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Opinion Rebuttal: Wilmot Union High School, Money Well Spent?

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Michael Plourde (D) – Wilmot High School Administrator and Board Member Michael Matz (D)
(File Photo By Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye)

Editor’s Note: Michael Plourde and brand new school board member Michael Matz have publically called Mr. Dalton’s opinion piece “fake news” and “misinformation.” KCE reached out to both for clarification. We even offered Plourde a chance to correct what he thought was “false” by writing his very own op-ed and he declined. Matz also refused comment. KCE has allowed Mr. Dalton to write a response.

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As voters go to the polls this Tuesday, February 20, 2024 those in Western Kenosha County will be asked to approve a request by Wilmot Union High School to exceed their Wisconsin State Revenue Cap by an additional $7.5M over a three-year period.

Let’s look at money spent vs academic results and review WUHS’s performance vs. other area public high schools. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (US Dept of Education and Wisconsin Dept of Education) the following statistical comparisons of Wilmot, Central, Badger, Burlington and Elkhorn high schools with the latest available data (late 2023) is as follows:

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As you can see from the above chart, WUHS spends more per pupil and has the more favorable teacher/student ratio of any of the other four-conference high schools, yet Wilmot has the lowest Average Test Score of the group. Wilmot ranks at the 56th percentile, hardly an enviable position. It would seem that academically Wilmot is falling-short. Further these statistics would seem to invalidate the reasoning that adding more teachers and lowering class sizes is necessary at this point. Other local public high schools are doing more with less in terms of class size and spending per pupil. This goes back to effectiveness of the current and previous administrations. This fact is damning to the operating referendum’s core argument; that Wilmot is in a “dire situation” with no viable way out until taxpayers pony up millions of dollars more to spend with the probability of continued mediocre results.

Voters can make their own comparisons (they are plenty smart) to decide if they are getting the best bang for the buck and if Wilmot needs more. And don’t think this is the end. If this referendum fails, they will be back again, and quickly. If it passes another building referendum will be forthcoming. And then in three more years another operating referendum to replace this one, and another after that. Taxing is the easy way out.

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From my standpoint I will keep voting “no” until the WUHS Administration and school board have a strategic plan on the table to show taxpayers how they plan to deal with continued declining enrollment OTHER than to seek continuing property tax increases via referendum. Also, it might be “helpful” to show increased test scores in their current situation and not to repeat the 40-place drop on the state report card recorded in the past year alone.

Something is amiss at WUHS that throwing more taxpayer money at it won’t fix.

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Here’s a challenge to those in charge – let’s get better now with the resources that we have. Other local public high schools have shown that they can do it, so can Wilmot. 

Vote “NO” on the Wilmot Union High School Operating referendum this Tuesday, February 20.

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Author

  • John Dalton

    John is enjoying retired life in western Kenosha County, where he grew up and met his beautiful wife. They enjoy spending time with their grandchildren, especially when fishing or swimming in one of the many lakes in the area.

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34 Responses

  1. So Michael Plourde and Michael Matz get a chance to explain themselves and why they want to tax us to death, then decide not to defend their position? Make it, make sense! If you want to tax me and my family to death, you better be able to explain why and how it would be money well spent. This NO vote is easy for all of us living in the WUHS district. To the tax-and-spend liberals running the school and on the board of education, keep dreaming. Never going to happen. Great articles by Mr. Dalton btw

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  2. It’s obvious that both Mr Plourde and Mr. Matz sought guidance from the board before declining to speak further on the referendum. I bet they wanted to !
    The board probably, rightfully thought that there was nothing more to gain and everything to lose by further “trying” to explain their way out of this negative discussion. Knowing when to shut up is a virtue.

    That said, like every other time in school referendums it’s keep trying until you succeed.
    Time after time we vote NO !
    And yet they come back again tweaking the numbers ever so slightly so as to look like they re-evaluated their situation. But it’s all the same.
    Again and again and again.

    There aught to be a law that they can’t try again for at least a year. Or more.
    True that’s un American to have a law like that but it’s frustrating to be taxed by just who gets out the vote more.

    Actually the laws should be changed to only voting in November. These spring elections are so under attended it’s almost easy to get them to pass.
    I’ve been told there is no “room” on the November ballot for things like this but who really believes that ?

    Many years ago I participated in a Trevor school referendum get out the vote drive. We were instructed to call every home in the district and after identifying ourselves ask if the home had any children in it. If they said yes we expounded on the benefits of the referendum. If the said no we were told to just tell them that voting day was such and such and then hang up. Deceitful ? Maybe so. But legal ? You bet.

    The arguments made by John Dalton are very revealing and asking the Wilmot school board to tell us what they are going to do to bring up scores and bring down cost is completely legitimate.

    Shame on the board for silencing these two school representatives. Or if the board didn’t tell them no then shame on the board for not responding at all !

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  3. No more taxes. Wisconsin is already a ridiculously high tax state. These schools have zero incentive to control costs just like government. Eating at public trough. Say No to new spending

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  4. As a current WUHS student we NEED this referendum to pass. If you think test scores are so bad now try sitting in a class with 30+ kids that used to be 15-20 and being able to focus and learn. it’s not easy. and this is due to the staff cut because of the last referendum not passing. which even more of our teachers will be cut if this doesn’t pass either. which means taking more classes away and taking the opportunities us students once had away. It may be easy to say “then transfer” but not all of us students have that option. and i’m well aware of how much the economy sucks now days and how much is already paid in taxes but all i ask is you take into consideration the students at this school not just the administration. as much as you can dislike them the students are in the unfortunate crossfire in this situation and it’s not easy. i’m not telling you to vote YES for the referendum but i am asking you to look at all the perspectives and maybe see how beneficial this can be for the students.

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    1. That’s disturbing that your teachers put you up to this (and that you don’t know how to do math). Come back when you’re a taxpayer with your own thoughts and you’ll feel differently.

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      1. I understand your point BUT I respect this student for telling it like it is from the ground perspective.

        So many debates these days about schools ignore the front end people: students and their teachers. That’s wrong. The talking heads and blowhards seldom, if ever, seek out information from the end users.

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    2. It’s not the number of students in the class that determines the quality of your education, it’s the curriculum being used. The adoption of “Common Core” guaranteed that quality of education would decline for all. When I was in public school years ago there was almost never less than 30 kids in a class and we got a much better education. In most City Catholic schools, one nun successfully taught 50 to 60 kids, even at the grade school level. I’m serious and it’s true. Throwing more money at an inferior method of doing things never improves the product, it just makes it more expensive.

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    3. Why not beg the teachers to do better? Why not beg the school board to demand better?why not demand the administration to cut dead weight. The numbers just showed what the issue is. Maybe the teachers should take a pay cut!! Which ones would take a pay cut to keep all the positions? Beg the overpaid teachers to save the other teachers. Funny how poor management and zero accountability will eventually catch up to you. And instead of fixing it in house u are demanding the tax payers to just pony up and pay the bills. Businesses that mismanage a budget or are over employed don’t get to just make someone else pay their employees and bills. They have to cut jobs to make budget. It’s how basic economics works. Love to hear what teachers are willing to take a pay cut to keep all the teachers employed.

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              1. Thank you but that data does not say how much they are OVERpaid, just how much they are paid.

                That said, what that data does show is that Wilmot has a lot of veteran teachers with around 30 years of teaching experience which means they will be at the top end of the pay scale. Eventually when they retire that may reset downward.

                What Wisconsin data does not show is the competition with Illinois districts, which generally pay better. One new teacher at Wilmot made much more by jumping the border.

                To the original point, if you are going to say teachers are overpaid, then by how much? What is appropriate pay?

      1. I agree some teachers shouldnt be teachers, they can do or not do whatever they want with no reprimand or accountability. Not just at WHS and it’s in colleges too. Yes or No vote wont change that. It has gotten worse since all the shutdowns during Covid. The good teachers can’t make up for the bad ones.
        I still voted yes. It’s a very small increase as others have detailed. Want to give the kids a chance at a safe, decent school to go to.

    4. And when u leave for college how large are those classes? Gonna crybaby then?
      Quit being part of a crowd in class and concentrate on the teacher. That is your task. Ypu will learn. Seems you haven’t learned that by hs, class size isn’t the issue. You are squandering the environment and the educators that for years the taxpayers have given you.

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  5. Maybe their administration’s salaries could be posted. I’m pretty sure it’s not the teacher’s salaries going up like the administration salaries do.

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      1. Shocking. Herm still doesn’t have his income posted. His wife is making almost 100000 a year. Those two might be one of the biggest problems in the school. And unfortunately he doesn’t care cause he is planning to retire so whatever happens to the school won’t matter. It’s disgusting that the kids will suffer cause of the greed and the lack of effort put forth by the faculty.

      2. Wow. They are being paid well. Most deserve it but there is no accountability or reprimand for those that don’t.

  6. I definitely agree with Mr Dalton–great article. Everyone vote NO on any increases for the public school systems. They do not have your child’s best interests at heart!

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  7. There was a compensation study done in 2022. Here it is: https://www.wilmothighschool.com/WUHSD_Compensation%20Study%20Report_Teachers_Support%20Staff.pdf

    This was done before last year’s staff cuts after the failed referendum.

    The study did not provide any analysis but a lot of raw data. Wilmot’s salaries tend to be higher but also the staff appears to be older and likely would have more seniority (hence, more pay). Fringe benefits seem to be mid-road but, again, no final analysis (how much did they pay for this study?).

    The study does not identify, though, why higher costs at Wilmot. And, with the staff cuts, the numbers now would be lower.

    I don’t think the district has made the case fully to support a tax increase. I suspect they may be banking on the fact that debt retired and they can take advantage of that. Mr. Dalton may be right about voting no but perhaps that should be revisited if the district came forth with solid numbers and a strategic plan for addressing enrollment trends and future needs. Kenosha County is growing. Where is the relevant data?

  8. Schools are primarily funded by a complicated formula from the state budget based on the number of students attending. Wilmot HS, like most schools in the state has seen declining enrollment due to a variety of factors from around 1400 to 900 students. That is a dramatic decrease in funding. The building still needs to heated, maintained and operated. Costs are going up for everything. Also test scores have shown because of the COVID lockdown a few years ago nearly 1/2 of the freshmen coming into the high school are at least one grade behind in reading and about 1/3 in math scores. These are basic skills required to be successful in other pursuits and in life. Wilmot has never passed an operating referendum before, whereas over 1/2 the other high schools in Wisconsin have. This Referendum is critical to the operation of the school and maintaining its high scholastic standing.

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    1. So just Wilmot is behind due to COVID? How? I’m so sick of listening to the decline is because of COVID. Every school took on COVID. I don’t see the other schools decline like wilmots. So stop with the COVID bs

  9. The same people crying about spending money on our children’s future are the same ones sitting in a bar 4 nights a week. Or buying lottery tickets every week .

    Let’s just use the higher figure that your house is worth $350,000. you will have to pay $703 ,OVER THREE YEARS, I repeat, OVER Three YEARS in taxes.

    Wow, that works out to a whopping $234.33 per year. $19.52 a MONTH! To put it into perspective, this is less than a case of beer, 2 packs of cigarettes or two trips to McDonald’s a month.

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    1. Love the comparisons.
      Think nothing of buying cigarettes, alcohol, going out to eat but no way on keeping our high school going. That’s our world today.

  10. “When we were kids we had 30 kids a class, and we liked it! Grumpy Old Man. I already voted Yes ( with an Absentee ballot “Oh my”).

  11. Does your cost per pupil numbers include the over 100 or more kids Central High School sends a bus or two , to pick up every morning at the Brat Stop? Central receives over $6K for each one of these Kenosha/Racine kids who open enroll.

  12. I make more than a teacher from state aid and don’t ever leave my house unless it’s for free ice cream cones. I also home school my 22 kids and you don’t hear them complain.

    By home school I mean they play on their phones all day. Yes, they are also provided by all of you 1 percenters.

  13. What test scores are on a 0 to 100 score system that is standardized? Last i knew ACT is out 36 and SAT is out of 1600.

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