November 22, 2014

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:

The Federal Courthouse building in Milwaukee (Photo:

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.


No charges for Rhinelander students involved in sexting scandal

Nearly 40 teenagers involved in a widespread sexting incident in the Rhinelander area will not be facing any criminal charges. Instead, officials with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office and the Rhinelander School District say they will focus on educating students about the dangers of sending nude photos to anyone.

In a joint press release issued Monday, Superintendent Kelli Jacobi and Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman noted that the series of inappropriate cellphone pictures sent by students could have led to felony charges, but Wisconsin law does not have “disciplinary alternatives for such offenses.”

Instead of charges, which would likely be damaging to the students’ futures and prevent them from entering certain occupations, the district is bringing in a Wisconsin Department of Justice special agent to give presentations to the students and parents about the seriousness of taking inappropriate photographs and distributing them on social media.

Jacobi did note that ten students got one-day suspensions, and those violating the school athletic code were suspended for certain events.



University of Wisconsin-Madison announces $100 million donation

Bascom Hall (Photo: UW-Madison)

Bascom Hall (Photo: UW-Madison)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has received its largest ever gift from a single contribution. UW officials announced over the weekend that alumni John and Tashia Morgridge have agreed to donate $100 million to the state’s flagship campus.

The Morgridges are co-chairs of a new fundraising effort being planned by the UW. The money will go to match donations for endowing professorships, chairs and distinguished chairs as the school tries to recruit top-flight faculty members. UW officials announced the gift on the scoreboard at Camp Randall Stadium, during Saturday’s game against Nebraska.

John Morgridge graduated from the UW-Madison business school in 1995. He has served as CEO and chairman of the board for Cisco Systems. Tashia Morgridge graduated from the School of Education in the same year. She has worked as a special education teacher.

It’s not the first time the pair have made major donations to the UW-Madison. They gave $100 million previously to establish the Morgridge Institute for Research, along with $32 million to renovate and expand the School of Education building.

Wisconsin DPI budget seeks $613 million for K-12 public schools

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has requested $613 million in state aid for public schools over the next two year budget cycle. DPI spokesman John Johnson said the request – 2.6 percent more for 2015, and a 4.7 percent increase the following year – represents a starting point in the larger state budget process.

State Superintendent Tony Evers’ budget request would also allow schools to increase spending per student by $200 the first year and 204 dollars the second year. “We listened to parents and educators, and what we hear loud and clear is that we need some help in our schools,” said Johnson. “The 200 dollar revenue limit per pupil increase is basically a consumer price-indexed increase that would put us after four years just above a level of funding that our kids were experiencing back in 2010.”

Johnson says the DPI budget request is a response to a broken school aid formula for the state’s public schools. Governor Scott Walker’s office said the governor will consider the DPI request before Walker submits his next budget to lawmakers in February.

“The budget request is as expected. We intend to move ahead with our Forward Agenda, which calls for more efficient use of taxpayer dollars in education, by focusing resources in the classroom,” said a statement released jointly by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Joint Finance Committee Assembly Co-Chair John Nygren (R-Marinette).