NEWS/OPINION BRIEFS – Thursday, March 9, 2023

Briefs are posted every weekday morning, M-F


Public school districts still have tens of billions in federal funds to spend helping kids make up the learning they lost to Covid, but some experts worry that so far schools have spent too much of that money making long-delayed fixes to run-down physical facilities.

The Edunomics Lab, a Georgetown University research center that tracks the spending nationwide, estimates that as of December, about a quarter of the $184 billion in pandemic aid designated for schools since 2020 and spent so far had gone toward facilities and construction.

President Joe Biden signed the bill approving the third and largest infusion of cash, the American Rescue Plan, in March 2021. That funding came with some strings attached. School districts had to reserve at least 20% of the money to address pandemic learning loss — such strategies as tutoring, summer enrichment programs or after-school learning. But the majority of the funds were left up to the districts’ discretion, leading to major expenditures on teacher salaries and facility renovations — like general building repairs, HVAC installations and costly athletic complexes. The dollars spent on buildings rather than learning loss concerned some experts, parents and officials.

Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab, said that while some facility projects are necessary, especially in districts that have been “shortchanged historically,” getting learning back on track for students should be schools’ priority.

“Some of [these projects] won’t be finished until that kid’s graduated and gone — so this money, which was for these kids, won’t actually benefit them,” Roza said.

Beyond school building repairs and upgrades, some districts have used the historic funding to improve their athletic facilities. Milwaukee Public Schools, for instance, has budgeted $27 million for athletic facility upgrades like new baseball fields, fieldhouses and sound systems.

But for some, these expenditures don’t seem justified.

“It’s a Band-Aid over a bullet wound,” said Angela Harris, a first grade teacher in Milwaukee who has criticized the schools’ American Rescue Plan spending on athletic facilities.

In particular, she’s unhappy with the district’s spending on boosting athletic facilities at Reagan High School.

“They want to spend money where it will look good but not have the biggest impact on the students.”

Milwaukee Public Schools did not respond to requests for comment.

—NBC News

The state Legislature’s top Republican said Wednesday his caucus likely won’t be getting behind a proposal put forward by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to spend $290 million to keep the Milwaukee Brewers in Wisconsin.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos described Evers’ proposal as likely “dead” and said he supports crafting a new plan.

“I imagine his plan as devised is dead but hopefully a different plan will be able to come forward,” Vos told reporters at the state Capitol on Wednesday. “He is taking one-time money and basically giving it away … I’m not sure (the) amount of time he’s asking the team to stay here is … correct.”

Vos said he would like to see another proposal put forward and suggested he would back a longer time commitment from the Brewers to stay in Wisconsin than 13 years, comparing Evers’ proposal to a legislative package crafted eight years ago for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team.

In 2015, the state Legislature agreed to pay $4 million a year for 20 years to help fund the Buck’s new arena. In return, Wisconsin receives $6.5 million a year in tax revenues. The deal was made after the National Basketball Association said in 2015 it would move the Bucks to another state without a new arena.

“I think there has to be a different deal put together. Again, I haven’t talked about it with the Senate, I haven’t talked about with our caucus. So I don’t want to get into all the details. But at the same time, I think the deal that (Evers) cut is not a very good one for the taxpayer,” Vos said.

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is leading a legislative effort to limit President Joe Biden’s ability to unilaterally negotiate agreements with the World Health Organization and he anticipates bipartisan support.

“So my bill is pretty simple,” he said on the “Just the News, No Noise” television show. “It just says any agreement that the Biden administration enters into with the World Health Organization will be deemed a treaty, and will need to come before the Senate to be ratified by two-thirds of the body.”

“I’ve already got all but three Republican senators cosponsoring it,” he said. “The other three, I just haven’t had time to talk to them. I’ve got a feeling I have all of them.”

“I’m telling the Democrats, ‘This really ought to pass by 100 to zero.’ Congress, the Senate has to reclaim its constitutional authority,” he added. “And these agreements the presidents do with international bodies need to come [before] the Senate for ratification; they’ll end up being better agreements for America.”

—Just the News

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has rejected an invitation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit Ukraine.

The California Republican told CNN he felt no need to visit the war-ravaged country to formulate his position on funding the Kyiv regime amid the war effort.

“I will continue to get my briefings and others, but I don’t have to go to Ukraine or Kyiv to see it. And my point has always been, I won’t provide a blank check for anything,” he said. “Let’s be very clear about what I said: no blank checks, OK? So, from that perspective, I don’t have to go to Ukraine to understand where there’s a blank check or not.”

The then-minority leader vowed during the 2022 midterms that a Republican-led Congress would not write a “blank check” to the country amid criticism of the Biden administration’s open-handed approach to providing the nation with aid against Russia.

—Just the News

The city prosecutor in Newport News, Virginia, said Wednesday that he would not seek charges against the 6-year-old boy who shot his elementary school teacher in January but has yet to decide whether any adults associated with the case could be held criminally liable.

In an interview with NBC News, Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn said the “prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic” given that a child that young wouldn’t have the competency to understand the legal system and what a charge means or adequately assist an attorney. It’s not unheard of for an adolescent of that age to be arrested in general, and theoretically, a 6-year-old child could be criminally charged under Virginia law.

The shooting on Jan. 6 at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News has led to a potential lawsuit expected to be filed on behalf of the teacher, Abigail Zwerner, the ouster of the school’s superintendent and an assistant principal, and the installation of metal detectors.

According to a lawyer for Zwerner, a first-grade teacher, the boy had behavioral issues and a pattern of troubling interactions with school staff and other students. A notice of intent to sue said the boy was given a one-day suspension for breaking Zwerner’s cellphone, and returned the next day with a 9mm handgun that he used to shoot his teacher in the classroom while she sat at a reading table.

—NBC News

Keeping criminals in jail and not letting them loose among the general populace is a way to reverse the increasing homicide rate in Washington, according to Robert Contee, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

“The things that we have been doing is locking up bad guys, taking guns off the street. What we got to do if we really want to see homicides go down is keep bad guys with guns in jail. Because when they [are] in jail, they can’t be in community shooting people … That’s the thing that we need to do different—we need to keep violent people in jail,” Contee said while speaking along with Mayor Muriel Bowser at a press conference on March 6.

The police chief was responding to a question from a reporter who asked about homicide rates in the district increasing 30 percent so far this year, and how the department planned to tackle the trend. Contee admitted that homicide rates saw a “slight uptick” at the beginning of the year.

According to data from the MPD, there have been 40 homicides in the region as of March 8 compared to just 30 during the same period last year. For the entirety of 2022, there were 203 homicides—a roughly 10 percent reduction from the 226 homicides in 2021.

“Right now, the average homicide suspect has been arrested 11 times prior to them committing a homicide. That is a problem … The average homicide victim also has been arrested 10 or 11 times prior to them becoming a homicide victim. That is a problem,” Contee said.

During an event in January, Contee raised concerns about the rising crime rate among youngsters.

“Our babies are starting to show up different … Their first introduction into the criminal justice system is for a violent crime where they’re using a firearm. It’s not showing up because they stole a bag of chips or because they broke into or something. It’s because they put a gun in somebody’s face or they used that gun,” he said.

—The Epoch Times

The fact of the matter is that many Western women do need help. Data shows American women are experiencing a rapidly exacerbating mental health crisis that is putting some of their lives at risk and posing an existential threat to our civilization.

“Sexual attacks and other traumatic experiences have led to an unprecedented level of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts among America’s young women,” NBC News reported in February.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2011-2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, on which NBC was reporting, 57 percent of teenage girls self-report feeling “persistently sad or hopeless,” while nearly 30 percent have considered committing suicide. This marks a 60 percent increase in suicidal ideation over the past decade.

Yes, the Covid-19 lockdowns — which empirically did far more harm than good — did a horrifying amount of damage to young people’s mental health. Only the foolish and malicious deny this, but the fact remains that young women’s happiness has been spiraling down the drain at a rapid pace long before Covid.

A 2019 cross-sectional study of more than 85,000 youth suicide deaths between 1975 and 2016 indicated a steady increase in suicide among girls aged 10 to 14 throughout the years. Suicide doubled for females between the ages of 15 and 19 from 2007 to 2015.

A study conducted by the CDC in 2016 found that from 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate for girls aged 10-14 tripled.

Younger generations of females aren’t the only ones experiencing startling upticks in suicidality. According to the same CDC study above, females aged 15-24, 25-44, and 65-74 experienced a 31 to 53 percent increase in their age demographic’s suicide rate. In March 2021, it revealed that from 1999 to 2019, female suicide rates in the U.S. increased by 51 percent to just over 6 per 100,000. This increase was most pronounced among women aged 35 to 44 and 45 to 54.

— Samuel Mangold-Lenett is a staff editor at The Federalist


During his campaign for mayor, (Cavalier) Johnson raised a few eyebrows when he talked about the city increasing its population to one million people, nearly twice its current size.

It is not just that Johnson wants Milwaukee to grow. He needs population and business growth to help relieve enormous pressure on the city’s long-term finances.

So, how could the city begin growing again?

The city can start by continuing to encourage development where people want to live. Low vacancy rates indicate demand is still strong for housing in the downtown, east side, Walker’s Point, and Bay View areas.

When possible, the city should encourage refugee and immigrant settlement. Given shrinking household sizes among native-born Americans, immigration by larger families is the main way neighborhoods can grow without building more houses.

Milwaukee can increase domestic migration by offering newcomers a city that is more pedestrian and bike-friendly, with more public spaces and easy access to transit options. Zoning changes can increase density in areas that have experienced population loss because of shrinking household size. Where housing is in demand, more of it should be built.

But even doing all those things, important as they are, still will not address the primary cause of Milwaukee’s recent population loss — depopulation of neighborhoods across the north side.

The community, including the broader metro, must reduce racial disparities. The city could stem much of its population loss if more residents—increasingly those of color—chose to remain in Milwaukee. Public investment should be prioritized for neighborhoods that have experienced decades of disinvestment and population decline.

The city should continue to build on the recent decisions by Fiserv and Milwaukee Tool to move their corporate headquarters and hundreds of jobs from the suburbs to downtown Milwaukee. Their relocations and Northwestern Mutual’s recent decision to move jobs from its Franklin campus to downtown serve as a powerful reminder of Milwaukee’s built-in recruiting advantage with today’s employers; the city is more attractive to a younger, diverse workforce, some of whom will want to live in the city, close to where they work.

Still, serious obstacles to population growth remain.

At the top of the list is public safety. The city has seen an epidemic of reckless driving and just recorded its third straight year of record homicides. Perhaps not surprisingly, the areas hit the hardest by the violence in Milwaukee have seen the greatest population decline.

— Mike Gousha is a senior advisor in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. John D. Johnson is research fellow at the Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education at the Law School. They wrote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is partially right when he says “You can’t basically just tax your way out of debt. You can’t borrow your way out of debt and you can’t cut your way out of debt.” In fact, you can cut the debt by spending and taxing less.

Let’s start with improper payments made by federal agencies. According to reporting by The Washington Examiner, such payments totaled $175 billion just in 2019, as calculated by the government website That’s equivalent to $15 billion per month. This amount doesn’t include the $2.25 trillion in taxpayer and borrowed money spent on improper payments, including millions sent to dead people. Auditors for discovered the most wasteful federal programs were Medicaid, Medicare and the Earned Income Tax Credit. In just these three programs, reports The Examiner, 69 percent, or $121 billion – were improper payments.

Then there was the money wasted on COVID-19 relief, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). NBC News reported “many who participated in what prosecutors are calling the largest fraud in U.S. history — the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money intended to help those harmed by the coronavirus pandemic — couldn’t resist purchasing luxury automobiles…mansions, private jet flights and swanky vacations.”

There’s more. During the pandemic, Congress approved more than $3.5 trillion in emergency funds that went to individuals and businesses. Of that amount, hundreds of billions reportedly were fraudulently paid out.

The Hill newspaper reported a few of many examples of fraud that should outrage members of Congress and might if they weren’t spending other people’s money. It cites eight people in Georgia who allegedly stole $30 million by filing unemployment claims for 5,000 people. Four people in Texas allegedly swindled $18 million in PPP loans and were trying to steal $17 million more.

As the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill., quipped “A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” Except today it’s a trillion here and there.

Congressional Republicans have an obligation to taxpayers to uncover more fraud. They should also reform the main drivers of debt – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Taxes need to be cut, not raised, to deprive the Washington beast of revenue they waste. Spending should be substantially reduced, bureaucratic, dysfunctional and unnecessary government agencies eliminated, and as much misspent money recovered as possible.

All of this should be an issue in next year’s campaign.

—Columnist Cal Thomas

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY – In 1959 the Barbie doll made her debut at the International Toy Festival.

The lifelike doll that looked like a young adult made the Mattel company—and Barbie—a household name. After decades of criticism over the brand’s lack of physical diversity, the company rolled out Barbie dolls with a wide variety of body shapes and complexions—and a collection that honors prominent women heroes. They also offered a bald doll for kids whose hair falls out.

No photo description available.

One thought on “NEWS/OPINION BRIEFS – Thursday, March 9, 2023

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (03/13/2023) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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