucus results, the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin, the likely gubernatorial recall and the coming Madison School Board elections, which Milfred argues are likely to decide whether a charter school called Madison Preparatory Academy opens its doors.”

Walker calls for extending UW tuition freeze in next state budget

Nico Savidge: Gov. Scott Walker says he wants to extend the freeze on University of Wisconsin System tuition for another two years. The Republican governor also told UW and most other state agencies they should not anticipate any new funding in his next budget. UW officials and supporters have called for greater state funding for … Continue reading Walker calls for extending UW tuition freeze in next state budget

Madison elementary art teacher posts students’ anti-Walker cartoons

Ryan Ekvall, via a kind reader email:

Some kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders in Madison public schools are apparently preparing for futures in either political cartooning or time on a psychiatrist’s couch.
Kati Walsh, an elementary art teacher at the Madison Metropolitan School District in July posted some of her students’ drawings of Gov. Scott Walker in jail. Walsh suggests her young Rembrandts’ ideas for their sketches popped up out of thin air.
“One student said something to the effect of ‘Scott Walker wants to close all the public schools’… So the rest of the class started drawing their own cartoons and they turned very political. They have very strong feelings about Scott Walker,” the teacher wrote on her blog.

Remarkable. I am in favor of a wide ranging, free thinking education for our future generations, after they have mastered reading….. Some teachers deal with ideology very well, others not so much.

Governor Walker’s bait-and-switch budget has nothing new for public school children

Tom Beebe:

Question: When is $129 million not $129 million?
Answer: When it is the additional aid Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker promised to send to the state’s public schools.
Despite the Governor’s claimed increase for 2013-15─an anemic and inadequate one percent even if true─it is really only $39 million …. a paltry half-percent increase or $44.83 per student even if schools could spend it (but more on that later).
This is a cruel joke on kids who only want a quality education. It is also public policy that calls into question the moral commitment of the administration to public education.

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.

Dear Governor Walker

Ripon, WI Superintendent Richard Zimman:

A few weeks ago, while attending the annual WASB Convention in Milwaukee, I was in the audience when Governor Scott Walker addressed the attendees. It took me a while to jot down the thoughts I had while listening to the governor’s speech, but today I was finally able to send this letter to Governor Walker.
Dear Governor Walker:
Recently you spoke to school board members, school superintendents, and school business managers at the 92nd annual Wisconsin Education Convention held in Milwaukee. In reference to school funding, you said that your 2013-15 biennial budget would increase funding for all schools. There was widespread applause at the hope of receiving adequate money to keep pace with rising costs associated with educating our youth. Thank you for any assistance you can give us in this area so that we do not have to further cut programs and opportunities for students due to lack of funds.
You also indicated that you were looking at giving “bonus” funds to schools which scored well on the new DPI report cards since those schools, teachers, and administrators who were getting good results should be rewarded for their efforts. While this idea of a “bonus” for those schools which are getting better results may seem to follow market-driven tenets, it is actually an example of what happens when market forces are replaced by government-driven controls that tip the balance to favor some at the expense of others.

Much more on Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman, here.

Urban League’s David Cagigal to Join Walker’s Team

Allen Ruff, via a kind email

An interesting little tid-bit has been bounced my way – a notice going out to various Wisconsin state agencies from Mike Huebsch, Scott Walker’s Secretary of Administration, to various Wisconsin agencies announcing the appointment of David Cagigal as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the state’s Division of Enterprise Technology (DET). Cagigal is scheduled to begin in his new position on November 19th.

Walker, UW System announce online degree model

In an announcement that could have implications for the affordability of education and professional development, and possibly help address the skills gap, Gov. Scott Walker, University of Wisconsin System President Kevin P. Reilly, and UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross have announced a competency-based degree model that they claim will transform higher education in Wisconsin.
Under the self-paced, competency-based model, students will be allowed to start classes anytime and earn credit for what they already know. Students will be able to demonstrate college-level competencies based on material they already learned in school, on the job, or on their own.

Madison West High activists form Students for Wisconsin political action committee to take on Walker; Paul Vallas Visit

Dean Robbins

We’ve heard pundits and politicians weigh in on Gov. Scott Walker’s nearly $1 billion cuts to Wisconsin schools. But what do Walker’s policies look like to the people most affected by them — the kids sitting at their desks with No. 2 pencils and hope for the future?
Now we know. A group of precocious students at Madison’s West High School have created a political action committee called Students for Wisconsin and duly registered it with the state’s Government Accountability Board. They have an impressive website that lays out issues and goals and encourages visitors to get involved (extra credit for the Lyndon Johnson quote about the vital importance of education).

Matthew DeFour:

United Way president Leslie Howard said the talk was initially billed as “a very informal event.” But when it learned of the public policy issues that would be raised, Howard said, the charity determined it didn’t have time to put the the matter before its board to review, so it backed out.
Howard stressed that the United Way was not taking a position on Vallas’ views, pro or con.
“We take very seriously and are extremely judicious on taking a position on any public policy issue related to the issues we’re concerned about,” Howard said. “We just weren’t in a position to go through the process.”
T.J. Mertz, a local education blogger and liberal activist, contacted the United Way last week with concerns about the organization’s involvement.

Behind the rhetoric: How Walker’s union limits affected school budgets

Dave Umhoefer:

Gov. Scott Walker and his recall critics may as well be on different planets when it comes to describing how local schools fared under his budget.
Walker tells audiences that most schools got far more savings from his controversial collective bargaining limits — money-saving “tools” in Walker’s phrasing — than they suffered in cuts from his budget.
Democratic Party officials and their allies say schools all over the state suffered “devastating” aid cuts, and Walker recall opponent Tom Barrett says education was “gutted.”
After examining the issue and doing extensive interviews with 17 Milwaukee-area school districts, it’s clear both sides are exaggerating.
But answering the bottom line question of whether the “tools” outweighed the cuts is elusive

Madison Teachers Inc. finds ‘one more reason to recall’ Walker

Todd Finkelmeyer:

The leadership of Madison Teachers Inc. is letting its membership know it has unearthed yet another reason to recall Gov. Scott Walker.
In its weekly “Solidarity!” newsletter that was mailed out Friday, the union warns how administrative rules recently released by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission related to the implementation of Act 10 could result in teachers’ pay being cut.
“This is causing a lot of angst,” says John Matthews, executive director of MTI.
“This could be very bad for teachers,” adds state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, who sits on the Assembly’s Committee on Education. “These rules allow for teachers’ base pay to be redefined, and I think that’s absurd.”
The roots of this story reach back to last summer, when Act 10 eliminated most public employees’ ability to collectively bargain over virtually anything except “base wages.” Even then, workers are limited to bargaining over raises that can’t exceed the consumer price index (CPI), unless voters approve a hike via a referendum.
After receiving requests to explain what “base wages” could be bargained over, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) — a state agency designed to settle labor disputes — worked on rules to clarify the matter.

Education expected to be a ‘major issue’ in Walker recall election

Matthew DeFour:

Education is shaping up to be a key, yet complicated, issue in the upcoming recall election of Gov. Scott Walker.
Democrats vying to oust the first-term Republican say his cuts to state education funding are a top issue in the campaign, and it’s as important or even more so than the issue that sparked the recall effort — the governor’s rollback of public employee collective bargaining.
“It’s the major issue in the campaign why we’re recalling the governor,” said Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, one of four Democrats in the May 8 primary. “It comes back to the issue of priorities.”
But Walker is telling voters the cuts were necessary to balance the state budget, and that collective bargaining changes have allowed school districts to become more efficient.
In recent weeks he’s taken the fight to the state’s largest teachers union over how to interpret the impact of the cuts. In a recent campaign ad he highlighted that school property taxes declined 1 percent this year statewide.

2012’s Act 166 is Wisconsin’s most substantive K-12 change in decades. Learn more, here.

Unions ask Democrats in Walker recall to make veto pledge

Jason Stein:

Union leaders are asking Democratic candidates for governor to veto the next state budget if it doesn’t restore collective bargaining for public workers and one leading candidate – Kathleen Falk – has agreed, participants in the private meetings say.
The plan, which could lead to shortages or even layoffs in government if it doesn’t succeed, is a key strategy that union leaders are considering for undoing Gov. Scott Walker’s repeal last year of most collective bargaining for public employees. Falk, the former Dane County executive, has committed to restoring collective bargaining in the next state budget and vetoing the budget if those provisions come out, while at least three other candidates including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said they wouldn’t commit to any one strategy to accomplish that.
“The governor’s job is to veto budget items that don’t reflect citizens’ values. That’s why a million people signed recall petitions – because Scott Walker’s budgets didn’t reflect citizens’ values,” Falk spokesman Scot Ross said. “All the support she’ll receive is because she the best candidate to take on Gov. Walker’s divisive, extreme, national tea party agenda and bring Wisconsin back together.”
Unions helped launch the recall effort against Walker in November in response to Walker’s labor legislation, and the state teachers union on Wednesday endorsed Falk in that looming contest. All the potential Democratic challengers to Walker support restoring collective bargaining, but they don’t all agree on how to make that happen.

Wisconsin Governor Walker says education bill based on task forces is nearing

Erin Richards:

Before a crowd of hundreds of school district officials and school board members in Milwaukee, Gov. Scott Walker announced Thursday that recommendations from a variety of state education task forces will soon be solidified in formal legislation.
The work of three main groups spearheaded by Walker over the past year – a reading task force, a team that’s looked at how to design a statewide teacher and principal evaluation system, and a group figuring out how to rate school quality – will make up a reform package of education legislation, Walker said.
Meanwhile, some critics questioned the governor’s tone of collaboration and cooperation Thursday, saying that after cutting education spending and limiting collective bargaining, he’s trying to play nice now only because he’s likely facing a recall election.
Even state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who has worked closely with Walker on the task forces and praised the work of those involved, made it clear he was concerned about being left out of the legislation-drafting process.

Matthew DeFour:

The proposed legislative reforms have been developed over the past year by three statewide task forces working separately on improving literacy, developing a teacher evaluation model and creating a school accountability system to replace No Child Left Behind.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who helped lead all three groups, said he wasn’t involved in drafting the education legislation, but would support any actions that are the direct product of the task forces “and deliver on the intent of these collaborative groups.”
“Many students’ schools are already planning for more budget cuts next year on top of cuts made this year,” Evers said in a statement. “Education reforms must be fully funded and not simply be more unfunded mandates that result in further cuts to educational programming for our students.”
Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts, D-Middleton, ranking Democrat on the Assembly Education Committee, said in a statement she has concerns the work of the task forces was “being hijacked for political gain.”
“It is unnerving to hear that (Evers) was not consulted during the drafting of this legislation,” Pope-Roberts said. “Cutting our state’s foremost education experts out of the process at this time is very shortsighted and reckless.”

Much more on the Read to Lead Task Force, here.

Survey finds school districts have taken hits; Walker touts reforms

Tom Tolan:

A new survey of the majority of the state’s school districts shows many of them were forced to make staff reductions and increase class sizes as a result of school aid cuts in Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget, according to the state Department of Public Instruction and a school administrators association.
But the governor’s office, briefed Wednesday afternoon on the survey to be announced at a Thursday news conference, says the Walker administration’s reforms are working and points out that the majority of teacher layoffs have been in districts that didn’t adopt the reforms – notably in Milwaukee, Kenosha and Janesville.
The survey, by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, was conducted in the early fall of the current school year, after the state Legislature passed a two-year budget that trimmed $749 million in aid to public school districts, in addition to reductions in the limits of what districts can levy in property taxes.
The survey was sent to administrators in all 424 state school districts, and 83% of the districts responded.

Wisconsin shed about 3,400 education positions this year, triple the number from last year. At least one-third of the state’s districts increased elementary class sizes. And at least four in 10 districts are using one-time federal stimulus funds to balance their budgets.
But there have been no widespread reductions in course offerings, and the number of students per teacher, librarian and counselor remained about the same.
Those are the findings of a statewide survey of school superintendents about their 2011-12 budgets. Two-thirds of those responding to the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators survey anticipate next year’s staff cuts will be as bad or worse than this year.
The survey didn’t ask about property taxes, but the Legislative Fiscal Bureau has projected an average increase of just 0.6 percent on the December tax bills, far less than the average 4.84 percent annual increase over the previous decade.

Wisconsin Governor Walker:

Today the Department of Public Instruction released the data for a survey done by the Wisconsin Association of Schools District Administrators. The administrators for 353 school districts responded, which accounts for 83% of Wisconsin school districts. The median student to teacher ratio in Wisconsin this year is 13.5 to 1. Attached is a copy of the survey questions, and the raw data responses.

Wisconsin Governor Walker taking schools backward

WEAC President Mary Bell:

Anyone following what’s been happening in Wisconsin’s public schools can see what Gov. Scott Walker’s $1.6 billion budget cut and extreme policies have meant for our students and communities.
Across the state, class sizes are on the rise and students have fewer opportunities — including in key areas such as reading, math and science.
Walker has taken an ax to our public schools, while at the same time increasing taxpayer funding of private schools. He’s turned his back on the Wisconsin tradition of valuing public education. As a result, his extreme policies are hurting our students.
The governor says everything is fine, but we can see for ourselves that he’s not telling the whole story. With 97 percent of local school districts receiving less state aid this year, and a promise of more cuts next year, local schools will continue to struggle.

Wisconsin Governor Walker slated for NBC News ‘Education Nation’ Summit

Susan Troller:

Gov. Scott Walker will be featured as part of a bipartisan slate of governors during a panel discussion of The State of Education during NBC News’ 2011 “Education Nation” Summit on Monday, Sept. 26. The annual summit will continue on Sept. 27 as well.
NBC News’ Brian Williams will host the discussion, which focuses on education and economic competitiveness.
In a press release sent from the governor’s office Tuesday, Walker says “I believe we have a great story to tell about our reforms and our bipartisan collaborations to further improve our schools. … Improving education is a key to ensuring we have a talented workforce that will grow and attract jobs.”
According to the release, among the topics to be discussed are some highly controversial, hot-button Wisconsin issues, including budget cuts, the role of teachers unions, teacher effectiveness, charter schools and online learning. Other issues include college and career preparation, Common Core standards, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Don’t let Walker take credit for teachers’ good work

Nick Zweifel:

Now that Gov. Scott Walker’s major cuts for public schools have been enacted, my question for my fellow educators is: What do we do next? I am sick and tired of constantly reacting to bad news and bad policy and always being in the position of having to play defense. Educators and school districts should organize to go on the offensive.
Walker’s budget has significantly damaged one of the best public education systems in the country. He turned half of our community members against us using false information, and now we will be fighting a public relations battle while also working harder to educate students with fewer resources.
Through all of this, we Wisconsin educators will still stand tall and deliver a top-notch education for the children of this state, regardless of what Walker has done, because that is what Wisconsin professional educators do.
My fear is that after we deliver, Walker and his minions will use the media and their bully pulpit to take all the credit for the successes that we will achieve in our classrooms. I can see the headlines now of Walker proclaiming how well his budget cuts worked because schools are performing well under his budget.
So what do we do? What should our strategy be? Here are some suggestions:

Glenn Grothman – Wisconsin State Senator or Walker Education Policy Puppet?


In a letter to constituents, and Wednesday on “Sly in the Morning“, Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) extolled the education-saving virtues of Act 10, saying it was “…the best thing we could do for our public schools.” Grothman went on to say that “Wisconsin Schools are just not that great right now,” citing recent test scores as signs of an education emergency that only eliminating collective bargaining could remedy. Specifically noting that the “…most recent test scores show that black kids have the worst scores in the country…” and “…white kids scored lower than the national average.” Grothman stated his belief that collective bargaining is a roadblock to student achievement that had to be removed – for the sake of the kids. According to Grothman, there are too many “bad teachers” protected by unions that are “too hard to get rid of,” and that “people shouldn’t need an Education degree to teach.”
After speaking with Senator Grothman today two things are very clear – first, he was not very familiar with the full data from the scores, admitting that Governor Walker seemed to have “cherry picked” the scores he cited. The Senator was merely repeating the information he was given by Scott Walker, trusting its accuracy – even out of context. The other issue that was perfectly clear is that he (and the other Republicans) are behaving as puppets to Scott Walker and the Corporatics pulling HIS strings – believing every bit of misinformation being fed to them to demonize teachers and their unions. The best thing for Wisconsin and our children is for this propaganda to be exposed and debunked, so that a real debate about education can take place. For the record, this information was shared with Senator Grothman today.

Can’t blame WEAC for not trusting Walker on school accountability

Chris Rickert:

I feel you, Wisconsin Education Association Council; I don’t trust Gov. Scott Walker, either.
But so far as I know, he’s not trying to kill me.
This might be the key distinction in judging WEAC’s decision to skip out on a Walker-associated effort to devise an accountability system for Wisconsin schools; one would think the state’s largest teachers union would want to be a part of that.
Last week, WEAC president Mary Bell seemed to indicate it all came down to trust.
“How can we trust the governor to be a credible partner on education issues when they just passed laws to make massive cuts to school funding and silence our voices in schools?” she asked.

The upside and downside of Wisconsin Governor Walker’s education vision

Alan Borsuk:

A heat dome has settled over much of American education. Is Gov. Scott Walker just going to add to the stifling atmosphere? Or is Walker right that there are cool breezes in his ideas for how to increase school quality overall?
First, the national perspective: You would think by now, the heat would have been drained from some of the debate about what works in education, especially when it comes to serving urban kids. People have been working on this for decades. Haven’t we figured out answers yet?
In most ways, no. Even a lot of things that seem like answers haven’t been brought successfully to wide use. Things that look good on paper (or in a political speech) have often accomplished little in reality. The profoundly troubling march to perpetuating educational failure, for the most part, continues.
As disappointment grows, the debates between “education reformers” and those who think the “reformers” are going in the wrong directions often have been contentious. If you follow the tweets and postings and such, you’ll find occasional light but a lot of heated rhetoric. Add in this year’s wars over the pay, benefits and unions of public employees, combined with the hyperpartisan nature of the times, and you have an atmosphere that should carry health warnings.

Wisconsin Governor Walker instructs us on future of schools; Notes on Teacher Content Knowledge Requirements

Alan Borsuk:

Scott Walker, the governor who set the stage for a burst of educational excellence? The guy who helped teachers make their work more successful and more rewarding (at least intangibly)?
Goodness, turning those question marks into periods is going to be a project. It’s hard to imagine how Walker’s standing among teachers could be lower.
But Walker thinks that will be the verdict several years from now.
By winning (as of now) the epic battle to cut school spending and erase almost all collective bargaining powers for teachers, as well as other educational battles, Walker has changed the realities of life in just about every school in the state, including many private schools.
The focus through our tumultuous spring was on money, power and politics. Now the focus is shifting to ideas for changing education itself.
So what are Walker’s ideas on those scores?
In a 40-minute telephone interview a few days ago, Walker talked about a range of education questions. There will be strong criticism of a lot of what he stands for. Let’s deal with that in upcoming columns. For the moment, I’m going to give Walker the floor, since, so far this year, the tune he calls has been the tune that the state ends up playing. Here are some excerpts:

Much like our exploding federalism, history will certainly reveal how Walker’s big changes played out versus the mostly status quo K-12 world of the past few decades. One thing is certain: the next 10 years will be different, regardless of how the present politics play out.
I found the interview comments on the teacher climate interesting. Watching events locally for some time, it seems that there is a good deal more top down curricular (more) and pedagogy (teaching methods) dogma from administrators, ed school grants/research and others.
Other states, such as Minnesota and Massachusetts have raised the bar with respect to teacher content knowledge in certain subjects.
Wisconsin teacher license information.
Related: 2 Big Goals for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Governor Walker, education leaders seek new school evaluation system System would replace federally imposed system viewed as a failure

Alan Borsuk:

A system for providing clear, plentiful and sophisticated information for judging the quality of almost every school in Wisconsin, replacing a system that leaves a lot desired on all of those fronts – that is the goal of an eye-catching collaboration that includes Gov. Scott Walker, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, and leaders of eight statewide education organizations.
Walker and Evers said Friday that they will seek approval from the U.S. Department of Education to allow the new school accountability system to replace the decade-old, federally imposed one they labeled as broken.
They want at least a first version of the new system to be ready by spring, and to apply it to outcomes for schools in the 2011-’12 school year.
The new accountability program would include every school that accepts publicly funded students, which means that private schools taking part in the state-funded voucher program would, for the first time, be subject to the same rules as public schools for making a wealth of data available to the public. Charter schools and virtual schools would also participate.

WEAC sues over law giving Wisconsin Governor Walker power over DPI rules

Jason Stein:

Members of state teachers unions sued Thursday to block part of a law giving Gov. Scott Walker veto powers over rules written by other state agencies and elected officials.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal skirmishes between the GOP governor and public employee unions.
In the case, parents of students and members of the Wisconsin Education Association Council and Madison Teachers Inc. challenge the law for giving Walker the power to veto administrative rules written by any state agency. That law wrongly gives Walker that power over the state Department of Public Instruction headed by state schools superintendent Tony Evers, the action charges.
“The state constitution clearly requires that the elected state superintendent establish educational policies,” WEAC President Mary Bell, a plaintiff in the suit, said in a statement. “The governor’s extreme power grab must not spill over into education policy in our schools.”
The measure, which Walker signed in May, allows the governor to reject proposed administrative rules used to implement state laws.

Wisconsin Governor Walker plans to link job training money, local education reform

John Schmid:

Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday will announce a new policy to disburse hundreds of millions of dollars in federal job training funds each year – and will link the funds to reforms of local education curriculums.
The disclosure came Wednesday morning from Tim Sullivan, chief executive officer of Bucyrus International and the chairman of the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment, a state advisory panel. Sullivan spoke at a meeting of the Milwaukee 7 economic development group.
Under the current system, federal job training funds, disbursed by multiple federal agencies, are paid directly to five state agencies, which in turn have established formulas to spend their share.

Walker should take bulls-eye off the backs of teachers

Paul Fanlund:

Gesturing like a conductor, the Van Hise Elementary teacher exhorted her third-graders for answers while deftly involving a special-needs youngster.
I was in class as part of the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools’ “principal for a day” program, and I recall thinking: This would be a really tough job to do well day after day.
Teachers have always impressed me, apparently a lot more than they do Scott Walker.
The Republican governor continues to wage his cynical campaign against labor unions representing teachers and other public employees. The conflict rumbles on, with a judge ruling last week that the legislative vote to extinguish collective bargaining rights violated the state’s open meetings law.
The collateral damage to the morale and reputations of Wisconsin’s 60,000 or so classroom teachers seems of no concern to Walker and his allies inside and outside the state.
In fact, based on recent Walker press releases, teachers and teachers unions remain a prime target. In terms of there being a bulls-eye on teachers’ backs, just consider last week.

Wisconsin Governor Walker: Budget could expand school choice to other cities

Patrick Marley and Jason Stein:

Gov. Scott Walker wants to bring voucher schools to urban areas beyond Milwaukee, and predicts lawmakers will approve that expansion by the end of June.
“I think one of the things between now and the time we finish this (state) budget off at the end of June, we’re going to be able to add and go beyond the boundaries of the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County. We’re actually going to be able to add communities like Racine and Beloit and even Green Bay . . . because every one of those communities deserves a choice as well, and with this budget that’s exactly what they’re going to get,” Walker said in a Monday speech to school choice advocates in Washington, D.C.
The proposal comes at a time when Walker is proposing cutting public schools by $841 million over two years and injects a new campaign issue into attempts to recall nine state senators.
A day after Walker made his comments, the Assembly planned to eliminate the cap on the number of children who can participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. The 20-year-old system allows low-income children to use taxpayer-funded vouchers worth $6,442 each to attend private schools in Milwaukee, including religious schools.

Wisconsin Gov. Walker takes fight to privatize education to D.C.

John Nichols:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker continues to court national support for an extreme agenda of attacking public employees and public services while diminishing local democracy and shifting public money to private political allies. Despite the fact that Walker’s moves have been widely condemned in his home state, the hyper-ambitious career politician has repeatedly suggested that he will not moderate his positions because he wants to shift the tenor of politics and policymaking far beyond Wisconsin.
Walker’s stance has earned him talk as a possible dark-horse contender for a chance at the 2012 Republican nod, and the governor has not discouraged it.
To that end, Walker was in Washington Monday night to deliver a keynote address at the innocuously named American Federation for Children’s “School Choice Now: Empowering America’s Children” policy summit. It’s actually a key annual gathering of advocates for privatizing public education, and of some of the biggest funders of right-wing political projects nationally.
The appearance comes at a time when education cuts are becoming a front-and-center issue, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stirred an outcry in the nation’s largest city by proposing to lay off thousands of teachers.

Gov. Walker’s plan: ‘a slew of absurdities’

WEAC President Mary Bell:

For generations, Wisconsin has taken pride in the opportunities we offer children through our public schools. When students or schools are struggling, we work together to find solutions.
Wisconsin is at the top when it comes to ACT and Advanced Placement scores and graduation rates, and just last month, significant gains on test scores were reported along with a narrowing of achievement gaps between minority groups. That’s a foundation that should be built upon, not dismantled.
Gov. Scott Walker’s education plan included in his state budget proposal will move our students and state backward. Whether you have children in a public school or not, whether you are Democrat, Republican or somewhere in between, children are counting on the state to do what’s right. Public education must remain a top priority.
For months, Wisconsinites have been telling their legislators that we believe there is a better way – a balanced way – to respond to tough fiscal times without throwing away our tradition of high-quality public education. Linda Copas of Plainfield pointed out to the Joint Finance Committee that in her small school district, the number of students who live in poverty has more than doubled, but the governor’s education plan ignores that. Kim Schroeder, a Milwaukee teacher, said his students are losing opportunities such as gym, art and music.

Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts: Walker’s budget numbers for schools flawed

Sondy Pope-Roberts:

In the weeks ahead the biennial budget will be the dominant focus of the Legislature. Gov. Scott Walker has introduced his budget plan for Wisconsin, and while there are a number of troubling provisions, perhaps one of the most troubling is the drastic changes to public education that he proposes.
According to the Department of Public Instruction, school districts are expected to lose $1.68 billion in revenue authority and $835 million in state school aids over the next biennium. The governor has repeatedly touted the savings, tools and other reform measures that he says would soften the blow and even enhance education.
However, reducing the levy authority of school districts mandates a reduction in total spending, and changes to health insurance and pension contributions alone won’t suffice to cover the difference. That means layoffs, a decision made by Walker and not by local school districts.
The governor recently went to great lengths to highlight projected savings and other ways school districts would benefit under his budget. My office compiled a spreadsheet that outlines the inaccuracies in the governor’s projections. To outline the serious budgeting flaws, we relied on numbers from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau and the governor himself.

Why He Did It: For good reason, the Capitol exploded when Gov. Walker struck at collective bargaining: The Rise of Teacher Unions

Christian Schneider, via a kind reader’s email

By now, the political lore is familiar: A major political party, cast aside by Wisconsin voters due to a lengthy recession, comes roaring back, winning a number of major state offices.
The 43-year-old new governor, carrying out a mandate he believes the voters have granted him, boldly begins restructuring the state’s tax system. His reform package contains a major change in the way state and local governments bargain with their employees, leading to charges that the governor is paying back his campaign contributors.
Only the year wasn’t 2011 — it was 1959, and Gov. Gaylord Nelson had just resurrected the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Certain of his path, Nelson embarked on an ambitious agenda that included introduction of a withholding tax, which brought hundreds of protesters to the Capitol. Nelson also signed the nation’s first public-sector collective bargaining law — the same law that 52 years later Gov. Scott Walker targeted for fundamental revision.
Two different governors, two different parties, and two different positions.
Ironically, their assertive gubernatorial actions may produce the same disruptive outcome. By empowering the unions, Nelson’s legislation led to public-sector strikes and work stoppages. By disempowering the unions, Walker’s actions might lead to public-sector strikes and work stoppages.
In Walker’s case, union members reluctantly agreed to his pension and health-care demands, but have fought desperately to preserve their leverage in negotiating contracts. That raises the basic question of the Madison showdown: Why is Scott Walker so afraid of collective bargaining?
The answer can be found in the rise of the state’s teachers unions.

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:

Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.”

Wisconsin School choice programs get boost in Walker budget

Matthew DeFour:

Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal calls for deep cuts in most areas of public education with one notable exception – public school choice programs.
In addition to steep reductions in school district funding, Walker’s budget calls for a 10 percent cut to grants for programs such as bilingual-bicultural education and 4-year-old kindergarten. It also retains current grant funding for special education and low-income students, despite projected growth in those populations.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s 20-year-old voucher program would receive $22.5 million more to accommodate 1,300 additional students. The growth would result from Walker’s proposal to remove the program’s income requirements and enrollment caps.
And independent charter schools would receive $18.4 million more over the biennium. Walker is projecting 600 additional students as his proposal would lift the state enrollment cap on virtual charter schools, allow the UW System’s 13 four-year universities to establish charter schools, and allow independent charter schools in any district in the state.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Walker’s claim on health insurance savings for public schools questioned

David Wahlberg:

School districts required to offer health insurance through WEA Trust, a company created by the teachers’ union, would save $68 million a year if employees could switch to the state health plan, Gov. Scott Walker said this week, repeating a claim he made last year.
“That’s one of the many examples of why it’s so critically important to change collective bargaining,” Walker said at a news conference Monday before bringing up the issue again in his public address Tuesday.
Madison-based WEA Trust, created by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, disputes the claim. The insurer says it provides lower-cost choices, and districts can already join the state health plan.
“It’s been an option for them for some time,” said WEA Trust spokesman Steve Lyons.
About 65 percent of the state’s school districts contract with WEA Trust, covering about 35 percent of school employees. Several large districts, including Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee, don’t offer the plan.

The cost of providing WPS coverage to Madison teachers has long been controversial.

Walker gives Madison Preparatory IB Charter School a better chance

Wisconsin State Journal:

Gov. Scott Walker just gave a boost to the Urban League of Greater Madison’s intriguing proposal for an all-male charter school.
As part of his state budget address late Tuesday afternoon, Walker said he wants to let any four-year public university in Wisconsin create a charter school for K-12 students.
That gives the Urban League of Greater Madison a second potential partner for its proposal, should the Madison School Board reject the League’s idea.
Kaleem Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League, has made a powerful case for an all-male charter school with high standards, uniforms and a longer school day and year.
Charter schools are public schools allowed more freedom to try new things in exchange for greater accountability for results.

Wisconsin Governor Walker Seeks Strict Property Tax Increase Limits


Gov. Scott Walker said he will try to impose strict limits on property tax increases while giving local governments facing cuts new tools to manage costs.
On Sunday’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” a statewide TV newsmagazine produced in conjunction with, Walker (left) said that even as he trims state spending while maintaining core services, he aims to do it in a way that doesn’t simply pass costs off to the future or to local governments and property tax payers.
“We’re going to have to make tough but compassionate decisions to do that,” Walker said of his approach to closing the state’s $3.3 billion deficit.
Asked if he would be willing to cap property taxes at about 2 percent, Walker said he hopes to get “closer to zero” while still allowing provisions for growth and development.
While Walker said local governments and school boards may see “changes” in state aid, they will have new tools to deal with them.

Related: The Madison School District’s 2010-2011 budget, which increased property taxes about 9%.
Wisconsin State and Local Debt Rose Faster Than Federal Debt During 1990-2009 Average Annual Increase in State Debt, 7.8%; Local Debt, 7.3%.

Wisconsin Government Employment Per Capita 8.2% Smaller Than U.S. Average

Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Walker, Barrett seek checks on unions

Larry Sandler:

They didn’t seem to agree on anything during the gubernatorial election, but Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is hoping he and Governor-elect Scott Walker can find common ground on at least one issue in 2011.
Both leaders want to rein in public employee unions – just not the same ones.
Walker, who has tangled with Milwaukee County unions as county executive, is gearing up for a clash with state workers, seeking wage and benefit cuts and threatening legislation to weaken or eliminate state unions’ bargaining rights if they won’t agree to concessions.
Barrett, meanwhile, wants Walker’s help to change another law that gives Milwaukee police unions extra bargaining leverage. The mayor also wants to block the police and firefighters’ unions from winning one of their top legislative priorities: abolishing residency requirements.
While most public employee unions backed Barrett, the Democratic nominee for governor, the Milwaukee Police Association and the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association endorsed Walker, the Republican. Now both unions’ presidents accuse Barrett of seeking retribution for those endorsements, a charge he denies.

Walker, GOP pledge to reform Wisconsin’s approach to school funding

Matthew DeFour

Wisconsin’s next governor has promised big changes for schools and taxpayers – from tying teacher pay raises to performance and giving each school a letter grade to expanding alternatives to public schools and helping school districts cut costs.
But the first challenge facing Republican Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature next year is closing a $3 billion deficit in the state’s general fund, 44 percent of which covers K-12 education.
“I don’t think anybody is going to, in the short run, be able to solve the budget problems without cutting state funding for K-12,” said Andrew Reschovsky, a UW-Madison economics professor. “The current situation is unsustainable in the long run. There really is a crisis in how we fund schools.”
State Superintendent Tony Evers this week is expected to kick-start the school spending debate by announcing the details of his plan to reform the state’s complex education funding formula. In June, he said his proposal would move away from distributing aid based on property values and take into account factors such as student poverty – a move that could help districts such as Madison with high property wealth but also a lot of poor students.
The state cut $284 million, or 2.6 percent, from school aid in the current budget, resulting in an 8 percent reduction for Madison. The state also reduced the amount districts could increase revenues from $275 per pupil to $200 per pupil, which helped keep a lid on property taxes but forced districts to make budget cuts.

Taste of things to come: Do more with less, Gov.-elect Walker tells University of Wisconsin regents

Todd Finkelmeyer

Two days after the election, Gov.-elect Scott Walker was greeted with wide smiles, warm handshakes and a standing ovation during a short stop at the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents meeting.
Walker returned the love by telling the regents gathered at UW-Madison that “this is truly one of the greatest university systems in the world, not just the country. It’s an honor to be here today.”
But he soon got down to business, making it clear that with the state’s massive budget hole, university leaders would be asked to do more with less.
“It isn’t just always about more money,” Walker said, noting that leaders would need to be flexible, innovative and creative to get the most out of limited resources.
Some believe any more cuts in state funding to the UW System will do significant harm to its 13 universities and 13 two-year colleges, but UW System leaders would be wise to start preparing for the worst, says Noel Radomski.

Wisconsin Gubernartorial Candidate Walker proposes letting schools, government units use lower-cost state health plan

Lee Bergquist:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker proposed a plan he says would potentially save school districts and local units of government more than $300 million in health care costs.
Walker, a Republican candidate for governor, said his proposal would allow local units of government to switch from health plans that have high premiums to the state’s lower-cost employee health plan.
Walker said his proposal could save school districts $68 million and local governments up to $242 million annually in health care costs.
He cautioned, however, that the savings estimate for local units of government is impossible to estimate because there is no central database of what municipalities pay for health care. To make his projections, he used data of the potential savings at school districts and applied those figures to the state’s more than 200,000 local public employees.
Walker said the biggest reduction would come from Milwaukee Public Schools, which he said could realize $20 million a year in savings.

Locally, the Madison School District’s use of WPS has long been controversial due to its high cost versus alternatives, such as GHC, among others.

WisPolitics: Walker, Green Forum

WisPolitics hosted a recent Forum for GOP candidates for governor. Incumbent governor Jim Doyle has agreed to appear at a future forum, which I will link to when that occurs. Both GOP candidates addressed school funding, to some degree. Scott Walker said that he supported 2/3 state funding, but that it was not a “blank … Continue reading WisPolitics: Walker, Green Forum

Proposed Wisconsin Academic Standards Bills (Replacing the “Common Core”)

The Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email:

The following links provide a lot of additional details on the legislation that would replace the Common Core State Standards within 12 months with model academic standards created in Wisconsin. Please stay informed and contact your legislators with your thoughts.

2013 Senate Bill 619.
Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to Assembly Bill 617 (ASA1/AB617)
Video message from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Tony Evers.
Governor Scott Walker staff drafted bill aimed at Common Core State Standards.
A Critique of the Wisconsin DPI and Proposed School Choice Changes.

Test every school getting public money

Wisconsin State Journal:

The school accountability bill still boils down to what Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said last fall:
“If you get a check, you get a checkup,” the chairman of the Senate Education Committee succinctly stated.
It’s taken awhile, but consensus on this point has emerged at the state Capitol.
Gov. Scott Walker has expressed similar sentiments for a long time. So did Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, last week during a meeting with the State Journal editorial board.
So let’s get it done.
Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, appears to have the simplest idea that’s easiest to pass. He plans to introduce a bill this week to ensure all traditional public, charter and private voucher schools are reporting student information to the state, including results of a new state test in spring 2015.
Farrow is willing to add consequences for low-performing schools through subsequent legislation next session. That would be in time for state report cards in 2015, which seems reasonable.

‘Our Schools!’ slogan reflects rejuvenated Milwaukee teachers union

Alan Borsuk:

“Our Schools! Our Solutions!”
In eye-catching orange and white, banners and buttons proclaiming that slogan have been showing up in the last several weeks, generally in the hands or on the clothes of members and allies of the Milwaukee teachers union.
It is their four-word proclamation of opposition to plans floated (but so far, not going forward) in Milwaukee and Madison that would make it likely that some low-performing schools in the Milwaukee Public Schools system would be turned over to non-MPS charter school operators.
I find the slogan intriguing on several levels.
Level One: It is part of the energetic work leaders of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association and the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which has been involved in the campaign, are doing to try to remain relevant. Act 10, the 2011 legislation spurred by Gov. Scott Walker, stripped public employee unions of almost all their power over money and benefits, work conditions and school policies.
What’s left? That’s a challenging question for union leaders. Membership has fallen, political influence has fallen. Leaders of many school districts statewide are working with what remains of unions in more cooperative ways than I expected three years ago, but it is clear who has the upper hand.
In Milwaukee, the MTEA has reduced its staff and spending, but remains visible, active, and, in some cases, influential. The majority of the School Board is generally inclined toward the union.

12 thoughts on a fractious week for Wisconsin’s education scene

Alan Borsuk:

Whatever appeared to be coming together a week ago seemed to be reduced to splinters in the last few days when it came to pursuit of ideas for low performing schools in Milwaukee.
I think it’s contagious and my brain has splintered into thoughts about the fairly tumultuous recent developments. So instead of a single column, I offer fragments.
Fragment 1: Last week was a good one for fans of the status quo. Plans for Republicans in the Legislature to push through new and fairly dramatic steps came to a halt when the lead author said he couldn’t get enough votes.
Milwaukee School Board members went through much rhetoric on what to do in meetings two weeks in a row — and sent the whole issue back to committee. Maybe doing nothing is better than doing the things being suggested. In any case, “doing nothing” is ahead at the moment.
Fragment 2: It’s all about counting to 17. There’s a big roster of education ideas up for action in the Legislature — school accountability, including public and voucher schools; charter school expansion statewide; dealing with the future of the Common Core initiative.
But if 17 of the 18 Republican state senators don’t agree to get behind any of these, nothing will result, at least this year. So far, no one has counted to 17 on any of these fronts. What could change that? Maybe concerted involvement by Gov. Scott Walker. Maybe not. The Senate Republicans are not easy to unite.
Fragment 3: The hostility was strong in the large audiences at the two recent meetings of Milwaukee School Board members focused on low performing schools.
Much of it was aimed at anything to do with charter schools. At one point, mention by Superintendent Gregory Thornton of Teach for America, City Year and especially Schools That Can Milwaukee drew audible rumbling from the crowd.
These organizations are controversial to some folks, but I think they each are bringing positive, good energy and commitment to helping kids in Milwaukee. It’s one thing to disagree on approaches. It’s another to add so much anger to the environment.

Major changes to school report card proposed, including closing poorly performing schools; Teachers union official calls bill ‘armageddon’

Erin Richards:

Starting in 2015’16, every school that receives taxpayer money would receive an A-F rating based on their performance in the following areas:
Achievement on state tests.
Achievement growth on state tests, based on a statistical analysis called value-added that estimates the impact schools and teachers have on student progress.
The progress in closing achievement gaps between white students and subgroups of students who are poor, of minority races or who have disabilities.
Graduation and attendance rate status and improvement.
The current school report card system went into effect two years ago and took the place of the widely disliked sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Gov. Scott Walker once pushed for using A through F grades, but a task force on school accountability had opted for a five-tiered system placing schools in categories from “significantly exceeds expectations” to “fails to meet expectations.”
The 2012-’13 report cards placed 58 schools statewide into the “fails” category. That included 49 in MPS — one is closed, so now there’s 48 — two independent charter schools authorized by the City of Milwaukee, four public schools in Racine and three public schools in Green Bay.

Matthew DeFour & Molly Beck:

Wisconsin’s lowest-performing public schools would be forced to close or reopen as charter schools and the state’s 2-year-old accountability report card would be revamped under a bill unveiled Monday.
The proposal also would require testing for taxpayer-subsidized students at private voucher schools while barring the lowest-performing schools from enrolling new voucher students. Participating private schools also could test all students for accountability purposes.
“We’re going to start holding anybody who gets public money accountable for getting results. That is the bottom line,” said Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, which plans to vote on the amended bill Thursday.
The bill makes several changes to the state’s K-12 school accountability system — including assigning schools letter grades — which itself recently replaced a decade-old system under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

New voucher plan for Wisconsin special-needs students revives dispute

Erin Richards

A proposal to allow special-needs students to attend private schools at taxpayer expense is being revived, the latest effort by Republicans in the Legislature to give parents more options outside traditional public schools.
The proposal is a revamped version of a measure that failed in Gov. Scott Walker’s 2013-’15 budget.
That measure would have allowed 5% of students with disabilities to attend schools outside their home districts with the help of a taxpayer-funded voucher. As part of a broader compromise, the portion on students with disabilities was dropped in favor of a limited expansion of private school vouchers statewide.
The revived Wisconsin Special Needs Scholarship bill is scheduled to be introduced Tuesday by State Sens. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), and Reps. John Jagler (R-Watertown) and Dean Knudson (R-Hudson).
The primary concern of those who oppose special-needs vouchers is that private schools are not obligated to follow federal disability laws. They point to examples in other states where — in their eyes — underqualified operators have declared themselves experts, opened schools and started tapping taxpayer money.

The year in education: Wins, losses and unsung heroes

Alan Borsuk:

Did not much happen? Consider the waves of flat data on how kids are doing.
It may take a while to sort out this year. But that won’t stop me from offering a few awards for, um, distinguished something or other.
Most jaw-dropping moment of the year: Adding into the state budget a statewide private school voucher program. Literally in the middle of the night, with no public hearings or advance word, this emerged from a backroom deal by key Republicans and voucher lobbyists. It is limited to a small number of students now. But if Gov. Scott Walker wins re-election in November and Republicans keep control of the Assembly and Senate, there is a strong possibility vouchers will become available widely in Wisconsin.
Education person of the year: Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Thornton. In his fourth year, Thornton and his powerful behind-the-scenes chief of staff, Naomi Gubernick, are at the center of so much. Thornton is both tough and a nice guy, each an asset in his work. He is good at spreading optimism. He’s got plans and goals that sound good and, in many ways, are. And he’s politically adept. But he is a perplexing figure who seems eager not to be challenged by subordinates or pesky people like reporters. A “gotcha” style of management by bosses seems to be pretty common in MPS, undermining morale.
The Same Old Same Old Award: Waves of test data and a second round of the new statewide school report cards told us that the Have kids are doing OK in Wisconsin and the Have Not kids are not. As for the Haves, they’re not doing so well that we shouldn’t be talking about how to give their schools a fresh burst of energy, and that seems to be happening in some places. As for the Have Nots, so little has changed, despite so much effort. There are a few bright spots on the scene, and we need to do more to grow them. Overall, we’ve got to find paths that are better than the ones we’ve been on.
The Gone-At-Last Award (Hopefully To Stay): Dr. Brenda Noach Choice School. This was one of a handful of voucher schools that was a model of what’s wrong with oversight of Milwaukee’s nationally important program to pay for children in private schools. The school was “an abomination,” as one strongly pro-voucher leader told me recently. But for years, it fended off attempts to cut off its funding. Finally, this year, after receiving $7,299,749 in public money over a dozen years, the Brenda Noach school ran out of options — it couldn’t find anyone to accredit it. But that doesn’t mean the school leaders aren’t shopping for accreditation to re-open for next year.

School board races matter, and there’s still time to run

The Capital Times:

Candidates who lose a race for public office face a choice. They can give up on campaigning and step back to the sidelines of the American experiment. Or they can wade back into the competition — better prepared and more determined to prevail.
Gaylord Nelson lost his first race for the state Legislature.
So did Scott Walker.
Robert M. La Follette lost and lost before he won the governorship.
Bill Proxmire lost statewide race after statewide race before he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Paul Soglin lost his first race for mayor of Madison.
And Madison firefighter and paramedic Michael Flores lost his first race for the Madison School Board in 2012.

Much more on the 2014 Madison School Board election, here.

Mary Burke’s campaign to revise website after initially not mentioning her Madison School Board role

Matthew DeFour:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke launched a new, more detailed website Tuesday with one notable omission: her only experience in elective office, as a Madison School Board member.
But after the State Journal inquired about it, the campaign said it would update the site to include her role on the board.
A campaign spokesman called the omission an “oversight.” However, the website in several places downplays Burke’s ties to the city where she lives.
The website focuses on Burke’s experience as a top executive at Waterloo-based Trek Bicycle, which her father founded, and her time as Commerce secretary in the Gov. Jim Doyle administration.
Burke, the only Democrat so far who announced plans to run against Gov. Scott Walker next fall, launched in October with a video announcement and ways for supporters to provide an email and donate to the campaign.

Madison schools’ academic challenges and above average spending & taxes will likely receive greater scrutiny during the upcoming gubernatorial election.
That said, a healthy debate on Madison’s long time, agrarian era governance model vs the more dynamic school choices available in most urban areas would be welcome.
– Phil Hands

Mary Burke shares views on voucher schools

Tom Kertscher:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke shared some of her views on school vouchers in a lengthy interview she did over the weekend with blogger Heather DuBois Bourenane, a prominent critic of Gov. Scott Walker.
Some of Burke’s remarks, based on a transcript:
Q. “What do you really think you can you do to move past this sort of toxic and divisive rhetoric without seeming like you’re not willing to take a stand on the issues that really matter the most to preserving Wisconsin values and to standing up for Wisconsin workers and students and educators?”
“I talk about jobs a lot because I do believe that there are a lot of people who are unemployed and really struggling to get by and we do have to emphasize what’s going to get jobs growing here in Wisconsin. But also I think that the direction that we’re headed in terms of education is really frightening to me. The statewide voucher expansion we’re talking about, I actively fought against and I think that I am very worried about what will happen in the next four years with regards to taking the caps off and funding them through a continued siphoning of funds that should be going to public education.”
Q.”If you don’t support a full repeal of the voucher system, how exactly do you plan to improve their performance and accountability without draining more taxpayer funds from the public school budget?”
“Sure. Well, first, in the interview I gave regarding the voucher, statewide voucher expansion, the emphasis I definitely placed is in not taking off the caps or letting the voucher expand. Then in terms of rolling back that statewide voucher expansion, you know, as governor I would have to work with the Legislature and certainly would do that, but it would be obviously only in conjunction with the Legislature that could happen.

Vouchers & Politics: Commentary

Chris Rickert:

Despite all this, Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers seem paralyzed in the face of potential bipartisan agreement.
Walker has said as far back as August that he’s open to changing the voucher program to give preference to public school students. The Republican chairmen of the Senate and Assembly education committees have made similar noises. Yet none responded to messages from me saying essentially: Well, OK, so are you introducing legislation to do that?
Similarly, Gillian Drummond, spokeswoman for Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, said “I have not heard of anything” on possible Democratic legislation on the issue in the Senate.
Speaking on background, a staffer for Rep. Sondy Pope, who has been outspoken in her criticism of underwriting private school tuition with vouchers, said “our caucus as a whole is looking” to do something even more stringent than in Racine, but was less than optimistic about Republicans going along.

Madison School Board Grows Taxes & Spending: 6-1 vote

Molly Beck:

Property taxes in the Madison School District will increase by about $67 for the average homeowner as part of the final $392 million 2013-14 budget approved by the school board on Monday.
The board voted 6-1 to approve this year’s amended budget and also to set the levy at $257.7 million, a 3.38 percent increase over last year.
That increase is about 1 percentage point less than originally projected in July, before Gov. Scott Walker unveiled his two-year $100 million property tax relief bill that sent an additional $2.5 million in state aid to Madison schools.
Total property taxes will increase by $66.74 on average. That’s $39.24 less of an increase than originally expected earlier this year, according to district budget documents. A property tax bill for the average $231,000 Madison home is now estimated to be $2,739.66 for school purposes.
School board member Mary Burke, a candidate for governor, cast the lone votes against the final amended budget and against the levy, citing the desire to see a better balance between the needs of the district and the needs of taxpayers.
“Next year, as we look at this, we really need to look at how many people are struggling to make ends meet,” Burke said about the levy increase, noting the district and board should consider whether salary increases among district families are not keeping pace with property tax increases.

Much more on the 2013-2014 budget, here.
The City of Madison’s portion of local property tax will grow 2.2%.
Middleton’s property taxes are 16% less than Madison’s on a comparable home.

Teachers sue to force Wisconsin school district recertification votes

Jason Stein:

Seeking to counter a recent trial judge’s ruling in a public labor lawsuit, a Milwaukee teacher and four others from Wisconsin are suing to force the union elections called for under Gov. Scott Walker’s signature legislation.
With teachers from La Crosse, Waukesha, Brookfield and Racine, Nicholas Johnson of Milwaukee Public Schools filed the lawsuit in Waukesha County Circuit Court with legal help from union opponents at the National Right to Work Foundation and the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.
The lawsuit seeks to force the state Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission to hold recertification elections to determine whether the unions in their districts can officially represent school employees. The rules for the recertification elections make them difficult for unions to win, and many labor groups faced with them have chosen not even to hold them.
Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colás last year found Act 10 was unconstitutional for teachers and local government workers, saying it violated their guarantee of equal protection under the law and infringed on their freedom-of-association rights.

Pushing back against Republican lawlessness over Act 10

Ruth Conniff:

When Dane Country Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas held officials in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration in contempt this week, he was pushing back against a level of unchecked lawlessness by this administration that is “practically seditious,” says attorney Lester Pines.
Colas had already ruled a year ago that parts of Act 10 — the law that ended most collective bargaining rights for most public employees — were unconstitutional. This included Act 10’s requirement that unions hold annual recertification elections. But commissioners at the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission decided to ignore that decision. They went ahead and prepared for recertification elections for more than 400 school district and worker unions in November.
“The commissioners knew full well” they were flouting the court, Colas said, despite their cute argument that the word “unconstitutional” applied only to the specific plaintiffs in the case — teachers in Madison and city workers in Milwaukee.
As John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., put it, Colas’ decision “is one of the most important decisions not only in public-sector labor history, but also in democracy.”
The principle here is simple. If a law is unconstitutional on its face, it’s unconstitutional in every case. That has always been understood in Wisconsin courts. And, Judge Colas pointed out, the Walker officials understood it, too.

Wisconsin School District Redistributed State Tax Dollar Receipts

Matthew DeFour:

Public schools will receive $4.26 billion in general state aid this school year, up $87.5 million or 2.1 percent from last year, the Department of Public Instruction announced Wednesday.
The aid figures are a revision from those released Oct. 15. Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Sunday to increase aid by $100 million over two years. The bill did not include an increase in state-imposed limits on school district revenues, so school boards are expected to use the additional aid to lower property taxes.
The aid figures were marginally different than estimates released by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau last week as part of the discussion of the property tax relief bill. The Madison School District, for example, will receive $12,680 less than reported last week, a change of 0.02 percent.
Over all, Madison will get $52.2 million in state aid, a 10.7 percent decrease.

Madison received an increase of $11,800,000 in redistributed state tax dollars last year…

Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers.

Comments & Links on Madison’s Latest Teacher Union Agreement

Andrea Anderson:

Under the new contracts clerical and technical employees will be able to work 40-hour work weeks compared to the current 38.75, and based on the recommendation of principals, employees who serve on school-based leadership teams will be paid $20 per hour.
Additionally, six joint committees will be created to give employees a say in workplace issues and address topics such as planning time, professional collaboration and the design of parent-teacher conferences.
Kerry Motoviloff, a district instructional resource teacher and MTI member, spoke at the beginning of the meeting thanking School Board members for their collective bargaining and work in creating the committees that are “getting the right people at the right table to do the right work.”
Cheatham described the negotiations with the union as “both respectful and enormously productive,” adding that based on conversations with district employees the contract negotiations “accomplished the goal they set out to accomplish.”

Pat Schneider:

“Madison is in the minority. Very few teachers are still under contract,” said Christina Brey, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Fewer than 10 of 424 school districts in the state have labor contracts with teachers for the current school year, she said Wednesday.
And while Brey said WEAC’s significance is not undermined by the slashed number of teacher contracts, at least one state legislator believes the state teacher’s union is much less effective as a resource than it once was.
Many school districts in the state extended teacher contracts through the 2011-2012 school year after Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s law gutting collective bargaining powers of most public employees, was implemented in 2011. The Madison Metropolitan School District extended its teacher contract for two years — through the 2013-2014 school year — after Dane County Judge Juan Colas struck down key provisions of Act 10 in September 2012.
The contract ratified by the members Monday will be in effect until June 30, 2015.

Andrea Anderson:

On Thursday, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty emailed a letter to Cheatham and the School Board warning that a contract extension could be in violation of Act 10.
Richard Esenberg, WILL president, said he sent the letter because “we think there are people who believe, in Wisconsin, that there is somehow a window of opportunity to pass collective bargaining agreements in violation of Act 10, and we don’t think that.”
If the Supreme Court rules Act 10 is constitutional all contracts signed will be in violation of the law, according to Esenberg.
Esenberg said he has not read the contract and does not know if the district and union contracts have violated collective bargaining agreements. But, he said, “I suspect this agreement does.”

Pat Schneider:

The contract does not “take back” any benefits, Matthews says. However, it calls for a comprehensive analysis of benefits that could include a provision to require employees to pay some or more toward health insurance premiums if they do not get health care check-ups or participate in a wellness program.
Ed Hughes, president of the Madison School Board, said that entering into labor contracts while the legal issues surrounding Act 10 play out in the courts was “the responsible thing to do. It provides some stability to do the important work we need to do in terms of getting better results for our students.”
Hughes pointed out that the contract establishes a half-dozen joint committees of union and school district representatives that will take up issues including teacher evaluations, planning time and assignments. The contract calls for mediation on several of the issues if the joint committees cannot reach agreement.
“Hopefully this will be a precursor of the way we will work together in years to come, whatever the legal framework is,” Hughes said.
Matthews, too, was positive about the potential of the joint committees.

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty:

WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg warns, “The Madison School Board is entering a legally-gray area. Judge Colas’ decision has no effect on anyone outside of the parties involved. The Madison School Board and Superintendent Cheatham – in addition to the many teachers in the district – were not parties to the lawsuit. As we have continued to say, circuit court cases have no precedential value, and Judge Colas never ordered anyone to do anything.”
He continued, “If the Madison School District were to collectively bargain in a way that violates Act 10, it could be exposed to litigation by taxpayers or teachers who do not wish to be bound to an illegal contract or to be forced to contribute to an organization that they do not support.” The risk is not theoretical. Last spring, WILL filed a lawsuit against the Milwaukee Area Technical College alleging such a violation.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty’s letter to Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham (PDF).
The essential question, how does Madison’s non-diverse K-12 governance model perform academically? Presumably, student achievement is job one for our $15k/student district.
Worth a re-read: Then Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 speech to the Madison Rotary Club:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Common Core’s enemies are another reason to support it

Chris Rickert

There’s a pretty good chance Scott Walker doesn’t know much about Common Core, the new set of education standards for kindergarten through high school being adopted by states and school districts across the country.
It’s not surprising, then, that when his spokesman was asked Tuesday to explain what his boss meant when he said the standards might be too weak, this newspaper got no response. It’s likely that Walker doesn’t know what he meant.
He’s not alone — a poll recently found that two-thirds of Americans hadn’t even heard of Common Core — and that’s unfortunate because it leaves the door open for those at the extreme ends of the political spectrum to step into the vacuum.
In May, state tea party groups sent a letter to Walker and the Legislature accusing the Common Core of being all sorts of bad things, including an “educational fraud” and something of a federal takeover of education.

Drawing conclusions: Politics of art class appear to come with different consequences

Ryan Ekvall:

A controversial art lesson in the Madison Metropolitan School District draws similarities from a 2012 incident in which a Louisiana middle school teacher was fired after displaying his student’s anti-President Obama drawings.
Kati Walsh, an elementary art teacher in Madison, published anti-Gov. Scott Walker political cartoons drawn by her kindergarten, first- and second-grade students. One drawing depicts Walker in jail, and another in which he appears to be in jail and engulfed in flames. Walsh said the orange in that drawing actually represented a prison jumpsuit.
Robert Duncan, a former Slidell, La., middle school social studies teacher at St. Tammany Parish School District, was fired after an internal investigation found he acted incompetently in displaying several student drawings depicting harm to Obama. The incident was first brought to light after a parent leaked photos of the drawings to WDSU, a local TV news outlet.

After learning to read well, critical thinking would certainly be a useful topic for all students.

This Year’s SAT Scores Are Out, and They’re Grim

Pat Schneider:

isconsin State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Evers used the platform of his annual State of Education speech Thursday to respond to skeptics of Common Core standards, whose ranks Republican Gov. Scott Walker joined just a few days earlier.
“We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state,” Evers said in remarks at the State Capitol that also touched on accountability for voucher schools. “We must put our kids above our politics. And we owe it to them to stay the course.”
Evers signed on to national Common Core curriculum standards for reading and math in 2010, making Wisconsin one of the first states to adopt them. School districts across the state, including Madison Metropolitan School District, are in the process of implementing them. Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has called Common Core standards “pretty wonderful,” and says they are about critical thinking and applying skills to practical tasks.
Walker had been pretty low-key about Common Core until a few days ago, when he issued a statement calling for separate, more rigorous state standards. Republican leaders of both houses of the state Legislature quickly announced special committees to weigh the Common Core standards, and public hearings on not-yet-adopted science and social studies standards will be held, according to one report.

Related: Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE assessment and

A bachelor’s degree could cost $10,000 — total. Here’s how.

Dylan Matthews:

A couple years ago, Rutgers historian David Greenberg noticed a defect endemic to books about social, political and economic problems: The last chapter always sucks. “Practically every example of that genre, no matter how shrewd or rich its survey of the question at hand, finishes with an obligatory prescription that is utopian, banal, unhelpful or out of tune with the rest of the book,” Greenberg noted.
And it’s not just books. I’ll be the first to admit that the possible fixes with which I finished off my series on the alarming rise in college tuition were pretty vague and utopian. But helpfully, the good folks at Third Way have noticed that the conversation about how to reign in tuition has gotten a little too small-minded. “For both parties, in particular Democrats, our solution to the problem of rising cost of college has been to subsidize the rising cost,” the think tank’s president, Jonathan Cowan, says. “That’s been our official policy, to subsidize the rising cost, and that has to be seen as a fairly intellectually bankrupt approach. We need a dramatically different approach that is about driving down the rising price.”
To that end, Third Way is publishing a new report by Anya Kamenetz, one of the most interesting writers on higher ed innovation in the game, that lays out a detailed plan for pushing the total cost of a public bachelor’s degree down to $10,000. Not $10,000 a year, mind you: $10,000 total. She’s not the first to have this idea, as Govs. Rick Perry (R-Tex.), Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) have all proposed $10,000 degrees.