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)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unbelievable quotes from yet another unbelievable WI day

With Wisconsin's Supreme Court giving the go-ahead for the gutting of collective bargaining, there were plenty of unbelievable things popping out of the mouths of those in Madison on Tuesday.

"We conclude," reads the majority decision of the State Supreme Court's ruling on the collective bargaining bill, "that the Legislature did not violate the Wisconsin Constitution by the process it used." 
Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said, "The majority of the Supreme Court is essentially saying that the Legislature is above the law."  And Barca's right.  Lower courts (including that which is presided over by Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi) were presented with evidence and had already said, "Yeah, you broke the open meetings law."  And for those that purport Sumi was merely advancing her own agenda, why would she have said the same bill could be passed immediately--with no questions--if the Republicans just posted the meeting properly and took another vote?  Or why would she have dismissed other cases against the bill's passage?

Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald (Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald's kid brother) said, "We didn't violate any rules.  We upheld the Constitution all the way through..." 
Maybe the Supreme Court agrees with you, Representative, but certainly Republicans violated the spirit of the law. Even the Walker-backing Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said in an earlier editorial that the Republican argument to the Supreme Court was "bizarre"--that even locked doors with but one member of the public as witness constituted an open meeting.  As was the meeting decried by the Walker-backing Wisconsin State Journal.

Alberta Darling weighed in with her latest version of "Here's why I should be recalled," by laying the mess in Madison on Sumi and not the Republicans: "(Sumi) stepped all over the people of Wisconsin.  You think of all the chaos and discord that's gone on in this Capitol as the result of her decision...To me, it was despicable."
Um, excuse me, Senator?  The chaos was called by Sumi's action? Not by Republicans stripping collective bargaining? Not by Republicans cutting funding to schools and social programs? Not by Republicans courting business in Wisconsin at the expense of its people?

Perhaps the most remarkable came in the written declaration of Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, pointedly directed at her majority-voting colleagues: (from JS Online):
... the majority has "reached a predetermined conclusion not based on the facts and the law, which undermines the majority's ultimate decision."  The majority justices "make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties' arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891."
In other words, she's accusing her colleagues of neglecting the proper execution of their duties--very strong words from the State's Chief Justice.  I'm guessing she wouldn't have uttered those words unless she had sound basis to do so.  For even more of Abrahamson's criticism, visit the Wisconsin State Journal article here.

Unbelievable.  And we're only six months into Walker's regime. Hopefully, it's halfway over.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Surprise! UPDATE:Supreme Court doesn't care whether open meetings were violated; budget repair is law

Fox 6 Milwaukee read from the statement of the Court (I guess that's what it was) that Republicans did NOT violate the open meetings law (Please see FINAL UPDATE below) --so I guess the collective bargaining bill is law.  Gosh, who'dathunk the WI Supreme Court (aka David Prosser and the Conservatives) would have ruled that way?

FINAL UPDATE: I'm not changing all the subsequent "Updates" here (to keep the integrity of what I've already posted, such as it is), but there obviously was some confusion about the Court's actions among a lot of sources.  As it stands right now, it appears that the Courts did say the committee of legislators was NOT subject to open meetings laws, making Sumi's actions (and those of any lower court) void. (JS Online)

UPDATE 1: The law was upheld because the Court said Sumi did not have authority to void it, so it will go into effect.  However, it still seems pretty evident that the Republicans likely violated the open meetings law, but, unfortunately, the Court didn't even consider that. 

Since the process of the bill's passage into law still is still sullied because of the undecided open meetings question (which actually Sumi said there was a violation), it makes it all the more laughable to read the hot air of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald: "We've been saying since day one that Republicans passed the budget repair bill correctly, so frankly this isn't much of a surprise. We followed the law when the bill was passed, simple as that." (Wisconsin State Journal). 

Yeah, keep telling yourself that, Fitzgerald.

UPDATE, PART 2: It seems even the Court has trouble making a clear decision. 

From the Wisconsin State Journal:  The court, however, declined to step into the dispute over whether the March 9 conference committee meeting violated the state's open meetings law, leaving it to the Legislature to set its own rules.
"In the posting of notice that was done, the Legislature relied on its interpretation of its own rules of proceeding," the court wrote. "The court declines to review the validity of the procedure used to give notice of the joint committee on conference."

From WisPolitics: A brief description on the court's site said the court concluded the Legislature did not violate a provision in the Wisconsin Constitution that the doors of each house shall be open except when public welfare requires secrecy.

From JS Online: The court found a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state's open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when they hastily approved the measure and made it possible for the Senate to take it up.

I'm sure it will be all sorted out, but it still smells.  There are numerous challenges outstanding against the collective bargaining law, including "bad faith" negotiating claims (which Walker knows something about  from his days as Milwaukee County Exec).  It's a long way from over.

Monday, June 13, 2011

More slime from WI GOP: Call for "extraordinary session"

For only the tenth time (and the first since 1993), Wisconsin's Legislature will be meeting in "extraordinary session," this time to pass Walker's state budget.  Extraordinary session, according to the State Legislative Reference Bureau can be called by the Legislature to "focus its attention on specific legisltion it wants to expedite." 

And there's nothing the Republicans would love to do more than get this business-loving, people-hating budget passed (including, it now looks like, Walker's stripping of collective bargaining) before they could lose the Senate majority following this summer's recall elections.  In extraordinary session, regular rules can be suspended, and according to Rep. Mark Pocan (see Pocan's YouTube explanation in yesterday's post), debate and amendments can be limited, and Democracy, really, is stomped on.  Senate Chief Clerk Rob Marchant, however, says it would neither limit amendments or debate, but would allow quick preliminary approval from each house on the same day, and then only require a simple majority, instead of two-thirds, to advance the bill.  Regardless, this budget does not seem to require emergency-type passage.

 Assistant Assembly Minority Leader Donna Seidel (D-Wausau) said she was concerned about the use of the extraordinary session to pass the budget. “It appears to be part of their strategy that anything can happen and anything can be rushed through with little or no scrutiny,” she said (JS Online).

Yeah, it sure does look like that, doesn't it?

You can read a great summary of the "Budget Basics" from (thanks to Solidarity Wisconsin). Or, if you're well-versed in politispeak, you can review the entire budget here (thanks to Steve Hanson at Uppity Wisconsin).

Protestors will be out in force.  My union, WEAC, is calling for membership to join protests  (11AM on the Capitol Square and 5:30 PM at State Street corner) of a budget that includes severe cuts to education, local government, the environment, and the poor.

Oh, yeah, and collective bargaining.

Extraordinarily power-hungry, greedy, and compliant Republican legislators call for an extraodinary session.  Come to think of it, I guess that's not so extraordinary at all.

For an extraordinarily detailed and informative site about all things budgetary, check out the Wisconsin Budget Project (thanks to Becky and Mark for the link)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

More GOP dirty tricks on tap as WI budget looms?

It promises to be a busy week in our state capital.  Perhaps even "extraordinary" (more on that later) as Walker's budget comes to the floor. Walker's right-hand puppet and chief alarmist, Administration Secretary Michael Huebsch (the man behind the collective bargaining bill) told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week, "We are anticipating, we are preparing for the height of what we saw in the early part of March. A mass crowd that actually rushed the Capitol." Huebsch continued, "I am preparing for that. I hope we never get to that again."

The protests have been honest reaction to dishonest practice.  And that about which Huebsch espouses would not happen without things such as illegal meetings, legislation passed in the middle of the night, content of bills not shared (with the populace or even with other legislators, for goodness sakes).  The people of Wisconsin are too intelligent, too dedicated, too rooted in the tradition of fairness throughout our state's history not to protest against injustice.

But it sounds like the Republicans may reach into their bag of dirty tricks again, through something called "extraordinary session," in which normal channels of debate and legislative process can be circumvented to rush through legislation. Here's the Friday video blog of State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) with a great explanation (thanks to Jenny at WEAC's facebook):

So don't worry Mike Huebsch, there will be protests, just as there were several dozen protestors at a Walker business schmooze on Friday, just as dozens of souls camp in Walkerville every night in our capital.  How intense those protests will be, however, I think will pretty much depend on you and your friends, especially if they put in collective bargaining restrictions.

You know, it's possible the protests just may be extraordinary.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A different take on Walker's GOP

Introducing a new page here at MisLeading Wisconsin: Not Necessarily the Blog, a satirical, “Onion”-like feature about our friends in Madison.  The page tagline is “The first paragraph is actual news, the rest…not so much.”  Page author jh’s self-description: “I’m part Tina Fey, part Jon Stewart, part Irish, and a tiny part Dutch, from my mother’s side.”   Seeing as it’s running on this blog, I realize that any recommendation is self-serving, but I think it’s pretty funny.  Hopefully, you might, too.  Thanks for checking it out.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

WI Republicans ARE up for sale

An enormous bombshell hit Madison Republican legislators today, the revelation that one of their own, Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) said in a note--not suggested, but said--the reason firefighter and police unions aren't subject to upcoming collective bargaining changes is that "the unions have bought out several people and we can not get it put through." (from Daniel Bice of the Journal Sentinel). That phrase, once again, is "bought out."



When given a chance to clarify his note, Kapenga said he stood by his statement. And it's an incredibly serious accusation.  Kapenga is saying Wisconsin policy-making is, in fact, up for sale.  And that his party is the one that's selling it.

What would be the upside for the Republicans? Walker's initial excuse for excluding police and firefighter unions was supposedly to ensure public safety.  But could it be payback for endorsements from Milwaukee's powerful police and firefighter unions (two of the few that backed Walker's gubernatorial bid)?  Coincidentally, there have been a couple major isues recently that have benefitted those departments: Senate Republicans seemingly going against their standard line by promoting pay for suspended police officers , and the GOP proposal to end residency requirements for, hmmmm, Milwaukee police and firefighters.

With earlier corporate giveaways--some, such as Walker's JobFundsNow, even too much for staunch Walkerites like Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend)--it's easy to see how people could believe Wisconsin's policy-making may be up for sale. 

Now, even one of the Republicans' own says it's so.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sure, it's illegal, but we're WI Republicans!

Another week, another likely illegal proposal from the Republicans.  Now, to add to the indignity of not being able to find work, the Joint Finance Committee endorsed a proposal (in the budget, mind you) to require the unemployed to pee into a cup, so to speak.  If a drug test is failed, or if the individual even refuses to submit to this affront, unemployment benefits could be suspended for a year (JS Online).  A spokesman for the US Labor Department said, "Requiring a person to take a drug test as a condition of eligibility is not related to the 'fact or cause' of a person's unemployment and would raise an issue under federal law."   And, in the same article, the ACLU rep says such testing should only be related to business or health or safety-related issues.

And this is in the same week in which running fake candidates in recall elections may not be illegal, nor are once-GOP-criticized late night meetings  to approve things such as vouchers in Green Bay, and in the week the lock-step conservative Supreme Court may not find open meetings violations illegal

Whew!  That's a busy week.  Even for Republicans.

And it's only Tuesday.

Monday, June 6, 2011

WI Supreme Court: If I were a betting man...

Well, the WI Supreme Court started hearing arguments as to whether or not it should take on the collective bargaining atrocity of Walker and his pals.  And, if they do, hmmmm, which way would they rule?

Not surprisingly,the four conservatives on the bench banded together during the hearing (to be fair, as did the other three justices).  But, surprisingly to me, it doesn't appear they were challenging how the bill was advanced in an illegal meeting, but rather they were challenging Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi's order blocking implementation of the bill as law. Conservative Justice Michael Gableman asked, during what the Journal Sentinel called "aggressive" questioning, if a judge can stop a law from being published, could a judge stop a senator from even introducing a bill?

That just sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  Wasn't this about the legality of the bill's creation and passage in a violation of the open meetings law?  If the meeting wasn't legal, would anything else matter?

Walker's Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John actually did address the issue of the open meetings law by basically saying the open meetings law doesn't apply to the Legislature, which was echoed by conservative Justice Patience Roggensack's comments. St. John went on to mention that the Legislature has the right to lock doors, and that even letting in one member of the public would satisfy open meetings requirements.

Either way this falls, it's a scary thing--the Court agreeing with this, or the Legislators in power actually believing what they say about open meetings.  Attorney Lester Pines, who is representing State Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Madison) says, “I don’t hold the view that the court makes its decisions solely based on ideology.”

I wouldn't bet on it. 

And, at this juncture, I'm not sure it would even matter.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

JS article catalogs Walker's Feb deceit

Words including mistake and firestorm greeted Walker's plan to destroy public-sector unions back in February, and the Governor didn't care.  The deceit of the measure, along with behind-the-scenes info and candid reactions from many in the midst of it, can be found in a riveting article in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Budget confrontation rocked the state and beyond" by Bill Glauber, Dave Umhoefer and Lee Bergquist. I just don't understand how Walker backers can't see him for the slimeball that he really is.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Walker planning Sat., June 4, visit to Rock County farm

Walker will appear tomorrow morning at the Rock County Dairy Breakfast at the Daluge farm on Highway G between Janesville and Beloit. Visitors to WEAC's facebook are hoping to provide a "welcoming committee." Non-Walker-related info about the event here.  I can't make it, but give my best to the guv.

UPDATE: SAT. 1PM--if you were at either of Walker's farm visits today (in Iowa or Rock Counties), please leave a comment about what you saw.  THANKS!

WI teachers: Paying union dues IS important

I haven't posted in a week because, due to some family sadness, I couldn't feel the passion.  Our 30 year old niece went into hospice care, and quite frankly, I couldn't see the importance of my little blog compared to that immense sadness.

Today, I got an e-mail from a first-year teacher who logically wondered why teachers should continue paying union dues despite unions having been emasculated by Walker's collective bargaining "law." Without minimizing our family tragedy, I realized that other things do matter, and, if nothing else, I want teachers reading this to understand that continuing to pay union dues is unbelievably vital for the sake of our students, our profession, and our state.

Here's my reply:
I can understand the saving money aspect, especially with all the extra money the Republican legislature is making public workers pay (that no one else has to).  Recouping that $800 is awful tempting.

As a matter of fact, even in our district, there are veteran teachers who are questioning the necessity of paying union dues if the union has such little power.

I guess the biggest thing for me is that the money goes towards lobbying and people who make sure our voice gets heard--both for teachers and for education.  If union payments stop, there's a very good chance the pendulum would never swing back towards us (or even towards the middle) regarding salaries and procedures that have been negotiated fairly between teachers and elected officials over the years, but would very likely continue to swing towards more payments from, and fewer rights for, us.

And it's not just about us and our salaries/benefits, it's about providing a voice for what's in the best interest of student education--Walker has proposed almost a billion dollars in cuts to education, and has increased programs to diminish the institution of public schools (including increasing the voucher system, no limits on the amount of kids in computer "virtual" schools, not using the same tests every public school and teacher will be judged on, not even requiring teacher certification in charter schools).  Without a continued and unified presence, education--and the teaching profession--will be severely limited in the future.  To be honest, in my opinion, salaries and benefits will continue to slide, because they will be allowed to slide--as will things such as "specials" and extra-curriculars--and our kids (not just us) will be in a lot worse shape because of it. So, even if unions are severely crippled because of Walker's plan, again, in my opinion, it really is important to keep the unions intact, and that pro-education voices continue to be heard in Madison and in the nation (and in our community).

But my thoughts are still elsewhere.