December 22, 2014

UW-Stevens Point offers class to help veterans adjust to college life

(Photo: UW-Stevens Point)

(Photo: UW-Stevens Point)

That first semester in college is a different experience for many veterans, and a new course being offered at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point this year hopes to address some of the back-to-school issue they are facing.

David Chrisinger is a UW-Stevens Point graduate that developed a veterans-only class called “Back From The Front.” He says the inspiration for the course came from a friend from Rhinelander who struggled to return to civilian life after serving in the military. “The kinds of issues that a 17 or 18-year-old is going to have to grapple with when they start college are very different than what a student veteran will grapple with, so I put together this class to help the students acclimate to the university, to connect with each other, and to learn how to be successful here.”

Chrisinger says the experiences freshmen out of high school have are vastly different from freshmen out of the military, and they discuss how to apply what they’ve learned in uniform to the new task of completing an education. “One thing that we work on in our classes is to show that they can use their experience to enlighten the class and to add a very valuable voice to certain discussions, and to use their experiences to make their experiences in college that much better.”

Much of the class is focused on the history of war, writing and running to help transition from military life to college life. “This first semester, what we really wanted to do was to give the students a place where they could connect with each other, and we could build an environment where the students felt comfortable and safe enough to talk about their experiences and to deal with the sorts of issues and challenges that many of them face coming back to the university.”

All college students go through a “first-year seminar” aimed at helping students think critically, adapt to the academic community and campus life, and take responsibility for their education, career choices and personal development. Chrisinger says the veterans entering college that make the transition a little difficult, but they also have a huge head start in some important areas. “Something I had not thought about was how advanced these students would be in certain areas. You know, they have incredible critical thinking skills. They do know how to get their work done. They do know the discipline. They pay attention. They show up to class early, you know, all of those things that a professor dreams about, they’re doing that stuff.”

UW Stevens Point is considered a “military friendly” campus, and has about 300 veterans enrolled in a wide variety of degree programs.

WSAU

UW System could see a major belt-tightening

UW System President Raymond Cross

UW System President Raymond Cross

University of Wisconsin System president Ray Cross is proposing changes in three main areas in an effort to enhance quality and affordability.

Cross did not give many details during the board meeting itself, but says he’s launching a broad plan to — among other things — reduce the number of required credits to graduate; create a new approval processes for capital building projects; re-examine the need for electives and courses with lower enrollments; and create a new system wide hotline to report waste, fraud and abuse. Cross admits it won’t be easy, but says it’s the right thing to do.

If they do it right, Cross says, the result will be a stronger UW System. He says he’ll have a better idea about details of the plan within six months.

Cross presented his package of reforms to the UW Board of Regents in Madison on Friday.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:15

Many Wisconsin public school unions vote to recertify

WRN File photo

WRN File photo

State officials have released the unofficial results of recertification votes held by school district employee unions.

Votes were held statewide this month for 305 unions representing public school teachers, support staff, and custodial workers. According to results released Tuesday by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, all but about 20 of the units met the requirement for 51 percent of the eligible members to vote in favor of recertification. Unions that failed to recertify can continue to exist, but are no longer recognized by districts and can’t negotiate wage increases tied to inflation.

The state’s largest teacher’s union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, says 97 percent of its member units seeking to recertify were successful in doing so. However, almost half of its groups decided to not even hold votes this year.

The annual votes are required under Act 10, Governor Scott Walker’s signature law that drastically change the collective bargaining powers of unions. The results will be sent to each unit, which will have about eight days to file any challenges.

Wisconsin school administrators release policy proposals

A lobbying group representing school district administrators in Wisconsin has unveiled an education policy wish list. About 100 administrators gathered in Madison on Wednesday to present a set of detailed recommendations.

John Forester is with the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance said the recommendations, contained in a 44 page document, are from a working group that began tackling the issues in late April, looking for “evidence based” solutions. “Our members late last session became increasingly concerned that education policy was being developed on ideology and emotion, and not on evidence,” he said.

Forester concedes that not every recommendation will get support from Republicans in the legislature. “We understand that this is a difficult environment fiscally, and we also understand that a number of the things that we are recommending probably won’t rise up high on their agenda.”

They include things like greater investments in early childhood education to more money for technology and innovation. All will face close scrutiny in the Republican-controlled legislature.

Wisconsin School choice program challenged in federal court

The Federal Courthouse building in Milwaukee (Photo: uscourts.gov)

The Federal Courthouse building in Milwaukee (Photo: uscourts.gov)

Wisconsin’s long-running public school choice program is facing a federal court challenge that argues it discriminates against disabled students. The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit in federal district court Wednesday, on behalf of three families of disabled children.

The annual Open Enrollment period allows public school students to apply for a spot in any other public school in the state. However, districts are not required to accept any students from outside their boundaries and they can deny admission to any disabled applicants if the requested district is not equipped to handle a particular situation. The lawsuit contends that it’s unconstitutional for schools to be allowed to accept traditional students but not those with special needs.

The three districts the group singled out were all in southeast Wisconsin; Elkhorn, Muskego-Norway, and Greendale. They’re among the defendants, along with state School Superintendent Tony Evers and the Department of Public Instruction. In response to the lawsuit, DPI released the following statement:

“This is a complaint about current Wisconsin state law.  Once the notice is served on this action it will be forwarded to the Wisconsin Department of Justice for representation.  The recently submitted Department of Public Instruction biennial budget request provides lawmakers with a path to improve access to open enrollment for students with disabilities.  We will continue to encourage the Governor to include this in his budget.”

WRN’s Bob Hague contributed to this report.