October 1, 2021 – West Bend, Wi – Dear Editor:
On Monday night, Sept. 27th, the West Bend School District (WBSD) held its annual meeting. Once again, the so-called, self-identified “conservative” school board members are proposing to raise the tax levy. This will be the third year in a row, if this resolution is approved, that the school board has increased the tax levy. In the 2019-20 school year, it was raised 7.15%, in 2020-21 it was raised 6.21%, and now the board is proposing a 7.25% increase.
In addition, the annual meeting revealed that the district’s gross total expenditures proposed for the 2021-22 school year are to increase 7.12% from $98,504,627 to $103,376,400. This increase in spending is happening when enrollment has declined about 200 students from 6,034 last year to an estimated 5,824 this school year. (In the last 10 years, the district has lost about 1,000 students.) This increase in spending and the property tax increase are happening when the schools all over Wisconsin are flush with federal stimulus funding.
Most likely the word was spread throughout the district employees that their votes would be needed at the annual meeting. The seats of the high school auditorium, where the Monday meeting was held, were filled with about 100-125 people, an extremely large crowd compared with other annual meetings. Many faces were recognizable as teachers, principals, administrators, and family members of these employees.
The first resolution was the tax levy increase. The “electors,” or audience members, were asked to stand up if they approved this tax increase. Virtually everyone in the room stood up. I could not see another person sitting down.
The third resolution involved salaries for school board members. The board proposed that their salaries remain $2,500, a number that had been in place since the 2014-15 school year. A West Bend alderman (who has shown his liberal bonafides by consistently voting for tax increases in the city council) made a motion that the board member salaries DOUBLE to $5,000 ($5,200 for officers). When it was time to vote, the crowd again stood up, showing they were overwhelmingly in favor of the salary increase. (This time there were about 10 audience members who remained sitting, to show they were voting “no.”)
I believe these two votes, but especially the salary increase, demonstrated the district employees showing their support for the school board, which has been doing the administration’s and employees’ bidding for several years. Whatever the administration proposes, whether it’s curriculum choices or tennis court improvements, the school board usually votes in favor, 7-0.
Most of the current school board members campaigned as “conservatives,” but they have voted as fiscal liberals, voting for tax increases, more expenditures, and the last referendum that would have saddled this community with $74 million of new debt (including interest), in addition to previous referenda that are still being paid off by the district. Where are proposals for belt-tightening as student enrollment continues to decline every year? For that matter, where is the emphasis on improving academics? Recently a ranking of Wisconsin public high schools done by Niche ranked West Bend West as 90th out of 489 schools and West Bend East as 194th. Compare these scores with other Washington County high schools that were ranked higher: Germantown 25th, Slinger 34th, and Hartford 85th. I think it’s time to start looking at achievement scores at all levels in West Bend, while the taxes and cost per student are rising.
In June a small group of residents wrote a Freedom of Information request (FOIA) to learn how much WBSD teachers were being trained in social emotional learning (SEL) and critical race theory (CRT). Numerous courses have been offered to teachers and administrators since at least 2018, with titles such as: Beyond Diversity; Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion; Uncovering Our Bias With Behavior; Intercultural Development Inventory; Multiculturally Responsive Preschool Classroom; Meeting the Social and Emotional Needs of All Learners; Social and Emotional Learning; and Second Step (SEL) Training, to name a few. Whether the school board was involved in approving these training sessions is still unknown, but why would teachers need to spend hours learning about implicit bias, white privilege, and systemic racism unless they are bringing those subjects into their classrooms?
Recently, concerned parents have spoken at several school board meetings, pointing out the dangers of social emotional learning and critical race concepts. Soon the board members will have to answer this question: Will they continue to allow left-leaning curriculum and teacher training courses (that focus on SEL and CRT) to persist in our district and classrooms?
Conservatives of Washington County need to step up and get involved in order to stop the hijacking of our children’s education and the emptying of our wallets. Our school board is out of touch with this community, and it’s time to take back the leadership of the school district. The next school board meeting is Monday, October 11 at 5:30 p.m. I challenge you to come and see for yourself what’s happening in our classrooms!
West Bend, WI
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