COVID-19 and Education

The COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States in early 2020 – quickly disrupting every element of American life. K-12 education seemingly changed overnight. School buildings closed and students and teachers were forced to arrange virtual learning on the fly. The federal government passed massive relief bills that pumped millions of federal dollars into K-12 schools. And teachers unions and parents fought over in-person learning and the careful balance between health and education.

WILL boldly entered this new and uncertain policy environment and provided groundbreaking research, polling, and advocacy. As the pandemic recedes – WILL continues to evaluate the decision-making, policy choices, and fallout from a year of disrupted learning.

Legislation and Testimony

AB 160 | SB 221

A bill to require Milwaukee Public School District to provide transportation benefits to private school students for the 2020-2021 school year after MPS refused to provide transportation to private school students. WILL worked with School Choice Wisconsin to bring attention to this issue and it ultimately resulted in a commitment from MPS to provide transportation benefits to private school families for the 2020-2021 school year.

Bill Text | WILL Testimony

AB 160 | SB 221

A bill to require Milwaukee Public School District to provide transportation benefits to private school students for the 2020-2021 school year after MPS refused to provide transportation to private school students. WILL worked with School Choice Wisconsin to bring attention to this issue and it ultimately resulted in a commitment from MPS to provide transportation benefits to private school families for the 2020-2021 school year.

Bill Text | WILL Testimony

Research and Analysis

Dreams Deferred: The Economic Cost of Learning Loss in Wisconsin

February 11, 2021 | Will Flanders

WILL estimates that spring 2020 school closures and incomplete curriculums could cost Wisconsin students more than $7 billion in lifetime earnings losses. The study, that only examines curriculum completion during the spring 2020 school closures, provides a stark warning about the potential costs of learning loss due to school building closures in the 2020-21 school year.

Press Release | Report

Opting Out: Enrollment Trends in Response to Continued Public School Shutdowns

December 16, 2020 | Will Flanders

WILL published a new study that reveals that school districts that started the 2020-21 school year with virtual learning saw significant enrollment declines. 34 Wisconsin school districts started the school year with virtual learning and experienced, on average, a 3% decline in enrollment. Enrollment statewide declined by 2.67%, on average, driven in large part by a drop in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten enrollment. The study also finds that school districts with established virtual charter schools saw a 4.5% increase in enrollment.

Press Release | Report

Politics in the Pandemic: The Role of Unions in School Reopening Decisions

November 16, 2020 | Will Flanders

As the new school year approached in 2020, individual school districts in Wisconsin had to make important decisions about in-person learning or using virtual options. But how much did the local presence of the COVID-19 virus factor into these decisions? Research Director Will Flanders, author of Politics in the Pandemic: The Role of Unions in School Reopening Decisions, finds that factors other than the local presence of the virus appear to have played a much larger role.

Press Release | Report

WILL POLLS REOPENED WISCONSIN

June 3, 2020 | Will Flanders

WILL conducted a statewide poll of Wisconsin voters to better understand their response to Wisconsin’s newly reopened economy in the wake of a Supreme Court decision terminating the ‘Safer at Home’ order. The poll included broad questions on policy and comfort levels with various activities, as well as a message test experiment to determine if certain messages move respondents.

Press Release | Report

WILL SURVEYS WISCONSIN PARENTS ON EDUCATION AND COVID-19

May 5, 2020 | Will Flanders

WILL conducted an online survey of 400 Wisconsin parents with children age 5-17. The survey was conducted from April 25-27 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.89%. WILL’s survey sought to better understand the experience of parents, their level of satisfaction, and views about the future.

Press Release | Report | Slides

How Wisconsin Should Spend its CARES K-12 Funding

April 6, 2020 | CJ Szafir and Libby Sobic

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act provides $2.2 trillion of relief for those impacted by COVID. Of this, CARES allocates about $30 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutions. Soon, Wisconsin will need to make decisions on how to spend the huge influx of federal funds on its education.

Press Release | Report 

Media and Commentary

WILL Blog | SCHOOL FUNDING AND THE PANDEMIC: HOW MUCH MONEY IS ENOUGH?

May 25, 2021 | Libby Sobic and Will Flanders

WILL Blog | Will Evers Act Quickly to Receive the Federal Relief Dollars for Private Schools?

January 15, 2021 | Cori Petersen

WILL Blog | School Closures Saved Schools Money. But Where Did it Go?

January 6, 2021 | Will Flanders and Jessica Holmberg

The Hill | Closing classrooms may cost school districts thousands of students for years to come

December 28, 2020 | Will Flanders and Ben Degrow

RealClearEducation | Will Students Return to Public Schools After the Pandemic?

December 28, 2020 | Will Flanders and Cori Petersen

The Hill | Are teachers unions influencing virtual schooling more than pandemic science?

November 21, 2020 | Will Flanders

Wisconsin State Journal | If education is changing, so should the funding.

October 30, 2020 | Will Flanders

RealClearEducation | Private Schools Deserve a Fair Share of CARES Funds

August 17, 2020 | Libby Sobic

WILL Blog | Coronavirus Doesn’t Discriminate, But Bureaucrats Do

July 10, 2020 | Libby Sobic

RealClearEducation | The Pandemic Has Reawakened the School Choice Movement

June 29, 2020 | Libby Sobic

WILL Blog | Department of Education takes decisive action to ensure states do not deny federal funds to private schools.

June 26, 2020 | Libby Sobic

WILL Blog | Is DPI Leaving Private Schools Out in the Cold?

June 1, 2020 | Libby Sobic

Cap Times | We can ease the hardships of educating during the pandemic with smart policy

May 28, 2020 | Will Flanders

WILL Blog | 3 Policies To Help Wisconsin K-12 Education During the COVID Crisis

April 6, 2020 | CJ Szafir, Libby Sobic, and Will Flanders

WILL Blog | Expanding Course Access Will Empower Families for Post-COVID Education

April 1, 2020 | CJ Szafir and Libby Sobic

WILL Blog | How private and public charter schools are serving their families and communities during the COVID-19 crisis.

March 27, 2020 | Libby Sobic and Jessica Holmberg