Friday, June 14, 2013

More of Both Sides of Walker's Mouth

In the speech after surviving his recall, Scott Walker said "Tomorrow is the day after the election.  And tomorrow we are no longer opponents. Tomorrow we are one as Wisconsinites and together we can move Wisconsin forward." 
Unless, that is, you are a student from UW-Platteville who exercised his free speech a  couple years back by signing a recall petition, thus prompting Walker to rescind recently the student's appointment (by Walker) to the UW System's Board of Regents.  UPDATE: And, it turns out, the young man didn't even vote in the recall election.
It's not unexpected that you would be vindictive, of course, Governor, but it still is shameful.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Doe done, but does Walker really walk?

"I have every confidence that when this is completed, people will see that our integrity remains intact,"  Scott Walker, in 2012.

Oh, really?

Six people associated with Walker's staff--integral, trusted people in Walker's office and campaign--were convicted in crimes brought to light in the recently concluded Milwaukee County John Doe probe into illegal activities in Walker's County Executive office.

Walker (alas) was not charged with anything.

But that doesn't mean he gets a free pass.

Actually, if you believe Walker's previous stance on "corrupt" political allies, Walker should be out of a job.  In 2006, when a Doyle staffer was merely charged (and subsequently cleared) of improper political actions, Walker spouted in a press release (thanks Daniel Bice) that:

 "...corruption can infiltrate all areas of government. Unfortunately we have a Governor and administration that condones unethical and illegal behavior. The people of Wisconsin deserve better. Today’s indictment provides further confirmation that the Doyle administration is damaged and must be removed from the Capitol."

But I guess Walker doesn't think that applies to Eagle Scouts like him.

In announcing the closure of the current John Doe probe into actions by Walker's staff, Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm, who's been overseeing the investigation, gave this ringing endorsement of the virtue of those not charged (my emphasis added): "...all charges that are supported by proof beyond a reasonable doubt have now been brought and concluded."  Not saying he's a murderer or anything, but--beyond a reasonable doubt--isn't that how O.J. Simpson got off?

And Walker's not Eagle-Scout-squeaky-clean here.  Far from it.  After all, he hired these guys.  And some of them came with already quite tarnished resumes--including pretty much the same things they were eventually convicted of while working with Walker in his County Exec role.  Who'd have thunk it?

Kelly Rindfleisch, of course, was a state Republican legislative staffer from 1995-2001 who admitted she (and others) "ran campaigns and raised funds for candidates from their state offices. Rindfleisch also admitted removing campaign documents from the Senate Republican Caucus that had been requested by the State Journal under the open records law." WSJ  Um, now she's been convicted of pretty much doing the same thing on Walker's watch.

That's who you hire to be your Deputy Chief of Staff?  Gosh, if there'd only been an inkling she was capable of doing something like this when Walker had hired her.

And Tim Russell was also hired to be a Deputy Chief of Staff, among other numerous, trusted posts.  To be fair, Russell hadn't ever previously been granted immunity nor had he been charged with anything criminal, but Russell, one of Walker's closest political allies, had questions raised about his past employment history, including his "reported termination from a previous position at the Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) for illegal use of a department credit card for his personal use." 

Wow.  If there had only been a sign to possibly foretell Russell's current conviction for skimming veterans' funds for his personal use.

Of course, you can't fault anyone in Walker's house for campaign fund contributor William Gardner, the guy convicted of illegally funneling money to Walker's campaign through his employees, right?

Oh, um, wait a minute.  It turns out the very same William Gardner was convicted of making illegal contributions to Walker's County Exec campaign years before, essentially by funneling it through his own daughter!

And the Walker-backing Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel even questioned the wisdom in having a Republican Party official, Darlene Wink, on Walker's County Executive staff.

Not exactly stellar hires, are they?

To top it all off, since these convictions have occured, Walker hasn't even said, "I trusted the wrong people."  He has taken no ownership, whatsoever, for these questionable (and now convicted) hires.  Instead Walker is "reminding" the media that his office started (although likely subsequently stonewalled) the investigation.  He has wrapped it all up by saying “The biggest thing is I’m pleased that the process is complete so we can move forward.”

And, so, Governor, we move forward. 

But it's certain that we do so without your integrity intact.

Articles for more info: JS Online, Wisconsin State Journal, WisDems, Cognitive Dissidence

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wis GOP hits new low (is that even possible...?)

Apparently lying to senior citizens isn't enough for supporters of Tommy Thompson in his campaign for Wisconsin's US Senate seat.  Now, someone on his behalf is sending recorded calls to senior citizens in Washington County and using their individual doctor's name, saying that Obama's Affordable Health Care Act may prevent them from ever being treated by their doctor again.  And then callers are reminded to vote for Tommy Thompson.

Seriously?  Is that all you got, Tommy?  Trying to scare seniors into voting for you?  Why not just say that "death squads" will take care of seniors under Obamacare? (oh, wait, that's right, the GOP said that already...).

The clinic and doctor in question vehemently denied any association with the calls and uncategorically stated that neither the doctor nor clinic endorses or has endorsed any candidate.  Oh, by the way, a clinic employee said they had also received a call from someone who got the same call using Romney's name.

Very, very classy, GOP.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Real-life effects of WIS GOP on education

Now that the rhetoric has died down regarding Walker's union-busting here in Wisconsin, here's how it has affected me--a teacher--my students, and my school. 

The moment Walker's Act 10 took effect, my school board froze salaries, changed the upcoming school calendar (which had been agreed upon with the union a couple months earlier), canceled already scheduled, out-of-school-day continuing education for its staff, created a grievance procedure that is, in effect, settled by the district superintendent or a district-selected third party, instituted health care changes without real input from the insured, and, as of yet, six weeks into the school year, has not provided a handbook with conditions of employment to its teachers.

Despite Walker's declarations that districts will save money (despite state funding cuts), our district has eliminated some aide positions, sacrificed some curriculum updating, and reduced staff development opportunities.

As a result of district changes, my teaching time has increased, my prep time has decreased, and there are new policies to provide more and daily information on student progress and lessons (the added "transparency" will take me an estimated 30+ minutes per day, with no apparent link to improving student learning).  There are less services for students requiring additional reading help, and no specific plans or staff for students demonstrating severe behavioral problems.

My salary, including new health care deductibles as well as pension and health care payments, is down about 10%, while new state mandates require more actual work in the classroom including more identification, specific work with, and documentation for students who are below level.

Some parents, now that our state government has led the way in calling teachers (or their representatives) greedy, slobs, and thugs, voice similar opinions.  I documented in an earlier post parents cursing and hurling insults at teachers as we walked down the street in our town in a show of non-confrontational solidarity. When the local parent-teacher group's budget revealed a thank you gift for teachers at Christmastime, one parent rolled her eyes and said, "You've got to be kidding me."

And upcoming changes (should we ever be provided a handbook), will very possibly include a "pool of money" for teacher salaries, from which the subjectively determined "better" teachers will score more than their subjectively-judged "lesser" peers.  For all the district initiatives and admonitions to promote collaboration, pitting colleague against colleague for their wages certainly doesn't seem like a very collaborative or efficient or wise thing to do.

Lastly, I have been advised by a third party consultant that continuing a blog reporting my district's policies or providing criticism of state government policies so ardently backed by the locals--and identifying myself with my real name, background, or photo--could actually come back to haunt me in terms of disciplinary action (now that I may no longer have a union).

And all these individual concerns don't even include the low-income families here that are affected by cuts to programs they may utilize, or those that may not be able/willing to vote because of new voter ID laws, or a government that changes laws to suit personal agendas or kowtow to businesses at the expense of those in need, or changes in environmental policies that affect everyone's quality of life, or the deep and abiding breach of trust between a people and its elected government.

I'm unsure whether I will continue this blog.  If so, it will be under an assumed name (as advised by the previously mentioned consultant).  There are many wonderful blogs out there fighting this good fight, and I have yet to determine, with the added responsibilities and scrutiny of my job, if I have the ability to do this justice.  Until then, my state senator Grothman is still (as I have termed him before) a major d-bag, and my governor is still a liar.

Thanks for visiting over the last year.

And recall Walker.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bad time for Bad/No Internet

Personal note: I'm having trouble finding reliable Internet service where I'm at to adequately research and post new info on this blog.  Until my next post, please continue to visit lefty blogs-Wisconsin and the scores of pro-Wisconsin sites as we count down to Senate recalls later this summer.  Thanks.  --Curt (Teacher in Cheeseland)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Predicting WI's future: GOP's b.s. claim--Vouchers work!

At this time next year, Wisconsin's Republicans will shout from the rooftops, "SEE?!!  Vouchers work!"  The numbers may look that way, but it will merely be more incredible spin from the right to their incredibly gullible backers.

Don't believe it.  It's garbage--just a natural function of the way Walker has carefully crafted the state's new private school voucher system.  Voucher (choice) school scores will go up, and public school scores will go down, but the Republicans will build their case by ignoring three vital factors.

1) Vouchers were originally set up to provide economically-disadvantaged students the chance to attend private schools, and theoretically, receive a better educational fit than they could from a public school. Results show that students from such disadvantaged backgrounds have performed much lower academically than their non-disadvantaged peers.  Compared to similarily disadvantaged students (those that receive free or reduced lunch) in public schools, choice school students generally performed the same or worse than their public school counterparts on state tests in 2010-11, the first year choice schools were even required to take the same assessments. Now, with an unlimited number of Racine and Milwaukee students from more economically-sound homes able to use vouchers thanks to new state budget provisions (the income level requirement for a family of four went from $39,111 to $74,050, if headed by a married couple), such students will tend to skew the results upward, while economically-disadvantaged students--the students in most need--will still founder. 

2) In 2010-11, about 20% of the student population of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) had special needs.  During that same year, voucher schools in Milwaukee self-reported that 1.6% (that's one-point-six) of their students had special needs.  A lawsuit from the ACLU details these discrepencies, as well as includes alleged examples of private schools dissuading students with special needs from attending their schools.  Theoretically, then, private voucher schools can more likely cherry-pick the students that would do well in their schools, and more easily rid themselves of students that don't make the grade (including behaviorally-and cognitively-challenged children).  And, based on my conversations with private voucher school personnel, they do just that.

3) Because of additional resources and personnel required, students with special needs require more money to educate than do their peers.  With private voucher schools having fewer such students, and public schools having their large numbers of the same, thanks to Walker's budget, public education is expected to lose $1.68 billion in revenue authority and $835 million in state school aid over the next two years, according to the Dept. of Public Instruction and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.  That means much less money for public schools, while still being required to provide more services than private voucher schools.  Do the math.  Which schools do you think have a fair shot at improving their test scores? 

An excellent example of the challenges that are faced even in urban-based, private voucher schools appears in Sunday's Journal Sentinel via Alan Borsuk. The article details the troubles at CEO Leadership Academy in Milwaukee, a private voucher (choice) school that seems to have a lot going for it--including the guiding hand of big-time choice advocate and former MPS Superintendent Howard Fuller.  Real-world circumstances in students' lives at CEO make large-scale success difficult.  So much so, the private voucher school will become a charter school , authorized by Milwaukee city government, and thus increasing its yearly per-student voucher payment from $6442 to $7445, because more funds are needed to try to effectively reach these students.

These problems don't even cover not having state-directed curriculum, employing teachers without teaching certification (they just need Bachelor's degrees--sect. 119.23-- with no training in teaching methods or the study of how children learn), requiring no educator background checks, dividing community by diminishing the importance of a neighborhood public school, and the possibility that Walker's veto pen (or his Legislature's backdoor dealings) will surreptitiously include even more cities in this attempt to destroy public education and, most vile of all, put disadvantaged urban youths at even more disadvantage.

More funding will be taken from public schools and given to private schools through the voucher program. State Superintendent Tony Evers calls such expansion of the voucher system "morally wrong."

And it is.

But, mark my words, next year, Wisconsin Republicans will say vouchers work.  And it may seem that way.

But not to the kids who need it most.

Photo from FoxNews

Thursday, June 16, 2011

WI GOP Senate: Dissing the Dems, education, and "forsaking" the next generation

Like ducks at a shooting gallery, Democratic amendments to the Walker budget--this time in the Senate--are being shot down one after another (watch the carnage at   Yesterday (and early this morning) Assembly Democrats went 0 for about 40 in getting any amendments into the budget.  Now it's the Senate's turn.  So far, the first amendment (read highlights here), which included repealing provisions that loosen child labor laws, was tabled by GOP Senators.

It was the second amendment, though, that brought the declarations of Sen. Robert Jauch (D-Poplar) that as far as responsibly educating the next generation the Republican majority was "forsaking them, forgetting them," calling the Republican plan the "most anti-education budget" in the history of the state.

Instead of the unfathomable $800+ million cuts to education, the second amendment asked for repeal of expansion of choice/vouchers, restoring $356 million to K-12 funding, repealing elimination of funding for programs dealing with students with gifted and talented needs as well as numerous other useful and successful educational grants and programs.  Jauch provided examples from rural districts in which the educational gap will widen as a result of the new budget. He also suggested that $250+ million in corporate tax breaks could be better used in educating the children of people working in those corporations.

Jauch called out fellow Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), saying she claims to have never voted for an anti-education budget, but, in essence, she was doing it up big time today.

Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) pointed out that with such cuts to education, Milwaukee would stand to lose $182 million, with none of Walker's "tools" to fix it because Milwaukee's teachers and elected officials came to their contractual agreement even before Scott Walker became governor.  Taylor claimed (and I can't see how anyone could dispute it), "We're setting up failure for the largest school district in the state."

Jauch said the amendment would counter the budget provisions that he termed, "Anti-public education, anti-teacher, and anti-Wisconsin values."

And then the GOP shot it down.

Info and quotes from Wis Eye Assembly Bill 40  televised debate, 6/16/11\

#3--Repeal changes to Badger/Family/SeniorCare: SHOT DOWN
#4--Increase transparency, reduce political appointees: SHOT DOWN
#5--Restore funding for commuity services: SHOT DOWN
#6--Increase funding for busing, pedestrian and bike projects: SHOT DOWN
#7--Restore funding for environmental issues (inc. recycling): SHOT DOWN
 #8--Repeal collective bargaining changes: SHOT DOWN
Visit the WisPolitics Budget Blog for great amendment summaries/updates

(10 PM): SENATE PASSES BUDGET (no amendments)