WILL Holds First Annual School Board Summit to Help Restore American Education in Wisconsin

Topics ranged from government transparency, school board policies, parental rights, school finance, and curriculum reform

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) held its first annual school board summit on April 12, which had over one hundred attendees, including school board members and administrators from districts around the state. At the event, WILL unveiled the Second Edition of our model school board policies and held multiple informational panels and discussions centered around improving education outcomes for Wisconsin students. The event was co-hosted by the Noah Webster Educational Foundation.

The Quotes: WILL Education Counsel, Cory Brewer, remarked, “The future of Wisconsin is sitting in classrooms right now, which is why WILL partnered with education-focused legal and policy experts and school board members from across Wisconsin for this summit. We discussed timely and relevant issues facing school boards and practical ideas to enhance student success. The incredible turnout and positive feedback from attendees make us eager to host this event again next year.”

Robert Pondiscio, Senior Fellow at American Enterprise Institute and one of the summit speakers, further noted, “Public school board members, whether they realize it or not, wield extraordinary power and influence over what children learn in our schools. It’s critical that organizations like WILL are stepping up to improve education in Wisconsin and across America.”

Dr. Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist and one of the summit speakers, stated, “Parental involvement in all aspects of their children and teenagers’ lives is imperative, and this includes involvement in their education and everything going on at school. Social transition of gender-questioning-youth should never be done in secret from parents.”

WILL Model School Board Policies: WILL’s model policies were developed with the goals of improving school governance; creating greater transparency; increasing parental rights and involvement; and optimizing student academic achievement. The policies are designed to be a credible resource for school board members to implement at the local level and can be tailored for states around the nation.

This year’s edition updates several policies from the First Edition (released in June 2022) and adds several new polices, including:

  • Cell Phones in Classrooms
  • Financial Literacy Instruction
  • Classroom Observation
  • Political and Controversial Displays in the Classroom

More about these policies can be found here.

Program Panels and Presentations: 

Panel: Empowering School Board Members
Alternative Resources for Informed Decision-Making and Governance
So often, the only resources known to school board members are given from one perspective. Instead, school board members should know about the many resources at their disposal, enabling them to make informed decisions and prioritize student academic achievement in their communities. WILL legal and policy experts will provide introductions on several important topics, which will include an overview about school board member powers and duties; how to access data about your district; how to track relevant legislation at the state level; and how to ensure compliance with open records laws. This presentation is tailored for school board members seeking to expand their knowledge base and enhance their decision-making capabilities by hearing about resources beyond traditional avenues such as state school board associations or district administration.

Panel: Equality in the Classroom
Ensuring Racial Nondiscrimination for Wisconsin Students and Educators

By providing a legal update and discussing common examples of racial discrimination in schools, this panel seeks to empower school board members to make informed policy decisions that promote fairness and respect for all students. Presenters will examine concerns about compelled speech and legal challenges related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies and curriculum originating from viewpoints that have sparked debate. The panel will discuss the legal obligations of schools to ensure equal treatment for all students regardless of race and provide an understanding of the need to ensure racial nondiscrimination within all facets of K through 12 education.

Presentation: How to Ensure District Funds Deliver the Most for Students
Bringing Communities Along in Challenging Budget Times
For most school districts, financial pressures are intensifying as federal relief funds wind down, enrollments shift, and labor costs continue to rise, all against the backdrop of an economic downturn. Decisions made regarding school district budgets will play a critical role in ensuring that district funds can deliver the most for students. This presentation is designed to equip school board members with the practical skills needed to know how to direct limited resources towards the goal of achieving educational excellence for all students.

Panel: Parental Rights and Student Gender Identity
Understanding the Vital Role of Parent Involvement in Decision-making for Minor Students

This presentation will provide school board members with insights into the importance of parental involvement in education, particularly with regard to the evolving topic of student gender identity. This panel will feature a legal expert, a policy expert, a parent, and a clinical psychologist whose work has focused primarily on children and adolescents dealing with gender identity-related issues. These experts will explore the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children while addressing the sensitive issue of gender ideology in schools. By navigating these issues with a commitment to collaboration, school board members can foster positive relationships between schools, parents, and students while upholding parents’ constitutional rights.

Panel: Cultivating Collaborative Partnerships
Fostering Effective Relationships Between School Board Members and Superintendents

This presentation aims to explore practices that support effective partnerships between school board members and superintendents. If all are focused on the best interests of students and families, responsible fiscal policies, and thoughtful consideration of community concerns, then even a board with diverse perspectives can become an effective board. The relationship between school board members and superintendents is crucial because it directly influences positive outcomes for students, teachers, and the community. This panel will seek to provide a roadmap for long-term success and good governance.

Panel: Connecting Policy to Practice
Strategies for Effective Implementation and Evaluation of Policies in the Classroom

This panel discussion is dedicated to empowering school board members with actionable strategies to bridge the divide between policy formulation and classroom application. It is imperative for school boards to recognize their substantial influence over classroom dynamics; they are not just passive supporters of administrative decisions, but essential contributors shaping educational outcomes. As educators, administrators, and policymakers collaborate to elevate educational standards, this discussion will highlight the pivotal role of school boards in translating policies into effective classroom practices.

About Restoring American Education Project: Restoring American Education is an initiative of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) to close a critical gap by engaging parents, school board members, and teachers with an understanding of K-12 education concerns and trends, and of the alternative resources available. Find out more: https://will-law.org/restoringed/.

Cory Brewer

Cory Brewer

Education Counsel

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