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Public Health’s gift to Madison public schools

Empower Wisconsin | Aug. 27, 2020 

MADISON —Timing is everything, particularly when it comes to 11th-hour health orders. 

Public Health Madison & Dane County’s health order — issued after 5 p.m. Friday — prohibits in-person instruction for students in grades 3 and up at all schools in Dane County. 

The new mandate arrived just days before many private schools were slated to welcome their students back to classrooms after last spring’s statewide lockdown forced kids, in many cases, to muddle through subpar virtual learning programs. 

Public Health just did a big favor for its compliant pals at the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). 

The health order eliminates a big incentive for public school parents who want their kids back in school sans Zoom meeting. And private school officials tell Empower Wisconsin they have taken a lot of calls from public school parents looking to move their kids out of the indefinite virtual learning space. 

“When the announcements came out from most of the Madison area schools that they would be going all-virtual, we had the most admission inquiries since I came to this school,” said Dr. Charles Moore, principal at High Point Christian School in Madison. 

Madison public schools were certainly worried. In an Aug. 7 letter to parents, the district asked, Do you support public schools but are thinking of MMSD for just one year due to COVID-19 planning efforts? Madison educrats advised parents to take an “equity pause.” 

“We’ve heard from some families that they are considering homeschooling their children in the fall or enrolling their children in private schools offering in-person learning. We understand and respect what families need to do for their children,” the letter states. 

After trying to sell reluctant parents on “key improvements” to its virtual learning offerings that will deliver a “stronger, more rigorous and more equitable” educational experience, the district played the guilt card. 

If your kids leave, MMSD warned, public schools will lose out on critical state cash — which is based on the number of students enrolled on the third Friday of September. 

“Even a small percentage of students withdrawing makes a huge impact, not for one year but for three years,” the letter admonishes. “A student who does not enroll in MMSD by the third Friday in September but then returns to MMSD once we return to in-person learning means that we lose the state revenue for the child, not just for this first year, but for the next 3 years due to the state’s 3 year rolling average formula.”

If the dollars … er kids … aren’t there, the public education geniuses that have presided over some of the worst achievement gaps in the state won’t be able to pump more money into the same kinds of liberal learning methods that have sunk academic success. 

“We know each family needs to make the best decisions for their children, but we hope you will pause to consider equity as well as our improvements to virtual learning before making a final decision,” MMSD begged. 

The pitch didn’t seem to work. Some parents weren’t convinced. They got their children out. They transferred them to schools that know the isolation and inadequacy of all-virtual learning is worse for students than a virus. They know because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said as much. 

But now everyone is, well, equal, thanks to Public Health Madison & Dane County’s last-minute order that takes away a big reason to leave public schools.

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