Educate All Students, Support Public Education

June 30, 2011

Milwaukee Today: NAACP’s Report on the City’s African Americans

Filed under: Poverty,Racism — millerlf @ 2:06 pm

By Lisa Kaiser Express Milwaukee 5/29/2011


That’s what R.L. McNeely called the findings of a new NAACP study on the status of African Americans in Milwaukee.

Take, for example, some of these facts presented in “Milwaukee Today: An Occasional Report of the NAACP” by McNeely with UW-Milwaukee’s David Pate and Lisa Ann Johnson:

  • Milwaukee remains one of the most segregated cities in the nation and has lost 38% of its white population since 1985.
  • “Milwaukee’s African-American married-couple family is an endangered institution,” the report states. Only 28% of Milwaukee’s black families had two parents in 2000, down from 64% in 1970.
  • The median income of families headed by single mothers—regardless of race—is $18,800, about one-third of the $61,300 income earned by married-couple families in Milwaukee County. But, according to Census 2000 data, the median income for African-American single moms in Milwaukee County is $15,900, compared to $26,800 for white single moms.
  • Milwaukee’s black male population between the ages of 20 and 54 would have to be increased by nearly 40% to match Milwaukee’s black female population of equivalent age.
  • Fatherless homes and black family disruption are associated with neighborhood destabilization, black juvenile criminality, increased black juvenile violence and, indeed, substantial increases in the rates of black murder and robbery.
  • In 2009, there were more than 70,000 job seekers in Milwaukee but fewer than 10,000 job vacancies.
  • More than half of all African-American males in Milwaukee between the ages of 16 and 64 are jobless.
  • Milwaukee employers are more likely to respond to a white job-seeker with a criminal record than a black job-seeker without a record.
  • Milwaukee ranks last among 52 major cities in forecasted minority entrepreneurial growth.
  • The estimated graduation rate for African-American males enrolled in Milwaukee Public Schools is only 40%.
  • Educational prospects are brightest for students enrolled in MPS Montessori schools and worst for those in voucher schools.
  • Wisconsin has the second-highest rate of incarceration of African Americans in the country.
  • Wisconsin incarcerates blacks at nearly 11 times the rate at which it incarcerates whites.

Families, Incarceration, Jobs Interconnect

In McNeely’s analysis of the data, the decreasing numbers of stable two-parent African-American families in the city are connected to a host of problems for the kids, the parents and their neighborhoods.

According to data compiled in the report, children in single-parent homes are more likely to drop out of high school, have children before they turn 20, suffer from drug or alcohol abuse, and have emotional and behavioral problems. “Black family disruption has the strongest effect on black juvenile criminality, and substantially increases the rates of black murder and robbery,” the report states.

McNeely is especially concerned about the links between fragile single-parent homes, poverty, juvenile violence and destabilized neighborhoods.

“What we’re talking about is lower property values and conditions like increased violence that lead otherwise desirable residents to move,” McNeely said. “There is a combination of things that are destabilizing neighborhoods. A big part is the increased juvenile violence flowing from single-parent homes, specifically homicides and armed robberies.”

The researchers’ analysis also turned up potential solutions that can help African Americans’ educational and employment prospects.

Since data show that all students perform best in MPS Montessori schools and worst in highly unregulated voucher schools, education leaders could begin offering more Montessori opportunities to students. MPS currently operates seven Montessori elementary and middle schools and one high school.

The researchers also pointed to smart ex-offender re-integration programs that seem to be working in other locations. Project Return, launched in 1989 by Robert Roberts in New Orleans, has reduced violence and recidivism rates and decreased taxpayer costs. That program could be combined with job training that includes entrepreneurial skills, which could help African-American ex-offenders gain employment while boosting the numbers of black-owned businesses in Milwaukee.

“This could be a means by which some of the ex-offenders can escape the morass of unemployment, contribute to the tax base of the city and help to restabilize some of these neighborhoods and families,” McNeely said.

June 28, 2011

Prosser Should Resign from Wisconsin Supreme Court

Filed under: Wisconsin Supreme Court — millerlf @ 6:16 am

By Matthew Rothschild, June 27, 2011 The Progressive

Wisconsin state supreme court justice David Prosser may find himself in legal hot water.

A fellow justice, Ann Walsh Bradley, has accused him of trying to choke her during a meeting in her office on June 13, the day before the court issued its controversial ruling validating the anti-collective-bargaining law. (Prosser sided with the majority; Bradley with the dissenters.)

“The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold,” Bradley told the Journal Sentinel.

Other sources told the Journal that she had raised her fists against Prosser, but she denied that.

“You can try to spin those facts and try to make it sound like I ran up to him and threw my neck into his hands, but that’s only spin,” she told the Journal.

(The news broke over the weekend after a terrific story by Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Lueders, who was the prize-winning news editor of the newspaper Isthmus for twenty-five years, is one of the most distinguished reporters in the state.)

Prosser denied the charge but refused to elaborate on any of the specifics.

But the allegations are serious. The accuser is extremely credible. And such unwanted physical contact can lead to assault charges.

“Matters of abusive behavior in the workplace aren’t resolved by competing press releases,” Bradley told the Journal Sentinel. “I’m confident the appropriate authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident involving abusive behavior in the workplace.”

Prosser has also shown misogynistic behavior that has created a hostile work environment at the highest court in Wisconsin. Last year, he called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “total bitch,” and then suggested that she and Walsh intentionally provoke such outbursts from him.

Walsh told the Journal Sentinel in March that she has been concerned with Prosser’s “flashes of extreme anger on and off over the years.”

After he called Abrahamson a bitch, Walsh sent an e-mail to him and to the other justices saying that such behavior was unacceptable.

Prosser has more than amply demonstrated that he does not have the judicial temperament to be a justice on the Wisconsin supreme court.

He owes it to the court, to his colleagues, and to the citizens of Wisconsin to do the decent thing: resign.

June 27, 2011

Prosser Incident Investigated

Filed under: Wisconsin Supreme Court — millerlf @ 5:20 pm

Following is a Journal Sentinel article on the choking activity of Judge David Prosser.

Threatening or assaulting a judge is a felony, and those found guilty of it are subject to penalties of up to $10,000 and six years in prison. Simple battery is a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of a $10,000 fine and nine months in jail. But it was not clear if either of those statutes would be invoked in this case.


Two probes opened into Bradley claim

By Patrick Marley, Jason Stein and Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel

Updated: June 27, 2011

Madison – Two agencies are investigating a claim by Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley that Justice David Prosser put her in a chokehold earlier this month.

The separate probes are being run by the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which oversees the state’s judicial ethics code. The sheriff’s investigation was launched Monday; the commission’s was authorized Friday and publicly acknowledged on Monday.

“After consulting with members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, I have turned over the investigation into an alleged incident in the court’s offices on June 13, 2011 to Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney,” Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said in a statement. “Sheriff Mahoney has agreed to investigate this incident.”


U.S. Teachers’ Hours Among World’s Longest

Filed under: Educational Practices,Teachers,Teaching — millerlf @ 5:10 pm
 June 25, 2011 Wall Street Journal

By Phil Izzo

1,097: Average number of hours U.S. teachers spend per year on instruction.

Students across the U.S. are enjoying or getting ready for summer vacation, but teachers may be looking forward to the break even more. American teachers are the most productive among major developed countries, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data from 2008 — the most recent available.

Among 27 member nations tracked by the OECD, U.S. primary-school educators spent 1,097 hours a year teaching despite only spending 36 weeks a year in the classroom — among the lowest among the countries tracked. That was more than 100 hours more than New Zealand, in second place at 985 hours, despite students in that country going to school for 39 weeks. The OECD average is 786 hours.

And that’s just the time teachers spend on instruction. Including hours teachers spend on work at home and outside the classroom, American primary-school educators spend 1,913 working in a year. According to data from the comparable year in a Labor Department survey, an average full-time employee works 1,932 hours a year spread out over 48 weeks (excluding two weeks vacation and federal holidays).

Despite the amount of time that teachers spend working, student achievement in the U.S. remains average in reading and science and slightly below average in math when compared to other nations in a separate OECD report. That remains a concern as education is one of the most important ways a country can foster long-term economic growth.

“Education is a large item of public expenditure in most countries. At the same time, it is also an essential investment for developing the long-run growth potential of countries and for responding to the fundamental changes in technology and demographics that are reshaping labor markets,” the OECD wrote.

June 26, 2011

Voucher Advocates’ Facts and Research Misleading

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 10:15 am

Following is an op-ed I wrote about misinformation being spread by voucher advocates.

Judge Milwaukee educational outcomes on the facts

By Larry Miller

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel June 25, 2011

(17) Comments

School voucher advocates have had two recent op-eds in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The story behind school choice study” by John Witte and Patrick Wolf on May 28 and “Special needs students benefit from many choices” by Susan Mitchell on June 19. Both are at best misinformed and at worst deceptive. The facts should matter.

State law says voucher schools must accept special education students. Then why are so few special education students (the number hovers near 1%) attending voucher schools? I put this question to a voucher school principal, who said her school has no special education services or students.

I asked her how that was possible. She stated that she simply tells parents of special education students that she cannot provide the services that their children need. Parents then choose another school, she said – most likely in Milwaukee Public Schools.

MPS does receive more money per student than voucher schools receive. But Mitchell claims MPS receives $15,000 per student while voucher students receive $6,442. She somehow arrived at these numbers without doing her homework. One needs to subtract from the total the amount transferred to voucher schools for a variety of programs.

For example, Mitchell does not subtract the more than $12 million of Title I categorical funds available for 2010-2011 for nonpublic schools from the MPS total for student allocation and add it to the voucher per student allocation. These funds are managed through MPS and mandated to be distributed in total to voucher schools. This is also true with the $1,652,063 that MPS manages for transportation that goes to non-MPS students.

The same happens with recreation services, federal and state nutrition funding, after-school community learning center programs, special education services for voucher students provided by MPS staff and much more. Mitchell attributes these millions of dollars to the MPS per student amount, when in fact they should be added to the voucher per student amount.

Witte and Wolfe claim that MPS has “strong incentives to classify students as requiring exceptional education.” In fact, MPS loses $42 million yearly because special education is an underfunded mandate. That $42 million must be made up from MPS general funds by cutting classroom teachers, the arts, music, gym, libraries – all fundamental for a good education system. Not one penny of special education money can be spent outside of special education services. So where’s the “strong incentive”?

Let’s turn to graduation rates. Voucher supporters claim that 94% of voucher students attained graduation in four years, based on students who stayed with the voucher program for all four years. That, in fact, is just a subset of students followed in the Witte/Wolf study, known as the University of Arkansas’ School Choice Demonstration Project.

The group counted by Witte and Wolf amounts to only 318 of the 801 students who were actually followed (or roughly 39% of the overall sample). Another 322 of the students who began in the voucher program subsequently left the program, and researchers were not able to locate 161 others. The overall graduation figure for students that the project could find was 76.6% for the voucher program, compared with 69.4% for MPS.

The use of data in both those op-eds is an affront to anyone who wants to evaluate facts. The state Department of Public Instruction reports that voucher schools are serving less than 1% of students with learning disabilities. But Witte and Wolfe claim that the number is 9%, a figure that Mitchell then reaffirms in her op-ed.

How did Witte and Wolfe arrive at this number? “We surveyed parents” and “nine percent of choice parents said their child has a learning disability.” Concluding that a student is eligible for special education services is done through a meticulous evaluation involving parents, psychologists, social workers, special education professionals and teachers. It is not determined by answering a “yes or no” question during a phone survey.

Let’s judge the outcomes for Milwaukee’s students on credible research and facts. We owe it to them.

Larry Miller is a member of the Milwaukee School Board.

Did Judge Prosser Choke Ann Walsh Bradley around the Neck in Self Defense?

Filed under: Wisconsin Supreme Court — millerlf @ 10:05 am

Operating on a mandate from the Wisconsin electorate, man’s man Judge David Prosser reached out and choked Judge Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck.

How will Charlie Sykes spin this violence against women?

Following is an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

By Crocker Stephenson, Cary Spivak and Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel June 25, 2011

Prosser claims reports are false

Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley late Saturday accused fellow Justice David Prosser of putting her in a chokehold during a dispute in her office earlier this month.

“The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold,” Bradley told the Journal Sentinel.

Sources told the Journal Sentinel two very different stories Saturday about what occurred. Some confirmed Bradley’s version. According to others, Bradley charged Prosser, who raised his hands to defend himself and made contact with her neck.


June 25, 2011

Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Prosser Grabbed Fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley Around The Neck In An Argument In Her Chambers Last Week

Filed under: Wisconsin Supreme Court — millerlf @ 11:55 am

By Bill Lueders, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism Updated: June 25, 2011

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck in an argument in her chambers last week, according to at least three knowledgeable sources.

Details of the incident, investigated jointly by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, remain sketchy. The sources spoke on the condition that they not be named, citing a need to preserve professional relationships.

They say an argument that occurred before the court’s release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees culminated in a physical altercation in the presence of other justices. Bradley purportedly asked Prosser to leave her office, whereupon Prosser grabbed Bradley by the neck with both hands.


June 24, 2011

Walker cancels budget bill-signing at firm run by felon

Filed under: Republicans,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 5:04 pm

By Daniel Bice of the Journal Sentinel Updated: June 24, 2011

Gov. Scott Walker has called off plans to sign the 2011-’13 budget bill at a private Green Bay-area company run by an executive with eight felony convictions, a spokesman announced today.

The announcement came less than an hour after the Journal Sentinel contacted the governor’s office to ask about the executive’s criminal history.

Walker aide Cullen Werwie said this afternoon that the event will now be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Fox Valley Metal-Tech Inc. in Green Bay.

Werwie acknowledged that Walker’s advance team had erred by not conducting a thorough background check on Gregory A. DeCaster, chief executive officer of Badger Sheet Metal Works in Ashwaubenon, the original location for the ceremony.

DeCaster was convicted of eight felony counts of income tax evasion in the mid-1990s and was sentenced to three months behind bars. He was also fined $10,000, ordered to pay another $3,700 to cover prosecutors’ expenses and given two years of supervised release.

“It was something we wish we would have known on the front end,” Werwie said.

He said officials decided to change locations because they believed DeCaster’s past tax problems would serve as too much of a distraction.

“We just want to ensure that the focus of the governor signing the budget is on creating 250,000 new jobs, not about other things,” Werwie said.

Earlier today, DeCaster’s office called the governor’s advance team members to alert them to the potential problem, Werwie.

Reached by No Quarter, he was frank about his past troubles. He was charged with 12 felony counts, and a jury found him guilty of eight of them in April 1995. All counts had to do with evading income taxes or filing false tax returns.

“It was a horrible thing to go through,” DeCaster said. “But it made us better – better controls.”

DeCaster, who has run the metal company since his father’s death in 1983, placed the blame for the problems on a former bookkeeper. But said he had to do time because his name was on the tax returns.

“It was a mistake, but what the hell? That’s what happens,” DeCaster said. “It’s a small business. One minute you’re cleaning the bathroom, and the next minute you’re doing this and that. We still wear many hats. We wish to have a lean corporation here.”

Walker had been scheduled to sign the budget at DeCaster’s company at 2 p.m. Sunday in a private ceremony.

Werwie initially said he had no knowledge of the CEO’s past legal troubles when contacted by the paper shortly before noon.

Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch had been quoted earlier in the day praising the metal company, calling it an exemplar of Wisconsin values.

“Green Bay, and certainly the company that we’re going to, reflects really what this budget and what Governor Walker’s first term here is all about,” Huebsch told Wispolitics. “We are going to get Wisconsin working again.”

DeCaster, 57, said he was a supporter of the governor during the 2010 election but gave him no campaign cash. He said Walker held an event at Badger Sheet Metal during the campaign last year.

Originally, Walker’s camp said the signing was scheduled for Sunday because that is when his vetoes will be finalized and when it fits best in his calendar. The governor thought it was important to sign the budget at a manufacturer to emphasize the budget’s focus on job creation, Werwie said.

Since January 2010, Badger Sheet Metal has more than doubled its sales and staff. It now employs 102 workers.

“There’s not one thing for us to be ashamed of,” DeCaster said.

Companies Running School Cafeterias Under Eye of USDA

Filed under: Privatization,School Finance — millerlf @ 5:01 pm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s watchdog arm plans to look closely at whether the food-service-management companies running many school cafeterias are passing along all the discounts and rebates they receive from their suppliers to the districts that hire them.

The audit will begin in August, said Alison Decker, a lawyer in the USDA’s office of inspector general. It was triggered in part by a settlement between the New York state attorney general and Sodexo, one of several large companies in the business of running school cafeterias. Last July, Sodexo, a French company with its U.S. headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., agreed to pay $20 million to resolve allegations that it had over charged 21 school districts and the State University of New York system for some of the food provided to students.

Republicans Attempting to Steal Future State Elections

Filed under: Elections,Republicans,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:22 am

GOP leaders have redrawn maps

But only some lawmakers have seen them; vote may come before recalls

By Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel June 23, 2011

Madison Legislative leaders have redrawn maps for the Assembly and Senate and could be ready to vote on them in the coming weeks, but they are closely guarding their plans for their districts and many lawmakers have yet to see them.

Having the maps completed means lawmakers have the option of approving them before recall elections are held this summer that could shift control of the Senate from Republicans to Democrats. Senate leaders declined Thursday to say whether they would do that.

But Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said he is now sharing maps with Republicans in his house and deciding whether to pass the redistricting plan in July.

“We’ve got them all,” he said of the maps. “We’re meeting with members now, showing them maps.”

Once a decade, every state must draw new lines for congressional and legislative districts based on new U.S. census data. The new lines are needed to ensure the districts are of equal population.

Redistricting invariably attracts legal challenges, and already a group of Wisconsin citizens – including a former Democratic lawmaker – has asked a federal court to intervene in the process. Courts have drawn Wisconsin’s maps for at least the past three redistricting cycles.

Redrawing the lines can give one party an edge over the other by packing its supporters into as many districts as possible. Republicans this year have a rare chance to control the process because they hold both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office.

But they also run the risk of losing the Senate this summer because of unprecedented recall elections against six Republicans and three Democrats. Republicans have a 19-14 majority, and Democrats would need to net three seats to gain control of the chamber.

Normally, redistricting is done months from now, after local communities have drawn their ward lines.

Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), declined to say whether maps had been shown to senators or when the Senate might take up redistricting.

A Republican source familiar with the matter confirmed GOP senators are being brought in to see maps of their redrawn districts. But three senators told the Journal Sentinel they had not seen new maps.

“They’ve kept us pretty well in the dark,” Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) said.

Olsen, Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) and Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) said they have not seen maps of their districts.

Olsen said he did not know when the Senate would vote on the new maps, but he expected it would happen before he and five other Republicans face the first wave of recall elections on Aug. 9.

“Common sense would tell me they would want to get it out of our house before that date,” Olsen said.

Ellis said that he also expected the Senate to pass the redistricting plan before the recall elections are held, but that it would be up to Fitzgerald to decide whether to do so.

The Legislature is not scheduled to be on the floor in July, but lawmakers could easily meet that month in special or extraordinary session.

Nine senators are facing recalls for the stances they took on a plan to sharply limit collective bargaining for most public workers.

The recall elections will be Aug. 9 for the six incumbent Republicans and Aug. 16 for the three incumbent Democrats. Primaries will be July 12 and July 19.

Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) said he is concerned Republicans will pass their redistricting plan quickly after making it publicly available, giving the public little chance to digest it.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, districts must be drawn in ways that ensure minorities have an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice, said Kessler, who has helped Democrats in Wisconsin and Nevada with redistricting in the past.

This month, former Senate Democratic leader Judy Robson of Beloit and 14 other citizens asked for a three-judge panel to develop a redistricting plan if lawmakers do not put a constitutional plan in place in a timely fashion. The filing in federal court in Milwaukee says the maps in place since 2002 are unconstitutional because of population shifts revealed in the 2010 census.

Legislative leaders have retained Michael Best & Friedrich and the Troupis Law Office to draw the maps for them. So far they have spent $300,000 in taxpayer money for those maps, but lawmakers have not said how much they expect the legal work to cost in total. Any lawsuits could make those costs climb significantly.

Jim Troupis, one of the attorneys working on the maps, could not be reached Thursday.

A copy of the map for members of Congress has already been made public, but the maps for state lawmakers have not.

Journal Sentinel reporters Jason Stein in Madison and Tom Tolan in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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