96 percent of WEAC local recertifications pass

Ninety-six percent of 2017 fall recertification elections for WEAC locals passed, results released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission show.

The overwhelming support for local unions mirrors similar results in recertification elections since 2011.

“In the local associations that chose recertification elections, educators continue to show tremendous support for the union,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, a middle school social studies teacher. “Unions continue to play a very strong role in their local school districts and partner with parents and their communities to ensure the best public schools for students.”

Recertification is a hoop created by the Legislature to limit employee rights. It requires that an association interested in being named the district “bargaining agent” pay for an annual election and the threshold for victory is half of the eligible voters voting yes, plus one. That’s a bar even the American president doesn’t have to reach to be elected. All educators, union members and non-members, vote in recertification elections and, if an educator does not vote, the state counts it as a vote in opposition.

Local associations across Wisconsin determine whether they will seek recertification based on their own unique circumstances. Whether or not a local chose to participate in recertification, and whatever the outcome of the vote, it’s important to stress that the union still exists. The union exists anywhere educators unite collectively to improve their schools for their students, expand their professional skills, and advocate for shared interests like school safety and opportunities for all children. No legislation can take away that right.

95 percent of Wisconsin public school districts meet or exceed expectations in new statewide ‘report card’

Racine Unified School District scored a passing grade in the latest round of state report cards, meaning it won’t face the possibility of area villages breaking off and forming their own districts.

A provision in this year’s state budget would have allowed Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant and Caledonia to leave Racine Unified if the district received a failing grade.

More than 95 percent of Wisconsin public school districts meet or exceed expectations in a new “report card” released Tuesday by the Department of Public Instruction. Private schools accounted for nearly 25% of the schools that failed to meet expectations, and most of those private schools are part of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (the voucher program), according to an analysis of the report cards by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That is a very high percentage of voucher schools making the “failing” list, given the fact that they make up a much lower percentage of schools overall. In addition, 140 private voucher schools were not rated because of insufficient data.

“On one hand, the vast majority of parents choose public schools for their students, and more than 95 percent of districts are meeting or exceeding expectations set forth on the report cards,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “On the other hand, there is a troubling number of voucher schools still unaccountable for performance – even though private school tuition is paid for by taxpayers.

“If Wisconsin is serious about school performance, legislators should focus and invest in the public schools that serve the majority of students instead of siphoning public school funds off to private voucher schools.”


From the Department of Public Instruction:

In the second year of report cards that use legislatively mandated growth and value-added calculations, 82 percent of Wisconsin’s public and private school report cards had three or more stars, meaning the schools met or exceeded expectations for educating students. More than 95 percent of the state’s public school districts earned a three-star rating.

Overall, 361 public and private school report cards earned five-star ratings, 719 had four stars, 643 had three stars, 261 had two stars, and 117 schools earned one star. Another 173 schools achieved satisfactory progress and 21 need improvement through alternate accountability. There were 152 report cards for 140 private choice schools that are not rated because there was insufficient data. This is the second year that choice schools were included in report cards and the second year the schools could opt to have both a choice student and an all student report card.

On district level report cards, 44 districts earned five-star ratings, 190 had four stars, 166 earned three stars, and 20 had two stars. One district, the Herman-Rubicon-Neosho School District, was not rated because of district consolidation. Another district, the Norris School District with enrollment of 14 students in 2016-17, made satisfactory progress through alternate accountability.

Alternate accountability is a district supervised self-evaluation of a school’s performance on raising student achievement in English language arts and mathematics. The alternate accountability process is used for new schools, schools without tested grades, schools exclusively serving at-risk students, and schools with fewer than 20 full academic year students who took state tests.

Accountability ratings are calculated on four priority areas: student achievement in English language arts and mathematics, school growth, closing gaps between student groups, and measures of postsecondary readiness, which includes graduation and attendance rates, third-grade English language arts achievement, and eighth-grade mathematics achievement. Additionally, schools and districts could have point deductions for missing targets for student engagement: absenteeism must be less than 13 percent and dropout rates must be less than 6 percent.

For the 2016-17 report cards, 162 schools and 24 districts had score fluctuations of 10 or more points in both overall and growth scores compared to 2015-16, which is larger variability than expected. Their report cards carry a ^ notation because it is unclear if the score change accurately reflects the amount of change in performance or a symptom of statistical volatility. Report card requirements in Wisconsin Act 55, the 2015-17 budget bill, mandated the use of value-added growth scoring and variable weighting based on the percentage of economically disadvantaged students enrolled in a school or district. Prior to Act 55, overall annual report card score change averaged 3.3 points. Since Act 55, the average score change is 5.8 points. Although volatility in value-added scores may decrease with another year of Forward testing, score fluctuations are likely to continue especially for small schools and districts as well as schools and districts with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students. The Department of Public Instruction is engaging with state policymakers, technical experts, and stakeholders about how best to address these issues. Any changes to school report cards growth or weighting calculations will require legislative action.

Report cards are intended to help schools and districts use performance data to target improvement efforts to ensure students are ready for their next educational step, including the next grade level, graduation, college, and careers. The 2016-17 report cards use data from a variety of sources, including information reported through WISEdash and two years of Forward and one year of Badger testing as well as three years ACT Plus Writing and Dynamic Learning Maps testing for growth calculations. At least three and up to five years of data are used for the gaps priority area and four years of data is needed to calculate a graduation rate. Schools and districts have access to a number of accountability resources on the department website to support report card discussions with parents, school staff, and the public.

Republican tax plan is ‘giveaway to wealthiest paid for by students and working families’

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a multi-trillion dollar tax plan that funds tax breaks for the wealthiest and corporations on the backs of students and working families. The bill, championed by Republican leaders, eliminates a popular tax deduction that allows educators to deduct up to $250 of the money they spend on their classrooms and students. The bill also expands a tax loophole for the wealthiest to pay for private school expenses while cutting tax deductions for the middle class. The elimination of most of the state and local tax deductions would blow a hole in state and local revenue to support public education and risk funding for nearly 250,000 education jobs, including 4,680 in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin’s students lose big with today’s vote,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, an eighth grade teacher. “It’s wholely irresponsible, including a provision eliminating tax deductions for teachers who buy classroom supplies, while allowing corporations to keep their deductions. This is highly hypocritical especially since some Republicans voted to make this deduction permanent in 2015. Now they want to eliminate it.”

The tax plan would cut up to $4.6 million from Wisconsin schools over 10 years.

“Hypocrisy is at the heart of the tax plan approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “It reveals the ill-conceived and misguided priorities of Republican leaders in Washington. Repeatedly, their plan takes from working families to pay for massive tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthy.”

The House tax bill eliminates the state and local deduction for people but keeps it for corporations. It eliminates the educator tax deduction for school supplies but allows corporations to continue to claim deductions for supplies they purchase. It eliminates the student loan deduction but opens a new loophole for wealthy families to sock away money to pay for private school tuition.

“It is outrageous to expand education tax loopholes for wealthy families to stash away money for private school,” Martin said. “Make no mistake: this poorly veiled and risky voucher program will only benefit those who can already afford private school tuition at the expense of our students and neighborhood public schools – where 9 out of 10 children attend. This is not normal. As with their health care debacle this year, Republican leaders are rushing to pass a massive, partisan bill that impacts every American household, critical public services like education, and our economy without giving it the scrutiny and deliberation it deserves. The American people demand Congress reject this reckless plan.”

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Wisconsin’s anti-collective bargaining law has significantly lowered teacher pay, increased teacher turnover rates and likely harmed student achievement, new study finds

From the Center for American Progress


Following the passage of Act 10, legislation championed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that eliminated collective bargaining rights and slashed benefits for public-sector workers, Wisconsin’s public education system has seen significant harm. Teacher compensation and experience have dropped drastically and turnover rates have increased — all warning signs to Congress and other states considering similar legislation.


Enacted in 2011, Wisconsin’s Act 10 virtually eliminated collective bargaining rights and slashed benefits for most public-sector workers. Now, the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund has unveiled new research showing how damaging Wisconsin’s Act 10 has been to the state’s public education system. In Wisconsin’s public schools, teacher compensation and experience have dropped significantly and turnover rates have increased — all of which negatively impacts Wisconsin families and students. The analysis was unveiled on a press call Wednesday with Wisconsin Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, Illinois Senate Pro Tempore Don Harmon (D), and Minnesota State Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL).

“Governor Scott Walker and Republican elected leaders in Wisconsin said that Act 10 would benefit schools and families alike. They couldn’t have been more wrong,” said David Madland, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, senior adviser to the American Worker Project, and co-author of the analysis. “What has actually happened is that Wisconsin’s public education system has suffered a major blow since anti-union legislation was enacted. An attack on teachers and other public sector workers doesn’t just hurt those employees — everyone in Wisconsin will bear this impact.”

“As a result of Act 10, teachers receive significantly lower compensation, turnover rates are much higher, and teacher experience has dropped significantly,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling. “Rather than encouraging the best and the brightest to become teachers and remain in the field throughout their career, Act 10 has demonized and devalued the teaching profession and driven away many teachers.”

The American Worker Project analysis used data collected by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and found:

  • Reduced teacher compensation. In the year immediately following the law’s passage, median compensation for Wisconsin teachers decreased by 8.2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, with median benefits being cut by 18.6 percent and the median salary falling by 2.6 percent. Median salaries and benefits continued to fall during the next four years so that median compensation in the 2015-16 school year was 12.6 percent — or $10,843 dollars — lower than it was before the passage of Act 10.
  • Higher teacher turnover rates. The percentage of teachers who left the profession spiked to 10.5 percent after the 2010-11 school year, up from 6.4 percent in the year before Act 10 was implemented. Exit rates have remained higher than before, with 8.8 percent of teachers leaving after the 2015-16 school year — the most recent school year for which data are available.
  • Greater percentage of less-experienced teachers, and a decline in overall teacher experience. The percentage of teachers with less than five years of experience increased from 19.6 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 24.1 percent in the 2015-16 school year. Average teaching experience decreased from 14.6 years in the 2010-11 school year to 13.9 in the 2011-12 school year, which is where it remained in the 2015-16 school year.
  • Higher rate of interdistrict moves. Interdistrict moves — when a teacher leaves one Wisconsin district to teach at another the next school year — has increased from 1.3 percent before the passage of Act 10 to 3.4 percent at the end of the 2014-15 school year.
  • Possible reduction in student performance and outcomes. Peer-reviewed research on Act 10’s effects on student outcomes has yet to be published, but several academics have produced working papers examining the law’s impact on Wisconsin students. This research is consistent with the authors’ findings that Act 10 has led to reduced teacher experience, increased exit rates, increased interdistrict teacher transfers, and thus has likely reduced student outcomes. Indeed, a recent working paper found that Act 10 had reduced statewide student achievement on science and math.

The American Worker Project’s research is particularly relevant because members of Congress as well as state elected officials in Illinois and Minnesota are considering similar legislation to attack public-sector employees. Meanwhile, Governor Walker, who championed Act 10 in his first term, just announced his bid for a third term. The U.S. Supreme Court will also soon hear arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a case that could significantly weaken public-sector unions and teachers’ ability to collectively bargain.

Click here to read “Attacks on Public-Sector Unions Harm States: How Act 10 Has Affected Education in Wisconsin” by David Madland and Alex Rowell.

Legislative Update – November 13, 2017

Sparsity Aid. A sparsity aid package designed to help rural schools won’t clear the house in this session, the Assembly Majority Leader told a statehouse insider news publication. The $9.7 million package would have provided rural districts with 745 students or less with $400 per pupil through sparsity aid rather than the current $300. There also would have been a second tier in the program for districts with between 746 and 1,000 pupils of $100 per student. Read the Legislative Reference Bureau Memo. In saying that the proposal wouldn’t move, Representative Robin Vos said the budget has made “historic” investments in schools, and school funding won’t be revisited. Public school advocates counter the “historic” notion – noting that the per-pupil increase in the budget, made outside of the funding formula, doesn’t restore the nearly billion dollars cut from public schools since 2011.

In the Assembly last week:

  • Montessori Teaching License. AB-423 (companion bill SB-299),which would grant an initial teaching license based on completion of a Montessori teacher education program, passed the Assembly.
  • Human Trafficking + Drivers Ed. AB-540 (companion bill SB-444), which would require education instruction on human trafficking in drivers education courses, was placed on the Assembly calendar.
  • Pupil Exam Information. AB-300, which would increase/expedite the information about mandatory pupil examinations available to families, passed the Assembly.
  • Pupil Exam Opt-Out. AB-304, which would allow a pupil’s parent or guardian to opt out of certain statewide examinations, except the civics exam required to graduate, passed the Assembly.

The full Assembly and Senate are now recessed until January, but here are a number of legislative meetings planned this week, including:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Don’t forget to take action on the proposal to eliminate Wisconsin FMLA!

Kay McLain of Florence is named Wisconsin Rural School Teacher of the Year

Florence County High School business education teacher Kay McLain, a member of the Florence County Education Association and WEAC Region 3, has been named the 2017 Rural School Teacher of the Year by the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA).

The award was presented at WiRSA’s annual conference in Wisconsin Dells. WiRSA annually recognizes one rural teacher statewide who makes significant contributions to their school district, most importantly to the students they serve. McLain is automatically a semifinalist for the National Monsanto Fund Rural Teacher of the Year competition sponsored by the National Rural Education Association.

McLain was nominated by Florence School District Administrator Ben Niehaus who said she far exceeds criteria for the award. “This award acknowledges the devotion of Kay, along with her supporting colleagues, to never be satisfied with the status quo in the interest of student success and opportunities. The persistence of Kay’s leadership is contagious throughout the high school,” Niehaus said.

Nearly 250,000 education jobs at risk if Congress eliminates state and local tax deduction

From the National Education Association

As part of its $5 trillion tax plan giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations, the U.S. House Republican leadership bill eliminates most of the state and local tax deduction (SALT). Its elimination could blow a hole in state and local revenue to support public education and put nearly 250,000 education jobs at risk, according to a detailed analysis of the impact of House Tax Bill (HR 1) on funding for public education conducted by the National Education Association.

In Wisconsin, that would put 4,680 educator jobs in jeopardy and risk the loss of $4.6 million in support of public elementary and secondary schools over the next 10 years.

“The Republican leadership’s tax plan is another example of misguided priorities in Washington,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “The plan is a tax giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations paid for on the backs of working people and students. It would jeopardize the ability of state and local governments to fund public education. That will translate into cuts to public schools, lost jobs to educators, overcrowded classrooms that deprive students of one-on-one attention, and threaten public education.”

The NEA analysis also showed that the bill would lead to cuts of approximately $250 billion in support for public education over the next 10 years. Corporations, by the way, get to keep their state and local tax deductions. A cut of this magnitude is akin to eliminating the Title I and IDEA special education programs overnight. If enacted, the elimination of state and local tax deduction could have a negative, ripple effect on states’ and local communities’ ability to fund public services such as public education.

The impact of eliminating SALT on public education is nearly equal to the education jobs lost during the Great Recession. By most accounts, the country lost about 300,000 education jobs during that time. To cope with the economic crisis our country faced, schools made draconian cuts to public education funding that had a negative impact on students. In addition to losing teachers, school aides, and other key education support professionals, some school districts reduced the number of school days from five to four; and critical education programs (before and after school programs, kindergarten) also took a hit. Class sizes ballooned.

The Republican leadership bill comes as the nation also faces a teacher shortage. At the start of the 2017-18 school year, every state in the country was facing a teacher shortage. In addition, according to the Washington Post, school districts also are struggling to fill positions in math, reading and English language arts, as well as finding substitute teachers.

“It has taken years to recover from the Great Recession, and we’re not out of the woods yet, what with our country facing a national teacher shortage,” continued Eskelsen García. “We must ensure that our students have caring, qualified, and committed educators in order to succeed. Now here come the tax cuts for the rich paid for by students and middle-class families. This bill is terrible for the American people because it is a giveaway for the wealthy and corporations funded on the backs of students and the middle class – and Congress should soundly reject it.”

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Americans over age 60 fastest growing demographic for student loan debt

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s “Snapshot of Older Consumers and Student Loan Debt”, the age demographic in which student loan debt is increasing fastest is Americans over the age of 60. Factors for the explosion of debt in this group, according to the report, include it taking longer for borrowers to repay their loans and more parents and grandparents borrowing to help finance higher educations for their children or grandchildren.

Additional CFPB research broke down the debt held by older borrowers in every state. It found that in Wisconsin there are nearly 60,000 people over age 60 with student debt in 2017, nearly double the roughly 39,000 in 2012.

One Wisconsin Now notes that, amid this growing crisis of student loan debt, Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-led Legislature have refused to take up a bill introduced in 2013, 2015 and again in 2017, to help Wisconsin borrowers refinance their student loans. Federal refinancing legislation offered by Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Mark Pocan has also been killed by GOP majorities.

“Student loan debt is a growing, multi-generational crisis that burdens not just recent graduates entering the workforce but threatens the secure and well-deserved retirements for those who’ve worked their adult lives,” said One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross.

Read more from One Wisconsin Now:

Americans Over Age 60 Fastest Growing Demographic for Student Loan Debt

MADISON, Wis. – According to the latest research, student loan debt in Wisconsin isn’t just for the young. A study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finds that borrowers over age 60 is the age demographic in which debt is growing the fastest.

7 out of 10 school referendums pass

Voters on Tuesday approved seven out of 10 school referendums throughout Wisconsin. Referendums were approved in Barneveld (2), Cochrane-Fountain City, Florence, Princeton, Three Lakes and Union Grove. Referendums lost in Freedom (2) and Milton.

The Milton and Freedom referendums were the largest in the state this year, each at about $70 million. The Milton money would have been used to build a new high school and swimming pool, convert the existing high school to a middle school and the middle school to an intermediate school. Last year, voters rejected an $87 million plan. The Freedom district had sought funds mainly for a new high school and renovations of the current high school, middle school and elementary school.

Officials in the Three Lakes district had said that if the $15.5 million referendum failed the school district may have been forced to shut down. It passed 750-294, allowing the district to exceed revenue limits by just over $3 million per year for five years.

Barneveld’s two approved referendums amounted to $16.3 million. Work will include demolition of the oldest portion of the existing school building; construction of an addition for a new elementary school, music rooms and art rooms; construction of a new secure entrance, cafeteria, commons and kitchen; upgrades to restrooms, HVAC and plumbing and electrical systems.

Other amounts approved include: $7 million in Cochrane-Fountain City, $3.7 million in Florence, $2.4 million in Princeton, and $7.9 million in Union Grove.

 

NEA President says tax plan is giveaway to wealthiest funded on backs of students and working families

The tax plan released by House Republican leaders and backed by President Trump is a massive tax giveaway to the wealthiest individuals and corporations funded on the backs of students and working families, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said.

The plan expands an education tax loophole that would further benefit the wealthy and allow them to set aside money for private school expenses while cutting tax deductions for the middle class. It also eliminates the educator tax deduction that allows educators to deduct eligible unreimbursed classroom spending up to $250. Congress made this deduction permanent in 2015. According to a recent report, 99.5 percent of educators dip into their own pocketbooks to provide supplies and instructional materials for their students. This tax plan rollout is the first step in a rushed effort to rewrite the tax code and ultimately pave the way for devastating cuts to working families, students and communities.

“Expanding education tax loopholes in order for wealthy families to stash away money for private school will hurt neighborhood public schools and students,” Eskelsen García said. “Similarly, as educators spend more and more of their own funds each year to buy basic essentials, Republican leaders chose to ignore the sacrifice made by those who work in our nation’s public schools to make sure students have adequate books, pencils, paper and art supplies.”

Eskelsen García went on to say:

“Eliminating any part of the state and local tax deduction equals a tax increase on middle class families that will have a negative, ripple effect on states’ and local communities’ ability to fund public services, like public education. That will translate into cuts to public schools, lost jobs to educators, and overcrowded classrooms that deprive students of one-on-one attention.”

Eskelsen García said we’ve been down this yellow brick road before. The failed ‘Kansas experiment,’ in which GOP leaders pushed brutal tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations starved the state of basic services and resulted in crippling cuts to public education. Educators left the profession and the state, class sizes ballooned, schools closed. In a bipartisan show of force, Kansas lawmakers, realizing the real-life consequences and failure of the experiment, then reversed course.

“And we’ve seen it from Washington, too. Lawmakers pass massive tax cuts then come back later demanding huge cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and education to ‘pay for’ the tax breaks for people and corporations who are not paying their fair share before getting new tax breaks,” Eskelsen García said.

“As with their health care debacle this year, Republican leaders and the White House are rushing to pass a massive, partisan bill that impacts every household, public services like education, and our economy without giving it the scrutiny and deliberation it deserves,” she said. “The American people reject this plan. This recklessness cannot stand.”

On Tuesday, the NEA sent a letter to members of Congress, asking them to vote against the proposed tax plan.

“This $5 trillion plan is a tax giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations paid for on the backs of working families and students, and jeopardizes the ability of students and local communities to adequately fund public schools,” the letter states.

Click here to send a message to Congress.

Watch this video of Congresswoman Suzan DelBene questioning Tom Barthold, chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, about details of the tax plan: