Sunday, September 16, 2018

RFAreaREA Donates School Supplies to Prescott School District

The Prescott School District was presented with school supplies for the 2018-2019 school year.  The purchase was made possible through the 2018 Education Outreach Grant from Wisconsin Retired Educators’ Association (WREA), which was matched an additional grant from the River Falls Area Retired Educators’ Association (RFArea REA).

RFArea REA member Patricia Hulne presented the school supplies to Prescott High School counselor Steve Peterson and Student Council members Mallony Boles and Luke Hillman on August 23, 2018. The supplies will be distributed to all of the Prescott schools as needed.  The included: 10 calculators, six 12-pack highlighters, 12 composition journals, 21 folders, 3 packages of 30 sharpened pencils, 10 packs of 24 colored pencils, and 14 notebooks.

WREA and its local affiliates are the only retired educator associations that includes all public educator groups—retired teachers, support personnel, administrators, E-C-12, technical colleges, and universities. 

WREA’s primary purpose is to watch over the pensions its members have earned over the course of their careers and to preserve public education in Wisconsin. 

RFArea REA supports local schools not just in Prescott, but also in River Falls, Hudson, Spring Valley, Ellsworth, Baldwin-Woodville, New Richmond, and Hammond.  It also presents two $500 scholarships each year to area graduating seniors.

RFAREA REA meets monthly on the second Thursday at 11am at St Croix Lanes in River Falls from September to May.  The group welcomes new members—educators, their spouses, and anyone who is a friend of Wisconsin education.

If you are interested in knowing more about this organization, please call President Roger Hulne at 715-262-5435 or just drop by any monthly meeting.

RFAreaREA Newsletter--September 2018

We Have A Good Year Planned

Thanks to the input of members and the great planning by Don Leake and Larry Harred, we have some great speakers and programming coming up this year.  Please mark your calendars and make a plan to attend.  All of our local meetings will be held again at St. Croix Lanes bowling alley in River Falls on the second Thursday of each month at 11:00 a.m.  Board meetings will be held in September, November, January, March, and May, preceding regular meetings at 9:30 a.m. at the Kinni Cafe.  All members are welcome to attend board meetings.

Here is the tentative schedule of events for River Falls Area Retired Educators’ Association for the 2018-2019 year.

Sept. 14, 2018
Election of new officers and installation; updates and business
Oct. 11, 2018
The Art of Scrapbooking—Gail Possley
Nov. 15, 2018
The Opportunities and Challenges of Directing a Public Library:  New Director of the River Falls Public Library, Tanya Misselt
Dec. 13, 2018
The Usual RFArea REA Holiday Jollity
Jan. 10, 2019
Pierce/St. Croix Counties Free Clinic representative to speak to us about the clinic’s history, services, and future
Feb. 14, 2019
Members’ memories of teaching and students—and Valentine’s Day!
Mar. 14, 2019
Open date (we are still waiting to hear back from the Free Clinic about whether January or March will work best for them.)
Apr. 11, 2019
Among Friends Social Respite Center:  Director Bonnie Jones-Witthuhn and other RFArea REA volunteers describing the mission and experience of Pierce County’s only respite center for those with dementia and physical frailties
May 9, 2019
Karyl Rommelfanger, author of The Model School at River Falls, a history of the model school (a.k.a. training school / Campus School / Ames Lab School), which was an essential part of the River Falls Normal School and later River Falls College and UW-River Falls for over 100 years. Books by the author will be available for purchase at the presentation.
June 13, 2019
Fun outing, perhaps at Cracked Barrel Winery or a locale to be determined

Other dates to keep in mind:

Sept. 24-26, 2018  WREA Convention at the Stevens Point Holiday Inn and Convention Center.  Convention information and registration can be found here:

Nov. 5, 2018             Election Day:  Offices of the Governor, Senate, House, and state offices will be decided.  Make a plan to vote!

It is time again to show that you support Wisconsin public education and the protection of the pension that your career as a teacher, staff member, or administrator afforded you.  That is, it is time to renew your membership in WREA and in our local RFAreaREA unit.

You should have received an email or letter indicating what your membership renewal status is.  Most of us need to renew both memberships, though some of you have paid the state or local in advance.

Besides demonstrating your support for public education and for WRS, membership comes with some perks.  The complete list of WREA benefits can be found at  But to highlight a few:  $250 cash back on the purchase of select American autos, hearing aid discounts, discounts at Office Depot and Office Max, prescription drug discounts, very reasonable rates on auto and home insurance through Meemic, and especially important to some of our members—dental and vision insurance.  These discounts are available only if you are a state WREA member.

Our local unit can’t offer financial rewards, but we do reward you with excellent programming throughout the year and a social network of area educators committed to the same values that you have.  Additionally, you have the satisfaction of knowing that we provide scholarships to area high school students each year and are helping area schools in various ways—donating school supplies, volunteering to judge science fairs, among other activities.

Remember to send your dues to Membership Chair Laura Zlogar at 729 River Ridge Ct., River Falls, WI 54022.  Annual dues for WREA are $50.  Local dues are $10.  You can send both to Laura in a single check made out to River Falls Area REA.

Volunteer Hours Needed

We know that you have been busy this year—from October 2017 to September 2018—with 4H, the Senior Center, Among Friends Respite Center, Meals on Wheels, working at the food shelf, collecting and filling backpacks, the Rotary reading with kids program, public library service, church and civic philanthropic work, arts programs, and so much more.

WREA wants to know the number of hours (You can certainly approximate!) you have spent this year providing volunteer services to our community.  We collect these numbers not only to compete with other units across the state, but also to let Wisconsin citizens know how much retired educators in local communities and across the state are contributing to Wisconsin’s quality of life.

Last year, RFAreaREA may have come in dead last among all the local units not because we aren’t active but because we aren’t very good at reporting.  We need to toot our horn to let everyone know that, even though we are a small unit, we are an active unit.  Part of our problem may be that we are just too modest!

Let’s get organized.  You can use the form found at to record your hours.  Or you can just send Roger Hulne a summary of your hours in each of the three categories—with Youth, Community, or WREA.  Send your summary hours to  or download and mail the to Roger Hulne, N4890 1180th St. SE, Prescott, WI 54021 as soon as possible.  He needs the numbers by the end of Sept. 22.

Some of our members had some great adventures this summer.  Some stuck closer to home for “staycations.”  As the summer wanes, we still look forward to the end of those never-ending zucchinis, savoring the last of the homegrown tomatoes, and enjoying some cooler weather after a hot, humid summer. 

Here are a few highlights of RFArea REA members’ summer delights.

Vicki Cobian and her husband celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary on their first European trip, which included a river cruise that began in Zurich and ended in Amsterdam.  They also spent three days in Paris and three in London—with 97-degree heat. 

The first photo was taken at castle ruins in Heidelberg, Germany. 
                                                                                                                This photo is at a windmill village near Amsterdam.

Gail and Tom Possley went east to attend a family wedding.  According to Gail, “This was taken by our gondolier in Providence, RI. Beautiful day, wonderful ride and, yes, he serenaded us and described everything we were seeing.”

Roger and Patty Hulne headed west with children and grandchildren to visit their son who lives in Colorado. 

Roger reports, “Patty and I took our RV to Golden Colorado to visit a son.  We took along another son with his children ages 7 and 11.  We also visited Rocky Mountain National Park.  Did some hiking, had a great time.”

Tony Pedriana spent some time in Germany this summer.  

The first is with my wife at the Marienplatz in Munich and the second with my granddaughter at Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden.”

Ruth Wood spent ten days at Yellowstone with a friend with whom she has shared several adventures, Xin Wang.  The two have previously climbed Machu Picchu. 

 This time they encountered bison and deer, geysers and whitewater rivers, and lots of other beautiful sights.  

Notice the springs outside the window in the second photo.

News from Around the State and Nation                  

Tony Evers vs. Scott Walker:  Governor Candidates on Education

Scott Walker is now calling himself the “Education Governor” since he has increased K-12 funding in the current budget cycle by $639 million.  He has also offered families a one-time $100 per child tax rebate (checks mailed at the end of the summer) as well as a “sales tax holiday” from August 1-5, costing taxpayers nearly $137 million. All of these measures come as Walker faces current Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers for the governor’s office.

As multiple sources have pointed out, when Walker became governor in 2011, he cut $800 million from K-12 education for 2011-13.  He also lowered school districts’ revenue limits by $1.6 billion, which meant that districts could not raise local property taxes to make up for the state funding cuts.

Because Act 10 restricted collective bargaining for public sector employees and required teachers to pay more of their insurance and pension costs, school costs decreased 5.1% in the year after Act 10 went into effect.

The $11.5 billion k-12 budget is the largest in state history—but only in raw dollars.  When inflation is taken into account, according to, the seven state budgets prior to Walker’s taking office spent more on schools than Walker’s current budget does.

Districts have had to resort to referenda—voting to tax themselves—in order to meet their schools’ needs.  In the first half of 2018, 84.5% of the 71 referenda passed.

Tony Evers has proposed a budget in which 4-year-old kindergarten for all children would be fully funded.  He would also provide $20 million for high-quality after school programs, and restore the state’s commitment to fund two-thirds of public schools “without any gimmicks while holding the line on taxes.”  He has also stated that he would reform the state’s funding mechanism to create greater equity among schools:  “The school funding formula has been broken forever.  It’s time to do more than just shuffle the deck chairs.  It has to increase opportunities and close gaps for our kids.”

Evers has also proposed an additional $600 million for special education funding and $60 million for mental health care services.  He has said that more funding is needed for English language learners as well.

In a June Marquette University poll, 59% of Wisconsin citizens said that, if given a choice, they would rather increase spending on public schools than cut taxes.  Evers accuses Walker of "gutting our public schools, insulting our hard-working educators, and destroying higher education in Wisconsin."

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune (2 Aug. 2018):  A recent Suffolk University poll conducted for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that the top three issues in the governor's race were the economy, education and health care. Roads and bridges came in seventh, behind taxes, corruption and gun control.”

School Safety

In the days after the Parkland shooting, Wisconsin state legislators decided that something needed to be done about school safety in our state. It created the Department of Justice Office of School Safety, which provided $4 million in grant money to schools across the state.  This action was one of 330 school safety bills introduced in 2018, according to data from the Education Commission of the States.  Of those, 53 were signed into law.

The River Falls School District received $140,000 to improve school safety—about $20,000 per school.  The money is being used to add film to make glass shatter resistant in school entrances and vestibules; adding training such as ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) active shooter response training; filtering software to help identify potential threats on district-issued computers; an audit to assess the district’s safety and security measures (River Falls Journal, 26 July 2018).

Hudson School District received $188,385 from this same grant program.  It will use the money to “built on existing safety and security infrastructure and crisis preparedness practices,” including shatter-resistant film for entry doors and windows as well as for the storefront type classroom windows in school buildings ( 31 July 2018).

Prescott School District received $83,729 from the Wisconsin DOJ office.  Its money will be used to “provide resources for school official and law enforcement to work together to improve school safety through physical building improvements as well as a focus on mental health training” (Pierce County Herald 26 July 2018).

Spring Valley School District was granted $63,411 to upgrade safety and security by installing the shatter-resistant film on glass in the middle/high school building and in the core entrances at the elementary school (Pierce County Herald 29 July 2018).

Across the country, some districts are training and authorizing teachers to carry guns in classrooms. They are hiring more security personnel. 

NPR reports that across the country, 34% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school, tripling the number reported in 2013, despite the fact that shootings involving students have gone down since the 1990s.

The Department of Homeland Security is providing $1.8 million to teach high school students how to help victims with traumatic injuries.  Companies are now offering bulletproof school supplies—backpacks, binder inserts and tablet cases.  Parkland High School students and others around the country must now carry clear plastic backpacks so that no weapons could be concealed.

This is education in America where there are more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms, “enough for every man, woman and child to own one and still have 67 million guns left over” (Washington Post 19 June 2018).  But most of these states are not changing their gun laws.  In February 2018, Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature refused to include expanded background checks in its legislation.  Attorney General Brad Schimel stated:  “Law-abiding gun owners don’t go and shoot up schools. When you make a school a gun-free school zone, the only person you’re stopping is the law-abiding gun owner who doesn’t want to get in trouble”  ( 21 Feb. 2018).

UW System


The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved two budget requests of more than $2 billion to state legislators for building and renovation projects around the state. It includes 18 major construction projects at UW campuses.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports (23 Aug. 2018) that the Regents also approved an operating budget request for an additional $107 million in the next state budget.  An additional $82.5 million in tax dollars would be used to meet performance-based goals that Republican legislators have imposed upon the UW System.  System also wants an additional $25 million to provide access to high-demand programs in science, engineering, health care, and business.

The requests did not include increases in tuition or across-the-board student fee increases.

Tony Evers voted against the requests because no money was included for faculty and staff raises.  System President Ray Cross said that he plans to ask the Board in December to approve a compensation increase equal to twice the inflation rate.

Consolidation of UW Colleges and University

Last year the UW Board of Regents mandated that the two-year UW Colleges would become part of nearby universities.  The Board approved the name changes of 10 two-year schools as they merge with the four-year institutions.  Their names will now be as follows:  UW-Marinette is now UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus; UW-Manitowoc is UW-Green Bay, Manitowoc Campus; UW-Sheboygan is UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan Campus; UW-Washington County and UW-Waukesha will be UW-Milwaukee at Washington County and UW-Milwaukee at Waukesha; UW-Baraboo/Sauk County will be UW-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County; UW-Richland will be UW-Platteville Richland’ UW-Barron County will be UW-Eau Claire-Barron County.  UW-Oshkosh hasn’t yet proposed name changes for UW-Fox Valley and UW-Fond du Lac.

Costs of a Wisconsin College Education

A new analysis by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) shows that “as a share of higher-education appropriations, tuition funds at Wisconsin universities and colleges went from 30.7 percent in 1992 to nearly 51 percent last year.”

What that means is that the state contributes less and less to the education of our young people.  In constant dollars, the state’s appropriation has gone from $9,200 per full-time student in 1992 to $5,953 in 2017.  During that same period, tuition for a full-time student went from $4,074 to $6,181 ( 30 Aug. 2018).

Wisconsin Teachers Union Membership Continues to Decline

Conservative think tank The MacIver Institute reports that “nearly 54 percent of active union members left the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) between 2012 and 2017. . . . That’s the largest drop-off in the country over the last five years.  The union now stands at just 32,130 active members.”  Before Act 10, membership stood at 98,000 members.  MacIver reports that the National Education Association reported membership losses over the 2012-17 period also (24 Aug. 2018).

New research looks at the effects of Act 10 and Scott Walker’s destruction of teachers’ unions and collective bargaining.  An immediate effect was the drop in students’ test scores.  Why was that?  Because the law led to big cuts in teacher compensation, particularly for experienced teachers and in terms of health insurance and retirement benefits.  So, right after Act 10, lots of teachers retired, and as compensation dropped, it became harder for districts to recruit and keep teachers.

“Poaching” teachers by one district from another has become common because  higher performing districts are now using a performance-based pay system. Rural districts, poorer performing districts cannot compete with higher performing ones who will pay their teachers more money.

Collective action across the country this past spring by teachers (see below) may foreshadow a stronger union movement.


Foxconn, the recipient of Wisconsin’s governor’s largesse $3.3 billion taxpayer dollars in tax incentives (which could eventually rise to $4.5 billion), has “generously” offered UW-Madison $100 million (of our own money) to fund research in engineering and innovation. It will fund “an interdisciplinary research facility for students and faculty to collaborate closely with the company’s Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park near Racine” (La Crosse Tribune 29 Aug. 2018).

Foxconn continues to revise its promises to the state.  Initially, it stated that it would create more than 13,000 good paying jobs building flat screens.  However, now they have said that they have changed their plans and will build a factory much smaller than originally announced and that only 10% of the jobs in Wisconsin will be skilled labor and 90% “knowledge workers.” 

Even conservative publications like the National Review state that the Foxconn agreement is a bad deal:  “If the jobs target of 13,000 is met, Wisconsin taxpayers will pay $219,000 per job. If only 3,000 jobs are created, they will pay $587,000 per job in the form of a $1.7 billion tax credit” (Jimmy Quinn, “The Foxconn Plant Is a Bad Deal for Wisconsin Taxpayers” 5 July 2018).

Educators on the Ballot Across the Country

Across the country, more than 300 educators are on the ballot, according to  That is more than double the 2014 and 2016 numbers.  This follows the grassroots movement following the teachers’ strikes last spring in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and Colorado.  The 2016 Teachers of the Year, Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, is running to become the state’s first black Democrat to represent her state in Congress.

CNBC reports that “since the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent recession, state tax revenues have largely recovered, but funding for education has not.  Many states haven’t restored funding for K-12 schools since the Great Recession.  The Trump administration’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal will cut more than $3 billion from the Education Department, while investing $1.6 billion to support private school vouchers and other school choice programs” (31 Aug. 2018).

Tim Walz, candidate for Minnesota governor and a former teacher and Congressman, is promising to protect teachers’ bargaining rights in his state and to encourage union organization.  He also wants to reform “No Child Left Behind,” calling it “deeply flawed.”

Educators’ pension cuts are a national issue (that we in Wisconsin at least don’t have to worry about, unless the stock market takes a serious tumble).  CNBC reports that public pension systems across the country face a total of $1.4 trillion of debt.  Kentucky’s teachers’ strike was primarily over pension cuts.  That state’s legislature increased school spending but did not reverse the cuts to pensions.

Vouchers in Wisconsin

John Havlicek,, president of the La Crosse Education Association, recently wrote a persuasive opinion piece, reflecting upon his interaction with Governor Scott Walker over charter schools.  Havlicek raised four problems with Wisconsin’s charters:

1.     Money following students does not take into account the fixed costs schools face and hurts the schools these students leave behind.
2.     Voucher schools are very selective in the students they accept.  They have fewer students eligible for free or reduced lunches, fewer with learning or physical disabilities, and fewer requiring special services because they “counsel” parents out of enrolling their children in their schools.  These charters are segregating students according to ability and needs.
3.     Vouchers take critical funding from public schools, more than $260 million statewide, requiring local taxpayers to make up the difference.
4.     Voucher schools cannot show better performance of their students than the local public schools.  Most of those schools, in fact, have worse performance data than public schools. The National Education Policy Center in Colorado has stated that the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program “consistently failed to demonstrate that vouchers are effective in empowering low-income families, improving public schools, increasing student achievement, or saving money” (La Crosse Tribune 19 Aug. 2018).