(The Center Square) – Not every parent in Fall Creek schools wants their kids to be forced to wear a mask in school. But very few parents are happy that an outside political candidate is trying to use their school to make a point.
Brian Westrate has two kids in Fall Creek Schools, which is just a few miles outside of Eau Claire. He is one of many parents who are upset that progressive candidate and Minocqua Brewing Company owner Kirk Banstad is using a local mom to press a federal lawsuit that would require all kids in the only school building in the district to mask-up.
“There have certainly been a few people who’ve said ‘I wish they were wearing a mask,’” Westrate told The Center Square. “But to date, those people have also disagreed with the lawsuit.”
Fall Creek mom Gina Kildahl, who is Westrate’s neighbor, filed a federal lawsuit in Madison earlier this week to force the school district to require masks for all students. Fall Creek currently allows students to choose whether to wear a mask.
Kildahl says her son caught the coronavirus in school. While he wears a mask, her lawsuit says other students don’t. Kildahl’s lawsuit is the latest to be paid for by Banstad’s political action committee.
“There are three legitimate ways to deal with it,” Westrate explained. “Open enroll your student somewhere else, move, or run for the school board. But suing to try and use the force of government to conform to your belief is not a legitimate option.”
Westrate said that the lawsuit is being driven by and paid for by someone who is not from Fall Creek, which he said is really frustrating parents in the district.
“Had a movement within our community organically developed. Call them ‘Fall Creek Citizens for Masking.’ And they come up with a nice logo, and start having meetings at the town hall, and six months later they raise enough money to file the lawsuit. Okay. That’s at least a legitimate community discussion,” Westrate explained. “But to have a wealthy guy from across the state, who doesn’t know anything about our community, to sue us, that’s different.”
Bangstad has said that he wants to find a judge who will order all schools in Wisconsin to order all students to mask-up.
Westrate says that crosses a line.
“He is a bully and this is blackmail. This is legalized blackmail,” Westrat said. “When someone who has more money files a lawsuit knowing that the person they are suing can’t afford to fight it, and as long as you choose a demand that is cheap enough, you’re basically using the courts to blackmail someone into doing what you want. And that’s what’s going on here.”
(The Center Square) –The agreement to suspend fewer Black students in Milwaukee Public Schools has led to more students feeling less safe in their schools.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty released a report on Wednesday that looks at the impact of the 2018 agreement between MPS and the Department of Education.
Suspension rates declined in Milwaukee after the MPS agreement. Reduced suspension for African American students resulted in lower reports of safety.Suspension rates for other student groups change in a more “normal” manner.Black students suffer the most because of the changes.
WILL Research Director Will Flanders and Policy Intern Amelia Wedward authored the report.
They two say when school suspensions fell in Milwaukee Public Schools after the district agreed to change its policies to align with former Pres. Obama-era thinking on race and school discipline, the number of students who said they felt less safe in school increased.
“When suspension rates for African American students fell, the share of students reporting that they feel unsafe in their school’s hallways went up,” the report notes. “[Because] African American students are heavily concentrated in schools with other African Americans, other African American students bear the brunt of lax discipline practices.”
Approximately 80% of MPS's student body is Black.
The research says the connection between suspensions and safety for Hispanic or other races of students is different.
“It is important to note that this is not a story about African American students disrupting learning for students of other races. In many cases, other African American students are the ones most harmed by disruptive classroom environments,” the researchers note.
Instead, WILL says the data suggests schools need to focus on school safety in addition to their other goals with changing school discipline.
“Rather than helping to create a safer environment for students, students appear to feel less safe in schools where suspension rates for African American students are declining,” the report states.
“If differences in suspension rates along racial lines are not the result of overt racism, as the data here suggests they are not, the natural result of reduced suspensions is fostering an environment where other students will have more difficulty learning; and, perhaps even be afraid to come to school. After a year of learning loss, we cannot afford to lose another year to misguided discipline policies under the false narrative of disparate impacts.”
(The Center Square) – The top Republican on the Wisconsin Assembly’s election committee says the special investigator looking into last fall’s vote doesn’t speak for her.
Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, on Monday released a statement saying she opposes any deals with the mayors of the so-called Wisconsin Five, and is not a part of former Supreme Court Justice Mike Gableman’s investigation.
“The current subpoenas have not been approved by the Assembly’s Campaigns and Elections Committee,” Brandtjen wrote. “I do not approve of the current list of subpoenas to the five Wisconsin Mayors, as this provides immunity to them in any trial or criminal proceedings.”
Brandtjen has been running her own investigation through her committee since January. She too is focusing on the Mark Zuckerberg-funded Center for Tech and Civic Life. And she too wants answers from the mayors of Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Racine, and Kenosha.
“Mayor [Eric] Genrich of Green Bay allowed a non-profit group to operate central count, provided this non-profit group keys to central count, and issued a city ID to a partisan operative from New York,” Brandtjen explained. “He has committed dereliction of duty and should be held accountable. Providing him immunity after all the time it has taken to uncover his actions will not serve justice.”
Gableman said in a YouTube video over the weekend that if Wisconsin’s election laws weren’t broken last year, then local election managers certainly stretched them to nearly the breaking point.
"There is also evidence that ambiguities in the law were expansively interpreted, so much so, to potentially undermine ballot security measures," Gableman said.
Gableman has the backing of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who’d signed-off on his subpoenas. Vos has not signed-off on subpoenas that she’d like to issue.
Brandtjen also wants to expand her investigation into a full forensic audit of November’s vote.
“Justice Gableman has recently defamed the Arizona Audit as ineffectual. If he had read the report, he would have realized they discovered 17,000 duplicate ballots, 23,000 mail-in ballots from people who no longer live at the listed address, and 9,000 more mail-in ballots received than sent,” Brandtjen added. “We are not questioning how many ballots were counted; we are questioning the number of ballots that may be fraudulent.”
(The Center Square) – Ten years after Act 10 became law and changed what Wisconsin school teachers can include in their school contracts, Democratic lawmakers in the state continue to try and roll it back.
Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, and a handful of Democrats this week introduce what they are calling the Collective Bargaining for Public Education Act.
“Wisconsin’s public education sector has a unique and critical role to play in our state. To ensure the effectiveness of these institutions, we rely on highly qualified individuals and their talents to move our state forward,” Larson said in a statement. “The legislation we have introduced establishes the right of employees of school districts, CESAs, technical college districts, and the UW System to collectively bargain over wages, hours, and conditions of employment.”
Republicans, under Gov. Scott Walker, approved Act 10 as a way to curb the skyrocketing cost of teacher salaries and benefits. Act 10 limits teacher contract negotiations to salaries only. It also requires teachers to pay more toward their healthcare and retirement.
Estimates say Act 10 saved taxpayers in Wisconsin $14 billion over the past decade.
“Government has used the tools of Act 10 to control costs, saving taxpayers billions and billions of dollars,” CJ Szafir with the Institute for Reforming Government told The Center Square. “To reverse that - and require collective bargaining - would require a massive tax increase on hardworking Wisconsin families or gutting public programs. There's no other option and Democrats need to be honest about those trade-offs.”
Szafir says Act 10 is now popular with people in Wisconsin because it saves them money and gives them choices. He says Democrats at the Capitol can’t accept it.
“Wisconsin's public schools are struggling to educate children in reading and basic civics. We have one of the worst racial achievement gaps in America,” Szafir added. “Instead of focusing on these core problems, the bill is trying to relitigate lost battles of 10 years ago in the hopes of exciting Madison progressives. This plan is a clear giveaway to union bosses and special interests at the expense of the taxpayer.”