WUWM: Education Reporting

Education news is often mired in discussions about big issues — policies, budgets, political fights. WUWM’s Education Reporter Emily Files also wants to tell student’s stories and hear from parents, teachers and others helping kids succeed.

What are you curious about when it comes to education in the Milwaukee area? What do you think is missing from the education conversation in this region?

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Emily Files / WUWM

Updated 10:39 a.m.  

Within the next two weeks, Milwaukee plans to vaccinate all educators living or working in the city who want a shot.

The Milwaukee Health Department announced Tuesday that it expects to receive 17,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses between March 1-15 that will be used for school and childcare workers. Volunteers from Children's Hospital and Medical College of Wisconsin will help staff the clinics. 

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Wisconsin health officials are creating a statewide COVID-19 vaccination schedule for school employees, in an effort to prioritize underserved communities.

>>Wisconsin Educators And Childcare Workers Next In Line For Vaccine, Beginning March 1


Now that close to half of Wisconsinites age 65 and older have received at least one shot, the Department of Health Services is opening eligibility to more people in Phase 1b. It's starting with school and daycare employees – an estimated 225,000 people – who will be eligible March 1.

Emily Files / WUWM

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers rolled out his biennial budget proposal last week. It includes major investments in public health and criminal justice reform, increases taxes by about $1 billion and repeals some parts of Act 10.

SCOTT OLSON / Getty Images

University of Wisconsin System Interim President Tommy Thompson is directing campuses to plan for a mostly in-person fall semester.

Thompson wants campuses to get back to as close to normal as possible, by offering at least 75% of classes fully in-person or hybrid. In pre-pandemic times, he said about 80% of classes were in-person, with the rest online.

Courtesy UWM

One of UW-Milwaukee’s top administrators is retiring after 20 years at the university. Joan Prince, Vice Chancellor of Global Inclusion and Engagement, has overseen diversity and equity efforts at the university.

Prince is also a four-time graduate of UWM, earning two bachelors’ degrees, a master’s degree and a doctorate.

During her time at UWM, Prince worked to increase diversity in the school’s study abroad programs.

Courtesy Deborah Kerr and Jill Underly

 Updated Wednesday at 11:25 a.m. CT

The race for Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction is a little less crowded, after voters narrowed a field of seven candidates down to two in Tuesday’s primary election.

Unofficial results show Jill Underly with 27.31% of the vote and Deborah Kerr with 26.49%.

Wisconsin Eye

Wisconsin Republicans on the Joint Committee on Finance approved a plan Wednesday to reward public schools that are open in-person with about $66 million in federal aid.

Courtesy Sarah Poeppel

A small percentage of Milwaukee Public Schools special education students are returning to classrooms in three school buildings this week, for the first time since schools closed last March.


After the Feb. 16 Primary Election, the field for Wisconsin State Superintendent for Public Instruction has narrowed from seven to two people — Deborah Kerr and Jill Underly. Kerr is the former Brown Deer School District superintendent and Underly is the current superintendent of the rural Pecatonica School District.


This week, Milwaukee Public Schools is observing Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, which draws attention to issues of racial equity in education.

Students of color have been through a lot this past year. The COVID pandemic shuttered schools and devastated communities. There was also a resurgence in the movement for racial justice, after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Emily Files / WUWM

Milwaukee Public Schools will bring back some special education students for in-person learning, after repeated warnings from the state and threats of financial sanctions.

Emily Files / WUWM

Updated 12:06 p.m.  

Milwaukee Public Schools is required by the state to resume in-person instruction for some students with disabilities, starting in early February. 

Emily Files

For the first time in about 20 years, there’s a wide-open race for Wisconsin’s top K-12 education official. Seven candidates are running for superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction.

Incumbent Carolyn Stanford Taylor is not seeking election. She was appointed two years ago to serve the remainder of Tony Evers’ term, after he was elected governor.

Emily Files

One Milwaukee-area university is clearing the way for some of its students to help with Wisconsin’s massive COVID-19 vaccination effort. Concordia University in Mequon offered a special immunization class for its first and second-year pharmacy students earlier this month.

The students normally wouldn’t learn how to administer vaccines until spring of their second year in the program, but now they can be called upon to give COVID shots as soon as they’re needed.


As WUWM Education Reporter Emily Files visited virtual classrooms this month, she found that online school requires teachers to be intentional about how they deliver instruction, but also about how they connect with students.

Ashley Duley, an eighth grade English teacher at West Milwaukee Intermediate School, says she’ll carry those lessons with her, when life and school get back to normal.

Emily Files / WUWM

There were a number of major news developments this year that intersected with just about every area of life — including education. The biggest education story of 2020 has been how COVID-19 changed schooling so dramatically.

On March 13, Gov. Tony Evers closed K-12 schools as coronavirus cases began to surface in Wisconsin. School leaders scrambled to provide meals and education options for students at home.


This school year, many districts decided to utilize virtual education in an effort to protect staff and students from the coronavirus. Milwaukee Public Schools is one of them.

As part of a series about how teachers are adapting to this new education format, WUWM’s Emily Files visited an MPS virtual classroom.

Emily Files / WUWM

Many schools in Milwaukee have spent the entire first half of the school year online, as a precaution against the coronavirus. WUWM has been visiting virtual classrooms to see how teachers are adapting.

McKenzie King, a chemistry teacher at Carmen Southeast High School in Milwaukee, says some learning experiences are impossible to recreate virtually. Right now, she’s teaching her students about chemical compounds. It’s usually one of her favorite units.

Emily Files / WUWM

If you ever scroll through videos on the social media app TikTok, you’ll notice that kindergarten teachers have become popular. They’re posting videos of themselves teaching online — and the level of energy and patience it takes has garnered those videos millions of views. Amanda Hendrickson can relate. She’s a kindergarten teacher at Wilson Elementary in the West Allis-West Milwaukee district. Every day of teaching is like putting on show.


The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments virtually Tuesday in a case that could determine whether local health officials can close schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emily Files / WUWM

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many teachers and students out of their classrooms, and onto their computers. But K-12 education wasn’t built to be virtual. So how have teachers adapted their in-person instruction for the computer screen? WUWM's Emily Files visited virtual classrooms to find out, and will tell those stories this month. In this first installment, we learn how a Milwaukee fourth grade English teacher breaks up a 90-minute class to keep kids engaged.

Emily Files / WUWM

Updated 3:51 p.m.

The predominately white Burlington Area School District, about 30 miles west of Racine, has been grappling with how to address — and teach children about — racism.

On Monday night, the school board adopted an anti-racism policy. But the people who were advocating for such a policy say it’s not enough.

Emily Files / WUWM

It’s become common in Wisconsin for school districts to go directly to voters to ask for increased property tax funding. These school referendums have seen high approval rates in recent years.

You might think that the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic devastation would reverse the trend, but that is not what has happened this year.

Emily Files / WUWM

Updated 2:31 p.m. CST

As Wisconsin enters the holiday season grappling with its most severe coronavirus spread yet, schools continue to make varied decisions about whether to teach in-person or virtually.

The statewide teachers’ union wants that to change. The Wisconsin Education Association Council is asking the state for uniform rules about when schools should close.

Emily Files / WUWM

Update 11/19 1:35 p.m.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is asking the state supreme court to block the city of Racine's order closing schools. The conservative law firm is representing School Choice Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools, and a handful of Racine private schools that are beholden to the order, include Racine Christian School and Racine Lutheran High School. 

Emily Files / WUWM

This fall, Wisconsin public schools reported unprecedented enrollment declines — particularly in the youngest grades. Four-year-old kindergarten, also known as pre-kindergarten, shrunk by more than 8,000 students statewide, a 16% decline. Regular kindergarten enrollment is down by about 3,000, a 5% decline.

>>Kindergarten Enrollment Plummets In Wisconsin Amid Pandemic

Emily Files / WUWM

Wisconsin State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor is calling for a $1.4 billion education funding increase over the next two school years.

The Department of Public Instruction released its budget ask Monday night. It would restore the state’s commitment to fund two-thirds of school districts’ expenses. And it would put more money toward special education, mental health, students living in poverty, and English learners.

Courtesy of Georgia State University

Four southeast Wisconsin colleges have made an ambitious pledge: to close racial and income-based graduation gaps within the next 10 years.

Emily Files / WUWM

The about 70,000 students enrolled in Milwaukee Public Schools will continue with virtual learning for the foreseeable future.

>>School Year Starts Virtually For All MPS Students