Educate All Students, Support Public Education

October 20, 2016

Misogyny in the Election: Op-Ed by Ellen Bravo

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Trump — millerlf @ 9:27 am

There’s always That Guy

Ellen Bravo October 19, 2016 MJS

The voters, men and women alike, need to say decisively, “Not in this nation. We will not stand for this.”


Athletes and sportswriters have been quick to pounce on Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” defense as inaccurate and insulting. Is there crude talk in locker rooms, boasting about sexual exploits? Yes, they say. Boasting about sexual assault? Never.

And yet, as a friend of my husband’s pointed out, there’s always That Guy. That Guy is the one who crosses the line. He goes beyond sexual banter or dirty jokes or anything resembling flirtation. Even in an all-male setting, his words cause people to flinch. Too often, he surrounds himself with guys who will laugh. Others shrug or walk away.

Most times, no one tells him to stop. And no one in authority says, “We won’t stand for this.”

That Guy (and sometimes they come in pairs or even packs) shows up in locker rooms, but also in board rooms, operating rooms, break rooms, classrooms, green rooms. His goal is not seduction but humiliation. He’s not just lewd, he’s a harasser. Typically, he engages in molestation, acts that are not just inappropriate but illegal and criminal. His taunts frequently roam beyond gender to race, sexual identity, physical ability, national origin.

If you ask people to identify That Guy in their workplace, virtually everyone will write down the same name.

The women he goes after tell him “no” in dozens of ways. Yet, most of the time, no one in authority says, “Not in this school / this locker room / this workplace / this town. We won’t stand for this.”

On the Access Hollywood tape, Trump claimed he could get away with the groping and unwanted advances because he was “a star.” Often That Guy is, indeed, someone prominent, a rainmaker for the company or a person with enough power for others to fear repercussions if they stand up to him.

I’ve called That Guy the “UGLI,” the Untouchable, Godlike Individual. If women complain about him to someone in Human Resources, they usually hear something like this: “Oh, That Guy. Sorry to hear that you’re having a problem with him. We’ll be glad to move you to another location.”

When women stand up to That Guy, he accuses them of making it up or claims whatever happened was consensual. That Guy has a lot of money to spend on lawyers and publicists and other staff to hound anyone who dares accuse him. He’s ruthless, aiming not just to make the accusation go away but to demonize the accuser and destroy her reputation.

Not surprisingly, That Guy often gets away with his crimes.

Now That Guy is running for president of the United States.

And the voters, men and women alike, are the ones with authority. We’re the ones who need to say decisively, “Not in this nation. We will not stand for this.”

Ellen Bravo is a long-time activist on working women’s issues. She’s written a non-fiction book on sexual harassment and a novel, “Again and Again,” involving date rape and politics.


Far-Right MacIver Institute Attacks Any Progress made by Milwaukee Public Schools

Filed under: MacIver Institute,OSPP,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 9:16 am
Lisowski: Call it whatever you like, MPS is still failing its students
OLA LISOWSKI October 17, 2016 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The facts overwhelmingly show us that high school graduates in Wisconsin, and especially in MPS, aren’t ready to take on the real world.

In a letter to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver, State Superintendent Tony Evers has provided an update on the beleaguered Opportunity Schools Partnership Program. DPI’s official report cards come out in November, but Evers’ letter provides a teaser in writing that “based on the preliminary data … there are no districts eligible for the OSPP in 2016-’17.”

In other words, expect MPS to lose its “failing to meet expectations” label in the coming report cards, which more heavily weigh progress than outcomes.

Evers writes that in order to participate in OSPP, schools must be placed in the lowest performance category — failing to meet expectations — for two consecutive report cards, or the school building must be vacant or underutilized. Participating schools also must be located in a district categorized as failing to meet expectations.

I’m happy that the state is more diligently measuring progress. When students do better year over year, it’s cause for celebration. But before we all declare MPS a success and the problem solved, let’s wait for the report cards to to be published in November. Consider the latest data available, which paints a different picture, showing that many MPS schools are still serving their students at dismal levels.

According to the University of Wisconsin Remedial Course Report, 175 schools sent more than six graduates to the UW System who needed remedial education in the fall of 2015. Of those schools, 160 graduated classes in which more than 10% of students required remedial math education. In 76 schools, more than 25% of students required math remediation. In 12 schools, 50% or more of the graduating class that went to the UW System needed remedial education.

Bradley Tech, for example, sent 12 students to the UW System in fall 2015. Eight students required math remediation before starting regular courses. This is a school that attracts millions of dollars in philanthropy and is held up by MPS as “the premier technology and trade high school in Milwaukee.” And yet its graduates must take zero-level math courses to catch up with their peers.

Think about what that means for those students who have been told for years that they’re lucky to attend elite institutions within MPS. For the 58% of MPS students who graduate high school in four years, large numbers go on to the UW System where they must take remedial coursework for zero credits and full tuition. For the more than 30,000 students trapped in schools for no other reason than their ZIP code, it’s tragic. The status quo still reigns at MPS, and children are left in schools that fail them — official state label or not.

By declaring MPS to no longer be failing, it appears that DPI simply has moved the goal posts rather than addressing the real issues within the largest school district in the state. The facts overwhelmingly show us that high school graduates in Wisconsin, and especially in MPS, aren’t ready to take on the real world. Never mind what the bureaucrats tell you — that’s the definition of failing to meet expectations.

Ola Lisowski is a research associate at the MacIver Institute, a Madison-based right-wing free market think tank.


Right Wing blogger on OSPP

Filed under: OSPP,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:47 am

Alt-right blogger and MacIver Institute contributor, James Widgerson, presents the perspective of the OSSP failings shared by those who hope for the destruction of public education and Milwaukee Public Schools.

Note that Steve Baas, senior vice president for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce for Government Affairs, is interviewed for the article.

Read the blog at:

Click to access Wigderson.pdf

July 12, 2016

Wisconsin State Senator Says MPS is the Cause of Poverty and Crime in Milwaukee

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:54 am

State Senator Vanggaard says MIlwaukee Public Schools is the cause of poverty and crime in Milwaukee. He calls for increased funding to lockup more Milwaukee youth.

Read his commentary at:

February 22, 2015

Racist History of “Right To Work”

The Ugly Racial History of “Right to Work” (Written in 2012 When Michigan Passed “Right to Work”)

Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit ▪ December 20, 2012

The victory for so-called “right-to-work” legislation in Michigan, the heartland of industrial unionism in America, has spurred talk of expanding efforts to pass similar laws to weaken unions in other states, such as Kentucky and even New Jersey. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer goes so far as to suggest that the spread of such anti-union laws is “inevitable,” given economic globalization—a conclusion that might surprise Germans, who have strong labor laws and collective bargaining agreements yet nevertheless manage to compete quite well.

Most of the discussion has centered on the political and economic effects of right-to-work laws—which allow workers to benefit from collective bargaining but withhold dues or agency fees to support the bargaining process. E.J. Dionne correctly notes that Republicans in Michigan were trying to weaken unions for political reasons. In Michigan in 2012, Dionne writes, “Obama won union households 66 percent to 33 percent, the rest of the electorate by 50 percent to 49 percent.” And the Economic Policy Institute finds that workers—whether or not they are in unions—earn about $1,500 less per year on average in right-to-work states, as the policy essentially transfers wealth from workers to employers and stockholders.

But as other states consider such laws, it is important also to remember the ugly racial history of right-to-work legislation. A key driver of the right-to-work movement beginning in the 1930s was Texas businessman and white supremacist Vance Muse, who hated unions in part because they promoted the brotherhood of workers across racial lines. As author Mark Ames notes, Muse bluntly outlined the thinking behind “right to work,” declaring, “From now on, white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.”

Indeed, unions have a powerful interest in reducing racial discrimination and animus because racial hostility inhibits worker solidarity and union organizing. Southern segregationists knew this, which is why they eagerly signed on to right-to-work efforts to weaken unions in the middle part of the twentieth century.

In the 1930s and 1940s, organized labor made great strides in the northern and midwestern parts of the United States, but racial animus in the South proved a key impediment to union organizing. It was very threatening to southern segregationists, therefore, when the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) launched “Operation Dixie” in the 1940s to organize the South, because the CIO’s agenda included efforts to reduce discrimination. Southern conservatives feared that if unions united working-class whites and blacks, they could upend the politics of the South, where Jim Crow laws helped keep white and black workers on opposite sides of the political fence. They argued that unions could bring “black domination in the South.” For Martin Luther King, Jr., the unity of interests of labor and civil rights groups was underlined by segregationist opposition to both. In 1961, he told the AFL-CIO that “the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”

As historian Tami Friedman notes, the CIO, with a $1 million war chest and 250 organizers, set out in 1946 to organize at least 1 million workers by the end of the year. The AFL also made a pledge to organize 1 million southern workers. CIO president Philip Murray promised both “political and economic emancipation” for southern workers, and vowed to defeat two major segregationists in Mississippi. W.E.B. Du Bois called the CIO the best hope for equal rights in the postwar era.

With President Truman also beginning to move forward on civil rights, southern segregationists ramped up their anti-union efforts. As the CIO began Operation Dixie, southern Democrats joined northern Republicans in voting for the 1947 Taft-Hartley legislation to cripple union organizing, in part by authorizing states to adopt right-to-work statutes. Friedman writes, “While the measure is often seen as the work of a Republican-dominated Congress, southern Democrats were instrumental in its passage; in both houses, over 80 percent of southern Democrats backed the bill. After President Truman vetoed the legislation, 90 percent of southern Democrats in the House of Representatives and over 77 percent of those in the Senate helped override his action.”

Southern segregationists followed up their support for Taft-Hartley with an array of state-based right-to-work laws, a strategy King strongly opposed. He declared, “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.”

To this day, the states most resistant to unions are those in the former Confederacy and the Jim Crow South. Of the seventeen states that had legally required segregation prior to Brown v. Board of Education, twelve are today right-to-work states. All five states that ban collective bargaining with public employees—Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia—are from the Jim Crow South. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the eleven states with the lowest rates of unionization are North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida. All of these states were formerly segregated.
Given this history, one can fully appreciate the bitter irony of Michigan’s adoption of right-to-work legislation. While Michigan’s own racial history is hardly unblemished, the United Auto Workers, led by Walter Reuther, were champions of racial equality within the labor movement. Whereas the AFL-CIO refused to endorse the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, for example, the UAW and Reuther were central players in it.

Sixty-five years later, Operation Dixie has been turned on its head. Not only did labor fail to organize the South; we have now witnessed what was once unthinkable: the passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan, on the heels of the crippling of public employee unionism in Wisconsin.

The far more hopeful story since the 1940s, of course, is the tremendous racial progress made in the United States, and particularly in the American South. Today, Vance Muse’s rhetoric about race is rejected by the vast majority of Americans and serves as a source of enormous embarrassment for the anti-labor, right-to-work movement.

As labor thinks through how to get out of the deep mess it finds itself in, it can draw inspiration from America’s great civil rights movement. In Mississippi, the UAW is framing labor organizing at a Nissan Motors plant as part of a twenty-first-century civil rights movement, and Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, has endorsed the idea of incorporating worker rights to organize into an amended Civil Rights Act. If anything good is to come out of the terrible loss in Michigan, it will be that labor has discovered that the false rhetoric of “right to work” can be directly rebutted with the powerful idea that worker rights are civil rights.
Richard D. Kahlenberg is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and Moshe Z. Marvit is a civil rights and labor attorney. They are coauthors of Why Labor Organizing Should Be a Civil Right: Rebuilding a Middle-Class Democracy by Enhancing Worker Voice (2012).

November 11, 2013

School Voucher Money Pours Into South Side Election to Replace Honadel

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Vouchers — millerlf @ 2:48 pm

Democrat Coppola will face voucher activist Rodriguez on Nov. 19

Express Milwaukee By Dominique Paul Noth 

The south side of Milwaukee County will elect two new state representatives this year, thanks to the midterm resignations of state Rep. Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee) and Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), both longtime Republicans.

The resignations gave Gov. Scott Walker the opportunity, some have speculated, to set the races in the middle of the holiday shopping season, likely an attempt to drive down the numbers at the polls so that only the most die-hard voters will turn out.

Two political newcomers—Democrat Elizabeth Coppola and Republican Jessie Rodriguez—will face off on the Nov. 19 ballot in a special election to replace Honadel in District 21, which encompasses South Milwaukee, Oak Creek and a small slice of Franklin.

One Democrat—Greendale Village President John Hermes—and four Republicans are running to replace Stone in District 82, which includes Greendale, the rest of Franklin, and portions of Greenfield and Milwaukee. The primary will be held on Nov. 19; the general election between Hermes and the Republican candidate will be held on Dec. 17.

Democrats see a golden opportunity to flip both the Honadel and Stone seats. Local Republicans are chilled at the state GOP meddling, telling fellow conservatives at Oak Creek gatherings how the Madison intruders “blew our best chances by trying to be kingmakers.”

The state GOP fumbled District 21 in August when locally chosen Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, withdrew his bid for state representative after meeting with such GOP bosses as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington). Inside sources say Vos assured his support if Scaffidi toed the Walker line in Madison, a story Vos would not respond to. Scaffidi only says the leadership offered “suggestions” before he announced “second thoughts” about handling both jobs.

Scaffidi’s withdrawal unleashed a GOP donnybrook of primary extremists pulling away from local issues to tout their own. Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), the area’s senator, jokingly labeled them “five fingers on the same extremely right hand.”


Voucher Groups Spend Big

In District 21, Coppola entered the race without a challenge from her fellow Democrats. She is a lifelong Wisconsinite and past Alverno College student president, now employed in public outreach by United Way. State Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) calls Coppola “a natural empathizer” who “loves the district’s get-it-done attitude.”

Emerge Wisconsin taught Coppola in 2011 how to be an effective candidate. But the big take-away from the training, she said in interviews, was “listening—let the community know what I’m really like and hear what’s on their minds. My main agenda is more state money for public schools and more family supporting jobs.”

In contrast, Rodriguez won her nomination in a hotly contested Republican primary on Oct. 22, thanks to the backing of voucher supporters from outside the district. Rodriguez is an outreach coordinator for Hispanics for School Choice, where her husband, conservative Journal Sentinel blogger Aaron Rodriguez, is secretary, and her brother-in-law, Zeus, head of the voucher-supported St. Anthony School, is president.

State Republicans encouraged her candidacy because it would insulate the party from criticism that it excludes women and people of color—and because she could bring in national voucher money.

The Scott Jensen-connected national voucher front group, American Federation for Children (AFC), poured some $45,647 into Rodriguez’s primary win, and it is rumored that they are poised to spend much more in unreportable issue-advocacy ads. The math suggests AFC paid more than $30 for every primary vote Rodriguez got.

In addition, the Jobs First Political Action Fund, a conservative Jensen-connected group that promotes Scott Walker’s phantasmal job numbers from a mail drop in Brookfield, pumped $24,000 into media buys against Coppola. And in November they added $18,000 more. That was just when curious fake emails erupted using Coppola’s name without permission, inviting her supporters to set up false bank accounts to “handle” mythical out-of-state donations (a scam that has been reported to prosecutors). 

But will school vouchers win over voters in the south shore suburbs?

Rodriguez tells the media that “school choice” is the main issue she hears at the doors. “Not in my neighborhood,” laughed a conservative Oak Creek parent who spoke to the Shepherd. “We love our public schools and I know they also do in South Milwaukee.”

At the doors, voters were more likely to talk about real issues, not manufactured ones: commerce, jobs, better transit and comity in public affairs, particularly in the aftermath of the Sikh temple killings. Also a lingering big issue in both districts was the 16-day federal government shutdown, universally blamed on the GOP.

“That went further than clarifying what they want in an elected leader,” said Coppola. “It cleared up who they don’t want.”

The New John Doe Investigation

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Scott Walker — millerlf @ 2:45 pm

Lisa Kaiser Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013  Express Milwaukee

Is the right-wing money machine a target?

Very little is known about the new John Doe investigation that has emerged from the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office and is being conducted by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, a former federal prosecutor.

The investigation has apparently spread from Milwaukee to Columbia, Dane and Iowa counties, according to the right-wing news website, Wisconsin Reporter. The site also alleged that the investigation is looking at one legislative leader, the 2011 and 2012 recalls and the operations of three right-wing groups, Wisconsin Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the Republican Governors Association. Wisconsin Reporter has noted that “law enforcement officials have seized electronic devices and papers in Columbia and Dane counties.”

If this reporting is true, Schmitz may be looking at illegal coordination between these groups and at least one candidate committee. According to state law, candidates may not coordinate efforts with independent issue groups or political action committees.

An investigation of this type is difficult for reporters and outside observers, since these entities do not have to publicly report many details about their donors or expenditures. The Shepherd has looked at Internal Revenue Service filings, campaign databases and reporting from 2011 and 2012 to discover what the John Doe investigation may be targeting. The result is a tight connection of right-wing money funding phony issue groups, dirty tricks and millions of dollars in advertising supporting Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans in the recalls.


The Three Main Groups

If Wisconsin Reporter’s reporting is accurate, the John Doe is looking at the political activities of Wisconsin Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the Republican Governors Association.

Wisconsin Club for Growth: This tax-exempt issue ad group is based in Sun Prairie. Its officers are Charles Talbot, Eric O’Keefe and Eleanor Hawley, but its more public representatives are Walker’s campaign advisor R.J. Johnson and Deb Jordahl, partners in the consulting firm Johnson Jordahl. O’Keefe is a small-government advocate and was instrumental in launching or running the Sam Adams Alliance, American Majority and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which sponsors and Wisconsin Reporter, which has broken the most detailed news about the new John Doe investigation.

Johnson is a longtime Republican operative. Walker hired him for his gubernatorial campaign in spring 2009; according to the Friends of Scott Walker campaign finance reports, the campaign paid R.J. Johnson and Associates more than $130,000 between July 2009 and January 2012. Johnson’s firm’s mailing address is in Randolph, which straddles Columbia and Dodge counties. During 2010, Johnson was one of the Walker campaign advisors who were copied on county emails recently released as part of the O’Donnell Park lawsuit. Johnson was a spokesman for Club for Growth ads that ran in 2011 supporting Walker’s anti-union agenda. Democrats have complained to the Shepherd about Johnson’s apparent involvement in both the Walker campaign and Wisconsin Club for Growth and have accused the two groups of coordinating, which, if the allegations are true, may be illegal. Johnson did not respond to the Shepherd’s request to comment for this article.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates that Wisconsin Club for Growth spent more than $9.1 million on ads for the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Reporting from that time indicates that Wisconsin Club for Growth spent more than $300,000 in ads in June and July of 2011 for the Senate recalls. The group, along with Americans for Prosperity, spent big in January-March 2012, when no Walker ads appeared on the air.

According to the organization’s tax filings, in 2010 it gave $246,000 to the political arm of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and $268,000 to the Citizens for a Strong America, which is run out of a post office box in Columbus, in Columbia County. Citizens for a Strong America’s treasurer appears to be Johnson’s wife, Valerie Johnson, and its director is John Connors, who has been involved in Americans for Prosperity and United Sportsmen of Wisconsin. In 2011, Club for Growth gave $425,000 to the Scott Jensen-connected Jobs First Coalition and $4,620,000 to Citizens for a Strong America.

Americans for Prosperity: This tax-exempt Astroturf group was launched in 2003 by Charles and David Koch to advocate for free market policies and has had a toehold in Wisconsin for quite a while. Longtime donors include the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, whose president and CEO, Michael Grebe, co-chaired Walker’s gubernatorial and recall campaign committees. The office of Wisconsin’s chapter of AFP, in West Allis, is just down the hall from John Connors’ political consulting group. Connors has been involved with AFP in various capacities since at least 2007. AFP-Wisconsin’s state director is Luke Hilgemann, who had been chief of staff to Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder and was involved in United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, a political front group that received a now-canceled $500,000 state grant to promote hunting in the state. AFP-Wisconsin was headed by Mark Block from 2007-2011 and by Matt Seaholm in 2011.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates that AFP spent more than $3 million on the 2011 and 2012 recalls. It also filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that AFP was violating its tax-exempt status as a charitable organization by supporting Walker’s recall bid by sponsoring a bus tour, recruiting out-of-state volunteers, and sponsoring rallies, phone banks and door-to-door canvassing.

AFP drew additional complaints for sending out phony absentee ballot mailers before the summer 2011 recall elections. The fake ballot requests were to be sent to a post office box belonging to the anti-gay group Wisconsin Family Action. United Sportsmen sent almost-identical mailers at the same time, but the mailers’ return address was a dead post office box in Waunakee.

Republican Governors Association: The RGA set up the Right Direction Wisconsin political action committee (PAC), which has spent heavily in recent elections. Right Direction Wisconsin is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and its treasurer is RGA’s general counsel, Michael Adams.

According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the PAC spent $2 million on ads in 2006, $5 million in 2010 and $8 million in the week before the June 2012 Walker recall. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign also reported that the RGA runs another political group that must report its donors and expenses. That group’s largest Wisconsin donor in the first half of 2012 was the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), which gave $437,725.


Related Organizations

Three right-wing political organizations with strong ties to the alleged targets of the John Doe appeared again and again in tax filings.

Jobs First Coalition Inc.: This Brookfield-based nonprofit political group was formed in 2009, apparently by former Republican Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen while his criminal case was still unresolved. Jensen isn’t listed as an officer of the group, however. Its president is Mary Jo Baas, wife of MMAC’s Steve Baas; its vice president is Waukesha GOP activist Candee Arndt; its secretary is attorney Michael Dean of the First Freedoms Foundation; and its executive director/treasurer is Brookfield alderman and former WMTJ radio reporter Bob Reddin. According to its tax filings, the organization raised $95,250 in 2009, $898,675 in 2010 and $927,860 in 2011, $425,000 of which came from Wisconsin Club for Growth.

In 2010, it gave $30,000 to Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, $200,000 to the Jensen-connected voucher group American Federation for Children, $35,000 to Citizens for a Strong America, $50,000 to the political wing of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and $3,000 to the Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG). In 2011, it gave $75,000 to Wisconsin Club for Growth and $145,000 to American Federation for Children.

Although the group isn’t required to disclose its spending, it is currently active in opposing Democrat Elizabeth Coppola in District 21. She’s running against voucher advocate Jessie Rodriguez. (For more on this race, go to “School Voucher Money Pours Into South Side Election to Replace Honadel,” page 8.)

Citizens for a Strong America: This nonprofit issue group was formed in 2011 to support Supreme Court Justice David Prosser in his re-election campaign against JoAnne Kloppenburg. In spring 2011, its anti-Kloppenburg ad was rated “pants on fire.”

According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, it spent roughly $2.7 million on phony issue ads in the Supreme Court race and the 2011 and 2012 recalls.

Citizens for a Strong America’s treasurer appears to be R.J. Johnson’s wife, Valerie Johnson, and its director is John Connors. The organization, run from a post office box in Columbus, gets most of its funding from R.J. Johnson’s group, Wisconsin Club for Growth, including a $4.2 million donation in 2011. In turn, Citizens for a Strong America has sent money to Wisconsin Family Action ($51,000 in 2010 and $916,000 in 2011), Wisconsin Right to Life ($179,712 in 2010 and $347,000 in 2011), the Connors-connected United Sportsmen of Wisconsin ($235,000 in 2011) and Safari Club International ($77,000 in 2011).

United Sportsmen of Wisconsin: This allegedly pro-hunting group has connections to two Americans for Prosperity figures, Luke Hilgemann and John Connors. The group sent phony absentee ballot mailers in the summer of 2011, on the heels of similar mailers from Americans for Prosperity. The group received a $500,000 state grant this year, which has since been rescinded. Allegedly a former Walker campaign intern, Connors is a director of Citizens for a Strong America and in 2011 he was listed in tax filings as the sole independent contractor of the Franklin Center, which is linked to the Club for Growth’s Eric O’Keefe. Connors earned $119,277 from the organization.

John Connors did not respond to the Shepherd’s request to comment for this article.

November 1, 2013

John Birch Society Pays for Agitation on Wisconsin Common Core

Filed under: Common Core Standards,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 9:40 am

Foundation tied to group paid out-of-state speakers at hearings

By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel Oct. 31, 2013

The clamor over nationwide K-12 academic standards adopted by Wisconsin and discussed at four recent statewide hearings intensified this week with news that several out-of-state speakers critical of the standards received compensation through an arm of the conservative John Birch Society.

Leaders of the American Opinion Foundation, an independent nonprofit associated with the Wisconsin-based society, say they paid for about $5,500 worth of travel expenses for five Common Core State Standards critics to speak at the hearings in Fond du Lac, Eau Claire and Wausau this month. They said local citizens raised the money.

The latest select Assembly and Senate committees to re-examine the standards were spearheaded by Republicans, but many saw them as agenda-driven from the start because the highest-ranking education lawmakers in the state — Senate Education Chair Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Assembly Education Chair Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake) — declined to participate.

One Milwaukee lawmaker resigned from the Assembly’s review panel this week, calling the hearing process “deeply biased.”

“I cannot in good conscience sit on a committee that has involved the most extreme national interest groups on education in planning and executing official Legislative hearings,” Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) wrote in a resignation letter to chairmen of the Senate and Assembly Common Core review panels.

Other Democrats on the House and Senate panels criticized the compensation of speakers.

“What’s new here is the clear attempt to hide who they are representing and who is paying their way,” Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) said in an interview Thursday.

“The direction of the committee is clearly biased, but that’s exactly why I want to stay on it,” he said.

The Common Core standards for what students should know and be able to do in reading and math were adopted by most states because governors and state superintendents believed uniform K-12 guidelines could translate to higher student achievement. The standards also are aligned with new online state achievement tests coming down the pike.

Wisconsin was one of the first states to get on board, adopting the standards with little fanfare several years ago.

Implementation is already underway, and many teachers, principals and superintendents have praised the standards for being more rigorous than former state standards.

“Adopting these standards does not limit what content or skills might be taught, or with what materials,” Mary Ann Hardebeck, the superintendent of the Eau Claire Area School District, said at a hearing in her city last week.

Backlash against standards

Still, Wisconsin and other states have seen backlash from both far right and far left groups over the standards. Some progressive Democrats have joined hands with tea party activists to denounce the standards as being a national curriculum forced on schools by the federal government.

Education experts say that’s a myth.

Business groups have supported the standards, and other conservative outfits, such as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, have been traveling the national circuit to explain why the standards are a good move for schools.

Michael Petrilli, Fordham’s executive director, spoke in favor of the standards at the select committees’ joint Wausau hearing Wednesday night. He said his employer, Fordham, paid for his travel expenses. The nonprofit advocacy group has received national grants to do Common Core work.

The out-of-state Common Core critics who received travel and lodging compensation were: Sandra Stotsky, a retired professor from the University of Arkansas; James Milgram, emeritus professor at Stanford University; Gary Thompson of the Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center; Ze’ev Wurman, a former U.S. Department of Education official in the George W. Bush administration; and Ted Rebarber, the CEO and founder of AccountabilityWorks, a nonprofit education group.

Alan Scholl, executive director and vice president of the American Opinion Foundation, Appleton, said Wisconsin citizens who knew of his group’s opposition to the Common Core asked if they could help bring out-of-state experts to the hearings.

“We began collecting the funds and had our accounting team put them in a separate fund,” Scholl said. “We just tried to make it easier for them to come by providing airfare and hotels and we bought a few meals.”

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), chairman of the Assembly Common Core review committee, said in an interview Thursday that the hearings “have absolutely been on the up-and-up.”

He said school representatives who came to speak at the hearings — such as employees of the Department of Public Instruction and superintendents who spoke in favor of the standards — were technically being paid by taxpayers to speak at the hearings.

Thiesfeldt said the select committee members will now work on producing a report and recommendations.

Cullen said that likely means coming up with recommendations to delay further implementation of the Common Core standards, or to change them.

“Once you whet the whistle of these causes, the cause gets a hold of you,” Cullen said. “You feed this group four statewide hearings, and they’re not going to go away without demanding some legislation.”

July 28, 2013

Indiana’s Anti-Howard Zinn Witch-hunt

Filed under: Rethinking Schools,Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 8:08 pm

Published on Friday, July 19, 2013 by Zinn Education Project

by Bill Bigelow

Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, one of the country’s most widely read history books, died on January 27, 2010. Shortly after, then-Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels got on his computer and fired off an email to the state’s top education officials: “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away.”

But Gov. Daniels, now president of Purdue University, was not content merely to celebrate Howard Zinn’s passing. He demanded that Zinn’s work be hunted down in Indiana schools and suppressed: “The obits and commentaries mentioned his book ‘A People’s History of the United States’ is the ‘textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country.’ It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Can someone assure me that is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”

We know about Gov. Daniels’ email tantrum thanks to the Associated Press, which obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Scott Jenkins, Daniels’ education advisor, wrote back quickly to tell the governor that A People’s History of the United States was used in a class for prospective teachers on social movements at Indiana University.

Daniels fired back: “This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state. No student will be better taught because someone sat through this session. Which board has jurisdiction over what counts and what doesn’t?”

After more back and forth, Daniels approved a statewide “cleanup” of what earns credit for professional development: “Go for it. Disqualify propaganda and highlight (if there is any) the more useful offerings.”

Daniels recently defended his attack on Zinn’s work, telling the Associated Press, “We must not falsely teach American history in our schools.” In a letter posted on his Purdue University webpage, Daniels claimed that, “the question I asked on one day in 2010 had nothing to do with higher education at all.” Daniels should go back and read his own emails.

There are so many disturbing aspects to this story, it’s hard to know where to begin.

The first, of course, is Daniels’ gleeful, mean-spirited reporting of Zinn’s death. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Howard Zinn’s career knows that his great passions were racial equality and peace. Finding cause for joy in the death of someone whose life was animated by confidence in people’s fundamental decency is shameful.

As someone who spent almost 30 years as a high school history teacher, I’m amused by the impoverished pedagogical vision embedded in Daniels’ emails and subsequent defense. Daniels wants Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States banned from the curriculum, so that the book is not “force-fed” to students. Governor Daniels evidently assumes that the only way one can teach history is to cram it down students’ throats. To see some alternative ways to engage students, Daniels might have a look at our lessons at the Zinn Education Project, which use Zinn’s People’s History of the United States in role plays, in critical reading activities, to generate imaginative writing, and to search for the “silences” in students’ own textbooks.

Take for example the last textbook I was assigned as a teacher at a public high school in Portland, Oregon, American Odyssey, published by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. In the book’s one thousand pages, it includes exactly two paragraphs on the U.S. war with Mexico—the war that led to Mexico “ceding,” in the polite language of school curricula, about half its country to the United States. American Odyssey does not quote a single Mexican, a single soldier, a single abolitionist, a single opponent of the war. Well, in fact, the textbook doesn’t quote anyone. As one of my students pointed out when we read the book’s dull passages in class, “It doesn’t even view it as a war. It’s a situation.”

As the Zinn Education Project reveals regularly in its If We Knew Our History column, the version of U.S. history taught in the textbooks produced by giant corporations is anything but “true.” This scant treatment of such an important event in U.S. and Mexican history is one reason why teachers search out alternatives like A People’s History of the United States, which includes a full chapter on the conflict, focusing especially on President Polk’s hollow justifications for war, the anti-war resistance, and the human impact of the war. Unlike the gray prose of textbooks like American Odyssey, Zinn’s chapter on the U.S. war with Mexico—“We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God”—is filled with quotes from soldiers and poets, surgeons and abolitionists, generals and journalists, clergymen and presidents. Every passage reminds young people that war is much more than a “situation.”

“We must not falsely teach American history in our schools,” said Daniels to the Associated Press, implying that the true history is to be found in the officially adopted textbooks. As the Zinn Education Project reveals regularly in its If We Knew Our History column, the version of U.S. history taught in the textbooks produced by giant corporations is anything but “true.” The corporate textbooks hide the breadth of U.S. military and economic interventions throughout the world; they ignore the roots of today’s environmental crises; they refuse to explore the origins of the vast wealth inequality in the United States; and the textbooks neglect the role of social movements throughout U.S. history, instead focusing on famous individuals; thus, they fail to nurture an activist sensibility—a recognition that if we want the world to be better, then it’s up to us to make it better.

This is a point Howard Zinn emphasized when he spoke to teachers at the 2008 National Council for the Social Studies conference in Houston—some of them from Indiana!—not much more than a year before he died. Zinn said: “We’ve never had our injustices rectified from the top, from the president or Congress, or the Supreme Court, no matter what we learned in junior high school about how we have three branches of government, and we have checks and balances, and what a lovely system. No. The changes, important changes that we’ve had in history, have not come from those three branches of government. They have reacted to social movements.”

Governor Daniels’ advisers evidently found no evidence that Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States was in use in K-12 schools in Indiana. I guess they didn’t look hard enough. There are more than 300 Indiana teachers registered at the Zinn Education Project to access people’s history curriculum materials to “teach outside the textbook.” And these are only the teachers who have formally registered at the site; many more share people’s history-inspired lessons.

And at the Zinn Education Project we’ve heard all week long from Indiana teachers, professors, and parents who have committed themselves to work against censorship in K-12 schools. Their defiance is reminiscent of Indiana’s Green Feather Movement that challenged the McCarthy-era attempt to ban Robin Hood from the elementary school curriculum in 1954. What began as the anonymous posting of green feathers on bulletin boards by a few students at Indiana University spread to campuses across the country. As Howard Zinn wrote at the end of his autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, “If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”

© 2013 The Zinn Education Project

Bill Bigelow taught high school social studies in Portland, Ore. for almost 30 years. He is the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools and the co-director of the Zinn Education Project. This project offers free materials to teach people’s history and an “If We Knew Our History” article series. Bigelow is author or co-editor of numerous books, including A People’s History for the Classroom and The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration.

more Bill Bigelow

December 20, 2012

Walker Names Jason Fields to SDC Board

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda — millerlf @ 11:15 am

By Bill Glauber of the Journal Sentinel Dec. 19, 2012

Gov. Scott Walker appointed Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) to the Social Development Commission Thursday.

Fields, first elected to the Assembly in 2004, was defeated in the August Democratic primary by Mandela Barnes.

Fields’ appointment came less than a week after a major board shakeup of the anti-poverty agency. Some board members also criticized the governor for what they said was a disregard for the agency’s work.

The 18-member panel is composed of people appointed by the governor and other governmental and community agencies, as well as six resident representatives.

Walker went 18 months without appointing a representative.

“Representative Fields’ experience in the Legislature will be a great addition to the Commission,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “The Commission is tasked with finding solutions to the problems facing Milwaukee County and its residents. Jason’s dedication to the people of Milwaukee is exactly what the Commission needs.”


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