Wisconsin Kids Say the Darndest (and Wisest) Things About Education

Dec 26, 2017

As adults, we have a lot of opinions about the way kids these days grow up. We were in their shoes once, and now, we’re in charge of bringing up the next generation.

But when it comes to the big things in kids’ lives – like school -- often times, they’re the ones with the best insights.

As 2017 comes to an end, check out what students had to say about the biggest education news of the year.

Greendale Middle School students take part in a group discussion during social studies class in 2017.
Credit Rachel Morello

2017 greeted Wisconsin schools with news of extra support. As part of his biennial budget proposal, Gov. Scott Walker announced an increase in money for public schools -- $200 extra dollars, per student. The state legislature included the provision in their final budget package.

Teachers and administrators had ideas about how they’d use the money – a

But kids had their own ideas. Like this trio of students from Brown Deer High School…

Textbooks, desks, better bathrooms & locker rooms

“We could use the money for textbooks,” offered Joe. “It’s old information – we need an update.”

“I’d spend it on desks,” said Justin. “Some of our desks [are] uncomfortable. It’s sometimes hard to learn.”

“I’d spend the money better bathrooms, and locker rooms,” piped up Davian.

READ: If Wisconsin Schools Get More Money, How Will They Spend It?

Students look through "resumes" for the state superintendent candidates, back in February.
Credit Rachel Morello

Kids also shared their opinions about the race for state superintendent, which heated up in the first part of the year.

Students had plenty to say about the qualities they find important in a leader – as well as the way they wished the election worked in their favor!

“I wish we could vote, because we’re the ones actually in the education system that they’re fighting to have control over!” exclaimed Marisa Rodriguez, a senior at Milwaukee’s St. Joan Antida High School.

LISTEN: How Do Wisconsin Students Judge the Candidates For State Superintendent?

In the Milwaukee Public School district, 2017 marked a year many students chose to speak up about the prospect of school uniforms.

"Not everyone is into art and music like me, but that's the point: everyone is different"

The Milwaukee School Board approved district-wide uniforms for the first time, for the 2017-18 school year – but not before some of their best and brightest voiced their opinions.

A.E. Burdick Elementary sixth grader Ava Antonie expressed her opinion about why she didn’t want to be told what to wear.

“I love wearing my David Bowie tee-shirts and my Lumineers hoodie!” Ava told school board members. “I know that not everyone is in a band, and not everyone is into art and music like me, but that’s the point: everyone is different, they all have different styles. Everyone is unique, and should be allowed to show that.”

ALSO IN MPS: Students Question Water Quality at North Division High School

Students also weighed in on another public policy issue: DACA.

Fernanda Jimenez, a senior at Racine Horlick High School
Credit Rachel Morello

Conversations about the Obama-era law protecting immigrant kids from deportation crept into Wisconsin classrooms in late summer. That’s when President Donald Trump announced DACA protections will end in March of 2018.

And undocumented students like Fernanda Jimenez, from Racine, had a lot to say about the decision.

“It’s scary that I worked so much to get where I’m at, or keep getting to where I want to be, and that one little thing that will just go away can tell me that all I thought would happen is just gone, and I can’t do what I want to do in my life,” Fernanda shared.

And, Fernanda didn’t just voice her opinion to us – she joined countless other students in DACA protests around Wisconsin.

DACA IN HIGHER ED: UW-Milwaukee Works With Undocumented Students During Period of Uncertainty 

Come fall, a big announcement hit the state: here comes Foxconn.

The tech manufacturing company picked Mount Pleasant as the site for its U.S. headquarters -- and that set schools up to talk about how they can prepare students for tech jobs.

Milwaukee Collegiate Academy selects students to act as "tech ambassadors."
Credit Michelle Maternowski

Programs encouraging students to learn IT, as well as teamwork and people skills, got a lot of attention. Like the “tech ambassadors” program at charter school Milwaukee Collegiate Academy.

“What keeps me here is this [program] will help me when I get to college,” shared senior Alexander, “because I want to major in computer science.”

“I want to study mechanical and environmental engineering,” added senior Demetryus,” which kind of relates back to the whole computer aspect of things. So it has crossed my mind that that started because of this program.”

MORE: How Can Wisconsin Schools Prepare for Foxconn, Other Jobs of the Future?

Like most every other year, 2017 saw education trends come and go.

But one theme consistently re-emerges when you talk to Wisconsin students: many of them love to learn. And for them, school becomes a second home.

Perhaps Elizabeth Sullivan, a senior at Nicolet High School, summed it up best…

“You have a sense of home. You’re like, ‘yeah, I go there every day. I know the people in there, I’m totally fine.’ Everyone has their room like that, and it’s so much fun. And the people here are so awesome, and so nice, and so supportive. You just always have a good time!”

Students at Milwaukee Jewish Day School enjoy playing with robots in the school's 'Innovation Hub.'
Credit Rachel Morello

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