Educate All Students, Support Public Education

April 29, 2011

Proposed Legislation: Vouchers for Special Education Students?

Filed under: Special Education,Vouchers — millerlf @ 11:04 am

Bill would give special ed students aid to switch schools


There will be a hearing on the Wisconsin special education scholarship bill Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the State Capitol in Madison.

Special education students may someday be able to switch schools through a state voucher program.

The program would call students’ ability to switch “scholarships,” not vouchers, but it would operate much like Milwaukee’s voucher program for low-income students. Special education students, regardless of income, would be able to switch schools by applying per-pupil state aid from their home district to another participating public school district or private school of their choice.

The program would become a reality in Wisconsin if a state Assembly bill introduced this week becomes law.

“The group that often has difficulty finding the right school for their child is parents with special needs kids,” said the bill’s lead sponsor Rep. Michelle Litjens, R-Vinland. Litjens said the bill is intended to help parents no longer able to successfully work with their home school district and in need of a way to put their child in an alternate school.

But Disability Rights Wisconsin opposes the bill because they worry special education students entering private schools could have their rights violated since private schools do not have to follow the same special education laws as public schools, said Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, managing attorney for Disability Rights Wisconsin, a non-profit public interest law firm that advocates on behalf of people with disabilities.

“If that (private) school wants to discipline you, kick you out, take your money and not offer special ed, that’s just fine under this bill,” Spitzer-Resnick said.

The bill could also move special education away from a more recent trend of including special education kids in regular education classrooms as often as possible.

“There’s only a handful of (private) schools that are designed for kids with disabilities,” he said, explaining those might be the only ones willing to participate in the program. “So we’ll be going backwards and putting kids with disabilities a in highly segregated school just for them.”

For those reasons, the local Arc of Racine nonprofit disabilty advocacy group will likely follow Disabilty Rights Wisconsin in opposing the bill, said Arc Executive Director Sandy Engel.

Litjens said Thursday she was not aware of such reasons for opposition and officials in Florida, one of a handful of states with a similar program, said they’ve not had problems or seen segragation of students.

“The parents love it,” said Michael Kooi, executive director of Florida’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice. “It hasn’t led to a mass exodus out of our public schools. Only 6 percent (of students) are in the program but it’s that group of students whose parents felt there was a better opportunity for them somewhere else.”

Hypocrisy Exposed: Firefighter’s Union President David Seager Opposes Privatization for City Firefighters, But Supports Privatization for Public Education

Filed under: Milwaukee Community Devastation,Privatization — millerlf @ 10:51 am

Milwaukee Firefighters Union President David Seager said in an MJS article today it was “a serious waste of taxpayer money” to study privatization (of Milwaukee Fire Department), an idea he called “ludicrous,” “myopic” and “absurd.”

Yet in an April 16 MJS op-ed Seagar supports expansion of privatization of public education. There he says “The school choice expansion gives our families strong reasons to continue to live and work and play in the city they love. Moreover, it “affords” them the opportunity to educate their children while remaining in the city.”

To see his full op-ed go to:

Following is today’s MJS article that quotes Seager:

Alderman calls for overhaul of Milwaukee Fire Department

By Larry Sandler of the Journal Sentinel April 28, 2011

A Milwaukee alderman called Thursday for studying a major overhaul of the city’s Fire Department, including the prospects for hiring private companies to deliver emergency medical service and fire service, or consolidating operations with the suburbs and county.

“We’re living with a 1970s solution for how we provide fire protection,” Ald. Terry Witkowski said at a City Hall news conference, referring to the time when emergency medical service was transferred from the Police Department to the Fire Department. He said the city should find a way to provide “the same level of service, the same degree of safety, but at lower cost.”

The idea quickly drew opposition from the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association, which has repeatedly battled attempts to trim firefighter staffing.

Union President David Seager said it was “a serious waste of taxpayer money” to study privatization, an idea he called “ludicrous,” “myopic” and “absurd.” Seager said private ambulances could not respond to medical emergencies as quickly, efficiently or professionally as Fire Department units do.

Asked if he had discussed the study with the firefighters union or Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing, Witkowski said the quickest way to kill one of his own ideas would be to “go to the enemy first.”

Witkowski and Aldermen Robert Puente and Ashanti Hamilton, who joined him at the news conference, later said they did not consider the union to be their enemy, but that their responsibility to manage the city in taxpayers’ interests differed from the union’s duty to represent its members’ interests.

Rohlfing did not return a call seeking comment.

Emergency medical service has grown to 80% of the Fire Department’s calls. Witkowski questioned whether the city’s four ambulance companies could provide the same service at lower cost.

And if 80% of the department’s work is cut, Witkowski said, it was worth asking whether the city still needs 36 firehouses, staffed by 232 firefighters on each 24-hour shift, to handle an average of about 500 fire-related calls, including 36 major blazes, each year. He wants council researchers to study hiring a private company to operate the fire service or merging operations with neighboring suburbs or the county.

Mayor Tom Barrett also has advocated studying consolidation of local fire departments, among other services.

Witkowski said his move was prompted by Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-’13 state budget, which would cut state aid to local governments and limit property tax increases.

Walker has said local governments could compensate for the cuts by raising employee benefit contributions, as provided in his budget-repair legislation. But as Witkowski noted, that measure excludes union-represented police and firefighters, who account for some two-thirds of the city’s costs. Court challenges have put the law on hold, and the city attorney’s office has questioned whether it can legally apply to the city pension fund.

Witkowski said the city has been cutting and reorganizing other agencies for 20 years, while the police and fire departments have largely escaped cuts until recent years, when firefighter staffing has been reduced.

Hamilton said studying changes in the Fire Department doesn’t mean they will be implemented, “but for us not to take a look at it . . . would be irresponsible.”

In another consolidation move, a Common Council committee voted Thursday to explore sharing prescription drug coverage with other local governments.

If the full council agrees Tuesday with its Finance & Personnel Committee, the city would seek proposals for pharmaceutical coverage not only for its own employees, but also for those of Milwaukee County, Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. The vendors’ proposals would compare the cost of covering each government separately with covering all five as a group.

April 28, 2011

Johnsonville brats, AngelSoft toilet paper, Sargento cheese and Coors beer targeted at grocery stores because these companies support Scott Walker

Filed under: Scott Walker,Tea Party — millerlf @ 3:36 pm

Grocers warning of anti-Walker stickers

Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011 Racine Journal

MADISON (AP) – The Wisconsin Grocers Association is warning its members to be on the lookout for opponents of Gov. Scott Walker who are planning to deface some products in grocery stores on May 1.

Walker opponents have urged consumers to boycott companies that have donated to the governor’s campaign. The Journal Sentinel says there’s a current effort to expand the boycott nationally by placing stickers on products in grocery stores. Among the targeted products are Johnsonville brats, AngelSoft toilet paper, Sargento cheese and Coors beer.

The grocers group has created a sign for stores to post alerting people that placing stickers on products in stores is illegal.

The Racine Tea Party is responding by calling for a “buy-cott” of these products. To see their news release go to:

Be Prepared to Go Back to Madison: GOP Considering Using Budget Bill to Vote on Collective Bargaining

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 3:28 pm

GOP eyes budget bill for anti-collective bargaining law


Get ready, protesters. The collective bargaining bill could soon be back before the Legislature.

Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Thursday that while the “preferred avenue” for implementing the collective bargaining bill is still the state courts, there is a “possibility” the bill will be inserted into the 2011-2013 state budget.

“There is a possibility, and it has been informally discussed among Republican leadership, including the Joint Finance Committee co-chairs, that if the matter can’t be fully decided on by the Supreme Court, then it will be inserted into the full budget,” Welhouse told The Capital Times.

The legality of the bill, which would strip most collective bargaining rights from state employees, was challenged by Dane County District Attorney Ozanne Ismael on the grounds a special conference committee violated the state’s open meetings law when it approved the collective bargaining bill on March 9.

The lawmakers gave less than two hours notice before commencing the 6 p.m. hearing. State law requires 24.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi blocked the law from being implemented while the legal challenge is being hashed out. Putting the collective bargaining provisions in the budget would sidestep the open meetings issue, allowing the bill to become law.

The move also could get a highly controversial topic resolved and out of the public arena at a time when six Senate Republicans are facing recall elections over their previous vote in favor of the bill.

They are Alberta Darling of River Hills; Robert Cowles of Green Bay; Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac; Dan Kapanke of La Crosse; Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Luther Olsen of Ripon.

“I think there will be a real rush to get the Walker agenda through before the recall elections are held,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona. “And I won’t be surprised if it happened soon. Republicans want to destroy the unions because it is politically advantageous for them. Unions are the only group strong enough to stand up against the WMC.”

In recent years, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, or WMC, has raised and spent millions on behalf of Republican candidates and conservative Supreme Court candidates, while unions have been big givers to Democrats.

Assembly Minority Leader, Peter Barca of Kenosha, said he would be surprised if collective bargaining was added to the budget bill.

He cited the fact Gov. Scott Walker admitted under oath before a Congressional hearing that restricting collective bargaining rights would not save the state money as well as the mounting number of Republicans facing recall elections as his reasons.

“It would be a political miscalculation if they were to take away collective bargaining rights,” Barca said.

Despite the recall effort against her, Darling, a Joint Finance Committee co-chair, told WisPolitics in an interview earlier this week  she would vote again for the collective bargaining bill. She also said the bill has enough votes to pass the Senate.

In addition to the Republican senators facing recall elections, three Democratic senators are as well.

Wednesday, officials with the Government Accountability Board filed a motion in Dane County Circuit Court requesting one statewide recall election date be held on July 12.

If Democrats come out of that election with a net total of three Senate seats, they will have control of the Senate. Currently, Republicans are in control of both houses.

“I think there’s a good chance we’ll pick up three seats,” Miller said.

Democratic control of the Senate would also spell changes on the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee by giving Democrats more seats, including a co-chair position. Right now, the split is 12-4.

Given Democrats adamantly oppose the restrictions to collective bargaining rights, if the bill remained mired in the courts and Democrats gain control of the Senate, it would no longer stand a chance of passing the Legislature.

Since the open meetings issue has the collective bargaining issue tied up in court, the budget could be the quickest avenue for implementing the measure into law, putting the matter to rest before a possible July 12 recall election date.

A repeat of the prolonged protests at the state Capitol that followed Walker’s announcement of his effort to curtail collective bargaining in February could pose an electoral pitfall for the GOP.

In the spring Supreme Court election, liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg came close to unseating conservative incumbent David Prosser, an unexpectedly strong showing that was driven by a mobilized Democratic base.

A return of the collective bargaining bill likely would lead to another round of rallies at the Capitol, Miller said.

Welhouse dismissed the potential for renewed protests as a factor in inserting the measure into the budget.

“This budget was not developed with politics in mind,” Welhouse said. “It was designed because we think this is the right way forward for a state that has gotten off track.”

Welhouse said there are two ways the collective bargaining bill could be inserted into the budget.

He said the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee could pass the 2011-2013 budget and the collective bargaining bill could be added as an amendment once it hits the Assembly floor for debate, or a finance committee member could insert it into the bill through a motion before sending it out of committee.

Lawmakers could, however, give proper 24-hour notice and vote on the bill in conference committee, as it was last time around.

“The mechanism for this happening has not been fleshed out yet,” Welhouse said.

Donald Trump’s Mafia Ties

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Tea Party — millerlf @ 3:23 pm

Marcus Baram First Posted: 04/28/11

Rolling Snake Eyes: Trump’s First Casino Partners Had Alleged Mob Ties

NEW YORK — For years, Donald Trump has boasted that his casinos are free of the taint of organized crime, using this claim to distinguish his gambling ventures from competitors. But Trump’s casinos turn out not to be so squeaky clean.

One of his prime Atlantic City developments, the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, relied on a partnership with two investors reputedly linked to the mob, prompting New Jersey regulators to force Trump to buy them out. And he employed a known Asian organized crime figure as a vice president at his Taj Mahal casino for five years, defending the executive against regulators’ attempts to take away his license, according to law enforcement officials.

As the famously brash developer now considers a run for the presidency, this history could complicate his efforts to project an image of a trusted power in the business world. It exposes a seamy underside to Trump’s rise to fortune — one that involved intimate links to unsavory characters.

As voters learn more about such links between Trump and reputed organized crime figures, “it will get more difficult for him,” says John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University. “Under that withering examination, his past associations and troubles will all emerge and could make it tough in a Republican primary.”


April 27, 2011

Racism at Core of Birther Movement: Next Set of Lies and Diversion Focused on President’s Achievement as a Student

Filed under: Racism,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 10:03 pm

Is Obama an ‘affirmative action president’?

This week, Donald Trump — real estate mogul, reality show star, possible presidential contender and perpetual attention seeker — stirred the pot of racial politics when he suggested that President Obama was not qualified for the Ivy League.

“I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” Trump told the Associated Press, clearly lacking evidence to support his view. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.”

Pat Buchanan took it even further. On Chris Matthews’ Hardball program, the firebrand conservative commentator, not known for his sensitivity towards minorities, said that affirmative action was the only reason Obama was able to get into Harvard University. “He’s probably affirmative action all the way,” Buchanan said, also asking Matthews, “What I want to know is why you don’t want to see the test scores? Why don’t you want to see any of these things? You’re supposed to be a journalist — the people’s right to know!”

This begs the question: Is Obama an “affirmative action president”?

Like other conservative commentators, Buchanan has doubted the achievements of people of color for quite some time. Buchanan, who once proclaimed that white men built this country, called Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize the “affirmative action Nobel.” In 2009, Buchanan said of the Nobel committee, “They have reinforced the impression that Obama is someone who is forever being given prizes — Ivy League scholarships, law review editorships, prime-time speaking slots at national conventions — he did not earn.” And he called Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor a “lightweight” and an affirmative action beneficiary who thinks she makes better decisions than white men.

Demanding that the president produce his college transcript, like demanding that he show his birth certificate, is an absurdity. Obama graduated from Columbia University in 1983 with a degree in political science after he transferred from Occidental College in California. He later earned his law degree in 1991 from Harvard, where he graduated magna cum laude and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. The man is brilliant, and I believe the president could demolish Donald Trump or Pat Buchanan in any intellectual contest, and it wouldn’t even be a close race.

Now as someone who attended a few Ivy League schools myself — Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School — I am aware that people such as Pat Buchanan believe that I did not deserve simply because I am black. But that is not my concern.

There was a time when African-Americans and other groups were not admitted into the Ivies and other institutions of higher education — not because they weren’t qualified, but because they lacked the right complexion and the right pedigree, and were not WASP-y men. Jewish Americans were subjected to quotas limiting their numbers in academic admissions, while blacks often were excluded as a matter of official university policy.

But the civil rights movement opened up the doors of opportunity, with martyrs created in the process. Programs of diversity and inclusion such as affirmative action helped to break apart the old boys’ network beginning in the 1960s, bringing in more women, people of color, and others who had been excluded in the past. That includes Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii to a single white mother on food stamps, and an absentee father from Kenya. In that regard, President Obama is an affirmative action president.

No one is entitled to attend a particular college as a right, and surely many competitive schools reject far more qualified candidates than there are seats to fill. The goal for admissions committees should be to assemble a class of qualified and diverse students. And some students are admitted because they are legacies — meaning a family member graduated from the university and maybe even donated a lot of money — or because of their athletic prowess or some other special talent.

During his presidency, no one ever questioned whether George W. Bush was qualified to attend Yale or Harvard Business School. Yet, he was a C student and an individual with no personal achievements other than his last name. Generations of Bushes had attended Yale, which is why W was admitted. It is assumed that he, like others before him, deserved it. White privilege is normalized in a society where a number of people still believe that an African-American does not deserve to attend an Ivy League school, much less become leader of the free world. Now that he is president, they must delegitimize him by claiming he is not a citizen, and that he was a bad student.

One can only conclude that Pat Buchanan is jealous of President Obama, who started from the bottom and achieved great things with access to a privileged education. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who attended the University of Pennsylvania, knows how difficult life would have been had his wealthy father not been around to provide him with his silver spoon.

On The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Tavis Smiley said that Donald Trump is playing to the racist elements within the Tea Party in this country, reflecting the lack of civility in America. And he is right. “I said over a year ago that this presidential race was going to be the ugliest, the nastiest, the most divisive and the most racist in the history of this republic. I did not know that race to the bottom would begin so quickly,” Smiley said. “The evidence was pretty clear that they would do anything and say anything in order to make sure that he [Obama] does not get re-elected.”

These opening salvos in the 2012 campaign may portend an election season of sideshow distractions. Failing to attack Obama on substantive policy matters, and still not creating jobs as they promised, his adversaries will force him to waste time defending himself — insisting he went to Columbia and Harvard based on merit, and perhaps even that he wrote his book himself.

See Paul Ryan Confronted By Voters in Kenosha Yesterday

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Ryan,Tea Party — millerlf @ 3:54 pm

To see a clip of Ryan’s town hall meeting in Kenosha along with other Republican town hall meetings where the public is confronting the lies, go to the following link:

Voucher Legislation Being Pushed in 35 States

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 3:39 pm

Privatization of public education dollars being sought by expanding vouchers.


April 26, 2011

Wisconsin State Senator Glen Grothman Says K4 Early Childhood Education “…can have harmful psychological effects…”

Filed under: Grothman,Right Wing Agenda,Tea Party — millerlf @ 11:34 am

(See more of Grothman, speaking at a tea party rally last year at:

State ranks 6th in prekindergarten access

By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel April 26, 2011

Wisconsin receives a positive review in a national report released Tuesday that explores children’s access to high-quality, state-funded prekindergarten programs, coming in sixth in the country in terms of the percentage of youngsters served.

But state-level funding nationwide for 3- and 4-year-old prekindergarten programs has dropped as a result of the recession, and most states are struggling to maintain what they have rather than raise the number and quality of programs that can pay dividends later in the student’s educational career, the report says.

One Wisconsin lawmaker objects to the report’s positive spin on early childhood education and contends that public schools should stop adding new 4-year-old kindergarten programs because they’re ineffective and a drain on state resources.

“As Wisconsin has added more 4-year-old kindergartens, our fourth-grade reading scores have plummeted,” Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said in an interview Monday. “I think early education, like any preschool program, can have harmful psychological effects, and any academic benefit disappears by the time one is 9 or 10.”

That’s in stark contrast to the opinions of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said Monday he couldn’t support states cutting back on early childhood education. He made the remarks during a conference call with reporters about “The State of Preschool 2010,” an annual report from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

“When budgets are cut, there are smart ways to cut and dumb ways to cut,” Duncan said, adding that reducing early childhood education funding fell into the latter category. “Our 3- and 4-year-olds don’t vote, they don’t have lobbyists and they aren’t in a union. Research shows this is the best investment we can make that will pay dividends later on.”

About 85% of Wisconsin school districts offer publicly funded 4-year-old kindergarten as an option for parents. Districts have steadily added programs in recent years. The second-largest district in the state, the Madison Metropolitan School District, is poised to offer 4K this coming fall.

District spokesman Ken Syke said the district has been trying for about a decade to adopt 4K because research shows those programs help students prepare for full-day kindergarten, especially students from low-income families. He said the expense of the program – school districts pay the majority of the costs to start the program, with the state fully funding the program in later years – has kept them from adding it sooner.

“It’s been a combination of the expense of it and trying to implement it correctly – working in partnership with local child care and education centers,” he said. “So that’s taken a bit of time. But the biggest factor has been the financial resource.”

According to the report:

• Slightly over half of Wisconsin’s 4-year-olds and 1.1% of its 3-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded prekindergarten program in 2009-’10. That’s sixth highest in the country in terms of access.

• From the 2001-’02 school year to last school year, Wisconsin saw 4K enrollment increase by 171.9%. From 2008-’09 to 2009-’10, 4K enrollment increased by 6%.

• State per-child spending in Wisconsin on prekindergarten programs increased by about $100 between 2008- ’09 and 2009-’10, bucking a trend nationwide in which spending on average declined per student in prekindergarten programs. All reported spending per child in Wisconsin prekindergarten programs totaled just under $5,000 in 2009-’10, putting Wisconsin 19th out of the 40 states that offer such programs.

• Wisconsin met five of 10 quality benchmarks in its 4K program. It met having early learning standards, requiring teachers to have degrees and licenses, requiring teacher training and having a process in place for monitoring sites. It failed to meet the following standards: assistant teachers should have a degree, class sizes should have 20 or fewer students, staff-child ratios should be 1 to 10 or better, and sites should offer at least one meal per day.

Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, said that not all the benchmarks are equally important. For example, he said Wisconsin leaves issues such as maximum class size and student-to-teacher ratios up to local discretion, meaning programs offered in individual districts may meet that standard.

“What we worry about is that school districts with the least resources might make the worst decisions for the most disadvantaged kids,” Barnett said. “We don’t have any way of knowing. That’s really the key for states in the middle (on meeting quality benchmarks).”

Barnett also said that a number of states are proposing additional cuts to state funding for early education programs. He said in states like Wisconsin, it’s going to be important for lawmakers to heed Duncan’s call to preserve programs that help kids in their earliest years.

The report that Barnett’s group released includes references to nine research studies in 10 states that find short- and long-term benefits of state-sponsored prekindergarten programs on children’s learning and development.

Grothman says those effects die out by fourth grade.

He said that in Oklahoma, which has the highest percentage of children enrolled in state-funded 4-year-old kindergarten in the country, fourth-grade reading scores were higher than the national average before adopting universal prekindergarten, and lower than the national average after implementation of the program.

He questioned the motives behind the institute at Rutgers, which is a part of the Graduate School of Education. He said education schools support prekindergarten because it means more jobs will be available for their graduates.

April 24, 2011

All Out for Mayday!

Filed under: Immigration,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 7:38 am

Now is the time to organize family, friends, colleagues and students to come to the Wisconsin Solidarity March for Immigrant and Worker Rights on Sunday, May 1st.

State Representative Donald Pridemore (R) of Hartford is proposing legislation that will copy Arizona’s racist SB 1070 law. This is in addition to Scott Walker’s budget bill that proposes to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students, eliminate Food Share benefits for legal immigrants and deny access to prenatal care for undocumented pregnant women.

We must show the whole nation that Wisconsin will not stand for the attempts by Walker and Pridemore to divide us. The immigrant communities of Wisconsin have stood alongside unions and communities fighting against Scott Walker and the Republican attempt to destroy citizen’s rights. Immigrant communities have organized, marched daily in Madison and supported all the efforts that have been mounted against the injustice Wisconsin is facing.

Now it is time to support our immigrant brothers and sisters to oppose Walker and Pridemore and to demand fair and just immigrant policy.

Please support Voces de la Frontera and make Sunday’s demonstration the largest Milwaukee has ever seen!

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