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As I See It

Money not biggest factor in educational success



Why is it when the question is asked, “What can be done to improve the education of our kids?” the answer always is “more money.” We hear it from the federal government, state government, and our local schools. If only we spent more money, our kids would be better educated. Look no further than Milwaukee to see that is not true. The Superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools resigned yesterday amid allegations of financial mismanagement. The district has failed to provide the state required financial reports that show how it is spending its money. The school district has also done a horrible job educating its students. Only one in five students in Milwaukee public schools can read or write at or above grade level. The math scores are even worse. Yet the district has been awash in money. Voters there just approved a $522 million spending plan. Milwaukee schools also benefited from increased education spending by the state, and millions in Covid money from the feds. Yet their students are still failing. So it isn’t always more money that is the answer to improving student test scores. It is also district leadership, compassionate teachers and involved parents, which seem to be lacking in Milwaukee.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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  1. nick

    June 5, 2024 at 3:49 pm

    The biggest obstacle to education is most parents are not interested in their child’s education.
    The children spend way too much time on their devices playing games and social media.
    The Chinese youngsters in China watch educational TikTok not the garbage available here.

  2. walden

    June 5, 2024 at 7:11 pm

    Similarities are striking: The La Crosse School District received last fall a $60 million referendum. That was 50% greater in amount than prior referendums. The La Crosse School District also received over $10 million of COVID funding and a record increase in funding ($8 million) from the State of Wisconsin for at least the next two years.

    Yet the District claims to have a so-called “structural deficit” that grows every year and is now over $3 million per year (which can’t be true because they somehow manage to pay all their bills).

    Part of the problem is there is no visibility into District finances and no-one on the Board with the courage to make tough inquiries and follow-up against the doublespeak so often given by the District. As WIZMs editorial points out, the relief valve is always “more money.” Yet academic performance continues to decline and truancy rates are off the chart no matter how much money is spent. This is clearly a leadership problem.

    Note the La Crosse District has less than 1/10 the student population of Milwaukee Public Schools.

  3. LG

    June 7, 2024 at 12:29 pm

    I have to agree with you this time Scott Robert Shaw. Demanding more money and spending more money from taxpayers rarely accomplishes anything. When it’s not your money and when there’s no accountability, it’s very easy for money to be mismanaged and wasted. I think the following expression applies. “When you only have a hammer in your tool belt, everything looks like a nail.” Government hammer is the power to tax. And so the government answer for public education is to spend more money. Take our local school board. They keep asking for more tax money to spend, but the education doesn’t get any better. School resource officers are reduced. They switch to standards based education which destroyed the incentive to turn in daily assignments and upset the teaching staff. They can’t pay their teachers enough and so they fret about teachers leaving the district. And instead of addressing these issues, they want to build a shining star, as the board calls it, by building a new school. They argue that it’s not a lot of money, but ignore the tax money already collected, the previous tax increases, the mismanagement, the deferred maintenance, and they parse the data by referring to it as $40 per $100,000 assessed value to make it sound like a low number while ignoring the total tax burden of county, city, WTC, And the fact that most homes in La Crosse are well over $100,000. No matter how they parse it, it’s still $54 million additional tax burden. The board has been encouraged to address multiple issues like declining enrollment, and other matters previously discussed, but instead they want to build a new building. As a taxpayer who has spoken to board members, I am aware they are resolute in their desire to build a new building, instead of putting themselves on a workable budget, keeping teachers with raises and support the district can afford, and stopping their bad habit of deferring regular maintenance.Accountability? If it doesn’t work out, they just don’t run for reelection or they resign leaving taxpayers with the bill and students and teachers disappointed. I encourage taxpayers in the district to vote “No” on the referendum because a new building will not solve their problems. The board is refusing to untie a new construction from the referendum. A new “shining star” will not solve the underlying problems within the district virtually guaranteeing that they will be asking for more tax money in the future.

    • Walden

      June 9, 2024 at 10:24 pm

      They may refer to a $40 tax cost but as usual their figures are misleading. The only thing you can safely assume about their figures is that they are manipulated…they do it every time.

      You are also correct about housing values…the latest median price in La Crosse is $265,000.

      Properly calculated, the tax cost will be about $180 per year on the above median value.

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