Martin Luther King on the Ethics of Resistance to State Authority

Ilya Somin: Georgetown philosophy Prof. Jason Brennan, himself the author of an important book on the morality of resistance to government power, has a useful summary of King’s views on these issues. As Brennan points out, King believed that disobedience to unjust laws is often entirely justified, even when the laws in question were enacted by democratic governments: Many … Continue reading Martin Luther King on the Ethics of Resistance to State Authority

School Closures Were a Catastrophic Error. Progressives Still Haven’t Reckoned With It.

Jonathan Chait: Within blue America, transparently irrational ideas like this were able to carry the day for a disturbingly long period of time. In recent days, Angie Schmitt and Rebecca Bodenheimer have both written essays recounting the disorienting and lonely experience they had watching their friends and putative political allies denounce them for supporting a return to in-person learning. … Continue reading School Closures Were a Catastrophic Error. Progressives Still Haven’t Reckoned With It.

Watch now: A charter school with all-day outdoor education in the middle of winter

Barry Adams: Almost all of the lessons at the Kickapoo Valley Forest School are held outdoors, even on days when the temperature plunges well below freezing. The nature-based curriculum is central for the 4K and kindergarten students and their teachers, who have had lunch outside all but four days since the first day of school … Continue reading Watch now: A charter school with all-day outdoor education in the middle of winter

Wisconsin Assembly Education Committee Meeting 12 January 2022 on DPI’s “K-12 Report Cards”

mp3 audio (about 3 hours – not the entire session): Machine generated transcript. School and District Report Cards and the recent changes made to those Report Cards Invited speakers include: School Choice Wisconsin Action (Jim Bender) Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (Thomas McCarthy) Stride, Inc. Siena Catholic Schools Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (Prepared … Continue reading Wisconsin Assembly Education Committee Meeting 12 January 2022 on DPI’s “K-12 Report Cards”

Chicago Teachers Walkout Calls the Questions — What Does ‘Safe’ Mean, and Who Gets to Decide?

Mike Antonucci: The Chicago Teachers Union decided last week to cease in-person schooling until a variety of conditions were met. In response, Chicago Public Schools refused to allow teachers to log in for remote instruction and demanded they return to the classroom. After days of negotiations, the two sides reached a tentative agreement. In-person classes … Continue reading Chicago Teachers Walkout Calls the Questions — What Does ‘Safe’ Mean, and Who Gets to Decide?

Teachers’ unions have ignored encouraging findings from other countries, such as research suggesting that teachers in schools that had opened faced no greater risk of severe sickness than other professionals.

The Economist: Over the past two years America’s children have missed more time in the classroom than those in most of the rich world. School closures that began there in early 2020 dragged on until the summer of 2021. During that time the districts that stayed closed longest forced all or some of their children … Continue reading Teachers’ unions have ignored encouraging findings from other countries, such as research suggesting that teachers in schools that had opened faced no greater risk of severe sickness than other professionals.

Commentary on teacher union influence and closed taxpayer supported schools

Lindsey Burke and Corey DeAngelis: Imagine being a second grader in a major city right now. If you entered kindergarten during the 2019-20 school year, COVID-19 first closed your school in March, potentially offering “remote learning.” As you prepared to enter first grade the following fall, you were one of more than half of students … Continue reading Commentary on teacher union influence and closed taxpayer supported schools

After multiple lockdowns, three vaccines, and one bout of COVID, I want my life back.

Helen Lewis: I got my COVID-19 booster shot last week, on the first day I was eligible. My shot was delayed because I caught COVID in early December, an experience that was low-key grim: two days of shotgun sneezing, no taste or smell for a week, and a constant fatigue that didn’t abate until the … Continue reading After multiple lockdowns, three vaccines, and one bout of COVID, I want my life back.

Depressed attendance rates create challenges for teaching and learning; ‘there has never been anything like this’

Scott Calvert: Public-school attendance across the U.S. has dropped to unusually low levels, complicating efforts to keep schools open, as districts also contend with major staff shortages. Many students in kindergarten through 12th grade are out sick because of Covid-19 or are being kept home by anxious parents, as the Omicron variant surges, officials say. Remote learning often isn’t being … Continue reading Depressed attendance rates create challenges for teaching and learning; ‘there has never been anything like this’

Did any of these people tell the truth back when it could have saved the generation that comprises the world’s future? Nope.

Joy Pullman: Americans are starting to feel the increasing collateral damage from our unprecedented, ineffective, and ill-advised Covid lockdowns. It was known before March 2020 that lockdowns would cause lifelong and avoidable damage to billions, yet the world’s ruling classes who claim to have earned their place atop a “meritocracy” strenuously demanded such damage be inflicted especially on children and … Continue reading Did any of these people tell the truth back when it could have saved the generation that comprises the world’s future? Nope.

The Great Barrington Declaration and closed schools;
Lockdowns failed to serve the collective good

Thomas Fazi and Toby Green: All of which has meant that, until the Observer’s interview with Mark Woolhouse, there has been painfully little critical analysis from the mainstream Left as to whether the raft of restrictive Covid measures we have seen over the past two years have indeed served the collective good — or saved lives … Continue reading The Great Barrington Declaration and closed schools;
Lockdowns failed to serve the collective good

Letter to Wisconsin Governor Evers on His Roadmap to Reading Success Veto

State Senator Kathy Bernier and State Representative Joel Kitchens: Literacy in Wisconsin is in crisis: 64% of Wisconsin 4th graders can’t read at grade level, with 34% failing to read at even the basic level. As co-chair of Governor Walker’s Read to Lead Task Force, you know that high quality universal literacy screening is the … Continue reading Letter to Wisconsin Governor Evers on His Roadmap to Reading Success Veto

COVID school policies set me adrift from my tribe.

Angie Schmitt: I kept hoping that someone in our all-Democratic political leadership would take a stand on behalf of Cleveland’s 37,000 public-school children or seem to care about what was happening. Weren’t Democrats supposed to stick up for low-income kids? Instead, our veteran Democratic mayor avoided remarking on the crisis facing the city’s public-school families. … Continue reading COVID school policies set me adrift from my tribe.

Teacher Unions vs Parents and Children: political commentary

Dana Goldstein and Noam Scheiber: Few American cities have labor politics as fraught as Chicago’s, where the nation’s third-largest school system shut down this week after teachers’ union members refused to work in person, arguing that classrooms were unsafe amid the Omicron surge. But in a number of other places, the tenuous labor peace that … Continue reading Teacher Unions vs Parents and Children: political commentary

Parents sue to end illegal Chicago Teachers Union Strike

Liberty Justice Center: – A group of Chicago parents have filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Teachers Union, calling this week’s school closures an “illegal strike” and demanding that teachers return to school for in-person learning. The lawsuit was filed late Thursday by attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center, a national nonprofit law firm that … Continue reading Parents sue to end illegal Chicago Teachers Union Strike

Civics: Wisconsin Electoral Awareness

Someone just sent a picture of their child’s homework to me. Sorry @GovEvers 🤣💗 pic.twitter.com/Kf8iCOpbJu — Katie Rosenberg ✌ (@katierosenberg) January 7, 2022 Mandates, closed schools and Dane County Madison Public Health. The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic” 2017: West … Continue reading Civics: Wisconsin Electoral Awareness

The human rights implications of long lockdown and the damaging impact on young people

Ellen Townsend: The rights and needs of young people have been ignored in this crisis and this is a national and global disaster in the making. The future of our youngsters has been sacrificed in order to protect adults which goes against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 3) states: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social … Continue reading The human rights implications of long lockdown and the damaging impact on young people

Parents vs Teacher Unions on closed taxpayer supported K-12 Schools: Chicago edition

Guilia Heyward: The possibility of more online school for John Christie’s fourth-grade son, Ian, is enough to bring Mr. Christie to tears. Mr. Christie said his son, who has been diagnosed with autism, thrived with the schedule that in-person instruction gave him during the fall. But in earlier parts of the pandemic, when school was … Continue reading Parents vs Teacher Unions on closed taxpayer supported K-12 Schools: Chicago edition

Mapping closed taxpayer supported K-12 schools

Burbio Burbio’s tracker shows 5225 schools starting a period of disruption (not offering in-person learning) of one or more days during the week beginning January 2nd, Mandates, closed schools and Dane County Madison Public Health. The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or … Continue reading Mapping closed taxpayer supported K-12 schools

Reading proficiency rates rising in some Appalachian schools
Scientifically based teaching, Direct Instruction programs driving turnaround

Richard Innes: Results on both state and na.onal tests raise important ques.ons about the general lack of effec.veness of reading instruc.on in Kentucky’s public schools. Evidence from the federal Na.onal Assessment of Educa.onal Progress (NAEP) indicates that many Kentucky teachers struggle to provide effec.ve reading instruc.on.The dimensions of this problem are enormous. Impacts were examined … Continue reading Reading proficiency rates rising in some Appalachian schools
Scientifically based teaching, Direct Instruction programs driving turnaround

‘This is a disaster.’: Severity of learning lost to the pandemic comes into focus

Jessica Calefati AMERICA, WE HAVE A PROBLEM — Results from a standardized test taken by elementary and middle school students earlier this school year paint a bleak picture of the harm the pandemic inflicted on their learning.  — Performance on the iReady test administered nationally by Curriculum Associates plummeted for all students compared to the last time it … Continue reading ‘This is a disaster.’: Severity of learning lost to the pandemic comes into focus

“An emphasis on adult employment”; Chicago Teachers Union 2022 edition

NEW: The Chicago Teachers Union says its planned vote tonight would see members refuse in-person work until Jan. 18 or until the city’s COVID-19 wave falls below the threshold Chicago Public Schools set last year, whichever happens first. — Nader Issa (@NaderDIssa) January 4, 2022 Maureen Kelleher: If ever there was a moment to ensure … Continue reading “An emphasis on adult employment”; Chicago Teachers Union 2022 edition

Taxpayer supported Chicago Teacher Union and closed schools

Alex Nester: Chicago teachers are preparing to strike over what they say are unsafe working conditions caused by a spike in coronavirus cases. The Chicago Teachers Union has scheduled a Tuesday vote to determine whether its 25,000 members will refuse to return to the classroom, WBEZ reported. On Sunday, more than 6,000 union members at a virtual … Continue reading Taxpayer supported Chicago Teacher Union and closed schools

The long-term consequences of closed schools are profound

Will Flanders and Libby Sobic: In the latest chapter of the seemingly never-ending nightmare of school closures, Milwaukee Public Schools decided Sunday, Jan. 2 to return to virtual instruction for the first week of the spring semester, Jan. 3-7. This follows the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) making a similar decision to delay the start … Continue reading The long-term consequences of closed schools are profound

“It’s a challenge to get back into a setting where you have strict deadlines again”

Scott Girard: Seventeen months passed between the closure of schools in March 2020 and Gordon Allen’s return to learning inside East High School. The Madison Metropolitan School District student senate president and East senior, who opted to finish the 2020-21 school year virtually rather than return via the district’s phased-in return to buildings, said this … Continue reading “It’s a challenge to get back into a setting where you have strict deadlines again”

The Fallout From Remote Education: It’s a Fiasco for Kids, Families, and Democracy

Laura McKenna: Are we going to shutdown society and schools again? There is enormous pressure from the top to not close schools. That’s why the CDC has shifted its recommendations for dealing with positive people. Now, positive people only have to isolate for five days. Fauci says that positive people are really only contagious two … Continue reading The Fallout From Remote Education: It’s a Fiasco for Kids, Families, and Democracy

“The risk of severe outcomes to kids from coronavirus infection is low, and the risks to kids from being out of school are high.”

Joseph Allen: The early evidence from outside the United States suggests that kids will remain low risk during the Omicron surge as well. The latest data from South Africa for the week ending Dec. 12 shows that school-age children (5-to-19-year-olds) had the lowest hospitalization of any age group, and even with the Omicron uptick, the hospitalization rate … Continue reading “The risk of severe outcomes to kids from coronavirus infection is low, and the risks to kids from being out of school are high.”

Colorado Gov. Polis leaves mask mandates to local officials, says the state shouldn’t ‘tell people what to wear’

Michelle Fulcher: The emergency is over,’ according to Governor Jared Polis, who explained on Colorado Matters on Friday that vaccines have changed the COVID-19 landscape, rendering masks useful but not required in the state’s fight against the pandemic.  Meanwhile, Colorado continues to see a rise in hospitalizations and deaths among unvaccinated patients. With the state’s healthcare … Continue reading Colorado Gov. Polis leaves mask mandates to local officials, says the state shouldn’t ‘tell people what to wear’

We Opened the Schools and … It Was Fine: Many parents feared the worst, but so far, no widespread COVID crisis has come to America’s classrooms.

Schools aren’t the problem. They never have been. One of the frustrating things about the pandemic has been our inability, even at this late date, to understand why surges occur. They hit communities with mask mandates, and communities without. Last year, we believed that the surge from October through February was caused by seasonal changes. … Continue reading We Opened the Schools and … It Was Fine: Many parents feared the worst, but so far, no widespread COVID crisis has come to America’s classrooms.

Civics: Advocating Mandates in the absence of elected official votes , debate “stifled”

Allison Garfield: County Board Chair Analiese Eicher told the Cap Times that the resolution takes away from the “real work” the county could be doing to help with the pandemic.  “The Dane County Board has been supportive of public health measures since the beginning of the pandemic. For many of us, we look at the … Continue reading Civics: Advocating Mandates in the absence of elected official votes , debate “stifled”

Civics: Mandates vs legislative pricess

NEW: WILL Asks Wisconsin Supreme Court to Strike Down Dane County Universal Mask Order Details –> https://t.co/UGHrlAQkGf Filing –> https://t.co/tT89x5yaug pic.twitter.com/WFi6DMfsfJ — WILL (@WILawLiberty) August 18, 2021 Milwaukee County COVID Data Dane County (Madison) COVID Data “However, Evers cannot issue a statewide mask mandate without legislative approval, following a 4-3 state Supreme Court ruling issued … Continue reading Civics: Mandates vs legislative pricess

Failing grades spike in Virginia’s largest school system as online learning gap emerges nationwide

Hannah Natanson: A report on student grades from one of the nation’s largest school districts offers some of the first concrete evidence that online learning is forcing a striking drop in students’ academic performance, and that the most vulnerable students — children with disabilities and English-language learners — are suffering the most. Fairfax County Public … Continue reading Failing grades spike in Virginia’s largest school system as online learning gap emerges nationwide

Excess Deaths Associated with COVID-19, by Age and Race and Ethnicity

CDC.gov: What is already known about this topic? As of October 15, 216,025 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the United States; however, this might underestimate the total impact of the pandemic on mortality. What is added by this report? Overall, an estimated 299,028 excess deaths occurred from late January through October 3, 2020, … Continue reading Excess Deaths Associated with COVID-19, by Age and Race and Ethnicity

‘I’ll leave the city for my kids to get educated’

Joanne Jacobs: Several parents noted that many private schools are teaching in person. City-funded preschool programs are operating if they’re in private schools, but closed if they’re in district buildings. If the chaos and incompetence drives middle-class families out of the city or into private schools and students who remain have learned little but knock-knock … Continue reading ‘I’ll leave the city for my kids to get educated’

Wisconsin high court must rule on Racine’s power overreach

Racine Journal Times: It’s one thing when an individual school district, such as Racine or Kenosha Unified, decide that they are going to go virtual. It’s another thing for the Racine health department to step in and rule that all schools, including private schools, in its jurisdiction must also shut their doors. Yet that is … Continue reading Wisconsin high court must rule on Racine’s power overreach

The kids aren’t alright: How Generation Covid is losing out

Federica Cocco: When Mary Finnegan, 27, and her sister Meg, 22, left their Brooklyn apartment to return to their parents’ home in March, they took enough clothes to last two weeks. Their stay stretched into months. “It was like a return to homeschooling: no boys, no play dates, nowhere to go, except home and the … Continue reading The kids aren’t alright: How Generation Covid is losing out

“Schools Should Be the Last Things We Close, Not the First/Why do we keep asking children to bear the brunt of a lockdown?”

Aaron Carroll: Cases have definitely been more common in school-age children this fall. But when schools do the right things, those infections are not transmitted in the classroom. They’re occurring, for the most part, when children go to parties, when they have sleepovers and when they’re playing sports inside and unmasked…. The playbook for keeping … Continue reading “Schools Should Be the Last Things We Close, Not the First/Why do we keep asking children to bear the brunt of a lockdown?”

Mount Horeb School board narrowly votes down proposal to allow K-2 students back

Mount Horeb Mail: The Mount Horeb Area Board of Education voted Monday night against a proposal that would have allowed some K-2 students to return to local classrooms. The decision came after hours of testimony and discussion, during which nearly every parent who spoke – some through tears – pleaded with the board to allow … Continue reading Mount Horeb School board narrowly votes down proposal to allow K-2 students back

Commentary on 2020 K-12 Governance and opening this fall

Wisconsin State Journal: Unfortunately, the Madison School District announced Friday it will offer online classes only this fall — despite six or seven weeks to go before the fall semester begins. By then, a lot could change with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Dane County recently and wisely implemented a mask requirementfor inside … Continue reading Commentary on 2020 K-12 Governance and opening this fall

“The achievement rate has gotten worse. The failure rate of kids has gotten worse. We would keep thinking that we were solving the problem, the United Way and all of these organizations jump on it, but it doesn’t change a thing.”

Steven Elbow: The problem, some say, is that disparities impact a population that has little political or economic clout. And white people, who control the levers of commerce and government, address only pieces of an interconnected web of issues that include child development, education, economics and criminal justice. Brandi Grayson co-founded Young, Gifted and Black … Continue reading “The achievement rate has gotten worse. The failure rate of kids has gotten worse. We would keep thinking that we were solving the problem, the United Way and all of these organizations jump on it, but it doesn’t change a thing.”

University of Wisconsin System Approves One City’s Charter School Application

Via a kind email: Dear Friends. Last night, we learned that our application to establish One City Senior Preschool as a public charter school serving children in 4 year-old and 5 year-old kindergarten was approved by the University of Wisconsin System. We are very excited! This action will enable us to offer a high quality, … Continue reading University of Wisconsin System Approves One City’s Charter School Application

Wisconsin Gubernatorial candidate Act 10 Commentary

Matthew DeFour: Mary Burke, who has already been endorsed by more than a dozen of the state’s largest private- and public-sector unions, said she supports making wages, hours, benefits and working conditions mandatory subjects of bargaining for public employees. She called the annual elections, the prohibition on requiring union dues of all employees, and a … Continue reading Wisconsin Gubernatorial candidate Act 10 Commentary

MTI’s Act 10 Case before Supreme Court Today (Recently)

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (PDF), via a kind Jeannie Bettner Kamholtz:

In February 2011, Governor Walker, as he described it, “dropped the bomb” on Wisconsin’s public employees, the birthplace of public employee bargaining, by proposing a law (Act 10) which would eliminate the right of collective bargaining in school districts, cities, counties, and most of the public sector. Collective Bargaining Agreements provide employment security and economic security, as well as wage increases, fringe benefits, and as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Holmes said many years ago, an effective voice for employees in the workplace. Unions had achieved these rights and benefits in a half-century of bargaining. Ostensibly proposed to address an alleged budget shortfall, the Governor’s proposed Act 10 not only called for reductions in economic benefits for public employees (e.g. limits on employer contributions toward pensions and health care), but prohibited public employers from bargaining with nearly all public employees over any issue, other than limited wage increases, under which no employee could recover losses due to the increase in the Consumer Price Index. For example, under Act 10, teacher unions can no longer bargain over issues of school safety, class size, planning and preparation time, and health insurance; educational assistants can no longer bargain over salary progression, insurance coverage or training; clerical/technical workers can no longer bargain over work hours, vacation benefits or time off to care for sick children; and state workers can no longer bargain over whistle-blower protections. The intent of the Governor was to silence public employees on issues of primary importance to them and those they serve, and to eliminate their political activity. His stated extreme, no compromise, “divide and conquer” approach was to gain full power over employees. That resulted in MTI members walking out for four days to engage in political action. Soon thereafter thousands followed MTI members, resulting in the largest protest movement in State history.
MTI legally challenged Walker’s law and in September, 2012, MTI, represented by Lester Pines, and his partners Tamara Packard and Susan Crawford, prevailed in an action before Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas, wherein Colas found that most of Act 10 is unconstitutional. In ruling on MTI’s petition, Colas agreed that Act 10 is unconstitutional as it violates MTI members’ freedom of association and equal protection, both of which are guaranteed by the Wisconsin Constitution. This enabled MTI to bargain Contracts for its five (5) bargaining units for 2014-15. MTI’s are among the few public sector contracts in Wisconsin for 2014-15.

All MTI Bargaining Units Ratify Contracts Through June 30, 2014

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity eNewsletter, via a kind Jeannie Bettner email:

Act 10, which Governor Walker designed to kill unions of public sector workers, caused massive protests in early 2011 because of it quashing peoples’ rights. And, that is the way Judge Colas saw it in ruling on MTI’s challenge to Act 10. Colas ruled that Act 10 violates the Constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association and equal protection of public sector union members (ruling did not address state employees). Enabled by Colas’ decision, MTI petitioned the Madison Metropolitan School District to commence negotiations over a Contract to succeed that which ends June 30, 2013.
Following Judge Colas’ order, both the City of Madison and Dane County negotiated new Contracts with their largest union, AFSCME Local 60. MTI, along with hundreds of supporters, pressed the MMSD to follow suit. After 37 hours of bargaining last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, negotiators for MTI, SEE- MTI (clerical/technical employees), EA-MTI (educational assistants and nurse assistants), SSA-MTI (security assistants) and USO-MTI (substitute teachers) were successful in reaching terms for a new Contract through June 30, 2014.
The Union achieved the #1 priority expressed by members of MTI’s five bargaining units in the recent survey, protecting their Contract rights and benefits, and keeping their Union Contract. The “just cause” standard for any kind of discipline or dismissal is in tact, as is arbitration by a neutral third party of any such action by the District, and of all claims that District administration violated the terms of an MTI Contract. The Union was also successful in preserving salary and wage schedules (except for substitutes), as well as fringe benefits, another priority of members responding to MTI’s recent survey.
Solidarity was evident from the outset as, for the first time ever, representatives from all five (5) of MTI’s bargaining units worked together to bargain simultaneously. Representatives from the Custodial and Food Service units, represented by AFSCME Local 60, also lent support throughout the negotiations, even as they were rushing to bargain new contracts for their members. And, in a powerful display of solidarity, MTI’s Teacher Bargaining Team repeatedly put forth proposals enabling the District to increase health insurance contributions for teachers, if the District would agree NOT to increase contributions from their lower paid brothers and sisters in MTI’s EA, SEE and SSA bargaining units. Unfortunately, the District rebuffed the offers, insisting that all employees work under the cloud of uncertainty that employee health insurance contributions may be increased up to 10% of the premium after June 30, 2013.
The District entered the negotiations espousing “principles that put student learning in the forefront, with a respect for the fact that our employees are the people who directly or indirectly impact that learning”. MTI heard these concerns and made major accommodations in many contractual areas to address these needs. Areas where MTI accommodated the District’s stated need to attract staff who can close the achievement gap: 1) enable the District to place new hires anywhere on the salary schedule; 2) give new hires a signing bonus of any amount; 3) appoint new hires and non-District employees to any coaching or other extra duty position (annual District discretion of continuing extra duty position); 4) current staff to have no right to apply for vacancies occurring after June 15, to enable District to offer employment to outsiders; 5) enable the District to assign new hires to evening/weekend teaching positions; and 6) enable the District to hold two evening parent-teacher conferences per school year.
Yet, other District proposals appeared to have nothing to do with either student achievement or respecting the employees who make that happen. The District insisted on eliminating sick leave benefits for all substitute teachers hired after July 1, 2013. The District insisted on language which would non-renew the contracts of teachers on medical leave for more than two years. And the District’s numerous other “take backs”, unrelated to either of their stated principles, but just to take advantage of the leverage enabled by the uncertainty of Act 10. These concessions were received bitterly by the thousand who gathered at Wednesday’s MTI meeting, hoping for positive signs that the District’s messages of respect would be reflected in the settlement.
On the downside was the District’s attack on other Contract provisions. In violation of the principles they espoused to Walker’s then-proposed Act 10, in February 2011, Board members enabled District management to demand concessions from AFSCME and MTI in exchange for a new Contract. All seven Board members said of Act 10, “The Governor’s proposals are a damaging blow to all our public services and dedicated public employees. The legislation’s radical and punitive approach to the collective bargaining process seems likely to undermine our productive working relationship with our teachers and damage the work environment, to the ultimate detriment of student achievement.”
Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore espoused similar feelings just last month. In referring to Act 10, she wrote District employees “… we still need to determine together how to go forward in the best interest of our employees and our district.”
The pledges of Board members and Supt. Belmore were not worth the paper they were written on. Demanding significant changes and deletion of terms which they had agreed – some since the 1960’s – the District negotiators were relentless.

Links:

A Simple Approach to Ending the State Budget Standoff

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Here’s an idea for resolving the state’s budget repair bill crisis. Governor Walker’s budget repair bill is designed to eviscerate public employee unions. But with a few changes it could actually lead to an innovative and productive way of addressing the legitimate concerns with the collective bargaining process, while preserving the most important rights of teachers and other public employees.
Background: A Tale of Two Unions
First, some background that highlights the two sides of the issue for me as a member of the Madison School Board. Early on Friday morning, February 25, our board approved a contract extension with our AFSCME bargaining units, which include our custodians and food service workers. The agreement equips the school district with the flexibility to require the AFSCME workers to make the contributions toward their retirement accounts and any additional contributions toward their health care costs that are required by the budget repair bill, and also does not provide for any raises. But the agreement does preserve the other collective bargaining terms that we have arrived at over the years and that have generally worked well for us.
AFSCME has stated that its opposition to the Governor’s bill is not about the money, and our AFSCME bargaining units have walked that talk.
Our recent dealings with MTI, the union representing our teachers and some other bargaining units, have been less satisfying. Because of teacher walk outs, we have to make up the equivalent of four days of school. An obvious way to get started on this task would be to declare Friday, February 25, which has been scheduled as a no-instruction day so that teachers can attend the Southern Wisconsin Educational Inservice Organization (SWEIO) convention, as a regular school day.

Through a variety of circumstances, I’ve had an opportunity to recently visit with several Dane County (and Madison) businesses with significant blue collar manufacturing/distribution employment. In all cases, these firms face global price/cost challenges, things that affect their compensation & benefits. Likely reductions in redistributed State of Wisconsin tax dollars could lead to significantly higher property taxes during challenging economic times, if that’s the route our local school boards take.

School spotlight: Program provides taste of medical research

Pamela Cotant:


West High School student Tulika Singh spent part of her summer studying epilepsy in rodents — an experience that made her feel like a contributor to research being conducted at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
Singh, who will be a senior this year, was one of 15 students in a Research Apprentice Program based at the school.
“Tulika (was) basically doing the work that college undergrads do for research experience and credits during the year,” said Dr. Thomas Sutula, neurology department chairman. He said apprentices are part of the team for the summer.
Singh, who wrote a research paper and presented it, was involved in a study of how genes influence epilepsy. Her mentor was Craig Levenick, senior research specialist.
“It’s just absolutely cool,” Singh said of the experience.
In its 29th year, the seven-week Research Apprentice Program is designed to help increase diversity in science and health professions. The program is geared toward incoming juniors and seniors from Dane County high schools. It’s based on academic performance and an interest in medicine.

Wisconsin State & School Finance Climate Update

I recently had an opportunity to visit with Todd Barry, President of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance [29 minute mp3]. A summary of this timely conversation follows:
[2:25] Post Retirement Liabilities: Milwaukee Public Schools Post Retirement Health Care Liabilities: $2.2 to $2.5 billion
[3:01] Wisconsin’s $2.44 Billion structural deficit. The State debt load ($4billion to $9billion from 2000 to 2007) is now among the top 10.
[7:48] On property values and assessment changes. Two years ago, property values grew 9%, last year 6%, 3% this year with most of the recent growth coming from commercial properties.
[8:57] Wisconsin Income Growth: Per Capita personal income “The canary in the mineshaft” and how we lag the national average by 6% or more.
Why?
The population is aging. Senior population will double by 2030. School age population is stagnant.
Employment growth peaked before the nation (04/05)
Wisconsin wages per worker is about 10% less than the national average. 1969; 4% below national average, 1980’s; 10 or 11% below national average. Wisconsin wagers per worker are now 14% below national average. We’ve been on a 40 year slide.
We’ve hid this because the labor force participation of women has increased dramatically.
Wisconsin is losing corporate headquarters.
[18:18] What does this all mean for K-12 spending?
“If there is going to be growth in any state appropriation,it is going to be schools and Medicaid“. The way the Legislature and Governor have set up these two programs, they are more or less on auto-pilot. They will grab whatever money is available and crowd out most everything else. So you get this strange situation where state aid to schools has tripled in the last 25 years while funding for the UW has barely doubled. That sounds like a lot, but when you look at it on a year by year basis, that means state funding for the University of Wisconsin System has grown less than the rate of inflation on an annual average basis while school aids has outpaced it (inflation) as has Medicaid.”
Is there anything on the horizon in terms of changes in school finance sources? A discussion of shifting state school finance to the sales tax. “It’s clear that in states where state government became even more dominant (in K-12 finance) than in Wisconsin, the net result, in the long run, was a slowing of state support for schools. The legislature behaves like a school board, micromanaging and mandating. California is the poster child.
[20:52] On why the Madison School District, despite flat enrollment and revenue caps, has been able to grow revenues at an average of 5.25% over the past 20 years. Barry discussed: suburban growth around Madison, academic competition amongst Dane County high schools. He discussed Madison’s top end students (college bound kids, kids of professionals and faculty) versus the “other half that doesn’t take those (college entrance) tests” and that the “other half” is in the bottom 10 to 20% while the others are sitting up at the top on college entrance exams.
[23:17]: This is a long way of saying that Madison has made its problem worse and has put itself on a course toward flat enrollment because of social service policies, school boundary policies and so forth that have pushed people out of the city.
[23:42] “If there is a way within state law to get around revenue caps, Madison has been the poster child”. Mentions Fund 80 and frequent and successfully passing referendums along with Madison’s high spending per pupil.
People think of the Milwaukee Public Schools as a high spending District. When you really look start to dig into it, it is above average, but Madison is way out there compared to even MPS. People argue that argue that MPS is top heavy in terms of administrative costs per student, Madison actually spends more in some of those categories than Milwaukee. (See SchoolFacts, more)
[26:45] On K-12 School finance outlook: The last time we blew up the school finance system in Wisconsin was in 1994. And, it happened very quickly within a span of 2 to 3 months and it had everything to do with partisan political gotcha and it had nothing to do with education.
[28:26] “Where are the two bastians of Democratic seats in the legislature? Madison and Milwaukee. Madison is property rich and Milwaukee is relatively property poor. Somehow you have to reconcile those two within a Democratic environment and on the Republican side you have property rich suburbs and some very property poor rural districts.

Policing kids with autism is a new challenge on the beat

Shawn Doherty:

A barefoot girl in her nightgown is picked up wandering along a dark Dane County highway. Sheriff deputies have no idea how the little girl got there, who she is, what happened to her, or where to take her.
A young man walks out of a camp for adults with cognitive disabilities and into the woods. It takes thousands of searchers a week to find Keith Kennedy — naked, weak, covered with scratches and ticks, but alive.
A 7-year-old with blue eyes slips out of the basement of his house in Saratoga. On the fifth day of a massive search, rescue dogs find Benjamin Heil in a nearby pond, drowned.
These recent Wisconsin cases all involved individuals with autism, a devastating brain disorder that impairs judgment and communication. Over the past decade, the number of children diagnosed with this disorder has multiplied tenfold, and the national Centers for Disease Control now considers autism to be a public health crisis. Autism frequently wreaks havoc not just on a child’s entire family, but on law and safety enforcement in the streets. The problem is expected to get worse as this population grows up.

MMSD and MTI reach tentative contract agreement

Madison Metropolitan School District: The Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison Teachers Incorporated reached a tentative agreement yesterday on the terms and conditions of a new two-year collective bargaining agreement for MTI’s 2,400 member teacher bargaining unit. The contract, for the period from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2009, needs ratification from both the … Continue reading MMSD and MTI reach tentative contract agreement

Economic Snapshot: The $363,000 High School Diploma

June is when many Wisconsin families celebrate high school graduations. As usual, Wisconsin ranks near the top nationally, with nearly a 90 percent high school graduation rate. Data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction indicates that in the 2005-2006 school year, many schools in the Capital Region graduated over 95 percent of their students. … Continue reading Economic Snapshot: The $363,000 High School Diploma

Yes to strategic planning, no to last minute referendums and school closings

On March 26, I voted no on Carol Carstensen’s proposed three-year referendum for several reasons. First, a referendum requires careful planning. Two weeks notice did not allow the Madison School Board to do the necessary analysis or planning. Ms. Carstensen—not the administration—provided the only budget analysis for her proposal. The board has not set priorities … Continue reading Yes to strategic planning, no to last minute referendums and school closings

An Alt View on Concessions Before Negotiations

Carol Carstensen: I thought it might be helpful to provide some facts and explanations about the topic of health insurance – hopefully this will clear up some of the misinformation and misconceptions present in the public discussions. It is important to remember that the focus must be on the total package settlement – because that … Continue reading An Alt View on Concessions Before Negotiations

School Finance: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate

School spending has always been a puzzle, both from a state and federal government perspective as well as local property taxpayers. In an effort to shed some light on the vagaries of K-12 finance, I’ve summarized below a number of local, state and federal articles and links. The 2007 Statistical Abstract offers a great deal … Continue reading School Finance: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate

The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor

The Economist: Look around the business world and two things stand out: the modern economy places an enormous premium on brainpower; and there is not enough to go round. But education inevitably matters most. How can India talk about its IT economy lifting the country out of poverty when 40% of its population cannot read? … Continue reading The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor

Fall Referendum Climate: Local Property Taxes & Income Growth

Voters evaluating the Madison School District’s November referendum (construct a new far west side elementary school, expand Leopold Elementary and refinance District debt) have much to consider. Phil Brinkman added to the mix Sunday noting that “total property taxes paid have grown at a faster pace than income”. A few days later, the US Census … Continue reading Fall Referendum Climate: Local Property Taxes & Income Growth

Education in Wisconsin: K through UW

Ostensibly about how short-sighted the legislative cuts are to the UW system, this guest MJS business op-ed addresses a few big issues affecting how we finance public education in general. http://www.jsonline.com/bym/news/jun05/334962.asp Of particular interest was this: “Working with a team of business leaders to explore strategies that would free resources to enhance educational outcomes. Do … Continue reading Education in Wisconsin: K through UW

Panel Discussion on Meeting the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted and Talented Students

Come listen to a panel of experts discuss the social and emotional needs of gifted and talented students. Diagnostic, assessment, treatment/intervention, educational, parenting and theoretical issues will be addressed. Resources will be shared. This program is intended for parents of children within the full range of high ability (i.e., not only the profoundly gifted). This … Continue reading Panel Discussion on Meeting the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted and Talented Students