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Author: WisContext

Aging communities and fewer births are altering school enrollment in districts around Wisconsin

Students entering their senior year of high school in the fall of 2019 appear to be among the largest classes in Wisconsin for the foreseeable future. At a statewide level, there are generally fewer students in all preceding grades, a broad decline in enrollment that has continued since the turn of the century. While this trend is not universal across all grade levels, locations and racial groups, many public school districts across Wisconsin will see fewer students entering their doors. Historically, statewide public school enrollment peaked in 1971 with almost a million students, when much of the baby-boom generation...

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Demographic Trends: Wisconsin continues to be molded by its population structure

The basic structure of any population, the number of men and women in each age group, can have a profound impact on social and economic conditions in a place. Wisconsin’s population structure is dominated by the magnitude of the baby-boom generation, and their presence is strongest in rural areas. Population projections suggest that the influence of baby boomers will taper off in metro areas, but remain dominant in rural places for decades to come. Population pyramids are a type of data visualization showing the number of men and women within different age categories for a specific place and time....

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Wisconsin is paying a high price from the storm damage caused by extreme weather

Across northwestern Wisconsin, regular bouts of extreme rainstorms are wreaking havoc on public infrastructure that was engineered for what is increasingly perceived as a different era. But steep and repeated costs associated with the ensuing flood damage are hardly unique to one corner of the state. The issue of too much water in too short a time is contributing to mounting budgetary and, in some cases, existential crises for communities of all sizes around Wisconsin and the United States. In 2019, the problem is coming into greater focus. Extreme wet weather and resulting floods have been among the most...

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Calculating the political divide between Wisconsin’s Democratic and Republican legislators

Talk of political polarization, epitomized by the growing divide between Republicans and Democrats, is ubiquitous these days. Watch the nightly news, read a newspaper article about a political issue or talk to someone about politics, and the topic of polarization will likely come up. While polarization has long been discussed in terms of national politics, it is also a phenomenon that’s more and more visible at the state level. Indeed, many states, including Wisconsin, have seen intense confrontations between Republicans and Democrats play out over the past decade. While evidence shows polarization in Congress “creates stalemate and undermines lawmaking,”...

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Summer vacation is also a season of hunger for many local students in Wisconsin

Summer is often a time of care-free, sun-drenched days with long nights free from homework and sports practice. However, for many school children, the summer months mean a lack of adequate food, including a well-balanced school lunch on a daily basis. Students who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, depend on this program throughout the school year to provide lunches at a reduced cost or no cost. Over a half million Wisconsin children relied on free or reduced lunch at participating schools during the 2017-18 school year, which covered 82 million total meals. Implemented in 1946, this...

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Veto Power: The story of Wisconsin’s unique executive prerogative

Near the end of 2018, then Governor Scott Walker publicly offered his rationale for signing Republican-backed bills passed in a lame-duck session of the Wisconsin Legislature that would constrain the power of future state executives, most immediately his successor, Democrat Tony Evers. Walker’s reasoning included a brief mention that governors going forward would retain one of the strongest veto powers in the nation. Although the 2018 laws do restrict executive powers in various ways, Wisconsin’s top state office has extraordinary latitude to reshape bills — specifically appropriations bills — through the use of partial vetoes. These vetoes are similar...

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