Educate All Students, Support Public Education

November 28, 2012

ACLU 8th Annual “Youth Social Justice Forum” Gives Voice to MPS High School Students

Filed under: ACLU — millerlf @ 8:34 pm

On Wednesday, November 28th, I spent the day talking with high school students at the ACLU’s 8th “Youth Social Justice Forum.” Attended by over 400 high school students, subjects included-

  • police oversight
  • racism
  • gay rights
  • student rights
  • bullying
  • voting
  • MPS

In a workshop on the Y.E.S. “Student Bill of Rights” discussion was lively with both praise and criticism of MPS schools and classrooms.

Many students spoke of good teachers that care about them and go the extra mile to help them succeed. At the same time there was a theme describing some teachers that was universally agreed on by students. One MPS student, whom I asked to write out his views, said-

“I’m a student that takes pride in my education at school and everywhere else. So I have a great interest in anyone who wants to teach me. Throughout my entire high school career I have noticed educators that are not teaching students to the best of their ability. I call them ‘textbook teachers.’ These are teachers that rely on textbooks to do their job for them. They say ‘read these pages, answer these questions.’ They just give us book work.”

It became clear to me through the course of the discussion that students want teachers to work hard at teaching all students, whatever their learning style. They want teachers to “know them as person.” They “want and expect better.”

Students felt that some teachers are already there but all teachers need to be on board.

There was universal criticism of cafeteria food.

To get a picture of a day of great activities, view the following pdf:

ACLU Youth Conference Handbook

November 19, 2012

Walker Implicated

Filed under: Scott Walker — millerlf @ 9:52 pm
Prosecutors: Walker county staff, guv campaign met regularly to ensure ‘good coordination’

MILWAUKEE — Prosecutors today said Scott Walker had regular meetings with his Milwaukee County staffers and his 2010 guv campaign to ensure there was “good coordination” between the two.

Milwaukee County prosecutors made the disclosure during the sentencing of Kelly Rindfleisch, a former Walker county aide who reached a plea deal to settle charges against her stemming from the long-running John Doe probe.

Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf said the group that met regularly included people from Walker’s campaign such as campaign manager Keith Gilkes and spokeswoman Jill Bader along with county employees such as chief of staff Tom Nardelli, spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin, administration director Cindy Archer and Rindfleisch, according to email correspondence obtained by investigators.

In court, Landgraf said Walker adviser R.J. Johnson was also part of the group. But he said later in a short interview that Johnson was not.

Landgraf used a detailed power point presentation to implicate Walker and his aides in doing political work using county resources.

Rindfleisch attorney Franklyn Gimbel said “what jumped off the page” in Landgraf’s 65-minute presentation was that his client was the only one of those mentioned in the power point who’s facing jail time.

“Scott Walker has not been accused of any wrongdoing,” Gimbel said, raising both hands in exasperation.

Landgraf did not address in court whether anyone else would be charged in the investigation and declined to answer questions on that topic afterward. Walker has repeatedly said he is not a target of the probe.

Archer hasn’t been charged, though investigators have searched her home as part of the probe. Prosecutors earlier this year requested personnel records for all four former county aides mentioned as part of the group.

Walker’s campaign downplayed the allegations raised in court today.

Walker campaign spokesman Tom Evenson said it is not usual for an elected official’s office staff and campaign staff to discuss meeting schedules, emergency contacts, and how to address media inquiries directed at both the campaign and the official office.

“Balancing the daily calendars, meetings and issues covered by the media for an elected official present challenges in the course of a campaign that require routine communication by both sets of staff,” Evenson said.

State Dem Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said Rindfleisch was a “victim of her loyalty” to Walker.

“It’s clear now that he presided over a criminal culture where county government in Milwaukee became an adjunct of his campaign,” Zielinski said. “The citizens of Wisconsin should be afraid that this criminal culture has been imported to Madison.”

In his power point presentation, Landgraf also noted an email referencing daily conference calls that included Archer and Tim Russell.

Russell has been charged with stealing money from a fund operated to assist veterans that was run out of Walker’s office. While Russell has been mentioned prominently in other criminal complaints, he hasn’t been charged with campaign violations. Earlier, Landgraf had said those were still possible.

Landgraf also noted that Rindfleisch, in an email to a friend, had said that half of her time in the county executive’s office would be spent on “policy for the campaign.”

In addition to highlighting the political work, Landgraf detailed steps he says Walker’s campaign and county aides took to take the spotlight off negative events that happened in his county administration during the 2010 guv campaign.

Landgraf noted that at one point a request came in for records of work done on a county-owned parking garage after a decorative concrete slab fell onto a teenage boy, killing him. Gilkes reportedly said the open records should be sent to the county’s top lawyer, Tim Schoewe, and that he should “drag it out.”

Another email indicated that Bader “would task” the county exec’s staff to do research on a matter that later was used on Walker’s campaign material.

Yet another time Gateway to Milwaukee had asked for a short essay related to the Walker’s campaign and Bader sent it to the county staff to prepare. Most of the work was done by McLaughlin, Walker’s spokeswoman at the county office. She was given immunity in the John Doe probe.

There was also considerable concern about negative news coming out of the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Institute, and the group of aides talked about the need to redirect the attention to problems at the state hospital in Mendota.

Rindfleisch was sentenced to six months in jail and three years probation. Her sentence was stayed pending an appeal, and Milwaukee County Judge David Hansher said she could serve her sentence in Columbia County, where she lives, and allowed her work release privileges.

Prosecutors have portrayed Rindfleisch as uncooperative in providing information about others as part of the John Doe probe.

Gimbel, though, said while Landgraf described his client as not helpful, she had been truthful and cooperated “notwithstanding that she did not deliver another defendant for them.”

In a court filing Friday, prosecutors alleged Rindfleisch continued to do political work for Walker’s campaign even after she came under suspicion in the John Doe. They also alleged that after she was charged, she went to work for a company that did work for Walker’s guv recall campaign.

But Gimbel said in court Rindfleisch went to work for Friends of Scott Walker only to plan the victory celebrations after the election. While the company she went to work for was retained by the state GOP, it also had medical and dental clients. But the stories that have appeared in the media about the connection may put that job in jeopardy, Gimbel said.

She has had to use her retirement savings on legal fees and to live, he said.

“There is no coziness that continues” between Rindfleisch and the GOP and they have “not stepped up to the plate to assist Ms. Rindfleisch.”

Kelly was tearful and told the judge she accepted full responsibility for her crime.

“I apologize to the people of Milwaukee County and assure them and you that Milwaukee County was always my first priority,” she said. “I take full responsibility for my actions, and I can pretty much guarantee that it will never happen again.”

Hansher note that while the crime was not vicious or violent, it was a felony and that “she clearly knew what she was doing was illegal and wrong.”

He noted that she was on notice after the so-called “caucus scandal” in the state Capitol more than a decade ago. Hansher said her sentence is “a shot across the bow” to let other state and municipal employees know that they cannot do political work during time when they are supposed to be doing government work.

Hansher also said he did not pay attention to Landgraf’s memo noting Rindfleisch had taken a job with Walker’s campaign and a company that did extensive work for the Republicans.

“I presume the implication is that she’s fallen on her sword for Scott Walker and the Republican Party,” he said. “I am giving that no weight at all.”

— By Marie Rohde


Walker Announces Voucher Expansion at California Speech

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Scott Walker,Vouchers — millerlf @ 3:02 pm

Scott Walker is ready to take another step on his mission to privatize public education in the state of Wisconsin. He announced his plans to expand the voucher program for private schools while limiting funding for public schools, including technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System.

Walker recently exposed his plans while speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

Following is a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article written by Daniel Bice. The Walker speech can be viewed at:

 Walker promises major tax reforms, school funding changesWisconsin governor speaks at Reagan library

Nov. 17, 2012 MJS Daniel Bice

Speaking before a packed house at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California, Gov. Scott Walker unveiled major components of his upcoming legislative agenda, including “massive tax reform” consisting of cuts in state income and property taxes.

“We think if we want to continue the economic success we’ve had over the last year and a half, again one of the best ways to do this is to put money back in the hands of entrepreneurs, more money back in the hands of small business owners, more money back in the hands of our consumers,” Walker said Friday during his hourlong speech, a video of which was posted on YouTube.

“So we’re going to continue to lower our property taxes, and we’re going to put in place an aggressive income tax reduction and reform in the state of Wisconsin because we believe we can continue to be one of the leaders in the country, not just in reform but ultimately in results.”

Walker also said he wants to require the state’s public schools, including the technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System, to meet performance-based targets to receive increased state funding – similar to programs in Florida and Pennsylvania. The first-term Republican governor said he will push to expand the state’s voucher program for private schools and further streamline the state’s rules and regulations.

The next legislative session convenes in January.

A Walker aide declined Saturday to provide further details on the governor’s agenda, such as whether the income tax cuts would be targeted or across the board.

“Governor Walker’s budget will be introduced early next year,” said spokesman Cullen Werwie.

State Rep. Robin Vos, the next Assembly speaker, said the proposals sound very much like the ideas Vos has been discussing with top Walker officials for the past six months – though he has yet to talk to Walker personally about his legislative proposals.

“The agenda he laid out (in the California speech) is one Republicans in the state can coalesce around and, hopefully, we can also work to bring Democrats who are open-minded about reforming our tax code and improving our state’s economy to support the plans as well,” said Vos, a Rochester Republican.

But state Sen. Chris Larson, who will lead the Senate Democrats, said he can’t believe state residents had to find out about the governor’s agenda by tracking down what he said in an out-of-state speech to “another right-wing group.” Larson said he has been trying unsuccessfully to reach out to Walker and Republican leaders about the upcoming session.

“It’s unfortunate he’s going to try to continue to go down this war path of ideology instead of actually trying to address the real problems that we’ve got,” said the Milwaukee Democrat. “It looks like he’s putting his donors above his voters.”

Walker’s high-profile appearance at the Reagan Simi Valley complex came on the heels of his numerous campaign stops around the country on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates.

The Wauwatosa Republican said he was invited to speak at the library shortly after the June recall election by former first lady Nancy Reagan, whom he met on Friday. The library is a traditional forum for Republicans interested in running for president. Walker has downplayed his interest in a 2016 presidential bid.

But in an interview with the Ventura County Star at the Reagan library, Walker was critical of Romney and his unsuccessful presidential campaign.

“Our future nominee needs to do a better job in articulating the views that we commonly hold as Republicans and to talk more optimistically about freedom and about prosperity, and the fact that we want every American to be able to live his or her piece of the American dream,” Walker said. He continued, “I don’t think (Romney) did an effective job, nor did his campaign of communicating that with the majority (of) voters in my state and others.”

The speech attracted a number of California conservatives, including former Gov. Pete Wilson. Walker was accompanied by Diane Hendricks, owner of ABC Supply and a major GOP fundraiser. The Beloit billionaire paid nothing in state income taxes for 2010, the Journal Sentinel has reported.

Veteran political forecaster Larry Sabato told No Quarter on Saturday that Walker is looking and sounding more like a presidential contender.

“It’s possible Walker is just staying high-profile prior to his 2014 re-election race, but I think he sees a wide open field for ’16 and says, ‘Why not me?’ ” Sabato said.

After his prepared remarks, a former Wisconsin resident in the crowd quizzed Walker about his agenda for the upcoming legislative session during a question-and-answer session. In the election earlier this month, Republicans took control of the state Senate and increased their majority in the Assembly.

Walker did not say who would get tax cuts under his reform plan. Vos said he hopes the state trims the income tax bill for all taxpayers but gives the greatest relief to the middle class.

Along with the tax cuts, Walker said he wants to require the state’s public schools – ranging from elementary and secondary schools to technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System – to meet performance-based targets to receive increased state funding.

Following the lead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Walker said his administration began publishing report cards for K-12 public schools. He said it is now time to hold colleges and universities accountable.

“I’ll borrow a line from Jeb – Jeb says it well – ‘We shouldn’t be paying for butts in seats; we should be paying for outcomes,’ ” Walker said. “In higher education, that means not only degrees but our young people getting degrees in the jobs that are actually open and needed today, not just the jobs the universities want to give us.”

He didn’t provide additional specifics on his education reform plan, but his proposal sounds similar to the plan under consideration in Pennsylvania.

A commission set up by Gov. Tom Corbett is recommending performance score cards that would grade state colleges and universities on such items as controlling tuition costs, increasing enrollment of low-income students and tailoring programs to meet the needs of the workforce. The score cards would then be used to determine funding for postsecondary institutions.

Florida is also instituting a similar system under which $118 million in state funding is divided among state colleges and universities based on how well they perform in 40 different statistical categories.

UW System President Kevin Reilly did not return calls on Saturday.

In addition, Walker told the enthusiastic California crowd that he hopes to make Wisconsin’s voucher program for private schools available to more students.

“I want to help my traditional public schools, but I want to help my charter, my choice, my virtual schools,” Walker said. He continued, “Every child – no matter what ZIP code they come from, no matter what their parents’ background – every child in my state and in this country should have the opportunity to have access to world-class education.”

Larson, the Democratic leader, said he was most troubled by Walker’s plan to expand school choice. Larson said he believes the state should put in place better measures to ensure transparency and accountability for choice schools before opening the program to more students.

Finally, Walker said he wants to eliminate unnecessary state regulations but provided no specifics.

Vos noted that the Assembly Republican caucus has not yet gotten together to develop its full legislative agenda.

“He’s a bit early in the process,” Vos said of Walker. “But it’s perfectly fine for the governor to begin the discussion because he’s echoing themes that we’ve been saying the last six months on the campaign trail.”

Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Contact Daniel Bice at (414) 224-2135 or Follow him on Twitter @DanielBice.

November 11, 2012

Support for Elected School Board Growing in Chicago

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 11:35 am

Aldermen push for city-wide referendum on elected school board

BY FRAN SPIELMAN  AND ROSALIND ROSSI Staff Reporters November 8, 2012 Chicago Sun Times

Independent Chicago aldermen vowed Thursday to push for a citywide referendum on an elected school board opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, emboldened by 86 percent support from voters in parts of 35 wards.

Despite a parliamentary maneuver by a mayoral ally that blocked referenda in 10 Chicago wards, education activists in 327 precincts went door-to-door to gather the signatures needed to put the elected school board question on the ballot. The results were overwhelming. By an 86.6 percent margin, 65,763 Chicagoans said they would prefer an elected school board to the current system of seven mayoral appointees confirmed by the City Council.

Chicago has the only school district in the state that does not have an elected school board.

Only the state General Assembly could make the switch to an elected board. But, overwhelming approval of a citywide referendum would give momentum to the grass-roots movement by voters fed up with the “top-down” decisions made by Emanuel’s handpicked Board of Education.

“What happened this cycle is like a focus group. Out of upwards of 2,500 precincts in Chicago, it was only on the ballot in 327 precincts. With 327 precincts voting overwhelmingly in support of the elected school board, it’s clear we need a citywide referendum” in March, 2014, said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd).

“People want transparency. People want accountability. People want to have input into how their schools are run and administered. This is a key issue on how to get neighborhoods involved in their schools.”

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) attributed the 86 percent vote to “anger and animosity” generated by the teachers strike and to the parliamentary maneuver that forced proponents to go door-to-door.


Springfield May Consider A Chicago Elected School Board

Matthew Blake 11/9/12 Progress Illinois

Eighty-seven percent of the 65,763 Chicago voters who weighed in on the matter said ‘yes’ to a non-binding referendum on whether the city should have an elected, instead of mayor-appointed, school board.

An effort by the city council’s progressive caucus this summer, with the support of the Chicago Teachers Union, to get the referendum on ballots across the city failed. So only voters in select polling precincts were asked to consider the measure.

“Can you imagine the whole city of Chicago saying the same thing and the momentum that would have rolled from that,” asked Stacey Davis Gates, legislative policy director for CTU.

But even a citywide referendum would have been purely symbolic because, like so much else that governs the Chicago Public Schools, the selection of school board members is a matter of state, not city, law.

With that in mind, State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) has introduced legislation that would create a task force to study how to best select school board members.

“We have to collect data and all the information on what is best for the students of Chicago and not just do an elected school board because you are upset with the outcome of this school board,” Ford says.

Ford anticipates that “most likely” he will try to get the measure through the state legislature when the newly configured General Assembly convenes in January.

The idea of a task force to study the measure may sound like the blandest of ideas.

But the truth is that there has been little scrutiny of what is more effective – a politically-appointed or popularly-elected school board. A study last year by two University of Illinois Chicago professors that CTU partly commissioned, and that advocated for an elected school board, even acknowledged that nationwide evidence is “limited and inconclusive” on how to best pick the board.

About 96 percent of school boards across the country are elected, according to the UIC study. However, Chicago has had an appointed school board for the city’s entire existence “from before the city of Chicago was incorporated and in fact before Illinois became a state,” notes Rod Estvan, education policy analyst for the Chicago-based disability rights groups Access Living.

Prior to a 1995 state law, the city council appointed the school board. The landmark state education legislation empowered the mayor to appoint the head of CPS and its school board. The idea then, as it is now, is that there is more accountability in the system if Chicago’s high-profile mayor must ultimately take the credit or blame for the schools. (Messages to CPS were not returned by a late afternoon deadline).

According to a 1995 article in Catalyst Chicago, the teachers union at the time went along with switching appointment powers to the mayor. But since December 2010, CTU has called for an elected school board.

Gates of CTU argues that, “I don’t even think that’s an issue” that there is not well-documented evidence that an elected urban school board performs better.

“The issue is not to prove it,” Gates says. “The issue is these are my children and I need my say.”

In the run-up to the referendum, the call for an elected school board, by both CTU and neighborhood groups, increasingly focused on possible plans from CPS to close 80 to 120 neighborhood schools. The school board must sign off on any school closings proposed by the CPS Chief Executive Officer.

“People are sick of policymakers who don’t live in their neighborhoods and aren’t impacted by the school actions that they do,” Gates says.

Ford agrees, elected school board or not, there could be a lot more community involvement from the current board.

“They should have school board meetings in communities,” says the West Side Chicago lawmaker. “And the school board meetings are held during the time parents are at work.”

Board of Education meetings typically take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays, once a month, and always happen at downtown CPS headquarters.

November 7, 2012

One lesson from Milwaukee: efforts to suppress the vote backfired

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Voter Suppression — millerlf @ 3:13 pm

From Barbara Miner’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog: View from the Heartland Nov. 7, 2012

One lesson from the City of Milwaukee results: people don’t like efforts to suppress the right to vote; it only makes them more determined.

Or, to put it another way, the Republican game-plan backfired.

In the 2008 presidential election, 275,042 ballots were cast in the City of Milwaukee, for an 80.33 percent voter turnout. Obama/Biden won 77.82 percent of the vote, McCain/Palin won 21.03 percent.

In 2012, 288,459 ballots were cast in the City of Milwaukee, for an 87.24 percent turnout. Obama/Biden won 79.27 percent, Romney/Ryan won 19.72 percent.

U.S. Postage Stamp commemorating the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibited Jim Crow-era attempts to suppress the black vote

November 1, 2012

Must See Video: Romney Walking Out of an Interview in Iowa

Filed under: General — millerlf @ 5:21 pm

Observe Romney  walking out of a radio interview in Iowa in 2007 because of questions about Mormonism, the Second Coming and abortion.

He apparently did not know he was being videotaped.

To see, go to:

Blog at