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Passing Notes: 'I Was Told There Would Be No Math'


Every few weeks, WUWM education reporter Rachel Morello flips through her notes to bring us the scoop on news out of area classrooms. Test your knowledge of headlines big and small with her quiz!

Changing the Calculation

Over the past two weeks, both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature have passed a bill that could impact the way public schools are funded. What does that bill call for?

  1. An increase in per-pupil funding (so, more state money per student)
  2. Allowing districts to raise property taxes without a vote
  3. Eliminating certain state aid programs

Credit / Flickr

Stick with me here: Most people know that a portion of their taxes goes toward paying for public schools. Right now, if a school district wants to raise that amount, they have to take it to a referendum on their local ballot.

The bill that’s now made its way through the legislature would eliminate that requirement, allowing districts to raise property taxes without a vote.

This this would only apply to districts where voters have not rejected a property tax increase in the past three years – right now, about 100 districts out of 420-some in the state would be eligible.

Something else important to note here: The bill is aimed at low-spending districts – a term which mostly applies to sparsely-populated rural school districts. The goal is to address inequities in the school aid formula, which lawmakers say tend to penalize districts with fewer students.

Since this bill has passed through both houses of the legislature, it now head to Governor Walker’s desk.

A, I, or AI?

The Milwaukee School of Engineering recently announced a new degree program that will be available for students beginning next school year – the focus of which is pretty unique to MSOE, and the region in general. What is that focus?

  1. Animation
  2. Information security
  3. Artificial intelligence


Come fall 2018, students at MSOE will be able to study toward a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, with a focus on artificial intelligence.

Here’s how MSOE describes the degree…

“Graduates will be prepared to write cutting-edge software to solve tomorrow’s problems with a special emphasis on machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

Rather than the movie “A.I.” when you hear “artificial intelligence” in this context, think smart speakers like Alexa or Google Home, or self-driving cars. It’s really any technique that tries to mimic or go beyond what a human does, in a computing system.

Dr. Derek Riley, MSOE’s computer science program director, says A.I. is a growing field, and the demand for people with the skills to engineer intelligence is projected to be in high-demand in the coming years.

And, he adds, not in the way people expect…

“[One] big myth that’s worth addressing is that A.I. is going to take over the world,” Riley explains. “The reality is, the techniques that we have to do machine learning right now are very effective at certain sets of problems -- but this idea of transferring the intelligence from one context to another is a really hard and open problem.”

“We’re likely to see A.I. enhance productivity for a lot of people and make their lives easier – in the same way that, if you get in an emergency situation a new car now will often brake for you, or you’ll see ads that are related to your interests in your search history,” he continues. “Those are all A.I.-driven that are, in theory, meant to improve our lives. We’ll see more of that, I think, as opposed to A.I. systems that will take over a specific job.”

MSOE’s new degree program will be unique to the school as well as the region because students will be able to develop their skills starting in their freshman year. A lot of existing computer science programs reserve artificial intelligence for graduate-level work – or at the very least, an upper-level, junior/senior topic.

What's Coming Up?

You tell me! What have the kids been telling you around the dinner table? What’s the topic of discussion during drop-off and pick-up? Students – what are your friends discussing in the lunch line?

Connect with me on social media, or submit your question below.

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