Heads of Wisconsin’s Largest School Districts Are “Appalled”

MADISON – Superintendents of Wisconsin’s five largest school districts tell members of legislature they are “dismayed” $ 2.3 billion in federal aid threatened due to poor funding for K-12 schools .

District leaders in Green Bay, Milwaukee, Madison, Racine and Kenosha urged lawmakers in a letter sent Tuesday to put partisan differences aside to do what is best for the state’s schools.

The state budget being developed by the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee of the Legislature does not include enough funding for K-12 schools to ensure that Wisconsin would be able to keep 2 , $ 3 billion in federal coronavirus relief money.

Here is the full text of the letter:

Members of the Legislative Assembly of Wisconsin,

In March 2020, as COVID-19 swept through Wisconsin, educators, administrators and board members at public schools moved extremely quickly to change the way teaching and learning unfolded.

They adopted new and innovative methods of providing essential services, such as providing nutritious meals and accessing the Internet for students. As the pandemic continued through fall 2020, all school districts in Wisconsin were required to plan, prepare, and deliver education services under ever-changing circumstances and ongoing and sometimes inconsistent directions from federal health experts. , state and local.

As superintendents of Wisconsin’s five largest school districts, we write to you on behalf of our more than 150,000 students. Together, our districts serve nearly 20 percent of the state’s public school children, including a disproportionately high number of poor students (104,532), students whose first language is not native. ” English (23,516), students with trauma and students
negatively affected by deep disparities in health care.

The enormous challenges faced by all schools in Wisconsin were even more staggering in the five largest school districts in the state of Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee and Racine, also known as
the “Big 5”. In many ways, COVID-19 has exacerbated growing disparities and inequalities in our schools and communities.

It is important to note that education has never stopped, even though the buildings may have been closed. Our teachers and administrators have gone to Herculean efforts to ensure that students can learn successfully in virtual, hybrid, and in-person environments.

Much like businesses across the country, which had to fundamentally pivot their operations, we had to adapt to the new reality. This meant making huge investments in infrastructure to ensure the safety of our students and our nearly 25,000 staff, that our schools continue to operate, and that we can answer key questions such as the following:

How can we ensure that our students – who depend on the two or more meals a day they receive at school – would continue to be fed, knowing that they faced food insecurity at home?

How could we stay in touch with our students and their families when they don’t have internet or computers at home?

How could we support the older students, who were trying to learn at home as they were the childcare providers for their younger siblings and responsible for accompanying them to and from food?
daily distribution sites to collect food because their parents were frontline workers and daycares had been closed?

How do you ensure that students maintain their literacy skills, knowing that many families do not own books and that libraries are closed?

How might we support students and their families – again, many of whom were frontline workers – facing the trauma of sick or dying family members due to COVID-19?

The pandemic has forced the Big 5 Districts to spend millions to meet the most basic education, nutrition, physical and mental health needs of our students, rather than hiring additional teachers or social workers. To date, the Big 5 districts have delivered more than 10.5 million meals to students. We also spent millions of dollars buying digital devices, as well as mobile hotspots to connect students to the Internet. Finally, we have hired a new workforce for contact tracing and substitute teaching purposes.

We’ve spent millions more on gates and other protective items to keep students and staff safe, including thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer, over a million disposable gloves, over 7
millions of face covers and thousands of disposable disinfectant wipes containers. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have planned in advance how to use federal elementary
and High School Emergency Relief (ESSER) money, which will enable districts in Wisconsin to take new approaches to mitigate the disruption to our students’ education caused by the pandemic. These one-time dollars provide a unique opportunity to work with our community partners to address inequalities in our school communities.

We are appalled that the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted to put ESSER dollars at risk. Our districts have engaged in many innovative approaches and partnerships with our communities to deal with the disruption and trauma our students face. The JFC action has led school districts to halt their planning efforts as they are unsure whether expected federal resources will be
to come up. This is unfortunate and will negatively affect the students of Wisconsin.

Public school leaders remain focused on meeting the needs of every student, no matter what the circumstances of their lives. For the Big 5, this commitment extends beyond individual students to our state, such as
we know the seeds of Wisconsin’s economic and social future are being planted in our schools. When we say we need to meet the needs of all students, we really mean everyone.

We are at a unique moment in the history of our state. As we emerge from this pandemic, the federal government has made a historic investment in American schools, distributing funds based on student needs. These one-off investments will not only provide the necessary resources, but will also have a significant positive impact on the economic and social future of our State.

The state of Wisconsin has the financial resources to support the governor’s funding proposal for K-12 schools. It’s a moment that calls for putting partisan differences aside and recognizing that an investment in our children now will have a long and lasting impact on the well-being of our state.

The point is, Wisconsin kids, including Big 5 students, can count on their public schools, as they always have. As we emerge from the pandemic, we hope that we can count on the state legislature to support all PreK-12 public education students in Wisconsin by providing for the large investments they need in the state budget. .

Stephen Murley, Superintendent of Public Schools for the Green Bay Area, Superintendent of Schools and Learning
Sue Savaglio-Jarvis, Superintendent of Kenosha Unified School District
Carlton Jenkins, Principal of Schools for the Madison Metropolitan School District
Keith Posley Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent of Schools
Eric Gallien, Director of Schools for the Racine Unified School District

About Homer Yonker

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