Passing Notes: New Year, New Ideas -- Plus, A Challenge for Parents

Jan 12, 2018

Every few weeks, WUWM education reporter Rachel Morello scans through her notes and gives us the scoop on what's happening in area schools. Test your knowledge of headlines big and small with her news quiz!

After a holiday break, students, teachers and staff have returned to Wisconsin’s classrooms to finish the second half of their school year.

Returning along with them, is another edition of our weekly education news roundup! Test how closely you paid attention during those holiday dinner-table conversations…

National News: Happy ______ Week!

You’ve heard of those national celebrations, marking occasions like “National Ice Cream Day” or “National Hug Your Mom Week” – perhaps you’ve seen similar items labeled on your new 2018 wall calendar.

Well, January marks one of those big national celebrations for a certain education-related cause. What is celebrated in January?

A)National Lunch Lady Appreciation Week

B)National Humanities Day

C)National School Choice Week

Credit National School Choice Week

National School Choice Week runs from January 21-27.

Choice Week president Andrew Campanella describes the “festivities” as an opportunity to celebrate all schools.

“We’re talking about all options: traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, online academies, private schools and homeschooling,” Campanella describes for WUWM. “[There are] so many different types of programs to give parents more access to a good education for their kids. And during National School Choice Week, we want people to learn more about the options they have in their community.”

As you may know, Wisconsin is home to one of the longest-running voucher programs in the country – right here in Milwaukee. Racine also boasts its own choice program, and statewide vouchers are available, as well.

And choice tends to be a very divisive political issue -- not only here, but across the country.

Submit your story within the next week, and maybe it will appear in an upcoming WUWM story!

READ: Scroll through WUWM's coverage on school choice here

Local News: Eliminate Extras

A proposal will soon make its way through the rulemaking process at the Milwaukee School Board – that’s the group that governs MPS.

The proposal recommends wiping out a requirement currently in place for all students. Can you guess what that is?

A)Participating in science fair

B)Paying student fees

C)Taking semester exams

Credit Michelle Maternowski

Michael Bonds, one of the directors on Milwaukee’s school board, has proposed getting rid of student fees altogether. These are monies students and their families pay for extracurricular activities, graduation ceremonies, athletics, driver’s education – things like that. Many schools and districts – even colleges and universities – charge these kinds of fees, on top of tuition.

But Director Bonds says, based on district demographics, these additional fees are an added burden for many MPS families.

Bonds originally brought this idea to the board’s Committee on Accountability, Finance & Personnel back in the fall, and they tabled discussion of the idea until 2018.

Board administration tells WUWM that the group will likely take the proposal up again at their committee meeting in February.

Does your school/district charge additional fees? What for? Let me know – send me a tweet @morellomedia with the hashtag #WIedu

Statewide News: Wheeling and Dealing

State lawmakers are back to work on K-12 school budgets.

Gov. Scott Walker and some Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature announced this week that they are working on a deal to send more money to a specific subset of schools. Which schools are these?

A)Rural schools

B)Magnet schools

C)Milwaukee Public Schools

Credit Whitney Curtis / Getty Images

Some of Wisconsin’s rural schools tend to have issues with enrollment, because their districts are so sparsely populated – which can also lead to low revenues.

A deal being crafted in the statehouse would make more financial aid available to those schools – essentially increasing the amount available per pupil from $300, up to $400.

This might have implications for property taxes in those districts, so not all lawmakers are on board. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of wheeling and dealing happens – if any -- to push this proposal through.

What's coming up?

The first few days of 2018 have already seen lots of news on the national scale about DACA – the national law protecting immigrant children brought to the U.S. as minors. Remember, the Trump administration took action back in November to say they’ll end the program by March. Expect to hear more as lawmakers whittle down their immigration proposals.

Many Wisconsin schools administer semester exams in January – good luck to all students!

What’s going on in your neck of the woods? I want to know! Connect with me on social media, or by submitting your question below. And welcome to the new year!

Have a question about education you'd like Rachel to dig into? Submit below.