GOP plan would require some school districts to host summer classes

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MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) -- After more than a year of virtual learning for some school districts, Republican lawmakers want to require districts to host summer school to help students catch up.

A slew of reports has shown an alarming number of kids are falling behind in school due to virtually learning throughout the pandemic. State Rep. Cindi Duchow (R-Town of Delafield) introduced legislation that would require schools who’ve remained mostly virtual to host summer classes.

“We’ve lost an entire year of learning and we have to get those kids caught up,” said Duchow. “We have found virtually learning has not been successful for the vast majority.”

Duchow cited a survey conducted by USA TODAY that reveals nearly 60 Wisconsin school districts who responded reported more high school students failed a class last fall in recent years and almost all blamed the same reason: online learning.

Under the proposed bill, a school must provide the summer classes if less than 75 percent of students attended classes in person during the 2020-21 school year.

While the majority of districts throughout Wisconsin have resumed in-person instruction, the state's largest districts like Madison and Milwaukee are still teaching students online.

"The proposal would require districts to use federal stimulus funds to pay for summer school courses. It would be offered to those who are interested, rather than students who need it most" said Duchow.

“Kids don’t have to go but the school has to offer it,” Duchow said. “Parents will still have the right to say no.”

Wisconsin school districts received $617 million from the federal government after Congress passed a relief bill to provide aid to schools impacted by the pandemic, according to the nonpartisan legislative fiscal bureau.

Governor Tony Evers has said schools should consider more summer school or starting classes earlier this fall to help students catch up, but he also believes those decisions should be left up to school officials, instead of a mandate. Democrats also support local control when deciding what’s best for students.

“When it comes to micromanaging how schools use their resources, I rather see that in the hands of local elected officials,” said Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison).

Republican’s have also proposed giving school districts who offer in-person instruction more federal funding than those who don’t.

The Legislature's budget committee approved the plan in February to distribute $65 million in federal funding to schools that offer in-person classes, calling it an incentive to open schools.

Lawmakers do not need to approve the committee's spending plan, which means it will likely be approved. Governor Evers can challenge it, but Republicans on the budget committee can override it.

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