Emily Files

Education Reporter

Emily became WUWM’s Education Reporter in August 2018 after spending four years in small-town Alaska.

She began as a reporter for KRBD in Ketchikan, where she once covered a bear interrupting a high school cross country race. She then worked as a reporter and eventually news director at KHNS Radio in Haines, where she reported on a man in a bear costume harassing actual bears. Aside from the occasional bear story, Emily covered the local politics, tribal issues, hunting, fishing and, of course, education.

Emily is originally from the Chicago area. She studied journalism at Emerson College in Boston, where she reported her very first radio stories for college station WERS. She interned at NPR’s Weekend Edition, The Boston Globe and PRI’s The World. Emily’s work has aired on NPR's Morning Edition, Marketplace, NPR’s Only a Game, and The World.

Ways to Connect

Emily Files / WUWM

Updated on July 17 at 3:12 p.m. CT

Emily Files / WUWM

As coronavirus cases increase in Wisconsin, the state’s largest school district is proposing a virtual start to the upcoming school year. Milwaukee Public Schools leaders are calling for a phased-in reopening of schools — beginning with virtual instruction for all students, for at least the first 30 days.

Lauren Sigfusson / WUWM

Updated on July 14 at 3:27 p.m. CT

The Trump administration dropped its plans to impose restrictions on the number of online classes international students in the U.S. are allowed to take in the upcoming school year. The reversal was announced at a hearing in the lawsuit brought against federal officials by Harvard and MIT. 

Courtesy of Kyle Charters

In June, some local students were named finalists in the national NPR Student Podcast Challenge.

Emily Files / WUWM

Milwaukee Public Schools is seeking feedback from families and staff about how to reopen in the fall, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The survey is available online and closes on July 8. It asks families whether they want their kids to be back in classrooms, stick with virtual learning, or do a combination. And it asks staff whether they feel comfortable returning to schools and what safety measures are important to them.

Emily Files / WUWM

Protests sparked by police killings of Black people are drawing attention to the United States' persistent racial disparities. Those disparities are also widespread in education. Wisconsin has some of the largest test score and high school graduation gaps between Black and white students.

Emily Files / WUWM

There are still a lot of unknowns about how Wisconsin’s K-12 schools will reopen in the fall.

Public and private school leaders testified to the Assembly Education Committee for seven hours Wednesday about the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

>>MPS Considers How To Safely Bring Students Back

Scott Olson / Getty Images

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents is hiring one of Wisconsin’s most well-known politicians to the role of system president. Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson will lead the UW System for at least a year, beginning in July.

>>Regents Select Tommy Thompson As Interim UW President

Courtesy Claudio Martinez / LIT

The Milwaukee School Board unanimously voted Thursday night to end contracts with the Milwaukee Police Department. Board members said they've repeatedly heard from students who say they feel criminalized by the presence of police at schools. 

>>As Schools Pledge To Fight Against Racial Injustice, MPS Looks To Cut Ties With Police

Emily Files / WUWM

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will reopen its campus for the fall semester, with a slew of safety precautions to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.

Students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors. Classrooms will be reconfigured for social distancing. And large-enrollment courses will remain online.

In a normal semester at UWM, about 20% of classes are online. But this fall, the number will be reversed, according to Scott Gronert, dean of UWM’s College of Letters and Sciences.

Emily Files / WUWM

As protests over police brutality and racial injustice sweep the nation, some Milwaukee-area schools are speaking out and taking action – including a push to cut ties with police in Milwaukee Public Schools.

Last week, leaders at a charter school on the northwest side of Milwaukee organized a silent protest. Teachers, students and parents knelt for nine minutes on the sidewalk outside of Rocketship Transformation Prep.

Emily Files / WUWM

The UW System announced Sunday that all campuses would have some degree of in-person instruction this fall.

Leaders on each campus will make their own decisions on what exactly the fall semester will look like. But the system administration has released guidelines for how to reopen in the safest way possible.

Monique Musick

Updated Friday at 10:23 a.m. CT

Jim Johnsen withdrew from the search for University of Wisconsin System president on Friday. He was the lone finalist, drawing criticism from UW System faculty and staff.

Courtesy Laurie Horne

  

The coronavirus has disrupted the education world to an unprecedented degree. WUWM put a call out to the people who have been directly affected by the school closures and the unplanned shift to online learning.

Teachers, students and parents sent us voice memos and emails describing their new normal. 

Monique Musick

A search committee for the next University of Wisconsin System President has named just one finalist for the job. Jim Johnsen is currently president of the University of Alaska System, a position he has held since 2015.

Courtesy of Samer Ghani

Protests are happening around the country following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck. Here you'll find updates on protests happening in the Milwaukee area.

Check out all of WUWM's protest coverage here:

Emily Files / WUWM

As the current school year wraps up, Milwaukee Public Schools leaders are considering a range of scenarios for the fall. Whether students can safely go back to school remains uncertain due to the coronavirus.

Emily Files / WUWM

If voters didn't approve a tax referendum for Milwaukee Public Schools in April, the district would have been in a dire situation. That’s according to researchers with the Wisconsin Policy Forum, which analyzes the MPS budget each year.

Teran Powell

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is trying to set the stage for smooth elections in August and November after a chaotic experience in April.

The spring election and presidential primary saw a massive spike in absentee voting by mail. Many people didn’t want to cast ballots in person due to the coronavirus.

Emily Files / WUWM

Milwaukee Public Schools fielded criticism over the last couple of months about the district’s slower shift to online learning as students stay home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Between March 16 and April 20, teachers were not required to engage students in remote instruction. Even when the district told teachers to start supporting students’ learning from home, the expectations about what that should look like were unclear.

Emily Files / WUWM

The first semester of college under COVID-19 is over, and now schools have the difficult task of planning for the future. College leaders are deciding whether the benefits of holding in-person classes outweigh the risks of coronavirus exposure.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone says he will announce plans for the fall semester in June. Beyond the question of reopening campus, UWM is facing a projected $50 million to $100 million deficit by the end of the next school year.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Wisconsin now has a patchwork of local restrictions on businesses and gatherings after Gov. Tony Evers’ safer-at-home order was thrown out by the state Supreme Court late Wednesday.

In a 4-3 decision, the justices sided with Republican lawmakers and said Evers’ Health Secretary-designee Andrea Palm did not have the authority to extend the safer-at-home rules until May 26. The court lifted the restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Michelle Maternowski / WUWM

This year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) was supposed to bring thousands of visitors to Milwaukee in July. But the coronavirus pandemic has pushed the event back a month – and raised questions about what the gathering will actually look like.

Courtesy of Craig Griffie

Coronavirus-related school closures present some unique challenges to vocational education because hands-on learning isn’t possible right now. Even though their last few months of training were cut short, a Brown Deer teacher is working with his high school seniors to arrange job placements in the construction field.

>>Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

Emily Files / WUWM

As Milwaukee Public Schools begins its budget process, it’s facing an uncertain future but some reassurance from a recently approved tax referendum. Superintendent Keith Posley wants to spend about half of the referendum revenue on employee salaries and benefits, and use much of the rest to add 229 new positions.

MPS’s total budget is about $1.2 billion. The referendum will increase funding by $57 million next school year, gradually growing to $87 million in 2023.

Courtesy of John Berges and Erica Young

School closures triggered by the coronavirus are especially hard on students with disabilities and their families. These students often get one-on-one help at school, along with services like speech and physical therapy. In March, students and families suddenly lost all of that support. 

“Our new normal is barely coping,” said John Berges, whose son Theo is a special needs student at Shorewood High School. Berges sent WUWM a voice memo describing his family’s experience. 

stellamc / stock.adobe.com

Updated Friday at 2:28 p.m. CT

The City of Milwaukee is poised to furlough or reduce hours for more than 700 employees to make up for some of the revenue it’s lost during the coronavirus pandemic.

Approved Friday by the Common Council, about 260 employees will be furloughed and about 500 will have their hours cut. This won’t apply to public health employees, police, or firefighters — only those who either can’t work remotely or have less work to do right now. That includes, for example, library personnel, building inspectors, and municipal court workers.

Emily Files / WUWM

The COVID-19 crisis could significantly deplete state resources in Wisconsin. Gov. Tony Evers says the state could lose more than $2 billion over the next year because tax collections are expected to drop and demand for state services like Medicaid is expected to increase.

>>Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

Chuck Quirmbach

There are 187 COVID-19 outbreaks at facilities across Wisconsin, including nursing homes, workplaces and health care locations.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services released the new outbreak information in an online dashboard on Wednesday. DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said the dashboard is meant to provide a more complete picture of Wisconsin’s coronavirus numbers.

Screenshot

Wisconsin’s largest school district, Milwaukee Public Schools, is facing criticism from some teachers and families for its handling of distance education during the coronavirus shutdown. MPS has provided paper packets and links to educational websites. But it’s been slower than many other districts to distribute computers and implement teacher-led remote instruction.

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