Educate All Students, Support Public Education

March 26, 2011

Why is the Wisconsin GOP Going After a UW Professor? They can’t handle the truth!

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 3:20 pm
Read a description of another Wisconsin GOP atrocious act.

Friday, Mar 25, 2011 By Andrew Leonard

Wisconsin’s most dangerous professor

Why are Republicans desperate to see Bill Cronon’s emails? Because ideas and history matter

I just bought two books by the University of Wisconsin historian William Cronon: “Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England” and “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West.

A week ago, I had never heard of Cronon. This is embarrassing, since it doesn’t take much digging around to discover that he is one of the most highly regarded historians in the United States (not to mention president-elect of the American Historical Association).

But that was before Cronon’s fascinating opinion piece in Monday’s New York Times detailing how Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s political agenda flies in the face of “civic traditions that for more than a century have been among the most celebrated achievements not just of their state, but of their own party as well.” A devastating new broadside in the battle for Wisconsin, Cronon’s Op-Ed deservedly went viral.

But in today’s political climate, there are consequences for taking a stand. As surely nearly everyone who has been following developments in Wisconsin already knows, the Republican Party of Wisconsin has filed an open records request demanding access to any emails Cronon has sent or received since Jan. 1 containing the search terms “Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell.”

The obvious goal is  to find something damaging or embarrassing to Cronon — although judging by Cronon’s account, smoking guns seem unlikely to be lying around in plain sight. (Eight of the names referenced in the request belong to the eight Republican state senators targeted by Democrats for recall.)

I can’t do a better, more eloquent or more profound job of summarizing the issues at stake than Cronon himself does in a lengthy blog post that the professor posted Thursday night. Everyone should read it. Nor do I want to get bogged down in a discussion of whether the Wisconsin GOP’s tactics should be properly characterized as a McCarthyite attack on academic freedom. I believe they should be, but I want to make a larger point.

Despite following events in Wisconsin fairly closely, before Cronon’s post about the open records request started rocketing around Twitter and Facebook late last night, I hadn’t realized that Cronon had published another, even more interesting post two weeks earlier, “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here).”

In that post, as part of his effort to understand the historical roots of the nationally coordinated state-level legislative attack on unions, Cronon focused his spotlight on a relatively under-the-radar group called the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The most important group, I’m pretty sure, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and (surprise, surprise) Paul Weyrich. Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft “model bills” that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18 percent of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)

Cronon surmises that his efforts to highlight the role of ALEC precipitated the Republican open records response. I have no way to judge whether that is true. But what I do know is that the Republican effort to gain access to Cronon’s university emails has resulted in bringing far more attention to Cronon and to ALEC than would otherwise have been the case.

And that gives me hope. In an earlier post today, I quoted another blogger noting how humiliating it was that progressives didn’t even realize that efforts to restrict striking workers from eligibility for food stamp programs dated all the way back to 1981. We’ve been asleep on the job. But if there’s one good thing to come out of the aggressive ultra-conservative agenda so visible since the 2010 midterm elections — with special attention to events in Wisconsin — it is that we are all paying more attention than ever to what’s been going on in this country for the last 30 years. It’s not just that issues like “collective bargaining” are suddenly part of mainstream debate. We are also looking harder at the laws that are getting passed and more closely examining the institutions — like ALEC — that have been so instrumental in moving reactionary agendas forward. By attacking William Cronon, the Republican Party of Wisconsin has insured that his every future utterance will command a mass audience — not just of his fellow historians, who esteem him so highly — but of everyone who cares about the future of this country.

If good ideas are ever to drive out bad, both need more exposure. And that’s why I just bought two of Cronon’s books. We can’t shape the future without understanding the past. The potency of Cronon’s current involvement in the hottest political struggle of the day is all the proof I need that my own understanding of how the world works will benefit from more exposure to his work — whether manifested in a blog post, New York Times Op-Ed, or book. What better response could there be to an attack on academic freedom than to spread that academic’s ideas as widely as possible?

To See Professor Cronon’s blog go to:

March 23, 2011

Voces de la Frontera to Hold 2nd Meeting Sunday to Organize Against Arizona-Style Immigration Bill

Filed under: Immigration,Scott Walker,Uncategorized — millerlf @ 2:33 pm

Attention Voces de la Frontera community!

Last Sunday, Voces held our first emergency meeting to inform the public that Representative Pridemore is now circulating his Arizona-style immigration enforcement bill for co-sponsors in Madison. Over 500 concerned members of the community showed up to strategize on how to defeat this bill, which would be devastating for our community, as it would legalize racial profiling and lead to more deportations.  (To read the bill yourself, go

Please come to our second emergency meeting this weekend, both in Milwaukee and Racine, for new updates and strategies.


MILWAUKEE- Sunday, March 27

5:00 pm

St. Adalbert’s Church basement

1923 W. Becher St., Milwaukee

RACINE- Saturday, March 26

1:00 pm

Labor Center

2100 Laynard Ave, Racine

Additionally, please use and distribute the following important updates (click underlined links for PDFs):

1) Statewide Letter opposing Pridemore’s anti-immigrant legislation for organizations, elected officials, religious leaders to sign on to ASAP.   Please contact Elena Lavarreda, Voces’ statewide organizer at for more info on this.

2) Talking points on the Pridemore bill, in both Spanish and English.

3) Lastly, Voces is asking labor unions to pass this labor resolution Please contact Christine Neumann-Ortiz directly regarding labor resolutions at

March 7, 2011

Diane Ravitch on the Wisconsin Uprising

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 4:01 pm

2/22/011 Washington Post

“If there is no organized force to advocate for public education in the state capitols of this nation, our children and our schools will suffer. That’s the bottom line. And that’s why I stand with the teachers of Wisconsin. I know you do too.”

As I write, thousands of teachers are staging a protest in the state capitol in Wisconsin against proposed legislation by Gov. Scott Walker that would destroy their collective bargaining rights. Others stand with them, including members of the Green Bay Packers and other public sector workers, even those not affected by the legislation, namely, firefighters and police.

Gov. Walker demanded that the teachers pay more for their health benefits and their pension benefits, and they have agreed to do so. But that’s not all he wants. He wants to destroy the union.

I wrote an article about this contretemps for CNN.COM, not realizing that the teachers had already conceded the governor’s demands on money issues. They agreed to pay more for their health benefits and pension benefits. The confrontation now is solely about whether public employees have the right to bargain collectively and to have a collective voice. Monday’s New York Times made clear, both in an article by Paul Krugman and in its news coverage, that the union is fighting for its survival, not benefits.

It’s time to ask: why should teachers have unions? I am not a member of a union, and I have never belonged to a union, but here is what I see.

From the individual teacher’s point of view, it is valuable to have an organization to turn to when you feel you have been treated unfairly, one that will supply you with assistance, even a lawyer, one that advocates for improvement in your standard of living. From society’s point of view, it is valuable to have unions to fight for funding for public education and for smaller class sizes and for adequate compensation for teachers.

I recently visited Arizona, a right-to-work state, and parents there complained to me about classes of 30 for children in first and second grades, and even larger for older students; they complained that the starting salary for teachers was only $26,000, and that it is hard to find strong college graduates to enter teaching when wages are so low.

I have often heard union critics complain that contracts are too long, too detailed, too prescriptive. I have noticed that unions don’t write their own contracts. There are always two sides that negotiate a contract and that sign it. If administration is so weak that it signs a contract that is bad for kids, bad for the district’s finances, or bad for education, then shame on them.

The fight in Wisconsin now is whether public sector unions should have any power to bargain at all. The fight is not restricted to Wisconsin; it is taking place in many other states, including New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, and elsewhere. The battle has already been lost in other states.

I have been wondering if advocates of corporate school reform, such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and Michelle Rhee will come to the aid of the teachers in Wisconsin. I have been wondering if President Obama and Secretary Duncan, who were quick to applaud the firing of teachers in Central Falls, Rhode Island, will now step forward to support the teachers in Wisconsin. I have been wondering if Secretary Duncan, who only a few days earlier had led a much-publicized national conversation in Denver about the importance of collaboration between unions and management, will weigh in to support the teachers. I am ever hopeful, but will take care not to hold my breath.

If there is no organized force to advocate for public education in the state capitols of this nation, our children and our schools will suffer. That’s the bottom line. And that’s why I stand with the teachers of Wisconsin. I know you do too.


February 28, 2011

Threat of Benefit Cuts in Wisconsin Prompts Wave of Sudden Retirements

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 3:42 pm
By Ruth Conniff, The Progressive
Posted on February 28, 2011
On Friday night, the eve of a massive rally in Madison, Wisconsin, against Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting “budget repair bill,” a few state employees gathered for a hasty retirement party at Jenna’s, a downtown bar directly across from the Capitol building.
Over pitchers of beer, a group of lawyers from the state public defender’s office were saying goodbye to Patrick Donnelly, longtime attorney at the agency.
Donnelly decided to retire on Wednesday–24 hours after he and his colleagues were informed by labor lawyers at the Boardman law firm that a provision in Governor Walker’s bill could mean he would lose health care benefits worth tens of thousands of dollars, unless he gave notice immediately.
Two days after he made his decision, on Friday, he walked out the door for the last time. (He is taking a long-planned vacation and using furlough days to make up the rest of his two weeks’ notice.)”I’m as angry as I’ve ever been in my life,” Donnelly said at his retirement party.
Across the state, record numbers of public employees are requesting retirement papers. Many, like Donnelly, have been advised that if they don’t get out quickly, they stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits they were counting on for retirement.
The effect on the state could be devastating. The number of people retiring from the public sector in the next two weeks could easily dwarf the 12,000 lay-offs the governor has threatened, if Senate Democrats don’t return to pass his bill ending collective bargaining for public employees.
The Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds reports that, during the week of February 14-18, 2011, it received more than three times the num ber of requests for retirement estimates than it did the same week in 2010.At the top of the Department web site is a special link for state and local employees: “Retiring on Short Notice? What Members Should Know and Do.”The volume of requests for information is so high, the web site notes, that it is having trouble keeping up with demand.
Walker has promised to make all state employees contribute 12 percent of their pay to their health care premiums and 5.8 percent to their retirement benefits, which will mean $500 to $600 out of pocket each month for many staff who already don’t make much money. “The less you make the harder it is to pay,” Donnelly points out.
So all public employees are looking at very lean times to come. But those close to retirement age are heading for the doors if they can, because they stand to lose benefits they had accrued and counted on for years.

February 16, 2011

New Numbers on Wisconsin School Funding Learned Today: Walker May Refuse Title 1 Funds and Cut $500 Per Student Under Revenue Limits

Filed under: Racism,Scott Walker,Uncategorized — millerlf @ 11:14 pm

Bonds warns of ‘devastating’ cut for MPS under state budget

By Alan J. Borsuk Special To The Journal Sentinel Feb. 16, 2011

Milwaukee Public Schools could face huge cuts in programs and loss of a quarter of its current revenue if things officials are being told about Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposals are true and if they are adopted, School Board President Michael Bonds warned Wednesday night.

“I would use the word devastating,” Bonds told an angry crowd of about 200 at Fratney School, 3255 N. Fratney St. “It’s devastating to school districts across the state,” and MPS will feel the impact more than other districts.

“There’s going to be major cuts, school closures, school mergers, if the governor’s budget is approved,” Bonds told the crowd. “When you’re talking about losing close to $300 million, everything is on the table.”

“The education we know in Milwaukee will no longer exist,” if all of things officials have been told will be in Walker’s budget proposal come to pass, Bonds told the crowd.

Challenged by one parent who said she feared Bonds was acting more like an undertaker for MPS than a leader, Bonds responded that people should protest to members of the state Legislature, and the board is doing all it can.. But, he added, “It may be the end of MPS, I can’t dispute that.”

Walker is scheduled to present his budget proposal for the next two years on Tuesday.

Bonds said MPS leaders learned Wednesday that they should expect Walker will propose cutting the statewide fund for school aid by about $1 billion for next year, which would be about 15% of the current amount. That, and related cuts, could mean $200 million less for MPS, he said.

MPS is already expecting almost $100 million less in federal aid and other grants, largely because of the end of two years of federal economic stimulus funding.

And, Bonds said, district leaders were told Wednesday that Walker was considering refusing federal Title 1 aid for low income students, which brings tens of millions of dollars each year to MPS.

Bonds said after the session that MPS leaders had been told to expect a $500 per student cut in the amount set by the state as a revenue cap for spending.

The cap determines how much school districts across the state can collect in state aid and property taxes combined.

In general in recent years, the revenue cap has gone up more than $200 per student. A cut of $500 would roll back the amount to levels of several years ago, but, in practical terms, would mean significant cuts in just about every district in the state.

Milwaukee School Board members had a meeting last week in which they discussed cuts they would need to make if the revenue cap went up $200 per student, the amount proposed by Tony Evers, the state superintendent of public education. They forecast a deficit of more than $13 million at that point.

The numbers given by Bonds on Wednesday suggest a deficit – and a need for cuts – that could be more than 20 times that amount.

Bonds told the Fratney audience that he wanted to bring them hope and good news. “I’m sorry, I just can’t provide that today,” he said.

Update on Bill Amendment 8:15 Wednesday Night: The amendment DOES NOT remove the collective bargaining repeal NOR does it remove or change increased contributions to benefits.

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 8:41 pm

update from Senator Jon Erpenbach on SS SB 11

February 17th – 8:15pm

Joint Committee on Finance expected to take action on attached amendent tonight making the bill available for Senate action tomorrow. The amendment DOES NOT remove the collective bargaining repeal NOR does it remove or change increased contributions to benefits. It does restore health care and retirement to LTE appointments when earned.

Senator Erpenbach will continue to fight this proposal tomorrow when the bill is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate. People in opposition continue to flood the inside and erterior of the State Capitol – it is a great sight to see and hear! Truly makes it an honor to serve people so dedicated to democracy. Hope to see you all tomorrow!


From the Wheeler Report


1. Makes a technical correction to language in 2011 Act 3 and Act 5 relating to the tax credit for new hires.

2. Modifies certain limitations included in the tax incremental financing district – inclusion of wetlands included in 2011 Act 10.

3. Sunsets all provisions relating to the study and implementation of Medical Assistance program changes would sunset on Jan. 1, 2015.

4. Increases Medical Assistance benefits funding in the bill by $42.7 million GPR in 2010-11 to enable DHS to partially fund June, 2011 capitation payments to certain groups; increases FED funding by $82.6 million. Provides $134 million GPR and $6.7 million SEG from  the MA trust fund to address a projected shortfall for benefits in the 2009-11 biennium.

5. Makes changes relating to JFC review of the sale or contractual operation of state-owned power plants. Makes changes on repayments of tax exempt bonding.

6. Removes provision requiring the Attorney General’s designee to the Group Insurance Board be an attorney.

7. Modifies replacement of classified positions with unclassified positions in the Dept of Justice.

8. Remove the provision prohibiting state employees who have LTE appointments from participating in WRS and prohibit those employees from receiving group health insurance coverage.

9. Modify study of potential modifications of the WRS and State Employee Health Insurance Options  to require JFC passive review.

10. Modifies provisions requiring contributions of one-half of all actuarially required contributions from the retirement systems operated by the city and county of Milwaukee to be one-half of all employee required contributions.

11. Provide for local government civil service systems.

February 11, 2011

Scott Walker Declares All Out War on State Employees

Filed under: Right Wing Agenda,Scott Walker,Uncategorized — millerlf @ 1:53 pm

Under Walkers plan “Collective bargaining units will have to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union.”

See Walkers letter to state employees at:


To see Walker’s proposed budget repair bill go to:


See contract termination letter to state AFSCME employees:

termination letter to AFSCME employees

February 2, 2011

NY city councilmen among 24 arrested in school protest

Filed under: Fightback,Uncategorized — millerlf @ 12:58 pm

The stakes are being raised to defend our kids education.

– Mon Jan 31, NEW YORK (Reuters) –

Twenty-four people, including two members of the New York City Council, were arrested on Monday at a protest over plans to close two dozen city schools, authorities said.

Charles Barron and Jumaane Williams, City Council members from Brooklyn, were arrested along with 22 other adults after the group formed a human chain across Chambers St. in downtown Manhattan outside the city’s Department of Education headquarters.

The group, some of whom wore signs saying “Fix schools, don’t close them,” was protesting plans to close 25 schools ahead of this week’s meetings of the Panel for Educational Policy.

“It’s not our fault that John F. Kennedy (school) is below standard. It’s the Department of Education’s fault,” said one student, who claimed that the school was “set up” to be closed years ago when officials started “dumping” low performing and special needs students there.

The arrested protesters were being held on charges of disorderly conduct pending issuance of summonses or court appearances, police said.

The acts of civil disobedience followed an earlier rally by students of schools targeted for closing, along with parents and education activists.

The demonstration was the latest of a series of protests in recent weeks over the proposed school closings, which unions say are the most ever in New York City.

The Panel for Educational Policy is an oversight group with a majority of members appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose offices assumed control of the school system in 2002.

Critics of the plan to shut what the city calls failing schools say it masks a move to usher in more charter schools.

Such schools receive public money but are exempt from certain rules that apply to other public schools due to higher accountability in standards set by their charters. The schools often have long waiting lists.

Deputy schools chancellor Marc Sternberg defended the planned closings last week, telling a city council member: “When we feel the supports we’ve given to a school are not getting the job done … we are going to consider every intervention possible.”

January 7, 2011

A satirical look at Rhee’s ‘Students First’

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 3:37 pm

A satirical look at Rhee’s ‘Students First’ (or how students fell to a tie for third)

By Valerie Strauss

Below is the lead “story” from a satirical Onion-esque publication designed for those of us who religiously follow education policy. The publication is called Education Tweak (, and it’s anonymously authored and published. The new issue is actually #14; the other 13 issues were published back in 2009, and this full issue and all the back issues are available at

By Education Tweak
Just weeks after launching her Students First campaign, former Washington D.C. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced that Students have now fallen into a tie for third. “Students have to earn first,” Rhee explained. “Life is a competition, and Students seem to think I’ll let them remain in First even if they don’t show results.”

Rhee set the first-year fund-raising goal for Students First at an amazing $1 billion. With that sort of prize money, it’s hardly surprising that others have stepped forward in a healthy competition with students to be First.

Currently in the lead, according to Rhee, is Michelle Rhee herself.

“Just look at our web site,” she explained. “It’s all about me. I’m the one out there every day busting my hump and pretending to be so concerned and earnest. I’m the one with my mug on Newsweek’s cover. If students want to beat that they’re going to have to do more than just phone it in.”

After Rhee in the competition are Oprah Winfrey (in second) and Wall Street (currently tied with Students in third). Oprah gained major kudos for her courageous decision to host Rhee TWICE over the past six months.

As for Wall Street – how would Students First ever succeed without the hard work of billionaires? Besides, billionaires have been given their wealth by the Almighty as a sign that they are among the Elect.

Students, meanwhile, are not conceding. They plan to kill off their weakest 5 percent each week, or maybe just lock them in the basement, until those remaining meet Rhee’s standards for excellence.

“We considered trying to improve instead,” explained Becky, the group’s leader, “but there’s no support for that.”

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January 5, 2011

Beloit Next for Vouchers? GOP looks at expanding private school vouchers

Filed under: Uncategorized — millerlf @ 7:49 am

Beloit part of voucher plan?

By Justin Weaver
Published: Tuesday, January 4, 2011

GOP looks at expanding private school choice markets

The new Wisconsin governor is considering sweeping reforms in Madison, one of which could directly impact Beloit schools.

Gov. Scott Walker and the incoming Republican legislature assumed power in the state Monday and wasted no time in introducing the possibility of expanding the state’s school voucher program. The program, presently instituted in the Milwaukee area, allows students to receive taxpayer-financed vouchers to attend private schools, including religious schools. Just under 21,000 of the maximum 22,500 students enrolled in the program this year.

The governor has identified Beloit as one place where the vouchers could be phased in as part of a trial effort to spread the program statewide.

“I think school choice is successful,” Walker told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “I think it’s worth looking at expanding it. How do you do that? There’s really a multitude of options, not only those being discussed in other parts of the country. And we want to continue to be at the forefront of that.”

Beloit School District Superintendent Milt Thompson said he views the potential voucher introduction as yet another reason for the district to reassess its direction.

“My concern is that the district has to become conscious of today’s market. If you have a system that is attractive, people will send their kids here. If you don’t, the days of an educational monopoly are over,” he said.

Thompson recently introduced an elaborate proposal to reorganize the district into a K-8 magnet model program, which would eliminate the present elementary and middle schools by replacing them with scholastic academies organized much in the way of a university.

“You have districts on both sides of the state line that have attracted students away from Beloit. That’s the reason for this K-8 idea,” Thompson said. “This district needs to appeal to the talents and interests of our students. We have to figure out a system that is attractive to all students amid state-endorsed competition.”

In an ironic twist, Thompson finds himself fending off private schools after he had spent years building his own as executive director of 21st Century Preparatory School in Racine. The same vouchers that could impact Beloit’s schools were an asset in Thompson’s efforts toward building his Racine school, lessons that he hopes to apply to this inverse situation.

“I want to create schools like the one I was in on the opposite side of the fence. You want to simulate their success,” he said. “We need to look at things we can learn from them and understand what they’re doing that we’re not doing.”

Often the only reason parents don’t send their children to private schools instead of public schools is cost, an obstacle that would be lifted with vouchers and leave schools like Beloit to rest solely on their laurels, Thompson said.

“The question is whether there are people out there that aren’t sending their child to private school because of cost or because they believe in the public school system and the type of education experience they had growing up,” he said. “For the longest time we had the captivation of the primary audience because the cost of private school was not attractive. Vouchers change that.”

It’s key that public schools begin to recognize private schools as a legitimate threat to enrollment, Thompson said.

“GM used to be the big dog in auto manufacturing. Now GM is just a bit player to me. Public schools need to think like they’re the underdog,” he said. “The arrogance of complacency is what destroys all organizations. I’m afraid if we are not a careful organization that our complacency is going to make us irrelevant. We need to change the status quo. If we don’t change, they will.”

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