Educate All Students, Support Public Education

March 30, 2011

WKCE Results: Parental choice program not improving achievement

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 3:12 pm
Posted by Wisconsin Association of School Boards 

The Department of Public Instruction has released the latest test results from the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) and the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS).

Parental Choice Program vs. MPS

Results from the WSAS show that students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) scored lower than students attending Milwaukee Public Schools. Through the MPCP, the state provides financial assistance (or vouchers) to parents of students in low-income families to pay for tuition in private Milwaukee schools. This is the first year that students in the MCPC voucher program have taken the WKCE test allowing for direct comparisons.

In the proposed 2011-13 state budget, Gov. Walker is seeking to expand this program and increase funding for it while massively cutting state aids for public schools.  Walker’s plan would lift the enrollment caps, allow any private school in Milwaukee County to enroll voucher students, phase out the family income cap on voucher eligibility, and repeal the requirement that voucher students take the WKCE test.

A separate legislative proposal being drafted by state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Racine, the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, would expand Milwaukee’s voucher program to other school districts. Darling and Vos indicate they plan to add their proposal to the state budget bill.

A different approach from state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, would give parents who send their children to private schools a tax credit. Grothman wants the tax credit to apply to families statewide and hopes to introduce the legislation within the week. The WASB opposes all three of these proposals.

Achievement Gap Closing

Some minor good news from the test results shows that the achievement gap between white and minority students continues to close although the gap remains unacceptably large.

According to DPI, “77.2 percent of all students tested scored proficient or advanced in mathematics, up from 72.8 percent in 2005-06. On the reading assessment, 83.0 percent of all students tested scored proficient or advanced this year, up from 81.7 percent six years ago.”

Statement from John Ashley Regarding WKCE Results

Milwaukee Parental Choice Program Results

Achievement gap closes for all groups of students – DPI

Cheating on High-Stakes Tests: Michelle Rhee, have You No Shame?

Filed under: Michelle Rhee — millerlf @ 1:39 pm

When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?

By Jack Gillum and Marisol Bello, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — In just two years, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus went from a school deemed in need of improvement to a place that the District of Columbia Public Schools called one of its “shining stars.”

Marvin Tucker raised questions about high test scores of daughter Marlana, right, now 16, that showed math proficiency despite her struggle with the basics when she attended D.C.’s Noyes.

Standardized test scores improved dramatically. In 2006, only 10% of Noyes’ students scored “proficient” or “advanced” in math on the standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Two years later, 58% achieved that level. The school showed similar gains in reading.

Because of the remarkable turnaround, the U.S. Department of Education named the school in northeast Washington a National Blue Ribbon School. Noyes was one of 264 public schools nationwide given that award in 2009.

Michelle Rhee, then chancellor of D.C. schools, took a special interest in Noyes. She touted the school, which now serves preschoolers through eighth-graders, as an example of how the sweeping changes she championed could transform even the lowest-performing Washington schools. Twice in three years, she rewarded Noyes’ staff for boosting scores: In 2008 and again in 2010, each teacher won an $8,000 bonus, and the principal won $10,000.

A closer look at Noyes, however, raises questions about its test scores from 2006 to 2010. Its proficiency rates rose at a much faster rate than the average for D.C. schools. Then, in 2010, when scores dipped for most of the district’s elementary schools, Noyes’ proficiency rates fell further than average.

March 29, 2011

MPS Outperforming Voucher Schools on Statewide Exams

Filed under: MMAC,Vouchers — millerlf @ 4:01 pm

The results are in on the 21 year voucher “experiment .” Overall MPS students score higher on standardized state tests than voucher students.

2010-11 Wisconsin Student Assessment System results-All Grades Percent Proficient or Advanced

State Math 




State Economically Disadvantaged 63.2 71.7
MPS 47.8 59
MPS Economically Disadvantaged 43.9 55.3
MPCP (vouchers) 34.4 55.2

After $1.1 billion spent on vouchers and relentless attacks on MPS and public education, the truth comes out. Now watch the dance of the privatizers – it’s already begun. Just look at the headline of today’s Journal sentinel. It states, “Choice schools not outperforming MPS.” Compare that to the news release headline from DPI State Superintendent Tony Evers: “Overall MPS results higher than choice schools on statewide exams.” This is the type of word game that the Journal Sentinel, the MMAC and voucher supporters have played for years as part of their smoke and mirror politics. Maneuvers like this have prevented real accountability that will lead to doing what is best for all kids.

If the voucher initiative is truly about poor kids and not the money or the teacher’s union, proponents of private school vouchers must ask, even demand, that Scott Walker take off the table his proposals for lifting the caps on enrollment and income eligibility.

To see the full Journal Sentinel article go to:

To see the DPI/Tony Evers News release and data on MPS/Voucher comparison go to:

DPI Comparison MPS Voucher WKCE Testing

The Kochs Are Coming

Filed under: Koch Brothers,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 11:06 am

This is an op-ed by Jim Hightower describing events around a Koch brothers strategy retreat in January.

by: Jim Hightower, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed Thursday 03 February 2011

Rancho Mirage, California – The multibillionaire Koch brothers are used to running their nefarious network of political front groups from behind closed doors, keeping their identities and self-serving involvement secret from the media and us hoi polloi.

For more than three decades, Charles and David Koch have been quietly funneling tens of millions of dollars from their industrial fortune into the Cato Institute, Federalist Society, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and dozens of other right-wing organizations set up to push their extremist laissez-faire agenda of plutocratic rule. From behind their plush curtain, they’ve operated as the right wing’s Wizard of Oz — only Ozzier.

But now, the curtain is being pulled back, and there they are — buck naked and butt ugly — for all to see.

What an unpleasant surprise it must have been for the brothers last Sunday to find ordinary folks peering at them and their fellow Republican billionaires. About 200 of the wealthy elite were comfortably sequestered behind the gated walls of the Rancho Las Palmas Resort, presumably untouchable in the Southern California desert.

They had been invited to this lair of luxury to participate in an exclusive four-day political retreat that Charles periodically organizes to plot strategy with his peers and get money commitments from them for the next national election.

In the past, these have been totally clandestine pow-wows. They allow the Kochs and their corporate cohorts to huddle privately with such top GOP officials as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas and to hob-knob with such right-wing sparklies as Karl Rove and Glenn Beck.

This year, however, the letter of invitation from Koch Industries was leaked to researcher Lee Fang at the Center for American Progress. In it, Charles bragged that “we will assemble an exceptional group of leaders” at Rancho Las Palmas. And he did — but not the kind of leaders he intended to bring together!

Instead, he found some 1,500 grass-roots leaders gathered at the resort to greet the elites. Accompanied by national media, these uninvited guests succeeded in uncloaking the Kochs, turning the family’s name into a four-letter word — as in, “to Koch” democracy.

I was among the “rabble” intruding into this corporate getaway, having been invited by the political reform group Common Cause to speak and emcee the people’s Las Palmas rally. I can testify that the Koch crowd was not happy to see us — indeed, photographer Michael Cline snapped a wonderful picture of an exasperated David and Julia Koch glumly watching us from their resort’s balcony.

The purpose of our public protest was not merely to expose the handful of wealthy interests who are using front groups and secret corporate cash to gain political supremacy — we “outsiders” were also there to organize support for repealing last year’s infamous anti-democracy edict by the Supreme Court. A five-man cabal of corporatados on the Court ruled that a corporation is a “person” entitled to use unlimited sums of corporate funds to elect or defeat any candidate of its choosing — thus enthroning special-interest business money over all other interests in our society.

Unfortunately, to reverse the Kafkaesque hubris of the five Supremes who’re trying to play God, we need to pass a constitutional amendment that explicitly makes the obvious point that, to be a person, you have to have a navel. While passing any amendment to our nation’s basic governing document is difficult, it can — and must — be done if America is even to pretend to be a government of and by the people.

The good news is that Americans are up for it. A nationwide poll in January found that four out of five of our people support the passage of just such an amendment — including 68 percent of Republicans.

Two hundred and thirty-six years ago, Paul Revere rallied the American public’s resistance to the democratic repression with the cry, “The British are coming!” Today, the rallying cry is, “The Kochs are coming!” To join the resistance, go to

National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

March 28, 2011

Statewide Event list for Walker’s State Budget

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisconsin Uprising — millerlf @ 12:43 pm

…and related events

(Last updated: Monday, March 28, 2011)

Joint Finance Committee Public Hearings on State Budget

  • Thursday, April 7th, Stevens Point, 10am – 6pm – Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature, Public Hearing on 2011-2013 Budget, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Lee S. Dreyfus University Center in the Melvin R. Laird room at 1015 Reserve Street.
  • Friday, April 8th, Minong (Washburn Co), 10am – 6pm – Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature, Public Hearing on 2011-2013 Budget, Richard’s Auditorium of Northwood School, N14463 Highway 53.
  • Monday, March 11th – Milwaukee/West Allis -10am-6pm – Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature, Public Hearing on 2011-2013 Budget. Wisconsin State Fair Park, Expo Center, Hall, 8200 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis
  • Wednesday, April 13th, Arcadia (between Eau Claire and La Crosse), 10am – 6pm – Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature, Public Hearing on 2011-2013 Budget, Arcadia High School Auditorium.

Capitol and Madison

  • Wednesday, April 6th – 9am start
    • Disability Advocacy Day at the State Capitol. Meet at WI Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, 201 W. Washington. Registration deadline March 28. If you are interested contact Shel Gross at or 608-250-4368.

Milwaukee Area (Jennissee Volpintesta, 262-364-6751 and Peter Drummond, 414-333-1606)


Early voting in the City of Milwaukee has started. 841 N. Broadway, Room 102, 8:30 am – 4:30pm


  • Monday, March 28th – 4:30pm – Protest of the reception honoring Sen. Alberta Darling with Cong. Paul Ryan. University Club, 924 E. Wells St.
  • Monday March 28th – 6 -8pm – Informational Session on Voter Rights with Milwaukee County Sup. Nikiya Harris, NAACP President James Hall, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Milwaukee Chapter. Morse-Marshall School for the Gifted and Talented, 4141 N. 64th Street, Milwaukee
  • Tuesday, March 29th – 5:30-7:30pm – The Impact of the State Budget on the City of Milwaukee, Hillside Resource Center, 1452 N. 7th Street. Featuring: Sen. Coggs, Alderwoman Coggs, Rep. Young, and Sup. Johnson. Contact Alderwoman Milele Coggs, 414-286-2994 or
  • Tuesday, March 29th – 5:30 – Rep. Pasch and the Milwaukee Democratic Legislative Caucus will hold a town hall on education provisions within Governor Walker’s proposed budget on the UW-Milwaukee
  • Wednesday, March 30th – 6pm – 8pm- MPS Parent Meeting. Organized by Parents for Parents. 6:00 – 8 PM at MPS Central Office auditorium. Impact of Walker’s budget cuts and plans to organize. For more information visit
  • Wednesday, March 30th, 7:30 a.m. ., Jeff Stone, Walker Clone Visibility with signs at candidate forum UWM Union, University Room, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
  • Wednesday, March 30th, 7pm; Milwaukee Area Labor Council Town Hall Meeting, Serb Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave. General public welcome.
  • Friday, April 1st – 6:30pm – MICAH Rally against Walker’s Budget and for voting April 5th.  Mt. Zion Church, 2nd and Garfield, Milwaukee. Contact: Rev. Willie Brisco 414-915-2140
  • Saturday, April 2nd – 9am-noon – A March Fit for a King, March for economic justice and human rights to Milwaukee City Hall to vote early. Milwaukee NAACP, MICAH, AFSCME Local 82, students (including Riverside High School Drumline), and other community allies are organizing the event. 9am: Meet at MLK Drive and North Ave. 9:30am: March to Red Arrow Park for rally. 11am: Early vote at City Hall.
  • Monday, April 4th – TBD – MICAH King Assassination Event. Providence Baptist Church,   3865 North 82nd Street. Milwaukee. Contact: Rev. Willie Brisco 414-915-2140
  • Monday, April 11th 10am – 6pm – Joint Finance Committee of the Wisconsin State Legislature, Public Hearing on 2011-2013 Budget. Wisconsin State Fair Park, Expo Center, Hall, 8200 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis. Likely the only JFC hearing on the budget in the Milwaukee area that will allow public testimony.

2nd and 30th Senate District – Green Bay, Shawano, Oconto, Outagamie (Julie Heun – 920-904-2005)

  • Monday, March 28th – 6 p.m.
    • Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) listening session on the budget,  Kaukauna City Municipal Building
  • Saturday, April 2, 2011 – 10 a.m.
    • Send Fitz Home Rally/Protest– Senator Fitzgerald will be in Green Bay with the Republicans who are trying to recall Senator Hansen, 2685A W. Mason Street, Green Bay. Turn out to show your support for Senator Hansen!
  • Monday, April 4th – 12 p.m. – 1 p.m.
    • Rock the Vote Rally at each of the following locations:
      Green Bay, Shawano, De Pere, Kaukauna, Oconto Falls
  • Monday April 4th – 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
    • Voices of Solidarity – the GBEA event at Divine Temple, Green Bay, WI
      A one-hour prayer/song/speaker opening followed by a candlelit vigil from the church to around the block. MLK speeches will be given. Possible guest appearance by Mavis Staples.
  • Sunday, April 10th – 6 – 8 p.m.
    • Save Dave Rally!, 1061 W. Mason Street. Green Bay


9th Senate District -Sheboygan and Manitowoc

  • Monday, April 4th – 7-8 pm
    • Prayer Vigil and March, Beginning at Fountain Park in Sheboygan
  • Thursday, April 28th 6 pm
    • Scott Walker at Republican Environmental Celebration
      Scott Walker will be with Republicans Tommy Thompson, Terry and Mary Kohler at an environmental fundraiser and film premier in Sheboygan
      Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin, N6191 Resource Drive, Sheboygan Falls,

10th Senate District – Polk, Burnett, St.Croix, Pierce – (Jim Mangan 715-505-2835)

  • Ongoing event in Menomonie: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. every day Tuesday & Thursday, a peaceful march at the Veteran’s Memorial Park on Crescent Street in Menomonie. Signs available. Participants are welcome to come for whatever time they are available.

12th Senate District – Northeast WI – (Scott Wright – 920-450-2121)

  • Monday – 3/28/2011 – 4pm-5:30pm
    • Three Lakes Workers Rights Rally—Stop signs of County A & Hwy. 45
  • Tuesday – 3/29/2011 – 4pm-5:30pm
    • Rhinelander Workers Rights Rally–Corners of Courtney & Pelham St. (Parking on side streets)
  • Wednesday – 3/30/2011 – 4pm-5:30pm
    • Eagle River Workers Rights Rally—Trig’s (Sidewalks)
  • Thursday – 3/31/2011 – 4pm-5:30pm
    • Rhinelander Workers Rights Rally—Corners of Courtney & Pelham St. (Parking on side streets)
  • Friday – 4/1/2011 – 4pm-5:30pm
    • Minocqua Workers Rights Rally—North of the Bridge

15th Senate District – Rock – (Justin Geiger 414-745-4177)

  • Tuesday 3/29/2011 – 5:00 PM
    • Protest Governor Walker at Forward Janesville Dinner, Holiday Inn Express & Conference Center, Janesville

18th Senate District – Oshkosh and Fond du Lac – (Skyler Johnston, 573-355-0578)

  • Monday, March 28th – 10am-1pm
    • Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks to UW Oshkosh students. UW Oshkosh, Reeve Ballroom (2nd floor)
  • Wednesday, March 30th – 9:00am – 11:00am
    • Welcome to the REAL Wisconsin Protest. Sen. Hopper will be speaking at Marian University. Protesting in front of Stayer Center Auditorium, 45 South National Avenue, Fond du Lac
  • Thursday, March 31st – Noon-1:30pm
  • Saturday, April 2 at 6:00pm.
    • Public Art by Public Employees, 480 N. Main St, Oshkosh, WI

21st Senate District – Racine- (Justin Geiger 414-745-4177)

  • Thursday 3/31/11  6:30pm – 8:30pm
    • Racine education Association Community forum on the Budget. Gilmore Middle School Auditorium, 2330 Northwestern Avenue, Racine.
  • Friday 4/1/11 4pm-6pm
    • Visibility Highway 20 and Highway 31 Racine, WI.

32nd Senate District – La Crosse, Vernon, Crawford – (Tabbitha Norris 502-939-8459)

  • Thursday, 3/31/11 – 5:30pm
    • Faith based Prayer Vigil for the budget, Location TBA.
  • Monday, 4/4/11 – 5pm
    • CLC Rally – We are One – Green Island Park, 2312 7th Ave. La Crosse. Meet at the Workers Memorial Monument.

Scott Walker’s Mentor, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, on the Environment: Frack the Earth

Filed under: Environment,Mitch Daniels Indiana,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 12:26 pm

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is a new presidential hopeful among Tea Partiers for 2012.

Here is a sample from a speech in February (See full speech at: A Must Read: Indiana Governor and Presidential Hopeful Compares Budget Issues to “Red Menace” and the Cold War) on the issue of energy and the environment.

Basically he’s saying let’s hand over the environment to the Koch brothers and other oil companies from Appalachia to the Rockies. “…treat domestic energy production as the economic necessity it is and the job creator it can be. Drill, and frack, and lease, and license, unleash in every way the jobs potential in the enormous energy resources we have been denying ourselves.”

What is fracking for natural gas?

To See a visual explanation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) go to:

What is Hydraulic Fracturing?

Following is list of valuable articles from ProPublica on the “fracking debate.”

1st Posted in ProPublica, Feb. 28, 2011

Top of Form

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the fracking and natural gas drilling debate, with the documentary film Gasland [1] nominated for an Academy Award and a front-page story [2] in Sunday’s New York Times on the dangers posed by the technology.

The Times story underscored the findings of dozens of reports that ProPublica has published over the past three years, adding new details from previously undisclosed government documents. The increasing public interest in the possible dangers of gas drilling comes as the world’s energy companies are placing a multi-billion dollar bet on its potential. At the request of Vice President Dick Cheney, Congress exempted gas drilling from federal regulation in 2005. Since then, industry officials have successfully lobbied against calls in Washington to change the law, calls that have intensified in recent months with new attention on the issue.

For those who want to dive deeper into the complex science and regulatory issues of fracking, we offer a quick breakdown of the key issues.

It’s a subject reporter Abrahm Lustgarten has been covering for ProPublica since July of 2008. In the years since then, Lustgarten and his ProPublica colleagues have criss-crossed the country, interviewing drillers, industry officials and residents from Wyoming to Colorado to Pennsylvania. To listen to a podcast from Lustgarten, click here [3]. To read a detailed account of one man’s fight against water contamination in Wyoming, click here [4]. (Lustgarten received the 2009 George Polk Award for environmental reporting for his investigation of hydraulic fracturing as well as the 2009 Stokes Award for Best Energy Writing from the National Press Foundation.)

Below is a list of 19 of our most important stories, arranged by topic so you can quickly find the information you need. For a list of all the 100 or so stories we’ve written about gas drilling since 2008, you can also visit our gas drilling home page [5].


  • Is Marcellus Shale Too Hot to Handle? [6] – A 2009 analysis of wastewater samples from wells in New York showed levels of radioactivity more than 250 times the federal drinking water standard.


Methane Contamination



Air Pollution

March 27, 2011

Important Organizing Meeting for MPS Parents This Wednesday at Central Office at 6 PM

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 8:03 pm

Please help get parents to this important parent organizing meeting.


Please come to the district wide MPS parents meeting March 30th from 6-8pm, in

the Central Office Auditorium, 5225 Vliet.

Organized by Parents for Parents!

Childcare will be provided for children three and older.

Spanish translation will be provided.

For more details and to download the flyer in Spanish and English from our events page and help us get the word out!

The GOP Would Rather Go Through the Courts than Try to Pass a New Budget “Repair” Bill

Filed under: Scott Walker,Wisconsin Uprising — millerlf @ 7:57 pm

Why they don’t want a do-over

March 26, 2011 Gary Porter

Wallace Sherlock dons his academic robe on the King St. steps to the state Capitol in Madison on Saturday as part of ongoing protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s recently passed budget-repair bill, which limits collective bargaining for many public employees. Sherlock and other teachers from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater were delivering a letter and resolution denouncing the measure, which remained enmeshed in legal disputes Saturday.

Republican legislative leaders have been told repeatedly that a do-over would remove – once and for all – any legal doubts over how they passed Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill, which took away the ability of most public employees to collectively bargain over anything but cost-of-living pay raises.

The first do-over advice came from Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi, who issued an order on March 18 preventing the bill from being published – the final act that would have turned it into a new law. The bill was published anyway Friday by the Legislative Reference Bureau, which was not party to Sumi’s decision.

Next, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said a do-over would make his civil suit, which claims Republican legislators violated the Open Meetings Law when they rushed the bill through the Legislature, go away. Lawyers for public employees made the same point Wednesday.

Ozanne, for example, told the Court of Appeals: “Finally, and although obvious, it must be stated that the Legislature has a ready remedy, which is available to it at any time – namely, to start over and re-enact the substance of (the budget-repair bill) by following the public notice, public access and other requirements of the Open Meetings Law.”

No, Republican leaders insist, there’s no need for a do-over. It was done right the first time. This isn’t a simple golf game among friends, where you laugh, shout “mulligan” and play a second shot.

One district attorney and judge “don’t get to tell the Legislature when and how to do our jobs,” said Andrew Welhouse, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

“The state constitution provides that the Senate gets to determine its own rules for its business, which were followed, so we aren’t planning to do the process again when it was done correctly the first time,” Welhouse said.

Eventually, Republicans predict, they’ll win.

But the Republicans’ separation-of-powers argument is the official version of why there will be no do-over.

There are other, practical reasons there is no desire on the part of the 69 Republican legislators – 51 in the Assembly and 18 in the Senate who voted for Walker’s changes – to replay the month between Feb. 11 and March 11. Walker introduced the bill on Feb. 11; he signed it into law on March 11:

• Hundreds of thousands – as many as 1 million, according to Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs – of angry protesters on both sides of the bill shouted, chanted, sang and fought it for weeks. A do-over would restart the protests and again attract the world’s attention.

• The 69 Republican lawmakers would like to avoid again being personally threatened, being unable to move freely in the Capitol and needing police escorts.

• It took more than 82 hours of debate – 17 hours by the Joint Finance Committee and more than 65 hours in the Assembly – to pass the bill the first time. A do-over would take much longer, since Senate Democrats would show up this time and argue it for hours – or days.

• Republican lawmakers have other things to do – refinance state debt and make enough spending cuts to fix a $137 million deficit in the year that ends on June 30, for example. And statewide public hearings by the Joint Finance Committee will soon start on Walker’s overall 2011-’13 budget.

Republican legislators also may like their odds if the state Supreme Court decides Ozanne’s suit. The Court of Appeals on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to take the case, but four of the seven justices must vote to do so.

One of the court’s four conservative justices, former Republican Assembly Speaker David Prosser, is up for re-election on April 5.

Prosser served with Walker in the Assembly in the 1990s and with three of the lawmakers – Senate President Mike Ellis, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca – named in Ozanne’s suit.

Despite those connections, Prosser told Journal Sentinel editors and reporters Thursday that he expects to participate when the court considers Ozanne’s lawsuit. “I’m a judge,” he said. “I hear cases.”

Steven Walters is a senior producer for WisconsinEye, the Madison-based nonprofit public affairs channel, and a former Madison bureau chief for the Journal Sentinel. The opinions expressed are his own. E-mail

MPS Cuts Compared to Onalaska, a Small Town Near LaCrosse Wisconsin

Filed under: School Finance,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 11:41 am
In Kids & Family Commentary

Cuts slash budgets beyond MPS, too

By Bobby Tanzilo Managing Editor Published March 26, 2011  Hills principal Curt Rees and some Onalaska students.

Of course, as a Milwaukee resident and taxpayer — and the dad of an MPS student, and a prospective one — the stress I feel over the current budget battle in Madison is focused on how the decimation of public school funding will affect my children, the children of my friends, neighbors and co-workers and all of the kids in the city.

But, communicating with Curt Rees — a principal in Onalaska, out near LaCrosse — is a good reminder that public schools across the state will feel the same pain. While the cuts affecting MPS are astronomical in comparison, that’s only because we have such a large district. In terms of percentage, MPS is not facing the largest cut.

In fact, according to a DPI spreadsheet that hypothesizes how the proposed budget would have affected districts this school year — had it been in effect — Onalaska would have seen cut of 10.3 percent. MPS would have lost 8 percent.

“Frustrated would be the first feeling that comes to mind in terms of the state budget,” Rees wrote to me in an email.

“Expectations continue to go up in terms of student achievement, but our resources are dwindling. I’ve been at my school (Northern Hills Elementary, which scores 8 out of 10 on for 7 years and my site budget — which takes care of supplies, copy machine, professional development, building repairs, etc. — has never seen an increase. Our budget had been frozen for 6 years and then took a 10 percent cut last year to help make ends meet for the district.”

Rees says he worries most about what the cuts mean for the future of the institution of free public education for all American children.

“If people are allowed to use vouchers to go to any school they want, what will that do for the kids who need the most help, but don’t have knowledgable and resourceful parents to advocate for them? Maybe public schools will just be the place for the ‘leftover’ kids. I can’t ever see that as being a benefit for any part of society.

“I love reading about Thomas Jefferson’s push for a system of public education,” Rees continues. “He did so because he wanted every U.S. citizen to be skilled enough to care for themselves and to be learned enough to make good decisions while being a part of a democracy. Without a strong public ed system, will our citizens be able to do either of these?”

Onalaska School District has a three-year average enrollment of 2,861 and has a base revenue of $9.473 per student. Comparable numbers for MPS are 85,455 and $10,104. There are three elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and an early education center in the Onalaska district. At the start of this school year, MPS had 184 schools, including 118 elementary schools, 8 middle schools, 40 high schools and 18 schools with combined grades.

Luckily for the district, Rees says, Onalaska is bolstered by a very supportive community.

“Our parents are great about helping their kids be successful in school. Local businesses and groups are also great supporters of our schools. Our community passed a funding referendum (about five years ago) to allow us to remodel our oldest elementary school and then take care of several other capital projects in the district — HVAC, safety projects, parking lot repaving, etc.

“We also just passed a referendum on Feb. 15 to give us operating money to maintain the programs and people we already have in place, which have been very successful. But it seems like the state has not followed through on their end of the deal. We had the QEO (note: the QEO limits how much schools can raise as a means to limit spending) in place for 17 years to keep employee compensation down and the state was supposed to provide 2/3 of our funding. Compensation certainly stayed down, but the state funding kept shrinking and shrinking and looks to be outright chopped for this next budget cycle.”

So, even while Onalaska has a supportive community and has apparently followed the revenue rules, times have grown tighter and tighter due to state cuts. This latest round of proposed cuts puts further stress on the district’s finances. Rees says the big hurt will come the year after next in Onalaska.

According to the DPI, Onalaska faces a $2.4 million cut from the state in 2011-12 and $3.2 million the following year. The numbers are $71 million and $95 million in MPS.

“Because of our successful referendum, we’ll be OK this coming year in maintaining the status quo, but we had hoped that the state funding would be there so our local money could allow us to do another school remodel and allow us to take care of other capital needs that come up every 5-ish years.

“We’ve held this thing together with spit and duct tape for several years, but how long can that last? A school’s biggest assets are its teachers and staff. When the money is gone, positions will be eliminated, class sizes go up for kids, and then there are fewer class choices for them.”

Onalaska, we feel your pain.

March 26, 2011

Landmark Victory For Wisconsin Workers On Paid Sick Days: Momentum Building Nationwide for Paid Sick Days Laws

Filed under: Work Family/Paid Sick Days — millerlf @ 3:30 pm

25 Mar, 2011


Opposition Grows to Wisconsin State Bill That Would Overturn Milwaukee Paid Sick Days Law

MILWAUKEE—A historic decision this morning by the Wisconsin State Court of Appeals to uphold a Milwaukee city law that provides paid sick days to workers is building momentum nationwide for growing campaigns in cities and states to pass paid sick days laws that benefit working families, public health and the economy.

In Philadelphia, a paid sick days bill was passed out of a City Council committee a few weeks ago, and in Connecticut, the state legislature is moving forward on a bill with bipartisan support. Paid sick days legislation in New York City has 35 City Council sponsors, legislation is about to be introduced in Seattle, and more than a dozen states have coalitions advocating actively for paid sick days and paid family leave policies.  Milwaukee, San Francisco and Washington, DC have passed paid sick days laws.

“The economy is changing, the workforce is changing and workers need policies like paid sick days to stay in their jobs and care for their families,” said Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values @ Work, a national consortium of state organizations advocating for paid sick days, paid family leave and other family friendly workplace policies. “At a time when corporations are seeing record profits, no worker in America should have to choose between taking care of a sick child or loved one and losing a job or a paycheck.”

In Wisconsin, the decision provides an important victory for workers there who have been under attack by Gov. Scott Walker and the CEOs of large corporations. The ruling provides a boost to the campaign by workers, unions, seniors, women’s groups and others to fight back against the latest attack on workers’ rights and the middle class. A bill passed by the State Senate and pending in the State Assembly (AB41) would overturn the Milwaukee city law. In 2008, a Milwaukee paid sick days ordinance was approved by nearly 70 percent of voters.  The bill, which would benefit more than 120,000 Milwaukee workers, gives workers the right to earn between five and nine paid sick days a year, depending on the size of their employer.

Today’s court decision removes the big business-led injunction that has kept the Milwaukee law from going into effect and clears the way for the law to be implemented in the city if the state legislation is defeated.

“After 39 days of constant attacks, Wisconsin’s working families have finally won a victory,” said Dana Schultz, Lead Organizer for Wisconsin 9to5, the National Association of Working Women.  “Milwaukee voters have spoken, the courts have spoken, and we are not going to let Gov. Walker and the State Assembly take away workers’ right to care for their families. The Assembly bill is nothing more than the latest, transparent attempt by the Governor and his allies to pay back the big corporations who funded their campaigns.”

Nationwide, paid sick days are a growing issue. In just the last few weeks, the following commentaries have appeared in newspapers around the country.

Philadelphia Inquirer, “This boss doesn’t mind sick days,” March 24, 2011

New York Daily News, “The fire’s embers still glow,” March 24, 2011

New Haven Advocate, “Workers deserve the right to be sick,” March 15, 2011

Wisconsin Capital Times, “Lawmakers’ plan to take away sick days will hurt families,” March 10, 2011

New research on paid sick day laws in other cities shows significant benefits for workers and minimal impact on businesses.  A study last month of San Francisco’s paid sick days law by the independent Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows business concerns in that city about job loss were unfounded, with six in seven employers saying that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability and two-thirds of employers surveyed supporting the law.
“As a small-business owner, I face a number of challenges, but none of them affects the bottom line more than the dedication and loyalty of the staff,” said Dewetta Logan, owner of a small child-care center in West Philadelphia.  “For providing five paid sick days a year, I can count on a happier, healthier workplace.”

“Working without paid sick days almost cost me my life,” said Cheryl Folston, of Newington, Connecticut, who worked for five years as a driver for a livery service. “I never had the time to see a doctor until I was laid off.  When I went, he told me I had a serious heart tumor, and if I’d waited any longer, it could have killed me.”

Next Page »

Blog at