Educate All Students, Support Public Education

February 26, 2016

Four Interesting Articles on Public Education in Baltimore

Filed under: Baltimore — millerlf @ 2:20 pm

To see the Baltimore Sun articles go to the following links:

February 25, 2016

Walker’s Wisconsin: Poverty across Wisconsin reaches highest level in 30 years

Filed under: Poverty — millerlf @ 3:09 pm

Poverty in Wisconsin hit its highest level in 30 years during the five-year period ending in 2014, even as the nation’s economy was recovering from the Great Recession, according to a trend analysis of U.S. Census data just released by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.

The number of Wisconsin residents living in poverty averaged 13% across that post-recession time frame — the highest since 1984, according to the analysis by UW-Madison’s Applied Population Laboratory. In mid-1984, the nation’s stubborn unemployment rate stabilized following a double-dip recession.

The analysis dovetails with an unrelated study that identified pockets of the country faring worse as the economic recovery gains some traction, released Thursday by a national nonprofit research group in Washington, D.C.

That study, by the Economic Innovation Group, found the gap between the richest and poorest American communities widening, and ranked Milwaukee the seventh most distressed city in America, with 52% of the population considered economically distressed.

Poverty increased more dramatically across Wisconsin than in many other states, though 46 of the 50 states saw a significant increase in total population living in poverty between the 5-year periods ending in 2009 and 2014, according to the UW-Madison analysis.

A five-year estimate is considered more reliable and precise than a year-to-year data comparison. Five-year estimates also are the only census data available at the county and neighborhood level; one-year estimates are available for the state as a whole and the city of Milwaukee.

Using the five-year measure, poverty went up in both urban and rural parts of Wisconsin. It went up at every level of educational achievement, and across the employment spectrum.

Perhaps most significant, the poverty gap between blacks and whites grew here as the average gap was flat across the nation. The state’s child poverty rate also went up significantly, fueling concerns about the future for many of the state’s youngest residents.

“There is some good evidence that living in poverty and experiencing issues like food and housing insecurity can cause changes in the brain that can lead to behavioral issues and low performance in school, as well as chronic disease later in life,” said Malia Jones, an assistant scientist and social epidemiologist at UW-Madison’s Applied Population Laboratory.

It’s no coincidence that two-thirds of students who cannot read above a fourth-grade level end up either in prison or on welfare, several literacy studies have shown.

Question on data

A UW-Milwaukee associate professor of economics contacted by the Journal Sentinel questioned the accuracy of the analysis because he believes the 2014 poverty rate used by UW-Madison researchers was incorrect, and skewed the results higher.

“The 2014 rate is 10.9% (not nearly 14%), so I am not sure what to make of anything in this report, frankly,” said associate professor Scott Adams, who also is chair of UWM’s economics department.

The years leading up to a recession and recession recovery naturally look different, Adams said. “But the subsequent poverty after the recession in the early 1980s was much worse” than poverty post-Great Recession, he said.

Adams served as a senior economist for labor, welfare and education on the president’s Council of Economic Advisers the last six months of the George W. Bush administration in 2008, and the first six months of Barack Obama’s first term in 2009.

While Adams questioned the 2014 poverty number the UW-Madison analysis used, he acknowledged that the growing poverty gap between blacks and whites in Wisconsin caught his eye.

“What it reflects is the black population in Wisconsin was left completely out of the recovery,” he said.

That finding, coupled with Milwaukee’s high ranking among the most distressed American cities, “signals we have tremendous concerns,” Adams said.

Statewide issue

“Poverty’s not a Milwaukee issue; it’s a Wisconsin issue,” said Charles McLimans, president and CEO of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, which works with a network of pantries, soup kitchens, meal programs and homeless shelters to distribute food in 36 counties in eastern Wisconsin.

“Because Milwaukee is such a segregated city and problems are concentrated in southeastern Wisconsin, people outside (the area) don’t see and fully understand the issue,” McLimans said. “This certainly helps to shine a light on it.”

The Applied Population Laboratory analysis found:

■ Poverty went up significantly in 31 of 72 Wisconsin counties, including 11 of the 15 most populous counties, during the most recent five-year span. Estimates show about 738,000 Wisconsin residents were living in poverty during the 2010-’14 period, compared to 605,000 in the 2005-’09 time frame.

■ Nearly one in five Wisconsin children were living in poverty during the 2010-’14 time frame — 239,000 children in all, or 18.5% of all children. That’s up dramatically from 14.6% in 2005-’09, and represents another 50,000 children.

Only 10 states had faster rates of increase in child poverty than Wisconsin.

■ Twenty-five of Wisconsin’s 72 counties had a significant increase in child poverty. No county had a significant decrease. The highest childhood poverty county remains Menominee, which went up from 35.1% to 44.8% of residents under age 18 living in poverty.

Milwaukee County, the state’s largest urban center, went from 26.4% to 33% child poverty and is now tied for second highest with Sawyer County in northern Wisconsin, where Hayward is located.

Other Wisconsin counties with child poverty rates above the national average (21.9%) for 2010-’14 included: Kenosha, Rock, Vilas, Forest, Adams, Clark, Vernon, Monroe, Burnett, Ashland, Rusk, and Jackson.

■ Racial disparities in poverty are bigger here than in the U.S. as a whole, and are growing faster. The poverty gap between African-Americans and whites grew 4% in Wisconsin, while the national average did not grow, Jones said.

Wisconsin’s poverty rate was 39% for blacks and 28% for Latinos, compared with 11% for whites — significantly wider gaps than in the rest of the country. Nationally, the analysis reported the gap between blacks and whites was 16 percentage points, and for Latinos and whites, 13 percentage points.

■ Significant changes in poverty occurred among adults at every level of educational achievement in Wisconsin.

For those with less than a high school education, poverty rose from 20.5% to 24.5%. The impact was mitigated by a decrease in total population with low educational attainment, which dropped from 380,000 to 337,000.

For those with a high school education, poverty rose from 8.9% to 11%. It increased from 6.6% to 8.9% among those with some college. Poverty also touched those with bachelor’s degrees or more, rising from 3% in 2005-’09 to 3.6% in 2010-’14.

■ Poverty cut across various levels of employment in Wisconsin.

Among the unemployed, poverty increased from 27% to 31.6%. The number of unemployed adults grew by about 35,000 people between the five-year periods ending in 2009 and 2014.

Increases were also seen among the working poor. Among employed adults, poverty rose from 6% to 7%. It increased among those employed full-time from 2% to 2.4%.

UW-Madison’s Applied Population Lab is housed in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

UW-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty each year produces a single-year census data comparison called the Wisconsin Poverty Report. That report is due later this spring.

White Supremacists Mobilize For Donald Trump

Filed under: Fascism,Racism — millerlf @ 1:53 pm

They’re using robocalls and volunteers to drum up support.

02/25/2016 Christina Wilkie National Reporter, The Huffington Post

As the Republican presidential primary moves into the American south, white supremacist groups are working to mobilize racists to get out the vote for Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, David Duke, the white nationalist and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, encouraged his radio show listeners to volunteer for Trump’s campaign. “Call Donald Trump’s headquarters [and] volunteer,” he said on the “David Duke Radio Program.” At Trump campaign offices, he said, “you’re gonna meet people who are going to have the same kind of mindset that you have.”

In Minnesota and Vermont, a white supremacist super PAC called the American National Super PAC has begun circulating a robocall in support of Trump.

“The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called ‘racist,’ says William Johnson, the leader of the white nationalist American Freedom Party. He goes on to bemoan “gradual genocide against the white race,” and how few “schools anymore have beautiful white children as the majority.” He signs off by telling recipients, “Don’t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.”

Johnson is not affiliated in any way with the Trump campaign, and Trump has distanced himself from Johnson’s views. Trump also promised to return a $250 contribution Johnson made to his campaign.

But Trump’s response to the white supremacists backing him is hardly enough to put them off, said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors hate groups.

“Trump has ‘quote unquote’ repudiated these groups, but only in the most milquetoast way imaginable,” Potok said in an interview. “The fact is that white nationalists are mobilizing for Trump whether he likes it or not.”

Trump’s habit of retweeting messages posted by white supremacists, sharing them with his 6.4 million Twitter followers, hasn’t helped matters.

Like Johnson, Duke framed the GOP primary as a contest between Trump and two people of color, Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas). “Voting for these people, voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” Duke said Wednesday. And while he doesn’t agree with everything Trump says, he told listeners, “I do support his candidacy, and I support voting for him as a strategic action. I hope he does everything we hope he will do.”

Potok said Duke’s backing carries a lot of weight in white supremacist circles. “David Duke is the most important self described white nationalist intellectual out there today, and what he says is still very influential.”

The Huffington Post reached out to Trump’s campaign for a response to the David Duke comments, and will update this post if they provide one.

On white nationalist websites, analysts are portraying Trump’s candidacy as a rebellion by white supremacists against the mainstream conservative movement. As a writer calling himself Gregory Hood recently wrote in the national Raddix Journal, “the conservative movement is trying to keep its White serfs trapped on the conservative planation. They know if Trumpian nationalism triumphs, a more authentic form of White Identity politics can’t be far behind.”

This isn’t the first time white supremacists have seized on Trump’s candidacy. In December, Rachel Pendergraft, the national organizer for the Knights Party, a Ku Klux Klan affiliate, said Trump’s bid for the White House had opened up new ways for her group to recruit like-minded people.

“One of the things that our organization really stresses with our membership is we want them to educate themselves on issues, but we also want them to be able to learn how to open up a conversation with other people,” Pendergraft told The Washington Post. Trump, she said, was a perfect conversation starter for people to begin talking about issues like immigration and demographic changes underway in America.

But as the Republican race moves into states where Jim Crow segregation was the law of the land for more than a century, the influence of overt racism and the white nationalist movement, combined with some of Trump’s rhetoric, could have the more subtle effect of making it seem more acceptable to hold aggressively anti-immigrant and xenophobic views.

“With Trump, white supremacists understand that he’s not exactly a white nationalist, like them, but they applaud his hard right positions on matters that are important to them,” said Potok. “From their point of view, it’s almost better that he’s not a full on white nationalist, because now he has a better chance at winning a major office.”

To many voters, the GOP nominating contest increasingly looks like a three-way race between two Hispanic men and a white man, leaving little doubt as to which candidate is most likely to win the pro-white vote.

“White supremacists are beside themselves with joy,” Potok added.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump is a serial liarrampant xenophobe,racist,misogynist,birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

February 24, 2016

Fascist and Racist Donald Trump Calls for Killing Muslims with Bullets Dipped in Pig’s Blood

Filed under: Fascism,General — millerlf @ 10:36 am

George Wallace ran for president in 1968. This avowed racist and segregationist sounded very much like Donald Trump in his campaign speeches. One difference then was that at many places that Wallace showed up to speak, he was met with scores of young activist shouting Heil Hitler while giving the Nazi salute. We often drowned out his speeches. This image was on the TV  daily.

It is time to demonstrate against this new racist and fascist movement.

Below is a description of Trump’s call for murdering Muslims.


by William Lambers (History News Network)

William Lambers is an Ohio based author and journalist. He partnered with the UN World Food Programme on the book Ending World Hunger. His writings have been published by the New York Times, Cincinnati Enquirer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Huffington Post, the Hill and many other news outlets.

The sound bites that dominate today’s politics are bad enough, but even worse is when presidential candidates use them to tell false and horrific stories. A perfect example of this is from Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

During a campaign rally on Friday night in South Carolina, Trump told his audience a story about General John Pershing executing Muslim prisoners in the Philippines. Trump said Pershing, in the early 1900’s, “caught 50 terrorists that did tremendous damage and killed many people and he took the 50 terrorists and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pig’s blood.”

Trump went out to describe a mass execution shooting of 49 of the prisoners, with the last one being sent to tell the others what happened. It was Trump using this “story” to demonstrate that America needed to get tough on terrorism, using brutal methods, and that he would be the man to do it.

But the story is not true. There was no mass execution led by Pershing. That is a rumor created on the Internet.

A Chicago Daily Tribune article from 1927 has a story where Pershing had prisoners from the Moro Rebellion in the Philippines. The Moros were Muslims who resisted American or any other occupying force.

The Moros had swordsmen, called Juramentados, who were killing Christians in this uprising. It had to be stopped. General Pershing was given this difficult task.

The Tribune article says Pershing sprinkled some prisoners with pig’s blood, which the Juramentados believed would condemn them for eternity. But then Pershing let the prisoners go. He issued a warning to others about being sprinkled with the pig’s blood. The Tribune article said “those drops of porcine gore proved more powerful than bullets.”

There were no executions as described by Trump.

In fact, Pershing was more inclined toward peace talks with the Moros rather than violence. The General met with the Moros and read from the Koran with them. Pershing wanted to build bridges. An illustration shows the General in peace talks in the jungles of the Philippines.

What Trump should do is tell true stories about the great General Pershing, who commanded American forces during the First World War. While he was a tough and a great military leader, he also was a man who wanted to build peace.

So often that is the case with great military leaders, they are often the first to call for peace building because they understand the horror as well as limitations of war. Pershing was leading young American soldiers, many who did not even have a high school education, into WWI, the worst conflict in history at that point. Their bravery deserved a lasting world peace, which we are still seeking.

Pershing also understood something that more people need to realize, that famine is the inevitable aftermath of war.

After the First World War Pershing teamed up with Herbert Hoover to raise funds to feed hungry children in Europe. Hoover and Pershing co-hosted’ “invisible guest” fundraising dinners. They would place an empty setting at the table, representing the starving children. Why can’t we hear that Pershing story at campaign rallies instead of a false and violent one?

If Pershing were around today he would be advocating food for the hungry child refugees, which are at unprecedented levels today because of the war in Syria. They never talk about hunger during the presidential debates, but it’s a top foreign policy issue, which Pershing and other great leaders have understood. Pershing was also deeply concerned about high levels of military spending. He often spoke about achieving global arms reductions and disarmament. Nations could work together to achieve this noble goal.

As a man who understood more about warfare than perhaps anyone in our country’s history, Pershing knew well the danger of excessive armament. He might have some questions for Trump or others who talk about pouring on the military spending.

But instead of trying to learn from Pershing, Trump cites a false story in an attempt to sound tough and get a sound bite on TV. The last thing this world needs is more people talking or advocating violence, especially someone running for President.

Whoever wins the next election needs to be peacemaker above all else, in words and actions. But what we saw in South Carolina on Friday night was far from it.

– See more at:

February 19, 2016

New National Report on Community Schools Model Shows Significant Success

Filed under: Community Schools — millerlf @ 1:56 pm

The Center for Popular Democracy, the Coalition for Community Schools and the Southern Education Foundation published this new report.

See the full report at: Community-Schools National Report

For at least a decade, the dominant idea about how to improve outcomes for children and youth has focused on control and compliance; holding adults accountable for raising test scores. This approach has proved least effective for our most vulnerable students. In our search for silver bullets, reformers and policymakers alike have overlooked strategies that have long shown promise and for which there is mounting evidence of success. Community Schools is one of these strategies.

Community Schools combine challenging and culturally relevant learning opportunities with the academic and social supports each and every child needs to reach their potential. These schools, at their core, are about investing in children, through quality teaching, challenging and engaging curricula, wrap around supports, positive school climate, strong ties to family and community and a clear focus on results.
It’s clear the tide is turning, as interest in this vision of schooling is now evident in the nation’s major education policy, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We note in particular the inclusion of factors in accountability systems that extend beyond test scores, as well as provisions for the use of resources to strengthen school-community partnerships—including needs assessments, teacher
development on family/community engagement, and support for personalized learning—reflective of the Community Schools strategy.

This report profiles Community Schools across the country, all which demonstrate consistent improvement in a wide range of indicators of student success. The best of these schools leave nothing to chance. They are as committed to challenging academics as they are to health, wellness and social and emotional learning. They are sustained by the broad support they enjoy from their communities. And they represent the ultimate purpose of our schools: to prepare young people to pursue their aspirations and participate fully in our economy and democracy.
This report intends to shed light on how Community Schools come alive in practice, and the improvements in academic and social outcomes that emerge when these schools are given a chance to work. There are over 90 communities across the country with significant efforts underway.

In low income communities and communities of color, we have not always valued the power of citizen input and the capacities within communities to coalesce around their children. This needs to change. When communities are excluded from our improvement strategies they are not likely to be sustained and children lose. School climate suffers, chronic absenteeism persists, discipline problems push students out of school and learning outcomes suffer.
We hope you will take to heart the lessons from community schools across the country that we profile in this report.

If we are to create truly transformative learning opportunities for children and youth, especially the least advantaged, we need to examine closely the strategies this report highlights. We owe our young much more than a basic education. We owe them a genuine opportunity to determine for themselves how they will work and live in this great country.

These are the six research-based Community School strategies that allow for greater student-centered learning, community investment and engagement, and school environments squarely focused on teaching and learning:a

1. Curricula that are engaging, culturally relevant, and challenging. Schools offer a robust selection of classes and after-school programs in the arts, languages, and ethnic studies, as well as Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses. Also offered are services for English Language Learners and special education students, GED preparation programs, and job training. Pedagogy is student-centered.

2. An emphasis on high-quality teaching, not on high-stakes testing. Assessments are used to help teachers meet the needs of students. Educators have a real voice in professional development. Professional development is high-quality and ongoing, and includes strengthening understanding of, and professional alignment with, the Community School strategy.

3. Wrap-around supports and opportunities such as health care, eye care, and social and emotional services that support academics. These services are available before, during, and after school, and are provided year-round to the full community. Community partners are accountable and culturally competent. The supports are aligned to the classroom using thorough and continuous data collection, analysis, and reflection. Space for these services is allocated within the building or within walking distance.

4. Positive discipline practices, such as restorative justice and social and emotional learning supports, are stressed so that students can grow and contribute to the school community and beyond. School safety and positive school climate are achieved through these mechanisms. Suspensions and harsh punishments are eliminated or greatly reduced.

5. Authentic parent and community engagement is promoted so the full community actively participates in planning and decision-making. This process recognizes the link between the success of the school and the development of the community as a whole.

6. Inclusive school leadership who are committed to making the Community School strategy integral to the school’s mandate and functioning. They ensure that the Community School Coordinator is a part of the leadership team and that a Community School Committee (Committee)—which includes parents, community partners, school staff, youth, and other stakeholders that are representatives of the school’s various constituencies—has a voice in the planning and implementation of the strategy.

The six strategies we recommend are aligned with decades of academic research on successful schools. Research has found that deeper learning can be achieved through authentic curricula and assessments, wrap-around services that address student social and emotional needs, and supportive, skill-building environments for educators.4 Community schools have been found to impact not just test scores, but also attendance and family engagement and a multitude of other indicators.

Transformational Community Schools achieve success by implementing the above strategies through the following mechanisms:

1. An asset and needs assessment of and by both school and community;

2. A strategic plan that defines how educators and community partners will use all available assets to meet specific student needs and get better results;

3. The engagement of partners who bring assets and expertise to help implement the building blocks of Community Schools; and

4. A Community School Coordinator whose job is to facilitate the development and implementation of the strategic plan in collaboration with school and community members/partners, and to ensure alignment of solutions to needs.

February 14, 2016

The People versus Wall Street

Filed under: Inequality — millerlf @ 3:06 pm

Why Wall Street Won Round One and We Might Win the Next
Sunday, 14 February 2016 00:00 By Walden Bellot

The New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, New York City.The New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, New York City. The question is when – not if – the next financial bubble will burst. (Photo: Wall Street via Shutterstock)

When the ground from under Wall Street opened up in autumn 2008, there was much talk of letting the banks get their just desserts, jailing the “banksters”, and imposing draconian regulation. The newly elected Barack Obama came to power promising banking reform, warning Wall Street, “My administration is the only thing that stands between you and the pitchforks”.

Yet nearly eight years after the outbreak of the global financial crisis, it is evident that those who were responsible for bringing it about have managed to go completely scot-free. Not only that, they have been able to get governments to stick the costs of the crisis and the burden of the recovery on their victims.

How Wall Street Won

How did they succeed? The first line of defence for the banks was to get the government to rescue the banks from the financial mess they had created. The banks flatly refused Washington’s pressure on them to mount a collective defence with their own resources. Using the massive collapse of stock prices triggered by Lehman Brothers going under, finance capital’s representatives were able to blackmail both liberals and the far-right in Congress to approve the US$700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Nationalization of the banks was dismissed as being inconsistent with “American” values.

Then by engaging in the defensive anti-regulatory war that they had mastered in Congress over decades, the banks were able, in 2009 and 2010, to gut the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of three key items that were seen as necessary for genuine reform: downsizing the banks; institutionally separating commercial from investment banking; and banning most derivatives and effectively regulating the so-called “shadow banking system” that had brought on the crisis.

They did this by using what Cornelia Woll termed finance capital’s “structural power”. One dimension of this power was the US$344 million the industry spent lobbying the U.S. Congress in the first nine months of 2009, when legislators were taking up financial reform. Senator Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, alone received US$2.8 million in contributions from Wall Street in 2007-2008. But perhaps equally powerful as Wall Street’s entrenched congressional lobby were powerful voices in the new Obama Administration who were sympathetic to the bankers, notably Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Council of Economic Advisors’ head Larry Summers, both of whom had served as close associates of Robert Rubin, who had successive incarnations as co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, Bill Clinton’s Treasury chief, and chairman and senior counselor of Citigroup.

Finally, the finance sector succeeded by wielding their ideological power, or perhaps more accurately, hitching their defense to the dominant neoliberal ideology. Wall Street was able to change the narrative about the causes of the financial crisis, throwing the blame entirely on the state.

This is best illustrated in the case of Europe. As in the U.S., the financial crisis in Europe was a supply-driven crisis, as the big European banks sought high-profit, quick-return substitutes for the low returns on investment in industry and agriculture, such as real-estate lending and speculation in financial derivatives, or placed their surplus funds in high-yield bonds sold by governments. Indeed, in their drive to raise more and more profits from lending to governments, local banks, and property developers, Europe’s banks poured US$2.5 trillion into Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain.

The result was that Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio rose to 148 percent in 2010, bringing the country to the brink of a sovereign debt crisis. Focused on protecting the banks, the European authorities’ approach to stabilising Greece’s finances was not to penalise the creditors for irresponsible lending but to get citizens to shoulder all the costs of adjustment.

The changed narrative, focusing on the “profligate state” rather than unregulated private finance as the cause of the financial crisis, quickly made its way to the USA, where it was used not only to derail real banking reform but also to prevent the enactment of an effective stimulus programme in 2010. Christina Romer, the head of Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, estimated that it would take a US$1.8 trillion to reverse the recession. Obama approved only less than half, or US$787 billion, placating the Republican opposition but preventing an early recovery. Thus the cost of the follies of Wall Street fell not on banks but on ordinary Americans, with the unemployed reaching nearly 10 percent of the workforce in 2011 and youth unemployment reaching over 20 percent.

Big Finance’s Victory in the US and Europe


“Model” teacher at “no-nonsense” school in New York is abusive to children

Filed under: Charter Schools,No-nonsence schools — millerlf @ 2:49 pm

Watch an abusive teacher at Success Academy in New York. This is part of the Eva Moskowitz network of “no-nonsense” charter schools. This particular teacher has been honored as a “model” teacher.

Go to:

Beyonce, Formation and Saturday Night Live

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,General — millerlf @ 2:37 pm

Beyonce has them talking!

See her video “Formation” at:

See the Saturday Night Live skit on “Formation” at:

February 12, 2016

Shephard Express Makes Compelling Argument for Supporting Chris Larson For Milwaukee County Executive

Filed under: Elections — millerlf @ 9:54 am

Primary election is Tuesday, Feb. 16
By Shepherd Express Staff
Feb. 9, 2016

Chris Larson should be county executive, and he would win the election if there were real campaign spending limits or public financing of elections. If the general election comes down to Chris Larson vs. Chris Abele, the incumbent, as the polls clearly predict, it will be Larson’s solid record of public service vs. a ton of Abele’s family’s money.

The Shepherd editorial board has watched Larson’s public service career over the past eight years, since he was first elected to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. Two years later, in 2010, with strong support from his constituents in his supervisor district, he took on longtime state Sen. Jeffrey Plale in a primary and easily defeated him, and in 2013 Larson rose to be the Democratic leader in the state Senate.

A senator does not become his party’s leader without gaining the respect of his colleagues by showing strong leadership and having the ability to bring all sides together to move forward. Now, with the encouragement of a wide variety of civic organizations, small business owners, labor organizations and members of the general public in Milwaukee County, Larson dove into the race for county executive.

We respect Sen. Larson because we have seen him function in the various positions he has held, and we saw a dedicated, honest, very hard-working and very capable public servant who has consistently fought hard for the average working people of Milwaukee county in a very tough political climate.

In contrast, the current county executive has consistently cut backroom deals on behalf of private special interest groups and on behalf of his fellow millionaire cronies at the expense of the average Milwaukee County taxpayers. He has also worked hard to impress and win favor from his mentor, Gov. Scott Walker. A classic example was when Walker had proposed to fund the Milwaukee Bucks arena with bonds repaid by all the citizens of the state, since the entire state benefits from having a national sports franchise. Abele stepped into the negotiations and offered to have the Milwaukee County taxpayers cover $80 million of the arena’s costs. For the next 20 years, Milwaukee County property taxpayers will pay $4 million per year to retire the bonds.

Using Republican strategist Karl Rove’s approach of attacking someone on their strengths, Abele has tried to paint the county supervisors and anyone who opposed him as some kind of special interest group or “cronies” who are not listening to the people. Virtually every county supervisor, for example, got elected by working hard going door to door, listening to their neighbors and understanding their issues. Has Chris Abele ever knocked on your door? How does the son of a Boston billionaire have any idea what the issues and challenges are for an average Milwaukee County voter trying to make a living and raise a family in an ever-changing world economy? If he cared, he would be knocking on your door and listening.

Since taking office in 2011, Abele has consistently worked to strip our local democratic institutions of their power and consolidate power in his own office, shutting out the public from debates and decisions.

Because of Chris Abele’s private deals with Republican legislators, in the past five years Milwaukee County residents have been disenfranchised and lost the power of their voice in the following ways:

The Milwaukee County Board has been stripped of much of its power to provide checks and balances on the executive branch, an un-American weakening of the legislative branch, the branch of government that’s closest to the people.
The county executive has virtually unilateral power to sell off in private backroom deals many landmark county assets, including the zoo, the airport, the Milwaukee Public Museum and many parks.

There is no public vetting of or vote on major land deals, including the $1 giveaway of valuable Downtown Park East land worth millions of dollars to the majority Bucks owners.

A backroom deal among political insiders—including Abele—put county taxpayers on the hook for $80 million in costs for the Bucks arena for the next 20 years.

The county’s mental health services are overseen by an all-appointee board that is totally unaccountable to the public.

The county executive presides over his own school district, diminishing the Milwaukee Public Schools, and appointed a school commissioner who is unaccountable to voters.

The Abele era in Milwaukee County must end for the sake of our future.

That’s why we’re endorsing Chris Larson for Milwaukee County executive in the nonpartisan primary on Tuesday, Feb. 16, and in the general election on Tuesday, April 5.

This isn’t a decision made because we don’t like Chris Abele for whatever reason; we endorsed Abele for county executive in previous elections. Like many Democrats and progressives, we had believed Abele’s promises to be fair, open and transparent in office. Unfortunately, after being elected, Abele went back on almost all of his promises and has worked with Republican legislators to disenfranchise Milwaukee voters and rule the county like an emperor.
Larson said Abele’s power grabs spurred him to run for county executive this spring.

“If you had asked me six months ago if I was interested in running for county executive, I would have said no,” Larson told the Shepherd. “But I looked at the situation in my community and realized there was a problem that we had helped to create by helping to elect Chris Abele and allowing him unchecked power to run our county. He had gotten out of control and was asking for more and more power. After talking to my neighbors I realized there was a desire for an alternative vision of the county so that everyone has a voice. That’s why I’m running.”

Why We Support Chris Larson
State Sen. Chris Larson may not be as well-known as Abele, but we think he is more in touch with real Milwaukeeans than is Abele, the son of a Boston billionaire who has already put $1.75 million of his own money into his campaign for re-election plus well over another $1 million to nonprofit organizations to essentially buy their support.
“I know Chris Abele has a ton of money but I know that we have the power of the people,” Larson said. “I want to restore balance at the county so that everyone has a voice. Everyone should have a voice—not just the rich.”
Chris Larson is a lifelong Milwaukeean who is married to Jessica Brumm-Larson, an assistant psychology professor. They’re raising their two young children in Bay View.

Larson was born in Greenfield, attended Thomas More High School and graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a degree in finance. After managing a sporting goods store, he was elected in 2008 to the Milwaukee County Board to represent Bay View. His primary focus was protecting parks and transit, helping working families and saving the Hoan Bridge.
While on the county board, Larson helped to launch the successful county-wide referendum to create a dedicated funding source for transit, parks and other county services so that they could be taken off the county tax levy and supported by a half-cent sales tax, a significant portion of which would be paid by non-Milwaukee County residents. It wasn’t an easy sell, but 52% of county voters approved the referendum in 2008. Unfortunately, the voters’ voice was stifled in Madison as the state government refused to allow the county to find a much-needed solution to our county’s financial problems.

In 2010, Larson ran for state Senate, taking on conservative Democratic Sen. Jeff Plale, who often voted with Republicans to destroy progressive legislation.

Many thought that Larson was crazy for taking on a well-financed and powerful Democrat, but he defeated Plale in the 2010 Democratic primary and won the general election that fall. Plale then took a job in the Walker administration, showing just where his sympathies lay.

In the state Senate, Larson has pushed back on Gov. Scott Walker and tea party Republicans’ agenda for the state. Of course, Democrats are in the minority, but Larson has championed public schools, the environment, women’s reproductive freedom, health care reform and progressive taxation that benefits working families, not the rich.
We’re seeing history repeat as Larson is taking on Abele, a conservative Democrat who works with tea party Republicans to benefit the wealthy and well-connected.

“For us, it’s about making sure that we have a community voice in the county’s highest office,” Larson said.

The Bucks Deal

Although both Larson and Abele are Democrats, they are almost polar opposites on the issues facing Milwaukee County, from the Bucks arena financing deal to who should run our schools.
Take, for example, the Bucks deal. Originally, Walker wanted the state to bond $220 million for the Bucks arena and Milwaukee County taxpayers didn’t need to pay anything extra for it. But when Abele got into the negotiating room in private, he put the county taxpayers on the hook for $80 million over 20 years. To cover that $80 million, Abele wanted to go after delinquent property taxpayers in the suburbs, even though he never consulted the independently elected county comptroller to find out if the county had enough bad debt to cover the $80 million. (It doesn’t in the long run.)

“When I speak to people in the community, I’m hearing that people are upset because Abele wasn’t listening to the public,” Larson said.

Even worse, Abele threw in nine acres of Park East land for $1, without putting it up for a vote before the county board.

“He sold that land for $1 without a public bid but the taxpayers are going to have to pick up the tab for the underlying cost to clean up the land so that it’s ready for development, which is contrary to what Abele claimed,” Larson said. “So they got it for $1 and then some. Abele gave it away at a loss. This is a clear example of Abele’s poor negotiating skills.”

Since there weren’t enough votes in the Legislature to pass the deal, Democratic lawmakers were brought in at the last minute to try to make it better. Larson was one of those lawmakers. Although the county is still forced to pay the $80 million thanks to Abele, Larson made sure that Abele’s “bad debt” scheme was removed and added a fee to tickets so that those attending the arena would have to defray some of the costs.

In a side agreement, Larson made sure that the jobs to be created are living wage jobs, employ county residents and assured employees the right to unionize. Abele has tried to take credit for this agreement but he wasn’t part of it at all.

“I want to make sure that Milwaukeeans benefit from this deal,” Larson said.

On the Issues
The two candidates are also on opposite ends of the spectrum regarding open government, the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) takeover and the living wage.

“Abele has continued to gather so much power for himself and he has shut out the public and he refuses to explain why he’s doing things in our community,” Larson said. “And it’s getting worse. There are more plans in the Legislature for him to take more power, especially over the county budget.”

If elected, Larson would lobby the Legislature to roll back these new powers but if that doesn’t happen, he said he wouldn’t use them as county executive.

“We will have checks and balances,” Larson said. “No one should have that much power. I will ask the Legislature to call a special session to restore American-style checks and balances to Milwaukee County government.”
Taking power from the board: Abele has worked with tea party Republicans (who accept his political donations) to gut representative government in Milwaukee. Power was taken away from the Milwaukee County board to provide real oversight of the executive branch while more power was given to Abele.

“The public’s opinion doesn’t matter to him,” Larson said.

An unaccountable Mental Health Board: Abele supported legislation in 2014 to create an unelected Mental Health Board, which now oversees the $188 million budget of the county’s Behavioral Health Division. The appointed board rarely takes testimony from the public—it even had a union rep arrested for speaking peacefully during a recent board meeting about dangers posed by some of the psychiatric hospital’s patients—and is totally unaccountable to Milwaukee voters. That means that Milwaukee County residents have no say in important issues such as the potential privatization of the psychiatric hospital, placement of mentally ill sex offenders in neighborhoods, out-patient care in community settings and the use of federal, state and local tax dollars. And Milwaukeeans can’t vote anyone off the board, since the board members are appointed.

“Every week I hear from families who are affected by these changes but they can’t be heard,” Larson said.
MPS takeover: Abele agreed to a tea party Republican scheme to take over struggling Milwaukee Public Schools and preside over his own school district, the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program. Abele, who lacks a college degree, has appointed a commissioner who has the power to seize public schools and property, fire teachers and give taxpayer-funded contracts to unaccountable charter and voucher school operators.

In public, Abele says he has no plans to take over schools, but in private state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) was caught on tape promising that Abele would get going on “our initiative” after he wins re-election. Since this was inserted into the state budget, Milwaukee voters had no say on this new school district.

“This legislation was designed to hurt the public schools,” Larson said.

Living wage: Abele vetoed a living wage resolution that would ensure county workers and those who work for county contractors are paid a living wage, currently $11.66 an hour. Supervisors overrode his veto 12-6. In contrast, Larson proposed a bill raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2020 and ties the minimum wage to the inflation index, and he’s consistently advocated for a living wage for workers, arguing that higher wages keep workers out of poverty, ease the burden on the state’s safety net and stimulate the local economy.

Land sales: Abele got his allied Republicans to slip into the budget a last-minute amendment that would have given him unchecked power to sell off county land and assets, as well as a “super veto” would have given him total authority over county government. The Legislature whittled back Abele’s request and gave him near-unilateral power to sell off land not zoned as park land, including the zoo, the airport and the Milwaukee County Museum.

“I will not sell the airport, the zoo, the museum or the parks, period,” Larson promised.

Last November, county supervisors requested a study on non-park land from the Parks Department, which revealed two weeks ago that that 43 county parks lost their protection from privatization thanks to Abele’s power grab. Abele only needs the signature of one other person to sell off these assets that our parents, grandparents and great grandparents built and cherished. Abele has said he wouldn’t sell off parks, but his administration had tried to lease Kulwicki Park to Greenfield and also sell O’Donnell Park to Northwestern Mutual Life in a lowball no-bid contract, showing that he is open to unraveling the county’s “emerald necklace.” He has also made dozens of promises in his first campaign and did virtually the exact opposite once he got elected.

Following that revelation, Larson and state Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) introduced a bill in the state Legislature, the County Parkland and Heritage Protection Act, which would require a county board vote on any land sale.

“I was born here and I was raised here and I have lived here my whole life,” Larson said. “I ran and biked on our Oak Leaf Trail. I spent my summers in Greenfield Park and McCarty Park. I ran cross-country in Greene Park. And this is where I go with my kids. I have a small house so when we need to escape we go to our community parks and let them unwind. I want to make sure that the parks remain for them. It’s part of our community. It’s part of who we are.”
Larson said he was offended that Abele would seek so much power to sell off county land and assets in private but hasn’t explained why he wanted this power.

“He asked for this authority and never explained why and it could put our heritage at risk,” Larson said. “And he continues to ask for more power. I realize this is our community and if we don’t stand up to a bully now we could lose all of that and it would take generations to fix it.”

Unaccountable Private School Voucher Program a Billion Dollar Boondoggle Under Gov. Walker and Republican Legislature

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 9:53 am

‘A Bad Deal For Our Children, Our Public Schools and Wisconsin Taxpayers’

MADISON, Wis. — A new analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau finds that under Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature, Wisconsin taxpayers will have to foot a $1.18 billion plus tab for the private school voucher program by the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year. In addition, the state treasury will take a $30 million per year hit from a no top income limit tax giveaway to parents already sending their kids to private schools.


One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross commented, “Not only did Gov. Walker and Republicans in the state legislature make the largest cuts to K-12 public education in state history, but by the end of this current budget they’ll have blown over $1.1 billion of taxpayer dollars on the unaccountable private school voucher program.”


According to a memo from the Fiscal Bureau, released today by Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, spending on the unaccountable private school voucher program will skyrocket from $145.9 million in 2011 when Walker and Republicans came to power to over $257 million in 2016.


The state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has reported that under the expanded voucher program approved by the GOP, in excess of over 80% of the students applying for the program for the 2014–15 school year did not attend a Wisconsin public school in the previous year and in 2013 over 70% of the student receiving taxpayer funded vouchers were previously covering their tuition by other means.


Independent reviews of student achievement has found that voucher students do no better, and in some cases worse, than peer students in public schools. Over the years the voucher program has also been marred by numerous instances of financial irregularity, the use of unqualified, unlicensed teachers and schools being located in buildings with significant code violations.


Ross noted that the voucher program has escaped appropriate scrutiny and having to abide by the same rules as K-12 public schools because it has big money protecting it. One Wisconsin Now research revealed the $31 million plus school privatization propaganda campaign underwritten by the Bradley Foundation, headed by Gov. Walker’s gubernatorial and now presidential campaign chair. Campaign finance filings show regular, large donations from voucher backers to key elected officials and massive outside spending by the American Federation for Children, run by disgraced former Assembly Republican Speaker Scott Jensen, to elect legislators favorable to the education privatization industry.


Ross concluded, “The numbers are in and the private school voucher program is a billion dollar boondoggle. While it may satisfy the ideological whims of the right-wing foundation run by Gov. Walker’s campaign chair and out-of-state millionaires and billionaires it’s a bad deal for our children, our public schools and Wisconsin taxpayers.”

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