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February 19, 2014

Walker Wired to Secret Email System

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 2:04 pm

Unsealed email ties Scott Walker to secret email system

By Patrick Marley, Daniel Bice and Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel

Madison Included in more than 27,000 emails unsealed Wednesday is one that for the first time directly ties Gov. Scott Walker to a secret email system used in his office when he was Milwaukee County executive.

“Consider youself now in the ‘inner circle,'” Walker’s administration director, Cynthia Archer, wrote to Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch just after the two exchanged a test message.

“I use this private account quite a bit to communicate with SKW and Nardelli. You should be sure you check it throughout the day,” she wrote, referring to Walker by his initials and to Walker’s chief of staff, Tom Nardelli.

Court documents have previously showed Walker’s aides set up a secret wireless router in the county executive’s office and traded emails that mixed county and campaign business on Gmail and Yahoo accounts. The email from Archer made public Wednesday is the closet link yet between that system and Walker.

The exchange was included the raft of documents unsealed Wednesday as part of Rindfleisch’s appeal of her 2012 conviction of misconduct in office for doing campaign work on county time.

Speaking to reporters in Madison Wednesday morning before the release of the emails, Walker said he was confident that there wouldn’t be anything damaging in them beyond what had already led to criminal charges.

He downplayed his relationship with his former deputy chief of staff and said he would stay focused on cutting taxes and creating jobs.

“This is going to be communications from a county employee from several years ago that went through a legal process that concluded early last year. I’m confident that through that process they were able to review each of those communications — the authorities were — and they concluded that process last March,” Walker said.

The governor said he hadn’t seen the files being released and hadn’t looked at any of the emails contained in them “for years.”

The records also reveal a frenzy of activity by prosecutors and investigators on Nov. 1, 2010, the day before Walker was elected governor. They conducted raids at Walker’s county office, his campaign office and the homes of several of his aides, including Rindfleisch.

Just before those raids were conducted that day, John Doe Judge Neal Nettesheim agreed to prosecutors’ request to enlarge the probe to include Rindfleisch, his deputy chief of staff, and three other top aides in the Milwaukee County executive’s office — Nardelli; Fran McLaughlin, his spokeswoman; and Dorothy Moore, his scheduler.

Of that group, only Rindfleisch was charged. Moore now serves as Walker’s scheduler in the governor’s office.

To get the search warrants, prosecutors presented the judge with dozens of emails involving Walker’s campaign and county staff. The prosecutor’s tagged those emails and other supporting documents, SW1 through SW71.

The records show that in August 2010, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm used an investigation into Walker aide Darlene Wink — who had acknowledged posting political comments online while on the county dime — to seek the personal email records for four other Walker employees and allies.

Among those records were the emails of Timothy D. Russell, a longtime Walker campaign and county aide. Russell was later convicted of stealing more than $21,000 from a veterans group that Walker named him to head. Russell was sentenced to two years in prison.

The records make clear that Walker’s campaign staff and county team were in constant communication in the months leading up to the 2010 primary and general election.

In April 2010, Nardelli and Walker’s campaign manager, Keith Gilkes, arranged for daily 8 a.m. conference calls between the campaign and key county staff.

“These will not be long duration calls as we have much work on our plates, but good coordination will help (us) resolve issues before they blow out of proportion,” Nardelli wrote.

Weeks earlier, campaign spokeswoman Jill Bader asked Rindfleisch and others with the county to provide a “backgrounder” on issues that could come up at an event featuring Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democrat who was running for governor.

On May 18, 2010, Walker’s administration director, Cynthia Archer, wrote to campaign and county staff she would no longer be checking her private email account and told people to contact her on her cellphone for urgent matters.

“The significance of this email is that it shows that the people addressed on this email are acting in concert with the county executive staff to find alternative ways to communicate using private email during the workday,” David Budde, an investigator for the district attorney, testified in the Nov. 1, 2010, secret hearing. “This also is a direct admission that Archer was using private email during the workday.”

Archer used her private email to discuss official county matters with Walker through his campaign account, and with campaign advisors including R. J. Johnson. One such exchange involved a story about Walker’s potential county pension.

According to prosecutors, Rindfleisch had nearly 5,700 email exchanges withthe campaign staff of Walker and Brett Davis, who was running for lieutenant governor. Davis lost the primary in September 2010, but went on to serve in Walker’s administration as Medicaid director.

The Rindfleisch emails are replete with examples of her communicating with campaign staff during what would have been her daytime work hours at the courthouse.

On Feb. 25, 2010, she shared tips with then Walker campaign aide Stephan Thompson on economic development issues and cutting the size of the County Board — highlighting accomplishments during Walker’s tenure as county executive.

Rindfleisch is responding to directives from Thompson, who tells her to compile several lists. When she mentions a major General Electric expansion, Thompson was enthusiastic.

“Awesome! All we need is a few examples,” he wrote to Rindfleisch.

One June 2010 email shows Walker on his campaign email account encouraging radio talk show host Charlie Sykes to request copies from the county executive’s office of open records requests made by Democratic groups. Walker said the volume of requests from the left and from “the other GOP candidate” in the governor’s race were voluminous and in some cases nearly identical.

“Ask (my official office) and we would be happy to send over the info,” Walker wrote to Sykes.

In emails, Walker’s operatives made it clear they favored Davis over Rebecca Kleefisch — the ultimate winner — in the race of lieutenant governor.

On March 2, 2010, Rindfleisch — who was working for Davis part time — wrote Gilkes asking whether Kleefisch would be allowed to use material for advertising from a campaign event Walker and Kleefisch attended.

“I know she’s the bane of your existence. But I have a question. Will Kleefisch be allowed to use anything for the event for advertising? Like post it on facebook, tv commercial, etc,” Rindfleisch wrote to Gilkes.

“I’m REALLY beginning to dislike her,” Rindfleisch wrote to Gilkes.

The next day, Gilkes wrote back, “No — that will be made abundantly clear to her.”

In his comments to reporters, Walker made a distinction between a taxpayer-funded public employee doing work on a campaign and another public employee getting emails from a campaign.

“Unlike the caucus issue where the problem was official staff being directed to (do) campaign activity…There’s nothing wrong with the other way around, as long as you’re not using taxpayer resources to do campaign-related activity. Outside of this example, we talk to people all the time, stakeholders from around the state,” Walker said, referring to the caucus scandal that rocked the Capitol a decade ago.

Walker blasted Democrats for hyping the release of the emails and for holding a conference call on them with Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“It shows the cynicism we see in politics today,” Walker said. “These are people who are naysayers who want something bad to happen in Wisconsin.”

Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Curley ruled last week the records should be publicly available in Rindfleisch’s case file, saying they would become unsealed on Wednesday. Her order delayed the unsealing for a week and a half so the court clerk could make them available in an orderly fashion to the large number of media outlets and others seeking them.

Rindfleisch was charged as part of a wide-ranging John Doe investigation led by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm. John Doe proceedings are often conducted in secret and give prosecutors the power to compel people to produce documents and testify.

Chisholm closed that probe in March 2013. But seven months earlier, he opened a second John Doe investigation, looking into campaign spending and fundraising in recall elections. That second investigation is ongoing, and Rindfleisch is also caught up in that one. It is not known why she is a subject of that probe.

(The latest investigation has been targeted in a spate of legal challenges, with three lawsuits filed in as many months in attempts to halt it.)

Rindfleisch was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation after she pleaded guilty in 2012 to one felony count of misconduct in office for doing campaign work at her government job.

Despite her guilty plea, Rindfleisch under state law is allowed to appeal her conviction based on the scope of the search warrants used against her.

She argues her conviction should be thrown out because the search warrants were so broad as to be unconstitutional. Her appeal is before the Milwaukee-based District 1 Court of Appeals, which includes Curley.

A wealth of sealed documents from the investigation was added to the case file last year at the request of the state Department of Justice so it could more effectively argue the scope of the search warrants was appropriate.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal, Associated Press and other media groups intervened in the case in an effort to make the records public.

The records have previously been unavailable because of a secrecy order issued by John Doe investigation Judge Neal Nettesheim. Rindfleisch argued the secrecy order remained in place, while the media groups contended the records should be public now that they were part of a normal appeal.

Curley sided with the media outlets in ruling an array of records collected as part of a criminal investigation are routinely included in court files and must be available to the public except in unusual circumstances.

The records in question include emails from Rindfleisch’s personal computer and private email account; affidavits supporting John Doe search warrants; and a transcript of a secret hearing on search warrants issued the day before Walker was elected governor in 2010.

Likely included in the emails are messages exchanged with Walker or his top political aides as he ran his 2010 campaign for governor.

Separately, the Journal Sentinel is seeking to have county documents and emails seized in the first John Doe investigation returned to the county and made accessible to the public. The newspaper filed a motion last month to do that with Nettesheim, the judge who oversaw the first John Doe investigation.

Journal Sentinel reporters Kevin Crowe and Jason Stein in Madison and Steve Schultze and Dave Umhoefer in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

Twitter: twitter.com/patrickdmarley


Read more from Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/court-set-to-release-emails-documents-tied-to-ex-aide-to-scott-walker-b99208267z1-246128301.html#ixzz2tneHcPbg
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January 24, 2014

Scott Walker Praises and the Republicans Cheer for Sex Offender–Felon–Drunk Driver

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 6:03 am

Daniel Bice 1/23/14 MJS

Emphasizing his role as a job creator, Gov. Scott Walker praised Christopher Barber’s moxie during the governor’s annual “state of the state” speech.

Photo by M. P. King / Wisconsin State Journal

Emphasizing his role as a job creator, Gov. Scott Walker praised Christopher Barber’s moxie during the governor’s annual “state of the state” speech. Barber, 32, left the ranks of the unemployed to land a seasonal job as welder at Ariens Co. in Brillion in late 2012, eventually turning that into a full-time post, according to a press release from Walker’s office. Newspapers around the state ran a photo of Barber giving a big wave to the crowd as he exited the Assembly podium to a round of applause during Walker’s televised address.

“These are the faces of an improving economy in our state,” Walker said Wednesday of Barber and others. “Wisconsin is going back to work.”

But there is a reason that Barber — a resident of Two Rivers — has had trouble finding steady work in the past.

Records show that he is a registered sex offender with two felonies and three drunken-driving offenses. Because of his checkered past, Barber has been in and out of jail and prison for much of the past decade, with his probation having been revoked at least twice.

January 12, 2014

Walker Opposes Raising the Minimum Wage

Filed under: Economy,Poverty,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 12:15 pm

In a year-end interview on national television Scott Walker was asked if he supports raising the minimum wage. He answered a definitive No! He responded saying that the nation should instead follow his Wisconsin footsteps in job creation. What alternate universe does the Governor live in?

Quarterly data rank Wisconsin 37th in private-sector job growth

By John Schmid and Kevin Crowe of the Journal Sentinel 12/18/13


The nation’s most recent employment report, which examines job creation in all 50 states, raises a familiar question with renewed urgency: Why is Wisconsin a chronic laggard?

According to Wednesday’s report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin gained 23,963 private-sector jobs in the 12 months from June 2012 through June 2013, a 1.0% increase that ranks the state 37th among the 50 states in the pace of job creation during that period.

The state’s ranking slid from a revised rank of 32nd three months earlier, which covered the 12 months through March 2012.

Wisconsin continued to trail the national rate of job creation, as it has since July 2011. The United States created private-sector jobs at a rate of 1.9% in the latest 12-month period, nearly double Wisconsin’s 1.0% rate, the data show.

“It’s like déjà vu all over again,” said Dale Knapp, director of research at the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, a nonpartisan pubic policy group in Madison.

While management of the economy and job creation are politically charged issues in Wisconsin, not least ahead of next year’s governor’s race, Knapp and others were quick to point out that Wisconsin’s subpar performance is hardly a new phenomenon.

“These are persistent patterns we’ve seen over a long period of time,” said Charles Franklin, a social scientist and data specialist at Marquette University.

Since the turn of the century, Wisconsin appears to have a natural “speed limit” in its private-sector job creation that is capped at about 35,000 jobs per year, regardless of political leadership, Franklin said. That compares to many years in the 1990s when the state’s annual job-creation number was closer to 60,000, Franklin said.

According to Knapp, hiring in the state under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who took office in January 2011, has shown a virtually identical pattern to 2004-’07 — the non-recession period that fell during the two terms of his Democratic predecessor, Jim Doyle.

Separately, last month the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance published a long-term study, which examined a 13-year period from 2000 to 2012, showing that sluggish job creation has characterized the state since the start of the millennium.

Most credible figures

Economists consider Wednesday’s job creation figures, known as the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, to be the most credible and comprehensive available. The report breaks out data for the nation as a whole as well as each of the 50 states. It tracks the economy in rolling 12-month increments, measured every three months.

The quarterly data are based on a census of 96% of the nation’s employers in the public and private sectors. That makes the figures far more reliable than monthly jobs data, which are based on a sample of only about 3% of employers, leaving monthly estimates prone to large margins of error.

Because the quarterly data are comprehensive and time-consuming to compile, they are released with a half-year time lag. In the past, the lagging schedule meant the quarterly data got less attention than monthly numbers.

However, job creation has emerged as a politically potent issue in Wisconsin. And ever since the special gubernatorial recall election in June 2012, when economic management emerged as a central political issue, the quarterly report has been closely watched by the state’s politicians and economic policy strategists.

When he ran for office, Walker framed his economic program around a vow that Wisconsin would add 250,000 private-sector jobs by the end of his four-year term.

Under the pace of job creation since he took office, Wisconsin is unlikely to achieve Walker’s job creation goals during his first term, Franklin and others pointed out.

Walker’s target would be ambitious under almost any circumstances. To hit it, the state would need to sustain a pace of job creation for four years similar to the best years of the 1990s — prior to the bursting of the dot-com bubble, China’s 2001 membership in the World Trade Organization, and the insecurities that accompanied the post-9-11 era of security jitters, Franklin said. Even in the 1990s, however, the state didn’t consistently spawn the 62,500 private-sector jobs per year that would be needed to create a quarter million new jobs in a single four-year period, Franklin said.

“It’s worth noting that the state shows stable job growth,” nothing spectacular but also not a reverse into job losses, Franklin said.

Franklin analyzes Wisconsin’s long-term employment and demographic data to complement the statewide public opinion polls that he routinely conducts for the Marquette Law School.

Reading data differently

In a news release Wednesday, Walker’s office focused on the absolute number of jobs created, which would place Wisconsin 25th out of the 50 states. Wisconsin ranks 20th in population, however, so its job-creation ranking didn’t quite match its size. And even under that ranking, Wisconsin slid from its non-population-adjusted job-creation ranking of 22nd in the previous quarterly report.

“Our economic and fiscal reforms are working and Wisconsin continues to move forward in the right direction with a growing economy and more jobs,” Walker said in the statement.

Democrats jumped on the quarterly report. “Again today, Wisconsin received bad news on job creation,” said Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), Democratic leader in the state Assembly. Barca emphasized that Wisconsin’s ranking of 37th compared to 15th for neighboring Minnesota, and that “Minnesota has created more than twice as many private sector jobs as Wisconsin.”

For short-term political purposes, both parties routinely “cherry pick” the numbers that suit their needs, Franklin said. But neither party appears to deal honestly with Wisconsin’s persistent underperformance in job creation compared to the 1990s, Franklin said.

Apart from partisanship, economists have cataloged the non-political reasons why the state is a chronic laggard in job creation — reasons that have little or nothing to do with whatever party controls the Statehouse and governor’s mansion.

Those observers point out that the state is saddled with some aging industries such as paper mills, printing plants and metal foundries that often date back more than a century; neither entrepreneurship nor venture capital funding is as abundant in Wisconsin as in many other states; and Wisconsin’s schools don’t generate as many college-educated residents as other states.

“The structure of this economy is playing a role, regardless of partisan control,” Franklin said.

Also read PolitiFact’s rebuke of Walker’s claim that “minimum wage jobs are overwhelmingly for young people” at:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/politifact-testing-scott-walker-claim-minimum-wage-jobs-overwhelmingly-for-young-people-b99181803z1-239685231.html

November 11, 2013

The New John Doe Investigation

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 2:45 pm

Lisa Kaiser Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013  Express Milwaukee

Is the right-wing money machine a target?

Very little is known about the new John Doe investigation that has emerged from the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office and is being conducted by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, a former federal prosecutor.

The investigation has apparently spread from Milwaukee to Columbia, Dane and Iowa counties, according to the right-wing news website, Wisconsin Reporter. The site also alleged that the investigation is looking at one legislative leader, the 2011 and 2012 recalls and the operations of three right-wing groups, Wisconsin Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the Republican Governors Association. Wisconsin Reporter has noted that “law enforcement officials have seized electronic devices and papers in Columbia and Dane counties.”

If this reporting is true, Schmitz may be looking at illegal coordination between these groups and at least one candidate committee. According to state law, candidates may not coordinate efforts with independent issue groups or political action committees.

An investigation of this type is difficult for reporters and outside observers, since these entities do not have to publicly report many details about their donors or expenditures. The Shepherd has looked at Internal Revenue Service filings, campaign databases and reporting from 2011 and 2012 to discover what the John Doe investigation may be targeting. The result is a tight connection of right-wing money funding phony issue groups, dirty tricks and millions of dollars in advertising supporting Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the recalls.

 

The Three Main Groups

If Wisconsin Reporter’s reporting is accurate, the John Doe is looking at the political activities of Wisconsin Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the Republican Governors Association.

Wisconsin Club for Growth: This tax-exempt issue ad group is based in Sun Prairie. Its officers are Charles Talbot, Eric O’Keefe and Eleanor Hawley, but its more public representatives are Walker’s campaign advisor R.J. Johnson and Deb Jordahl, partners in the consulting firm Johnson Jordahl. O’Keefe is a small-government advocate and was instrumental in launching or running the Sam Adams Alliance, American Majority and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which sponsors watchdog.org and Wisconsin Reporter, which has broken the most detailed news about the new John Doe investigation.

Johnson is a longtime Republican operative. Walker hired him for his gubernatorial campaign in spring 2009; according to the Friends of Scott Walker campaign finance reports, the campaign paid R.J. Johnson and Associates more than $130,000 between July 2009 and January 2012. Johnson’s firm’s mailing address is in Randolph, which straddles Columbia and Dodge counties. During 2010, Johnson was one of the Walker campaign advisors who were copied on county emails recently released as part of the O’Donnell Park lawsuit. Johnson was a spokesman for Club for Growth ads that ran in 2011 supporting Walker’s anti-union agenda. Democrats have complained to the Shepherd about Johnson’s apparent involvement in both the Walker campaign and Wisconsin Club for Growth and have accused the two groups of coordinating, which, if the allegations are true, may be illegal. Johnson did not respond to the Shepherd’s request to comment for this article.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates that Wisconsin Club for Growth spent more than $9.1 million on ads for the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Reporting from that time indicates that Wisconsin Club for Growth spent more than $300,000 in ads in June and July of 2011 for the Senate recalls. The group, along with Americans for Prosperity, spent big in January-March 2012, when no Walker ads appeared on the air.

According to the organization’s tax filings, in 2010 it gave $246,000 to the political arm of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and $268,000 to the Citizens for a Strong America, which is run out of a post office box in Columbus, in Columbia County. Citizens for a Strong America’s treasurer appears to be Johnson’s wife, Valerie Johnson, and its director is John Connors, who has been involved in Americans for Prosperity and United Sportsmen of Wisconsin. In 2011, Club for Growth gave $425,000 to the Scott Jensen-connected Jobs First Coalition and $4,620,000 to Citizens for a Strong America.

Americans for Prosperity: This tax-exempt Astroturf group was launched in 2003 by Charles and David Koch to advocate for free market policies and has had a toehold in Wisconsin for quite a while. Longtime donors include the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, whose president and CEO, Michael Grebe, co-chaired Walker’s gubernatorial and recall campaign committees. The office of Wisconsin’s chapter of AFP, in West Allis, is just down the hall from John Connors’ political consulting group. Connors has been involved with AFP in various capacities since at least 2007. AFP-Wisconsin’s state director is Luke Hilgemann, who had been chief of staff to Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder and was involved in United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, a political front group that received a now-canceled $500,000 state grant to promote hunting in the state. AFP-Wisconsin was headed by Mark Block from 2007-2011 and by Matt Seaholm in 2011.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates that AFP spent more than $3 million on the 2011 and 2012 recalls. It also filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that AFP was violating its tax-exempt status as a charitable organization by supporting Walker’s recall bid by sponsoring a bus tour, recruiting out-of-state volunteers, and sponsoring rallies, phone banks and door-to-door canvassing.

AFP drew additional complaints for sending out phony absentee ballot mailers before the summer 2011 recall elections. The fake ballot requests were to be sent to a post office box belonging to the anti-gay group Wisconsin Family Action. United Sportsmen sent almost-identical mailers at the same time, but the mailers’ return address was a dead post office box in Waunakee.

Republican Governors Association: The RGA set up the Right Direction Wisconsin political action committee (PAC), which has spent heavily in recent elections. Right Direction Wisconsin is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and its treasurer is RGA’s general counsel, Michael Adams.

According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the PAC spent $2 million on ads in 2006, $5 million in 2010 and $8 million in the week before the June 2012 Walker recall. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign also reported that the RGA runs another political group that must report its donors and expenses. That group’s largest Wisconsin donor in the first half of 2012 was the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), which gave $437,725.

 

Related Organizations

Three right-wing political organizations with strong ties to the alleged targets of the John Doe appeared again and again in tax filings.

Jobs First Coalition Inc.: This Brookfield-based nonprofit political group was formed in 2009, apparently by former Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen while his criminal case was still unresolved. Jensen isn’t listed as an officer of the group, however. Its president is Mary Jo Baas, wife of MMAC’s Steve Baas; its vice president is Waukesha GOP activist Candee Arndt; its secretary is attorney Michael Dean of the First Freedoms Foundation; and its executive director/treasurer is Brookfield alderman and former WMTJ radio reporter Bob Reddin. According to its tax filings, the organization raised $95,250 in 2009, $898,675 in 2010 and $927,860 in 2011, $425,000 of which came from Wisconsin Club for Growth.

In 2010, it gave $30,000 to Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, $200,000 to the Jensen-connected voucher group American Federation for Children, $35,000 to Citizens for a Strong America, $50,000 to the political wing of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and $3,000 to the Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG). In 2011, it gave $75,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth and $145,000 to American Federation for Children.

Although the group isn’t required to disclose its spending, it is currently active in opposing Democrat Elizabeth Coppola in District 21. She’s running against voucher advocate Jessie Rodriguez. (For more on this race, go to “School Voucher Money Pours Into South Side Election to Replace Honadel,” page 8.)

Citizens for a Strong America: This nonprofit issue group was formed in 2011 to support Supreme Court Justice David Prosser in his re-election campaign against JoAnne Kloppenburg. In spring 2011, its anti-Kloppenburg ad was rated “pants on fire.”

According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, it spent roughly $2.7 million on phony issue ads in the Supreme Court race and the 2011 and 2012 recalls.

Citizens for a Strong America’s treasurer appears to be R.J. Johnson’s wife, Valerie Johnson, and its director is John Connors. The organization, run from a post office box in Columbus, gets most of its funding from R.J. Johnson’s group, Wisconsin Club for Growth, including a $4.2 million donation in 2011. In turn, Citizens for a Strong America has sent money to Wisconsin Family Action ($51,000 in 2010 and $916,000 in 2011), Wisconsin Right to Life ($179,712 in 2010 and $347,000 in 2011), the Connors-connected United Sportsmen of Wisconsin ($235,000 in 2011) and Safari Club International ($77,000 in 2011).

United Sportsmen of Wisconsin: This allegedly pro-hunting group has connections to two Americans for Prosperity figures, Luke Hilgemann and John Connors. The group sent phony absentee ballot mailers in the summer of 2011, on the heels of similar mailers from Americans for Prosperity. The group received a $500,000 state grant this year, which has since been rescinded. Allegedly a former Walker campaign intern, Connors is a director of Citizens for a Strong America and in 2011 he was listed in tax filings as the sole independent contractor of the Franklin Center, which is linked to the Club for Growth’s Eric O’Keefe. Connors earned $119,277 from the organization.

John Connors did not respond to the Shepherd’s request to comment for this article.

April 15, 2013

Money Behind Walker’s Voucher Expansion

Filed under: Scott Walker,Vouchers — millerlf @ 1:43 pm

$10 Million In 10 Years Drives School Agenda

Walker expanding program after millions in backing by voucher supporters

April 15, 2013 Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Madison – Wealthy campaign contributors and shadowy electioneering groups that back school voucher programs have spent nearly $10 million in 10 years in Wisconsin – much of it to help twice elect a governor who is trying to sharply expand the program, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found.

Spending by school choice backers included $2.8 million in individual campaign contributions to mostly Republican and conservative candidates for statewide office and the legislature from 2003 through mid-2012, and $7 million for outside electioneering activities, like negative mailings and broadcast ads, from 2003 through 2012.

More than half of the $9.8 million in campaign contributions and outside spending – $5 million – by pro-voucher groups and individual supporters since 2003 occurred in the first 19 months of the 2011-12 election cycle when Republican Governor Scott Walker, the lieutenant governor and 13 state Senate seats were targeted for recall because of the governor’s successful plan to slash public employee collective bargaining rights (see Bar Chart). In the previous four, two-year election cycles, campaign contributions and outside election spending by voucher advocates had ranged from $751,925 to $1.6 million.

Campagin Contributions and Outside Spending by School Choice Supporters for Legislative and Statewide Candidates

Those persistent, generous campaign contributions and millions of dollars more in outside election spending by mostly out-of-state interests are keys to the program’s survival and growth.

The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, also known as the school voucher or school choice program, started in 1990 serving 300 Milwaukee public school pupils at a cost of about $734,000. Today two programs spend about $158 million in taxpayer dollars to send about 25,400 Milwaukee and Racine school children to private and religious schools. During the 23-year history of school choice in Wisconsin, backers have successfully defended its legality in court; expanded it even under eight years of a democratic governor who opposed it; and repelled attacks about its educational quality, transparency, accountability and financial and mismanagement problems that led to criminal charges, convictions and prison time for administrators at some of the schools in the program.

Walker has received $2.35 million in campaign contributions and outside spending support from individuals and groups that back school vouchers since his first run for governor in 2006. Virtually all of that support – $2.2 million – came for his June 2012 recall race when mostly out-of-state school choice supporters contributed $1.1 million to his campaign and the Washington-based American Federation for Children spent $1.1 million on outside electioneering activities on Walker’s behalf.

Walker’s large bump in campaign contributions from school voucher supporters and outside spending by the American Federation for Children come amid his efforts before and after the recall election to expand the voucher program. During his 2006 and 2010 races for governor, Walker received no outside electioneering support from school choice groups, and $126,063 in individual contributions from supporters of the program.

But after Walker’s 2010 election and before his June 2012 recall the governor proposed a 2011-13 state budget that significantly increased funding, ended enrollment limits to increase the number of pupils who can join and geographically expanded the school voucher program beyond Milwaukee.

And Walker’s proposed a 2013-15 state budget currently being considered by the legislature continues to expand school choice. The governor wants to increase funding $73 million and potentially allow up to nine additional school districts throughout the state to join the program in the near future.

Over the years, school choice supporters have also targeted key members of the state’s legislative and judicial branches of government who develop, approve, fund and decide the legality of public policies like the voucher program (Table 1).

In the legislature, school choice backers focused their contributions and outside election efforts to help Republican legislators who were targeted in the 2011 and 2012 recall elections, and legislative leaders and their fundraising committees. And four Wisconsin Supreme Court justices who are considered the court’s conservative bloc collectively received $233,350 from school voucher backers from 2003 through mid-2012. One of those justices, Pat Roggensack, received an additional $35,500 in contributions from school choice supporters in early 2013 while she was running for reelection.

After Walker, the other top recipients include Supreme Court Justice David Prosser who received $130,000 from four out-of-state contributors to help pay for recount expenses after his 2011 reelection to the bench, GOP Senator Alberta Darling of River Hills – one of nine senators who faced a recall election in 2011 – who accepted $57,800 and the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate – one of the four committees used by Senate and Assembly Republican and Democratic leaders to raise campaign cash for elections – at $51,100.

In addition to substantial campaign contributions in key legislative races, groups pushing school choice expansion in the legislature have hired three former GOP Assembly speakers – Scott Jensen, John Gard and Jeff Fitzgerald – to lobby on the issue. Jensen works for the Washington D.C.-based American Federation for Children which has spent $4.4 million of the $7 million doled out by school choice backers since 2003 for outside electioneering activities.

Nearly two-thirds of the $2.8 million from school choice backers came from individuals outside the state. The Democracy Campaign found that $1.8 million or 63 percent came from contributors in California, Arkansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Virginia, Wyoming, Texas and Missouri among others compared to about $1 million, or 37 percent, from Wisconsin contributors.

Topping the list of school choice contributors (Table 2) to Wisconsin candidates were billionaires Richard and Betsy DeVos of Grand Rapids, Michigan who contributed $337,330 from 2003 through mid-2012 to Wisconsin candidates for statewide office and the legislature.

The DeVos family has backed the school choice cause nationwide for several years. Richard DeVos Jr. is a former unsuccessful candidate for Michigan governor, and his father of the same name founded Amway Corporation. Betsy DeVos is heavily involved with American Federation for Children and founded its predecessor All Children Matter which spent about $2.4 million on outside activities in Wisconsin elections from 2004 through 2008. Walker was the top recipient of the couple’s contributions at $252,600, including $250,000 during his recall election when state election laws allowed the governor and other officeholders targeted for recall to collect unlimited contributions from individuals.

Behind the DeVos family are Robert and Patricia Kern, owners of Generac Power Systems in Waukesha who contributed $302,700. Most of that, $200,000, went to Walker during his recall contest. Like many other school choice supporters, the Kerns have contributed mostly to Republican candidates and conservative candidates. The couple’s Kern Family Foundation supports school voucher and other alternative education programs, pastoral training and engineering education. Robert Kern was a major backer – to the tune of $250,000 – of All Children Matter between 2005 and 2007.

Rounding out the top three contributors were John and Josephine Templeton who oversee the Templeton Foundation in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and contributed $150,200 to Wisconsin candidates. In addition to school choice, the Templetons are long-time supporters of Republican and conservative candidates and causes across the country like the Cato Institute and numerous state efforts to ban same-sex marriage. They gave $100,000 to help pay Prosser’s recount expenses after his 2011 reelection, $50,000 to Walker for his recall campaign and $200 to two GOP legislative candidates.

In addition to spending by individuals and groups whose key issue is school vouchers, powerful lobbying groups like the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce and two Milwaukee police and firefighter unions also back the program. WMC, the state’s largest business group, represents a wide array of powerful special interests like business, manufacturing, construction, road building, banking, natural resources, health care that made $63 million in campaign contributions to candidates for statewide office and the legislature from 2003 through mid-2012, including $20.2 million to the governor.

WMC and two conservative ideological groups – Wisconsin Family Action and Americans for Prosperity – which also back school voucher programs, have spent $24.2 million on outside spending since 2003 to help elect dozens of legislative and statewide candidates. These groups, which keep secret their fundraising and spending on election activities, spent an estimated $8.65 million on outside electioneering activities to help Walker win the 2010 general and 2012 recall elections.

Table 1
Contributions* From School Voucher Supporters
To Current Statewide Officeholders And Legislators

Name Party** Office Amount
Scott Walker R Governor $1,246,008
David Prosser NP Supreme Court $130,000
Alberta Darling R S08 $57,800
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate R Senate $51,100
Annette Ziegler NP Supreme Court $39,000
Michael Gableman NP Supreme Court $38,600
Tom Tiffany R S12 $34,950
J.B. Van Hollen R Attorney General $33,610
Terry Moulton R S23 $29,540
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee R Assembly $29,300
Pat Roggensack NP Supreme Court $25,750
Leah Vukmir R S05 $23,125
Scott Fitzgerald R S13 $20,650
Mary Williams R A87 $18,655
Joe Leibham R S09 $16,500
Mark Honadel R A21 $16,150
Lee Nerison R A96 $16,100
Luther Olsen R S14 $15,950
Sheila Harsdorf R S10 $15,900
Travis Tranel R A49 $13,500
Jeff Mursau R A36 $13,000
Jerry Petrowski R S29 $12,150
Rebecca Kleefisch R Lt. Governor $12,100
John Murtha R A29 $10,350

*Table shows current officeholders who received $10,000 or more from school choice supporters. Figures represent contributions to statewide officeholders from 2003 through June 2012 and to current legislators and legislative leadership committees from 2003 through July 2012.

**‘R’ means Republican and ‘NP’ means Nonpartisan.

Table 2
Contributions* From School Voucher Supporters
To Candidates For Statewide Office And The Legislature  

Name City State Employer Amount
Richard & Betsy DeVos Grand Rapids MI Alticor/Windquest $337,330
Robert & Patricia Kern Waukesha WI Generac Power Systems $302,700
John & Josephine Templeton Bryn Mawr PA Templeton Foundation $150,200
Dennis & Sandy Kuester Milwaukee WI M&I Bank $128,600
John & Christy Walton Jackson WY Walmart $122,100
Terry & Mary Kohler Sheboygan WI Windway Capital $117,875
Foster & Lynnette Friess Jackson WY Friess Associates $117,200
George & Susan Mitchell Whitefish Bay WI School Choice Wisconsin $115,500
William & Susan Oberndorf San Francisco CA SPO Partners $114,950
Jim & Lynne Walton Bentonville AR Walmart $109,600
San & Joanne Orr Wausau WI Wausau Paper $104,267
Roger Hertog New York NY Retired $100,000
Bruce Kovner New York NY Caxton Alternative Management $100,000
Howard Fuller & Deborah McGriff Milwaukee WI Marquette University/ New Schools Venture Fund $88,980
Richard & Sherry Sharp Richmond VA V-10 Capital Partners $88,300
John & Laura Fischer San Francisco CA Pisces $79,500
Virginia James Lambertville NJ Retired $67,550
Michael W. Grebe Milwaukee WI Bradley Foundation $61,700
Rex Sinquefield Westphalia MO Show-Me Institute $55,000
David & Julia Uihlein Milwaukee WI Uihlein Wilson Architects $54,900
William & Patricia Hume San Francisco CA Basic American Foods $40,400
John Bryan Lake Oswego OR Eos Inc. $35,500
David & Ann Brennan Akron OH White Hat Management $31,000
H. Fisk Johnson Racine WI S.C. Johnson & Sons $30,000
Andrew & Janice Fleckenstein Waukesha WI Fleck Foundation $27,700
Arthur Dantchik Gladwyne PA SIG Financial Holdings $24,500
Peter Denton Palm Beach FL Retired $24,100
George Hume San Francisco CA Basic American Foods $23,500
Alice Walton Millsap TX Walmart $21,950
Greg & Carrie Penner Menlo Park CA Walmart $20,000

*Table show contributors who gave $20,000 or more to statewide officeholders from 2003 through June 2012 and to current legislators and legislative leadership committees from 2003 through July 2012.

April 12, 2013

Separate But Unequal: Analysis by State Senator Chris Larson on Walker’s Charter School Proposal

Filed under: Charter Schools,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 12:48 pm

As you may know, the 2011-2013 Biennial Budget passed by Republicans and signed by Governor Walker gutted $1.6 billion in funding for our local public schools while also funneling money into private voucher schools. With the introduction of Governor Walker’s second budget, it appears the trend to devalue our children’s need for a quality education is continuing. Not only does the newly introduced budget provide a 0% increase in revenue limit growth, but it also continues to divert money to an unaccountable, unproven voucher experiment. This time around, the budget also tries to create a voucher 2.0 program by altering the existing format of our charter schools to make them more closely resemble their voucher school counterparts. Continue reading for more information about the proposed changes to Wisconsin’s charter and voucher school programs.

Implications of Creating a Charter School Board

While many Wisconsinites are aware of the proposed expansion of voucher schools in Wisconsin, the same cannot be said of plans to further privatize education in our state by creating a Charter School Oversight Board (CSOB), which would be attached to Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI), but ultimately act independently.

Under Governor Walker’s budget, school boards could convert all of the public schools within the district to charter schools. Further, should the area school board opt to convert all schools into charter schools, all students in the district could be forced to attend them. Likewise, parents and teachers in the district would have no say about the decision. Being forced to attend charter schools created under this plan rather than a traditional school or a charter school run under the guidance of DPI should be concerning to parents for several reasons. Not only will the Board creating these charter schools be controlled by a one-party majority, but it will also face little public scrutiny, can opt to ignore the local school board, and will have sole discretion over the charter school’s budget, curriculum, and personnel policies and decisions.

The Board created would be comprised of the state superintendent and 10 other members–two appointed by the superintendent, two by the governor, and six by the leaders of the Senate and Assembly. Given that the Legislature and the Governor’s office are currently controlled by one party, that will allow the majority Republican members to dictate charter school policy.

Additionally, the CSOB would not be subject to any direct oversight by the Legislature, or the local school district. As a result, this new Board would be able to establish policies and standards without the public scrutiny of the rule-making process to which other agencies, including DPI, are currently subject. Such a provision also limits the input of parents and local government to craft educational policy that represents the needs and values of that community and those neighbors.

Finally, as stated in Governor Walker’s budget, all new independent charter schools must be established by contract and operated by a charter school governing board. The charter school operators are then granted sole discretion over the charter school�s budget, curriculum, and personnel policies and decisions. One such personnel policy granted is that DPI will be required to grant a charter school teaching license to any person who has a bachelor’s degree and demonstrates that he or she is proficient in the subject they intend to teach. The individual need not have had any teaching experience or experience with kids in general. Once they are granted a license, it is valid for three years and may be renewed.

While it may seem that school districts statewide will have the choice to go charter or not, Governor Walker sought to eliminate this local control option, as well. According to the budget text, approval for new, independent charter schools will be needed from home districts, unless the district meets the criteria of having two schools within the district with bad report card grades. In that case, the creation of CSOB will automatically be triggered, despite any voiced objections from the school board. While charter schools have become a valuable option for families across Wisconsin, it is something that should have oversight from those providing the funding–neighborhood taxpayers. Likewise, the creation of an independent charter school board should also be put before community members. Unfortunately, Governor Walker’s budget, as it stands, does neither.

How Voucher and Neighborhood Schools Compare

With the introduction of Governor Walker’s 2013-2015 Biennial Budget, our local public schools once again were dealt a devastating blow. Under the governor’s budget, private voucher schools will not only be allowed to expand across the state, but they will also see a $73 million increase in funding and spending authority. This means up to a $1,400 per-pupil funding increase for the 25,000 students in voucher schools. In this very same budget, 870,000 Wisconsin children were ignored when a $0 revenue growth limit was instituted in their public neighborhood schools. As we look to protect the opportunities available to our K-12 students, we should also ensure that the choices we are offering are quality, transparent options that will help guarantee all our children are receiving the best education possible.

One choice that still requires vast improvement is Wisconsin’s voucher schools. Not only do these schools lack the same accountability and transparency measures as their public school counterparts, but it appears we may be investing substantial taxpayer dollars in a choice that has not been proven to be any better for our children than our traditional neighborhood schools.
The issue of poor accountability and lack of transparency measures in voucher schools has been discussed since I was nine years old. Despite Governor Walker’s repeated promises to finally bring accountability and transparency to all schools receiving taxpayer dollars–including voucher schools–he has yet to follow through. Children, parents, and taxpayers deserve to have basic accountability measures in place for all schools receiving public funds.

In addition to widespread concerns over the lack of accountability and transparency in Wisconsin’s voucher schools, this program also comes at a substantial cost to taxpayers. In 2010, state law compelled Milwaukee Public Schools to levy over $50 million in taxes to subsidize the private and religious schools making up the voucher program, which amounts to 17% of the total Milwaukee Public Schools tax levy. This financial burden increased the financial responsibility of taxpayers in 2012 to 22.6% of the total Milwaukee Public Schools tax levy.

In truth, Milwaukee taxpayers are now being billed for both the largest school district in the state, Milwaukee Public Schools, AND the fourth largest, which is what the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program has grown to be with 22,400 students in the last school year. The tax levy for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program already exceeds the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District by nearly $10 million and is expected to exceed Milwaukee Area Technical College�s in the next few years.
Unfortunately, by increasing the funding for Wisconsin’s voucher schools we are doubling down on a failed system. For those looking to get the most precise snapshot of just how voucher school students are performing compared to their public school counterparts, they should look at data recently collected by the Department of Public Instruction. This data analyzes how all voucher and public school students in 4th, 8th and 10th grade performed in reading, math and science during the 2010-2011 school year. According to the data, Milwaukee Public School students outperformed voucher students in eight out of nine categories.

The Milwaukee Shepard Express also recently compiled information to compare Wisconsin’s voucher schools to their Milwaukee Public School counterparts. Through data provided by the Public Policy Form Research Brief, February 2013; Department of Public Instruction; Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau; and the University of Arkansas School Choice Demonstration Project, they were able to create the comparison chart illustrated below.

 

MPS Vouchers
Enrollment 79,130 24,941
Economically disadvantaged students 84% 79%
Minority students 86% 80%
African American students 56% 48%
Hispanic 24% 24%
White 14% 20%
Special needs students 19% 2%
Cost per pupil $9,812 $7,670
Religious schools 0 85%
Students proficient in reading (WKCE 2011-12) 60% 57%
Students proficient in math (WKCE 2011-12) 50% 41%
Able to discriminate? No Yes
Comply with open meetings and records laws? Yes No
Teach religious-based curriculum? No Yes
Licensed teachers required? Yes No
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for special needs students required? Yes No
Students with disabilities proficient in reading 26% 18%
Students with disabilities proficient in math 25% 10%
Students with access to guidance counselors 100% 58%
Students with access to AP high school courses 100% 59%
Students with access to gifted and talented programs 100% 10%

It is clear that Wisconsin has to institute greater accountability and transparency measures in order to honestly examine whether the additional cost of this program is worth it to taxpayers, especially before it considers expansion. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in learning more about Wisconsin’s voucher program and whether or not it is truly a better option for Wisconsin’s children and future workers.

 

April 1, 2013

Critique of Scott Walker’s Destructive Policies Aimed at Milwaukee

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 7:03 am

Walker loves Milwaukee? We’re not feeling it

By John Gurda March 29, 2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

It hasn’t been this bad since the 1950s. You have to go back more than half a century to find a time when Wisconsin’s highest elected officials were so antagonistic to the state’s largest city. Then, it was a rural bloc kept in power by skewed legislative boundaries. Now, it’s a Republican bloc that has manufactured the same advantage. The results are identical: legislation, passed or proposed, inimical to the city’s best interests.

The previous low point in city-state relations came in the years after World War II. Reapportionment, normally done once a decade, had not been addressed since 1921, a result of the Depression, wartime and political resistance.

Years of urban growth had shifted the balance of population to the cities, but not the balance of power. Although 55% of Wisconsinites were city-dwellers by 1950, most of the state’s legislators lived in rural areas. Bayfield County’s assemblyman represented 13,715 people, while his Milwaukee counterparts averaged 43,552 constituents each.

The rural legislators, most of them Republicans, didn’t hesitate to use their disproportionate power. They adopted formulas that increased state aid and lowered state taxes for their districts, sticking Milwaukee and her sister cities with the bills. The rural caucus also beat back attempts to consolidate their small rural schools, and they used city tax dollars to maintain some of the best rural roads in America.

In 1951, Milwaukee County received only $1 back for every $2.10 its residents paid in state taxes. It was not until 1954, when the Wisconsin Supreme Court intervened, that population alone became the basis for reapportionment, and it was not until 1964 that parity was finally achieved, again under court auspices.

Almost 50 years later, the imbalance has returned in a different form. Republicans considered population in their 2011 redistricting scheme, but they studied voting patterns just as carefully. The GOP packed likely Democrats into supermajority districts and gave their own party the statistical edge in contested areas. The results were not just anti-Democratic but anti-democratic. In 2012, Republicans won only 46% of the total votes cast for Assembly but took 61% of the seats.

Once they had stacked the deck, Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans proceeded to play some serious poker. Walker’s opening bets included a proposal to lift the residency requirement for city employees, a move guaranteed to do Milwaukee lasting harm. He denied that it was political payback for the support of the city’s police and fire unions, insisting that he was only supporting freedom of choice. The governor of the entire state followed that claim with a gratuitous slap at Wisconsin’s only metropolis. “If you want to keep people in the city,” Walker piously advised, “you should have a great city.”

Excuse me? Where do you suppose the Brewers and the Bucks play, governor? Which city is the home of such giants as Harley-Davidson, Northwestern Mutual and the Manpower Group? Where is the state’s most vibrant theater scene? Who’s got the greatest concentration of fine restaurants? The biggest zoo and the best museum? Where does the Calatrava spread its wings? Where will you find one of the most gorgeous urban shorelines on the Great Lakes? The world’s largest outdoor music festival? The state’s greatest range of housing choices or, for that matter, the greatest range of human beings?

No place in Wisconsin has the resources that Milwaukee has developed over the past 175 years, and they are here for the entire state to enjoy.

Yes, we have persistent, perhaps intractable, problems with poverty, problems we share with other great American cities, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles. Eliminating the residency rule would only aggravate those problems by eroding the middle-income mortar that holds many of our neighborhoods together.

The pull of the suburbs has been a powerful force in American life for decades – not just in Milwaukee – and it’s clearly in any city’s best interests to make residency a condition of employment. Milwaukee’s rule has been on the books since 1938, and applicants still line up for jobs by the thousands. Those who are hired live among those they serve, and where’s the injustice in that?

Walker’s stance on residency is needlessly destructive, but it’s consistent with an anti-urban bias that runs like a thread through his political career. As Milwaukee County executive for eight years, he presided over the decline of once-exemplary transit and park systems. As Wisconsin’s governor since 2010, Walker worked with the Republican Legislature to make the deepest cuts to public education in the state’s history – cuts that Milwaukee, as Wisconsin’s largest and poorest public school system, felt disproportionately.

Along the way, Walker first demonized and then, through Act 10, disarmed members of the one profession with the greatest responsibility for shaping Wisconsin’s future. I know veteran teachers who are advising their younger colleagues to find other work, and applications to the state’s schools of education are down across the board. “The feeling is that Act 10 is doing a number on enrollment,” one dean told me. How’s that for a heartwarming legacy?

Perhaps Walker’s true colors shone most brightly during last year’s gubernatorial recall election. The governor didn’t just run against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; he ran against Milwaukee. His campaign ads showed polluted harbors and dead babies, and Walker actually said at one point, “We don’t want Wisconsin to become like Milwaukee.” You have to wonder if this guy even hears himself anymore. Most maps I’ve seen place Milwaukee well within Wisconsin’s borders, but Walker ignored geography to score political points.

The fact that he could shrug off the collateral damage his campaign was doing to Milwaukee’s image, and to its relationship with the rest of the state, is chilling indeed. I don’t doubt that our governor has firmly held principles, but that’s not where he lives. Beneath the rhetorical camouflage is a ruthless and calculating politician who will exploit any weakness, make any promise and press any advantage to get in office and stay there.

But Walker is a specific kind of politician currently in vogue: an ideologue who sees the world in black and white. His outlook makes him, among other things, a tireless polarizer. Walker instinctively pits “the hardworking taxpayers of Wisconsin” against public schoolteachers, “all of us” against “the greedy few,” public employee unions against each other, and now Milwaukee against the rest of the state. Is his strategy effective? Clearly. Divisive? Oh, my.

Walker is not evil, as some of his more hysterical detractors would have you believe. He reminds me, rather, of Mr. Magoo, a hopelessly nearsighted soul who bumbles through the world oblivious to his surroundings – and to the genuine harm he’s causing. That, to me, is the tragedy of life in Wisconsin under Walker. As he divides to conquer, our polarizer-in-chief has us all swimming in a sea of false dichotomies. By phrasing the major issues in terms of us vs. them, Walker has transformed the broad middle ground of years past into an uninhabitable minefield.

“We don’t want Wisconsin to become like Milwaukee” is one blatantly false dichotomy. Milwaukee and the rest of Wisconsin have been mutually dependent since the very beginning, first as markets for each other’s products and now as complementary halves of the same whole. Milwaukee is the urban yin to rural Wisconsin’s yang, and together they constitute a satisfyingly complete experience.

I am both a Milwaukeean and a Wisconsinite, with as much affection for the North Woods and the Driftless Area as I have for the modest metropolis of my birth. Walker would prefer that we not see our commonalities. In a world that can surely be both/and, he’ll choose either/or every time.

There have been a few bright spots, including state support for road work on Milwaukee’s lakefront and some much-needed economic development partnerships, but those bright spots don’t begin to make up for the blind spots. We’re back to the 1950s, with one faction clinging to a gerrymandered majority and lording it over the rest of us. Walker’s bid to end the residency rule is a sign that he and his fellow Republicans are determined to drive yet another wedge into the body politic.

“I love Milwaukee,” the governor declared on these pages a few weeks ago. He certainly has an odd way of showing it. With friends like Walker, who needs enemies?

John Gurda, a Milwaukee historian, writes a monthly column for Crossroads.

 

February 18, 2013

School Administrators Alliance Critical of Walker’s Proposed Education Budget

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 5:53 pm

Please direct inquiries to:
John Forester, 608-242-1370
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 18, 2013
Governor’s Budget Proposals Continue Defunding of Public Education
Walker to freeze public schools, expand private school vouchers
MADISON, Wis. — Two years after passing historic budget cuts that took away more
than $800 million from public education, Governor Scott Walker is proposing to inflict
further harm on public schools and students across Wisconsin.
His latest proposal freezes the amount that school districts can spend on public school
children under revenue caps. Meanwhile, the governor wants to increase funding for
private school vouchers by $600 per K-8 student and $1,200 per high school student,
and allow the expansion of private voucher schools that have little to no accountability
and that do not result in higher levels of achievement for students.
“Considering that public schools make up more than 40 percent of the state budget and
Governor Walker has $1.7 billion in available revenues for new spending, I am shocked
that he is proposing a revenue cap freeze for public schools,” said John Forester,
director of government relations for the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance (SAA).
In his 2011-13 budget, adopted in June 2011, Governor Walker cut the public school
revenue limit by an average of $550 per student, while private voucher school per-pupil
allocations were held harmless. And at the same time the state was cutting more than
$800 million from Wisconsin public schools, it was increasing the amount given to
voucher schools by about $23 million.
“The disastrous defunding of public education continues unabated,” Forester said.
“Given that this is coming on the heels of the last budget’s massive cuts, it’s safe to say
that this proposal represents the worst state budget for public school students in
Wisconsin history.”
Despite overwhelming evidence that private school vouchers do not improve student
achievement and lack adequate financial accountability to the public, Governor Walker
continues to pursue private school voucher expansion. His current proposal would open
private school vouchers to nine new school districts and special needs students.
“Make no mistake about it,” said Forester. “The ultimate objective of voucher advocates
is a statewide system of private school vouchers for all Wisconsin school children. This
takes critical resources away from students in public schools, leaving most school
districts in Wisconsin with no choice but to increase local property taxes and make
greater reductions in quality educational opportunities for all students.”
“Clearly, Governor Walker is attempting to privatize public education for the exclusive
few at the expense of the many,” said Forester.
Rather than continuing to defund public education, the SAA is calling for the governor
and legislature to reaffirm the state’s investment in Wisconsin’s students. At a minimum,
the state must provide a $200 per pupil increase on the revenue cap, fully funded with
general school aid. And private school voucher expansion is such a fundamental
change in educational policy in Wisconsin that it should stand as a separate piece of
legislation—away from the budget—to allow the public’s voice to be heard.
“In the days and weeks to come, we will work with legislators of both parties to
encourage them to do the right thing and provide more resources to Wisconsin’s public
schools and students,” said Forester. “Budgets are about choices, and we need to send
the message that our priorities lie in our children, not in tax cuts, road builders and
private school vouchers.”
# # #

Scott Walker Wants You To Think He Is Increasing Money to Public Schools by $129 Million

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisc Budget Bill — millerlf @ 2:04 pm

Let’s do a little School Funding 101.

Governor Scott Walker claims he’s raised the funding for public schools by $129 million.

Sounds good. But here’s the problem:  The amount of funding for Wisconsin public schools has a corresponding restriction – a revenue limit (cap). If that cap is not raised, any increase in State funding translates into an equivalent decrease in the amount that goes to the schools from property taxes (State funding is increased by $129 million. Therefore property tax funding is decreased by $129 million.) Revenue for school districts remains the same.

Example: Say the revenue limit (cap) were $10,000 per student, paid equally by $5000 from the State and $5000 from local property tax. When the State increases its contribution, say by $1000 per student, for a total of $6000 in State contribution, the property tax contribution would be reduced to $4000 unless the revenue cap were raised. The amount per student would not change.

In short, less funding will come from property taxes, thereby constituting “property tax relief.” But schools and students are getting the same amount of money, not an increase. With inflation, the amount actually constitutes a loss of funding for public schools.

Scott Walker’s $129 million is actually “property tax relief” while public school funding declines.

This is all going on at the same time Walker is increasing $73 million for general vouchers, $21 million for special education vouchers and  $23 million for charters.

 

Gov. Walker Advances Failed Voucher System

Filed under: Scott Walker,Vouchers — millerlf @ 1:37 pm

Governor Walker previewed his state budget address this week by announcing the expansion of the taxpayer-funded private school voucher program to school districts that 1) have at least 4,000 students and 2) have at least two school buildings receiving the 4th or 5th lowest rating on the school report cards.

School districts that meet these criteria are:  Beloit, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Sheboygan, Superior, Waukesha and West Allis-West Milwaukee.

The state budget proposal would also open the door to future expansion as other school districts meet the criteria.

Under Walker’s proposal, enrollment would be capped at 500 students in the 2013-14 school-year and at 1,000 students in the 2014-15 school-year.

Walker also proposes increasing the voucher payment amount from $6,442 per child to $7,050 for students through 8th grade and to $7,856 for high school students starting with the 2014-15 school-year.

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