Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015... The Transitional Year

2015 was a year of transitions for the Soapbox. Transitions all over...

It was a year that saw lots and lots of personal changes for me, new challenges to be taken on, and things like this writing space fall somewhere off onto the side burner. While many of my frequent readers I'm sure are sad (all four of you), the payoff has been much better for me in a personal and professional sense.

This year, this is the year I truly came into my own for loving Milwaukee. It's not that I didn't already the last two years of my residency, but I feel like I connected with the city on a different level. Through my job as a high school educator, through my wonderful significant other whom I met in August and couldn't be more elated with, and through my own personal efforts, I feel such a connection to this city and for the first time ever, a nostalgic look back on my hometown.

This past year saw many of my friends finally decide to run for local office, and this spring is going to be extremely exciting for me to both help them and see them run. The desire to serve and be involved in the political process still burns just as strong as it did these last five years, and while I may not write about it as much as I did previously, I absolutely love the process. I hope to help these friends become elected, and then hope to see them shine as representatives in our Republic.

Graduate school was probably the single greatest reason why I no longer write in this space as I once had, but it has also been a stressful endeavor or love. Pursuing an advanced degree in public administration has been a great decision thus far, as I have had a great education in public budgeting and the mechanics of implementing policies of elected officials in an administrative role. It is with this that I am continually refining and revamping my frame of mind about how politics works, why decisions are made, and how decisions are implemented.

I would like to think I have matured greatly in the last few years since beginning writing this blog. I'm involved with developing policies for MPS, serving on committees for WEAC, wanting to be more of a entity with the local Democratic party, being seen as a leader in my school building, forging even greater friendships with people who I have known and are now running their own campaigns, and all the while having family, friends, and a special person at home who supports me endlessly in all of it.

2015 was quite the year of transitions for the Soapbox, but it was one of great growth both professionally and personally. I hope that 2016 is even greater and I can work at bringing us one step closer to a more perfect union.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Tony Evers Interview You Probably Didn't Read This Past Week

Now that I'm on "break" (save one final exam on Monday and a day or so of unpaid work time in school), and have a significant-other out of the country on a well deserved trip, I have a little time on my hands. This means the gentle reader is going to be the beneficiary of my energy.

That energy is being put, as most things, into education and my trying to put a little screen time on a long interview that I didn't see getting a lot of play around the interwebs last week... THIS interview with State Sup. of Schools Tony Evers.

I'm an MPS educator in a north side comprehensive high school, and as a recent trip back to my hometown of Fond du Lac once again reminded me, when you're outside the Milwaukee "bubble" people have completely different notions of what the educational world is like in the city. The perception of MPS and just how grossly we have been characterized as a system is something that when I was writing more frequently in this space I would harp, and harp, and harp on.

And finally, in this interview, we see leaders from the Department of Public Instruction, who I personally think have always known these things, finally come out and acknowledge it. That's huge for me, because from a respect and acknowledgement standpoint, we educators who are in the trenches day in and day out need it. You really should read the WHOLE interview. It's long, but it's very, very good.
How would you characterize the achievement gap in the state of Wisconsin?

Tony Evers: It’s extraordinarily horrible. There’s no other way to describe it. When a white kid from an impoverished family can likely achieve at a higher level than a black kid from an affluent family, there’s something wrong with the system, absolutely.
Which is one thing that I think too many people who are afraid, or scared, or just plain ignorant of Milwaukee don't understand. As an educator in an MPS high school, I quite honestly don't teach anywhere near as much as I'm someone who fights the effects of poverty. Poverty in Milwaukee is different than poverty in Appleton, or Marshfield, or Eau Claire. The structures in the city, the constant interaction with people of the working, middle, and upper class, the exposure to social and societal norms are something that many, many, many of my students have never had and don't comprehend. You can't be mad at them, you can't wish it away, you can't think it's a color thing (it's not, trust me here), it's the effects of concentrated poverty.
I’ve been around long enough that I saw the change where, especially in the African-American community in Milwaukee, the heavy manufacturing was king. People could get good family-supporting jobs for their entire life and those jobs, many of those were held by African-Americans in the Milwaukee area and in other urban areas. They disappeared virtually overnight. I know it wasn’t … here today and gone tomorrow, but they (jobs) have never recovered. They’ve replaced family-supporting jobs with no jobs or lowest-wage jobs possible, so that’s part of the ethos that we’re facing.

… Can we do more in our schools? Yes, and we should do more but the fact of the matter is we need the entire state to kind of rally around people of poverty or this will never be solved in a satisfactory way.

Poverty isn't an excuse, it's a flipping root cause.

You can take some students who are in poverty and show massive successes. Not everyone who is impoverished is sentenced to a terrible education or any of the things that often are characterized of people who are poor. This is where the conservative argument of "poverty isn't an excuse, look at X, Y, Z, school..." comes in.

But when you look holistically at the problems we face in our communities, poverty is the problem.
What are some of the other causes you would say that are driving this achievement gap?

Evers: Let me back up and say what we need to do to change it. Because I think a lot of it was economics to begin with. But the other fact of the matter is, in Wisconsin, most educators look like me and come from small towns. The first time I had an interaction with someone of color was when I worked at a canning factory in high school and a couple of Hispanic guys were working next to me. And it’s just extraordinarily difficult for people that don’t have a rich, diverse background of experience to, I mean, I couldn’t walk into Milwaukee South High School and be an adequate teacher, I can tell you that. And I think a really good teacher in Pewaukee, say, wouldn’t necessarily be a top-notch teacher at South Milwaukee Division High School. There’s just some experiences that come from life or come from having exposure to more diverse cultures that really puts us at a disadvantage. I don’t know the percentage of African-American teachers in Milwaukee, but it’s very small percentage. I’m not saying white teachers can’t be successful, but they will have a more difficult time because of their background.

Literally, there is so much here that I cannot even begin to digest it without breaking down and elating with enthusiasm at the fact that our Superintendent of Public Instruction is admitting that good teaching looks different in different situations.

I had some black and Hispanic students in high school, but just like Mr. Evers, it wasn't until I left my hometown and came to Milwaukee that I was even exposed to black culture of any kind.

That the leader of public schools says he couldn't walk into a comprehensive high school in MPS and be an adequet teacher is one hell of an admission. It takes a darn special person to teach in a city high school. Yes, sometimes, that person who's excellent at South Division isn't going to work well in Pewaukee and vise-versa. One thing that has constantly chapped me and other educators in professional development workshops over the years are examples of "good teaching" that have no earthly connection to me or my students. When the leader of public ED in Wisconsin acknowledges that, it at least makes me feel like he "gets it" and isn't an empty suit.
(The Promoting Excellence for All) strategies came down on the issue of making sure all teachers, no matter what their color or background, are culturally competent and understand diverse communities, (and) are willing to feel comfort in situations where they may be the only person of a different color in a setting like a classroom. That takes extraordinary planning and preparation and changing our norms.
And I'm not there yet. I'm not sure any educator can ever truly be "there" in this pursuit.
The problem is, if we rely on us attracting more African-Americans or any people of color to the profession, I’ll be six feet under by the time that happens. It’s just, it’s not going to happen soon. Many kids of color have not had a great experience … in their schooling, and maybe the last thing they want to be is a teacher, frankly. And also — and this is a small issue, but it’s one I will continually harp on even for those students that do well in the Milwaukee area — for kids of color, a lot of times they leave the state and never come back. And I think we’re losing a significant resource.
We are. We really, really, really are.

But hey, Sup. Evers, we're also not attracting them because it costs at least $1,200 in tests and examinations that people have to pay for out of pocket to get a teaching license in Wisconsin. (Praxis I, Praxis II, Ed TPA, Foundations of Reading Exam, et. al)... I'm just saying... little help here? Maybe? Somehow?
It’s a K-through-20 issue. It’s an economic issue. But I also think we can do some things now. I think helping our teachers have good class sizes, make sure that they are culturally competent, is of huge importance. Another one that I’m hopefully going to work on with people this year ... is there’s a real low-hanging fruit in Milwaukee — it could be in other urban areas of Wisconsin — the number of children that go to summer school is paltry … I think having a concerted effort at summer school will help help. We have this slide that happens every summer and we can help prevent that in a real easy way, we just have to get people in Milwaukee County energized around this. Hopefully, I’m going to be working on that and getting it going. And it’s also, as I talk to people in Milwaukee, not only is it preparing kids more academically, but we have a lot of kids getting killed here in the summer in Milwaukee. It’s an issue of safety too … If we keep them involved in school for a more lengthy period of time during the day, during the summer, we keep them safer, slow down the slide and make some progress. So that’s another thing we’re working on.
We're working on it in MPS.

I'm part of a work-group that includes members of MPS's Central Office, high school principals, five high school teachers, representatives of higher-ed form the Milwaukee area, and a large representation from members the Greater Milwaukee Committee to help re-imagine our high school experiences in MPS. It's tough work, because we have so many needs to fill, so many entrenched ideas, and little money to work with.

However, finding ways to make high school summer school be not only a place where we can have students who are credit deficient play catch up, but also find acceleration opportunities for students to expand their learning as well, is difficult.

We're trying. Seriously, from a ground-floor person who was in a meeting just this past week on these issues, we really are trying. Evers' isn't just saying something that sounds good, it's fact.
It is extraordinarily difficult when the economics of the neighborhoods are so difficult.
Damn right...
From the data, it looks like Wisconsin can’t educate its black students. Why is this not changing, and why can’t we as a state improve?

We’ve had … at one point in time if you’re a second grader, African-American, in Milwaukee, you’re likely to be moving into four different schools over a year. And that’s a recipe for disaster. And some of that is the, frankly, the neighborhood school concept really doesn’t exist in Milwaukee anymore. They went to more of an interspaced specialty schools where kids are traveling all over the city. There’s high mobility, and then you have issues of poverty, you’re living with Mom for partial time or maybe Grandma or Dad, and you’re moving all the time. One of our goals, and we’ve reached it for the most part, is to work with MPS to standardize curriculum in every school so that even if you are moving you aren’t changing, starting over from scratch.
We have done a good job at standardizing curriculum, but it doesn't matter what grade you're in, mobility of students between schools is flipping CRAZY.

Look at 9-12 stability of students at our high performing schools and then look the our turnover rate in my school. Upwards of 30-40% of the students who attend my school at some point during the year did not start or do not finish in my building. In fact, I can't even begin to place a number on how low the number of students are that actually do all four years of their high school education in my building.

The mobility rates in MPS would drive any other high school or system bonkers. We know it all too well. It's just our reality, so we try and manage it as best as we can. There's only so much we can do to change it. Remember, we do comparatively little teaching, we do more combating the effects of poverty than anything else.
The other thing … is there is a movement in Milwaukee around the issue of community schools, and I think that has some innate merit to it. I don’t think there is a lot of good research around it, but there is common sense around it where they have all the wraparound services right there in the school, whether it’s dental or mental health, whether it’s social services, it’s all within a school and the schools actually have outreach workers that work in the community to kind of bring the people together. But the weird thing about that is you’re always going to have a hard time getting off the ground in Milwaukee because they really don’t have that many neighborhood schools anymore, so kind of rallying the parents, the community members around nurturing young kids in their neighborhood, is going to be much more difficult when those kids go 10 miles that way to school or 20 miles that way to school.
Yep, Gov. Walker, public sector unions are all bad. Gee, who was it that got this whole initiative started in our district? Did outreach, paid for trips, worked to secure coordinators, provide professional development?

The MTEA...

I happily pay my dues and am active in my professional association because they very much are part of the solution.
Do solutions to the achievement gap need to be broader than schools?

Evers: Absolutely. And Milwaukee has a good philanthropy community, and the other urban areas too, that really help the schools out, but it’s really hard to coordinate all those different interest groups. We’ve for years attempted, with some success, to get the early-childhood philanthropy group to act as somewhat unified, even though they’re different pots of money and that’s worked out, but it’s been very difficult other than that. The one thing I’d like that Dr. Driver has done is she’s focused on the high schools. Clearly high school in Milwaukee and our urban areas are really difficult, but I think it’s an area where there’s some unanimity in the Milwaukee community, especially about how high schools can be changed in a more positive direction — more technical career education, frankly, more music, art and (physical education), all the things we recognize when we went to school were all important that have been kind of left out of a lot of schooling at the high school level. And the other good thing about her focus there is that it won’t devolve into that argument about which types of schools are better, vouchers or charters, because MPS kind of owns that world because very few vouchers go to high school kids and very few, percentage, wise, go to an independent charter, so we can just kind of set that governing aside and focus on making high schools a more productive environment for kids.
You mean like that work-group I'm in?

I want to get up and scream that MPS is NOT what Sen. Darling and Rep. Kooyenga claim it is. We are a radically different district than even a few years ago. We have competent leadership who pulls together diverse and different viewpoints. Do I always agree? No. Do I think we have someone who isn't outright trying to subvert MPS and sell us off to the lowest bidder? Oh, hell yes.

MPS Superintendents and those who work in our central office have always been easy targets for teachers/students/parents/commentators, and yes, there is still much I wish I could change. But really, this isn't Greg Thornton's MPS, or the MPS of 2005, 2000, 1990, or 1980. I have a leader who makes me want to work for change, and that's huge.
Johnson: If you go back 20 years, MPS was graduating at like 40 percent black kids.

Tom McCarthy: The other thing they’re doing a good job of is the five- and six-year (graduation rate). They’re focusing on the fact that just because they didn’t get them at 18 as a traditional graduate, there’s still an opportunity for them to do a job and finish the work.

WHY, WHY, WHY are we being relatively "punished" as a school and district for not graduating enough students in only four years?! When kids are coming to high school with 6th grade or lower reading levels, and in a school like mine, 30% (but really, far more) with special education needs, why are we constantly dinged for our graduation rates?! (Seriously, our DPI report cards in the past have lost points just because we didn't do something quickly enough...)
Johnson: I’ll give a pitch for the five- and six-year graduation rate is important. And not all reporters cover it I think as much as they should. A, our constitution in Wisconsin says you have a right to a public education until you’re 20 years old; and B, especially in districts with high percentage of kids with special needs, with an IEP (individualized education plan), they can go to school until they’re 21. And so Milwaukee is certainly a place with 23 percent of their students having IEPs that you really should look at the five- and six-year graduation rates.

We can keep the kids in school and get them over the finish line! We have programs, we're constantly redoing our programs to be flexible. It's so baffling to us on the ground-floor that we work, and work, and work, and work to get students to graduate but ultimately in the state's eyes, we are still punished in some way for it.

Yes, we only graduate 60%ish of our students in four years, but it's FAR higher when you look over the long haul!
Do you look to other states with positive examples of closing race-based achievement gaps?

Evers: No. There are none. I would say Florida has done some interesting things in closing the gap, but they started from a different place … I think they’ve done a good job with African-American kids, but they’ve also invested a hell of a lot of money in schooling and making sure their systems accommodate the difficulties that those kids have. I’d say (the gap) hasn’t changed at all.

Johnson: (The progress in closing the achievement gap is) sort of flattening out.

So no other states are making improvement?

Evers: In my opinion, no. I occasionally get together with those folks that are colleagues of mine, and I haven’t seen a particular state that has done differently. There’s other states that don’t have much of an achievement gap, but they don’t have many kids of color.

So in that case, Wisconsin is not unique in these stubborn trends.

Evers: No.
And that's the really harsh reality. In Wisconsin, we have been so segregated to having over 50% of our state's black/African American population living in Milwaukee, which is why it looks like an MPS issue. But really, it's a state issue, and a national issue.

So what am I doing over this break? Yes, I'm going to write, and be with my family. But I'm going to clean my classroom, figure out how to structure lessons, and design ways to have my students be successful. That means desiging writing assignments, reading assignments, and working on this issue every day I'm in my school.

Again, read the WHOLE interview, it's quite good.

Monday, November 30, 2015

State Sen. Rick Gudex Is Not Running

It's been a long, long while since I've gotten on the ol' Soapbox and written anything. There's been good reason.

First, inner-city education, no matter how much time I may have been able to dedicate towards blogging in the past, is damn hard work. It's both physically demanding and mentally exhausting to degrees that I'm not sure anyone can even comprehend. The constant churn and flux of students coming and going from rosters, not showing up for attendance, not turning in work, and then wanting to make everything up is enough to drive anyone up a wall.

Couple those constant pressures with my new duties as department chairperson, union representative, significant other to a first-year teacher, and now graduate student at UWM for Public Administration, and you have the makings of a person who just doesn't have the time to step onto the soapbox and spout.

While I may not throw my $0.02 into the ring as much as I used to, I'd like to think I'm working more and more on the ground towards real progress, not just being another voice in the echo chamber. I still keep up on the news of the day, that's for sure, but working for change on initiatives within MPS, attempting to be active at the local party level, and supporting with kind words and bits of advice friends who are now seeking local office this spring, fulfills my desires more than just writing for writing's sake.

I do plenty of that with my classes, believe me.

But just like any good high, when I'm in the mood to write, like right now, it just flows and feels so good. Hence why I couldn't help but step onto the soapbox today with the news that my old nemesis State Sen. Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac had decided to step down. You can read his press-release on the matter HERE.

Sen. Gudex's victory in 2012 came at the tail end of my time living in my native Fond du Lac. I was busy doing some doors and other nominal volunteer work for then Sen. Jessica King's campaign, but time was hard as I had just been hired in Milwaukee and was making a daily commute after landing a job with MPS. The fact that only 590 votes was what separated Sen. King and now Sen. Gudex's victory haunts me to this very day.

His campaign, and subsequent election, gave me the drive to write some of my earliest entries on this site. (Grammar, HOLY COW, the horrid grammar...)

Such as THIS dandy, which is one of the first times I ever really felt like a sleuth. This is when I managed to capture the early version of Sen. Gudex's campaign website, and see some of the crazy written-word commentary that he had about his vision for Wisconsin. (Transferring government jobs to the private sector? Yikes!)

Then of course there was the constant, constant barrage of ads from the American Federation for Children. (Now the Wisconsin Federation for Children.) The obscene amount of money that they dumped into his campaign to expand vouchers statewide was nothing short of revolting. Dan Bice wrote about it in the Journal-Sentinel after his election, and seeing the unfettered expansion of vouchers over the last two biennium budgets have left a legacy that's hard to stomach for this public school educator.

Sen. Gudex will likely go down in history and be remembered as the pawn senator for the voucher lobby.

Scott Jensen, Jim Bender, and the rest of the voucher cohort in this state had a heavy friend in Sen. Gudex, who was nothing more than their vote. He never considered the legislation, he never offered any substantive changes towards what proposed policies were, never spoke out in passionate advocacy of any policy, he was just there as a vote. A vote you could depend on if you supported vouchers.

The closest Sen Gudex came towards really making any statewide waves was his time on WEDC, where he thought his backgroundt in manufacturing might be of benefit. But time, and time, and time again we have seen how the WEDC has been a comedy of errors that is now costing the state money and making Wisconsin the laughingstock of economic development. How much of this is directly attributable to the Senator is a point of debate, but his appointment to the board and now stepping down only reinforces the narrative that the WEDC is a circus act.

On the local front in his district, aside from taxpayer anger from his expansion of vouchers, what's Sen. Gudex's legacy? Probably the fact that he did some good work with historic preservation tax credits. However even that has been a dumpster-fire of combustibles in Fond du Lac, where a local business in Commonwealth Construction Corporation has been the target of local residents towards it's use of tax credits to refurbish and rehab old buildings into income-based and affordable housing. Needless to say, a quick spot check of the GAB's campaign finance system shows close ties towards and their owner of the company and Republican donations.

I feel like the company is unfortunately the scapegoat target of people's anger. People who see the decaying middle class and mid-level job opportunities from their city and see another scapegoat in new arrivals to town who are themselves seeking better conditions than where they came from. While Sen. Gudex's work might not directly relate to this particular company's projects and history of rehabbing buildings, there are easy lines to be drawn in people's heads, and quid-pro-quo ala the voucher votes ring loudly in people's minds.

I'm hopeful that Sen. Gudex's tax credit changes bear fruit for communities in Wisconsin, and I think in many ways they will. But it's not much to hang your hat on when you are seen by so many as just "the voucher Senator."

As for this somewhat surprising news, I actually caught wind that Sen. Gudex was not running for reelection about three weeks ago from a well-place source and friend of mine. The reason that he heard about why the Senator was not running related to him being unhappy with the pay that he received and became eager to make more money. Which is why I find THIS Wisconsin Eye report where Sen. Gudex says that he got an offer he "couldn't refuse" to be so funny, because it essentially confirms it. Money does drive all...

There is still that nagging part of me which wonders why Sen. Gudex would run for the position when he knew very well the pay structure. The answer likely lies in the fact that Republicans did a bang-up job in the Fox Valley during the 2000's and early 2010's building their bench to the point where when they had control of the legislature, they could dominate. Sen. Gudex, Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, they were both active and vocal forces on the Fond du Lac City Council before being called in as "next-man-up" by the Republican Party when seats opened up.

While I may have written many posts in this blog, especially in it's early days, with the intent of besmirching Sen. Gudex, I think Democrats can learn a valuable lesson by viewing his ascension in politics. Bench building at the local level is important to practice as a political party, and has lasting ripple effects. During the mid-2000's, we didn't learn this lesson, which is why today the DPW is only now beginning to recover from such a period of drought with candidates who're "building the bench."

Running candidates at the local level for councils, boards, and committees are vital in growing the candidates who are able to garner name recognition and already know "the game" when a seat opens up. Just look at how Sen. Gudex's announcement today was almost immediately followed by the Fond du Lac Co. Republican Party Chair announcing he was running for the seat. My senses tell me that when Sen. Fitzgerald says he's met with other candidates, that we will see even more throw their hat into the ring than just Dan Feyen.

Some names from the Fond du Lac area include City Council President Lee Ann Lorrigan, council member Greg Giles, Fond du Lac School Board member (and person to appear in Gov. Walker commercials) Eric Everson, and even possibly Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt himself.

Democrats have pockets of bench in Wisconsin, but sadly the building process is in many respects short. Groups like Wisconsin Progress have done yeomen's work on this front, and the Democratic Party itself has had programs in the recent past past have done much to promote candidate development, but years of inept backwardsness during the 2000's and the recall battles after Act 10 left the party with few people to ascend through the ranks. It's only now that we're coming to a point where we can challenge again.

With the historic data suggesting Democrats can win back the State Senate in 2016, this prime time to start building towards a new Democratic majority in Wisconsin. One where those who got active during Act 10 can blossom and come into their own, and one where Millennials and successors to them (Gen Z?) can propel the state into the 21st Century. 2016 is about the present, sure, but it's just as much about 2018's gubernatorial election, 2020's redistricting election, and 2022 when the new maps, whatever they look like, go into effect.

But the lessons of 2012 and the King/Gudex race still loom large for me, as well they should for everyone.

590 votes...

Money matters a great deal, as we can't win seats without putting up a fight. That takes cash and not just Facebook (or blog) posts about activism. It takes staff, mailers, ads, airtime, and knowledge. However, votes still come from the old-school tactics of voter contact, boots on the ground doing walk-packets, and Wisconsin's tradition of retail politics.

Which is why 590 votes matters.

With local elections only a few months away and nomination papers about to be pulled, candidates should learn to use the data. Follow it, plan with it, raise money to move your game with the aid of information. That's how we win the Senate in 2016, the East Wing in 2018, and have a voice in redistricting come 2020.

Rick Gudex's election taught me that money matters. (American Federation for Children = statewide vouchers.) But it also taught me that money can't buy everything in GOTV.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


If you haven't noticed, I've been very quite as of late.

I still haven't finished my write-up on the Chris Abele Op-Ed from last week and am just keeping afloat with grad school and my own job. (Budgeting worksheets and 300 pages of reading just don't compare with grading essays and creating lessons.)

So, I'm on a bit of a Soapbox break.

No worries, I'm still around, still monitoring state level politics and news, and still very much engaged on a lot of levels. But for at least the next week, I'm not going to have a chance to write on here.

I'll be back, don't you worry :)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Walk In Third Friday For MPS

Today was "Third Friday" in the world of Wisconsin public education.

That's the day that DPI uses as the cut-off to determine school's and district's enrollment for monetary purposes. It's a very, very big red-letter day for any school and district in Wisconsin, but it always takes particular importance in Milwaukee because it's the day that MPS schools find out if they are under or overenrolled and teachers move buildings.

In MPS, Third Friday is a very, very big deal.

But today it was a major deal, because over 100 schools in MPS staged Walk-Ins as a response to the takeover plan that was included in the biennium budget.

Those walk in's were covered all over the Milwaukee media.

From the Journal-Sentinel:
"This is an attack on our democratic institutions," North Division social studies teacher Lukas Wierer told about 30 demonstrators gathered outside the building before the start of classes on Friday. 
Wierer acknowledged the Milwaukee Public School District's shortcomings, saying administrators and staff must "continue to strive to be better." But he said MPS is the "only institution in this city with the capacity, commitment and legal obligation to serve all of our students."


Although this story does include a very befuddling dissenting stance from a woman who says, "I don't agree with political activism on campuses." Gee, too bad all that school integration stuff happened back in the day, right?


The Fox 6 print story also includes a peculiar statement from takeover arcitech Sen. Alberta Darling, where she continues to repeat claims about "miracles" in New Orleans and Memphis while subsequently saying that parents and teachers want to trap kids instead of recognizing that we are fighting to give them what they deserve where they already are at.

And even in La Crosse, as all of the schools in La Crosse joined in what is nothing short of a spectacular moment of solidarity across Wisconsin.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout joked to me in December 2013 that "there is a big trench by Portage that all the news from this side of the state just falls into." Well, clearly, that wasn't the case today. La Crosse is SPOT ON.

But that was only part of the day.

The other part was spent downtown where the County Board's Intergovernmental Relations Committee passed by 4-1 vote a resolution opposing the MPS Takeover.

Yes, the takeover that is being overseen by Co. Exec. Chris Abele....

From the Journal-Sentinel: 
The measure passed 4-1, with Supervisor Deanna Alexander as the lone dissenter and Tony Staskunas absent. It was proposed by County Supervisors Jason Haas, Khalif Rainey, John Weishan Jr. and Eddie Cullen. 
The resolution is essentially symbolic, as the takeover measure is now law. But it draws a line in the sand between County Board members and Abele, and seeks to ensure that costs associated with operation of the so-called Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program do not fall to Milwaukee County taxpayers, who already pay separate taxes for their schools. 
"When he (Abele) says no county employees will be used, we don't believe him," Weishan said. He said the takeover measure was " undemocratic and has huge future costs for Milwaukee County." 
Alexander, an Abele supporter, suggested the opposition was motivated " by politics and money."
Sure, job security can be called money... I mean honestly, who doesn't want to fight for their job? But really, this is about equal access towards educational opportunities in Milwaukee, and independent charter schools do not give that. It's just that simple.
Abele was in Washington, D.C., and did not attend the meeting. 
His administration director, Tieg Whaley-Smith, read a prepared statement reiterating many of Abele's prior statements regarding the takeover, including the assertion that he never sought oversight of the schools "and frankly shares some of the same concerns of those who have expressed opposition." 
"Now that he has this authority, however," Whaley-Smith said, "he is taking the responsibility seriously and is committed to making sure this effort is a success."

Like I have pointed out before, if Abele really doesn't want to hurt MPS and truly believes what he's saying, he should shut up and ask for help about how to avoid any damage to MPS. But based on his statements and just general lack of any specifics, he clearly hasn't the faintest idea about the power he wields and how some actions he seems to want to take very well could be putting the death nail into public education in Milwaukee.

What's an even scarier thought is that he might know exactly what he's doing and is attempting to play us all for fools. Maybe he wants to see MPS get blown up, just like he seems to want to see so many county services be blown up and shipped out to the private sector.

Then again, maybe there's a reason why State Sen. Chris Larson will be announcing his bid for Co. Executive in short order.

No, I'm serious, just watch this from WISN-TV today:

WDJT-TV in Milwaukee decided, as many did with their evening newscasts, to focus on the County Board meeting as well:

CBS 58

The CBS story featured an interview with MTEA President Kim Schroeder. I'm proud to say that Kim is my union president, and I would certainly feel comfortable calling him my friend. Every word he says here is true. Every. Damn. Word:
"MPS teachers do the hardest job of any teacher in the state, and they do it better than anybody else, the challenges that we face in the classroom every day would baffle most people, yet we do it, and we do it successfully, the bad things get put on the news the great things tend to be ignored,” said Kim Schroeder, MTEA President.
If you're looking for more information and pictures from all across MPS where schools walked in, I suggest looking on the Stop The MPS Takeover Facebook page or you can also head over to the MTEA website which has lots of images as well.

And in case you were wondering, you'd better believe I took part in a walk at my school, and was the one who happily organized and distributed flyers to staff after school.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Soapbox Quick Hits

My life is busy, busy, busy right now. Seriously, taking two grad classes, teaching a new AP class, and being involved in so many different activities certainly has it's breaking point. Having a slight head-cold probably is the sign.

So, here a a few "quick-hits" that I think you should know about.

- Rep. Sanfelippo's proposal politicizing the State Superintendent:

Nuts. The idea that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would move from a constitutionally elected position to an appointed one is just plan nuts. The volume of press-releases and statements on this topic over the last few days are impossible to all link to here, but it should go without saying that the typical political divisions were seen.

However, even though there was conservative Republican support expressed for the proposal, I'm not sure that even this would pass the muster of the State Senate.

- Winnebago Co. Executive Mark Harris announces candidacy for 18th State Senate District

In a move that I had already expressed as likely earlier in the summer, today Winnebago Co. Exec. Mark Harris made it official, as he formally jumped into the ring as a challenger to State Sen. Rick Gudex in SD 18. Remember, Sen. Gudex beat former State Sen. Jessica King by only 590 votes, with most of the "loss" coming in the City of Oshkosh. Harris is very popular in Winnebago Co., and can be seen as a very legitimate challenger to Gudex.

Harris will need to work the crowds more than he did this past summer at the FDL Dem's picnic, but now that he's officially committed, I think he will. He has a bit of a donation network from his challenge to now Congressman Glenn Grothman, and certainly generated the name recognition needed. This one is key to getting a Democratic Senate folks, it's a biggie.

- Fond du Lac School Board E-Mail controversy

Did you know that some school boards don't encourage constituents to contact members by e-mail? I didn't either, especially one of the largest in Wisconsin, but that's exactly what has been happening in Fond du Lac over the last few years. Turns out, members of the board were given school district e-mails, but were told to keep them private and not published on the district website for constituent contact.

Yes, that's right... In this era of open records requests, it seems mighty befuddling why a school board would constantly harp on people to call or even snail-mail and not fire off a paper-trailed e-mail.

I'm just saying.

In fact, from what I hear from friends and former colleagues, the issues that have been discussed at board meetings go far beyond what is being published in the newspaper. From board members openly saying to other board members that they shouldn't talk to the press about this, to others walking out of meetings that are in "workshop," it sounds like there is a lot of fertile ground for the press to cultivate about open government in Fond du Lac.

Hmm... Hey teacher's union/FDL Democrats, et al, how are those open seats going with recruiting people to run for April?

- State Sen. Chris Larson at the Milwaukee Teacher's Educators Association Convocation

State Sen. Chris Larson was the special speaker this evening at the MTEA's yearly convocation. The speech was quite good, and felt a little campaign-y. Like, it was a test-run campaign-y.

This quote probably helps: "Stay tuned."

Remember when Dan Adams blasted Larson for being too chicken to challenge Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele this April? Seems to me that there may be a decision reached, especially because the entire tenor of the convocation centered around the MTEA's efforts at resisting the MPS Takeover.

On that note, there was an interesting date dropped by MTEA President Kim Schroeder - February. It sounds like that will be the time we finally know what school(s) will be the first selected by the commissioner. That is, if there is ever a list of possible candidates forwarded to Abele by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Gov. Scott Walker.

Well, that's it for me now. I'm off to the land of NyQuil.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Just A Good Point To Make

So, my life is INSANELY busy, which means that blogging has been pushed way, way, WAY towards the back burner.

Yesterday and today were full of WEAC activities, and I figured that one of the good pieces of information that I think people should know is this:

Saturday, September 5, 2015

MPS Is Still Hiring!

My employer, the Milwaukee Public Schools is still hiring!

My school is a tough environment for any educator, no question. It's mentally draining, it's physically draining, it's emotionally draining, but it's also a place that is so incredibly rewarding. The first week of school has been full of a lot of promise thus far, and hopefully we can get the rest of our students who registered for classes to come back before the third Friday count.

Oh, wait, you didn't know that MPS schools have slowly rising enrollment in the first few weeks of school because many students just don't come back right away? Or they are still with family down south still? Yep, it's a real struggle, and directly impacts our staffing levels and budgets.

But you know what, despite the struggles, I'm so incredibly proud to be an MPS employee. It's why I dedicate so much energy and effort to improve my school and our district. We need more people who are eager to do a good job, serve kids, and make a difference!

For a listing of jobs, click HERE. 

What The? Highway Gates?

Sometimes the shortest, most straightforward bills are also the most confusing.

What is the purpose of AB 330 as a bill? I mean honestly, there is a problem with the DOT installing non-access gates and message signs? 
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is authorized to spend moneys to maintain state highways. Under this bill, DOT is prohibited from installing on any highway overhead message boards, traffic cameras, or on-ramp gates.
Umm, why?

It's not like those things are just for-thrills. Closing highways in the winter when conditions are horrendous? Just close the gate. Speeding vehicles, manhunts, and any number of other reasons are why there are traffic cameras. And no more overhead signs telling us how far to destinations? Really?

I guess the fact there is no Senate co-sponsor to the motley crew of Rep.'s Kremer, August, Craig, Horlacher, Hutton, Jarchow, T. Larson, Schraa and Thiesfeldt speaks volumes.

Could it be to privatize those services, as has happened in Iowa? Nothing is impossible...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Gov. Abele? Nope, Not So Much According To Him

Remember when everyone freaked out because Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele hired former DPW Chairperson Mike Tate to do some consulting work? Then a few days later a staffer from the DPW decided to work for Abele in the Exec.'s office and the internet freaked out because they thought he was planning a quasi-coup to run for Governor in 2018?

Well, the AP's Scott Bauer squashed that today.

First, there is his article HERE:
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Democratic Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said Thursday he "definitely" will not be running for governor in 2018, putting to bed rumors that he was considering mounting a bid after hiring a prominent party official.
Mark this one down...

While I thought chatter of him running over the last few weeks was over-hyped, his name has kind of always been out there in the lower-tier Democratic mix of people who may jump on. While three years is a long time, this is a hard one to walk back.
Abele told The Associated Press he felt compelled to deny speculation he might run so it wouldn't impair his ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans in Milwaukee. Abele also is running for a second term as county executive next year.
This is the part that's annoying... It's not that you work together, it's that you don't assert your Democratic side authority. Be a damn Democrat and assert yourself on DEMOCRATIC principles every now and again.
"I am definitely not running for governor," said Abele, 48. "Not that I ever made any noise about it, but others have." 
Talk of Abele possibly preparing for a gubernatorial run has spiked since he hired former state Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate on Aug. 24 and followed that up by hiring the party's communications director Melissa Baldauff. 
Abele said he hired Tate as a political consultant because he had known him for years and Baldauff came highly recommended. Baldauff, who had worked for the state party for two years, will take a similar job with Abele.
The way that is written it sure sounds like Tate secured a job for Baldauff. As I wrote HERE, nothing against her in the least, this is likely a very positive step for her. But the way that's written, it just sounds bad.
Abele succeeded Scott Walker as county executive in 2011. Walker, the Republican governor now running for president, is up for re-election as governor in 2018. Walker has not said whether he will seek a third term should his presidential aspirations fizzle. 
Which it looks like they are, but the conventional wisdom is that he's either going to cash in on Wall St. or be appointed ambassador to someplace like Iceland.
Abele is up for re-election in April. State Sen. Chris Larson, a Democrat and former Milwaukee County board member, has said he is considering running against him. 
Abele joked when asked whether he could change his mind about a gubernatorial run. 
"In the same way I suppose I could become an astronaut or hit the winning shot for the Bucks it's possible," he said, laughing. And, just for good measure, he further joked that the only way he would consider a run is "if the capital is moved to Milwaukee."
So, I'm taking that as a "no."

Then, there is THIS from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. It pretty much sums up the AP article, but does add a quote:
"I didn't get in (to politics) to just focus on what the next step is," said Abele, who was elected county executive in 2011 after Republican Scott Walker left the post to become governor. 
Abele said he hopes Democrats nominate a candidate who is pragmatic and can work across party lines.
I hope the Democrats can nominate a person who STOPS THE BLEEDING!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Local Control My Foot

There has been much ado down in Racine with their school board lately.

First, there is the fact that they have a clause in their teacher handbook that says they should at least consult with the union about compensation and language in the handbook.

Then, there is the issue of vacancies on the Racine School Board and how certain board members want to push a radical agenda over the summer when a quorum is present, but not all board members that are representative of the community.

It's further complicated, because one seat on the board is vacant, one seat that the conservative side would LOVE to secure to push their agenda.

So, enter State Sen. Van Wanggaard and some lackeys in the Assembly to introduce SB 244 and AB 325:
This bill allows the school board president of a common, union high, or unified
school district to appoint a person to fill a vacancy on the school board if the
remaining school board members fail to fill the vacancy within 60 days.
Under current law, if a vacancy occurs on a school board of a common, union
high, or unified school district, the remaining school board members appoint a
person to fill the vacancy. This bill allows the school board president of one of these
school districts to appoint a person to fill a vacancy on the school board if the
remaining school board members do not fill the vacancy within 60 days of the date
on which the vacancy first occurs. A school board member appointed to fill a vacancy,
whether by remaining school board members or by a school board president, serves
until his or her successor is elected and takes office.
Remember, Republicans are all about local control! So long as you do what they want.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The New School Year Begins

It's my last Sunday of solace.

My last Sunday without worrying what we're all going to accomplish in my classes as a high school teacher in the coming week, month, year.

It's also likely my last Sunday without having to complete grad school homework on either introductory topics related to public administration or budgeting and finance too.

Last week was only a taste of what I'm going to be experiencing this school year. Between wrapping up my summer work as a union organizer and readying my newly moved classroom, it's always a whirlwind. There truly is no rest for the weary. However, it was by all measures, a great week.

Last Thursday was the first day MPS teachers and support staff had to officially report to to work. That happened with an astounding rally at the UWM Panther Arena downtown. (Being a history buff and Supertramp bootleg recording fan, I'll always refer to it as the MECCA.) It was a phenomenal experience! Would I have maybe liked some more time in my classroom? Yes, but never have I ever seen all of my colleagues from across the district in one spot.

We in MPS are truly all in this together, and that was the message our leader Dr. Darienne Driver wanted to make sure everyone knew. Well that, and a new slogan that truly encompasses what we need to be - MPS PROUD.

That's probably no better embodied than through this student's amazing speech. Seriously folks, as my friend Jay Bullock said online Thursday, "This kid for Governor. My checkbook awaits."

There were tons of moments like this one though. It was also a chance for me to see and reconnect with people I haven't seen since my first year in MPS. That's the funny thing about MPS, because so many people move around, for various sundry reasons, there are people you see daily 190 or more times over the course of a year. Then one day they're gone, off to some other school. This was a great chance to see those people, meet new people.

There was also this very powerful moment where MTEA President Kim Schroeder presented an "I Love my Public School" T-shirt to Superintendent Driver.

The happiness on everyones face was just a great way to bring that inner-feeling of happiness to the surface for everyone who's involved in working for the students of MPS.

This was a wonderful, wonderful event. I could link you to Alan Borsuk's Journal-Sentinel article that splashes some water on the pomp and circumstance, but I'm not going to do that. We know the challenges we face, we know the threats we face in MPS.

We know... We know all too well.

I'm taking this opening gala for the positive it was. To reinvigorate the mind, the body, the soul is so very, very important when it comes to education. It's why taking a nice break over summer is so necessary, both for teachers and students.

I don't care what anyone says, any time, any place, anywhere. Teachers are in it for the kids. The ones who aren't are pushed aside. They're pushed aside by their colleagues, by the union, by the district. We don't have time for people who aren't in it for the right reason, we just don't.

Time for year four with MPS to begin. I couldn't be happier to be where I am right now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What A Tangled Web We Weave - Chris Abele Edition

A few days ago, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Dan Bice had a story that former Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson Mike Tate was hired by Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele for some limited term work as a consultant. Then today, there was THIS story, which notes how DPW staffer Melissa Baldauff is moving in to replace Abele's current spokesperson who is moving up in the world.

Needless to say, these moves have set off a firestorm in progressive online groups and blogs. Many people are making comments about Abele and Tate as so-called "corporate Democrats" organizing in Milwaukee as a way to both stave off a possible Abele challenger in 2016 and make way for a statewide run in 2018. Interesting theory...

I'm no Chris Abele fan, not by a long shot. However, I have to give a tip of the cap towards Tate and Baldauff for getting good work and advancing their own careers.

I've thrown plenty of stones at Mike Tate on this site over the years, and while I think there were some bad decisions he made as party chair, I don't think his entire tenure should be characterized as such that every election outcome was based SOLELY on some decision he made. In 2010 there was a wave year which overtook the entire nation that nobody could've stopped. In 2011, we saw the State Senate recall victories and Democratic control, but the 2012 elections were held under newly redistricted maps, which are still choking Democrats to this day. 2014 wasn't much better for many of the same reasons, not the least of which was another national conservative wave that blindsided lots of us.

It's not entirely fair to blame Tate for such violent national waves. The benefit of hindsight is 20/20.

However, to somehow think that Mike Tate is going to stay out of politics, or doesn't have the right to offer his consultation advice for a fee now that he is done as party chair, is absurd. The man has to earn a living, and if he can draw a check from Chris Abele wanting his services, that's where he'll be. That's smart business, and in the post Citizens United world that's also how election campaigns work.

We as liberals may not like it, but the sooner we admit that we live under Citizens United's rules (or lack there-of) the better off we'll be to actually win and work towards overturning them.

As for Melissa Baldauff, she's just a simple staffer, who clearly sees a different and likely better opportunity. I can't imagine being the communications person for the DPW has very stable hours or glory beyond being the name on fundraising e-mails.

I must admit though, the timing of this announcement, a few months after the election of Martha Laning as Chairperson and a few days after the announcement of Executive Director Jake Hajdu leaving, does give me pause and wonder what's happening down in Madison at the "home office."

I may disagree up and down with many of Abele's policies and positions, and been very happy with his lack of communications gravitas up until now. However, I can spot a smart career move when I see it, so what's maybe not good for me as a liberal blogger in Milwaukee is probably a good thing for the office of County Exec. overall. Baldauff's move is smart, and likely strengthening a weakness of Abele's.

And that's one thing that I think some people may have a hard time understanding about my own two cents worth of analysis on this.

I don't think Chris Abele is somehow a bad person, or even not a Democrat. The man pays dues and donates a ton of money to the party. (Check the finance reports people.) He's got a card.

No, my problem with Abele is that when you hold one of the most powerful positions in one of the two epicenters of Democratic politics in Wisconsin, YOU NEED TO BE A TEAM PLAYER. Abele's good on many, many issues except the one that Milwaukee MUST be the leader on - Labor. Chris Abele is an abysmal failure on labor issues and carrying a Democratic message.

Abele and his supporters play this off as him somehow straddling this fine-line middle ground, which by in large is FRUSTRATINGLY true. But when you're the County Executive of Milwaukee, that's NOT what you should be doing. Your job is NOT to cast off labor, but to work with them! Show the rest of the state how to work together with them! Madison is the college-liberal artsy side, we are the working class bread and butter side of the party. You don't have to cave in to them, you don't need to bow at their feet, but you shouldn't be beating them down like a Republican.

Chris Abele is an abysmal failure as a Democrat in my eyes because he doesn't understand that.

If you want to make changes to the Co. Board, you don't go about donating to Republican Rep. Joe Sanfelippo and have him eviscerate them through state level legislation while building your own power. That's NOT being a team player. If you're a labor Democrat, you realize that board members are working people with family supporting jobs and you'd know how to use them to your advantage, not see the need to break them at the knees. (Oh, and building the Democratic bench...)

The list goes on. If you want to restructure the way union contracts are done in the wake of 2011 Act 10 and save money, you don't publicly go against every union you have. Just look at the bus strike for example. I saw a lot of right-wing blowback, as would be expected. But the residents themselves? They're on the drivers side, even with their terribly unpolished messaging. You didn't see huge blowback from those in the city of Milwaukee. In fact, you even had people like Gerard Randall coming out in support of their decision because they wanted to go to the table and the county turned them down.

There's a reason why Abele and the county was forced to sit down with the arbitration officer, which is still happening and sounds like will be resolved in short order. The three day strike worked.

Abele is an okay Democratic candidate to put up in other parts of Wisconsin, just not Milwaukee. If you're going to be a good Democrat in Milwaukee, you should be a team player and someone the party trots out at every turn as the face of the party. And we all know that's not happening right now for good reason.

So, you know what?  Let Abele run for governor in 2018. Here's what hilarious, he'll never make it out of the primary.

The richest pots of Democratic votes in Wisconsin? Milwaukee and Dane County, two places that are in no way considered fertile Abele territory. Plus, with Republicans very, very likely engaged in their own competitive primary at the same time, there's little reason to think that Republican cross-over voting will be a threat towards Democrats.

If someone like Outagamie Co. Executive Tom Nelson runs, what traction will Chris Abele have in the Fox Valley? How will the "Milwaukee Democrat" stick play in Eau Claire or La Crosse, especially if someone like Sen. Jen Schilling or Sen. Kathleen Vineohout runs? The pathway that Abele has used in Milwaukee doesn't exist statewide, because there will be a competitive primary on the Republican side, which Abele hasn't really faced in Milwaukee.

So, everyone who's freaking out online about Mike Tate getting paid for a few weeks of consulting advice and having one experienced Democratic communications staffer switch jobs from the state party to Milwaukee should just cool it. I'm no Abele fan, but from where I sit it's pretty clear that people are making smart moves for themselves right now, and what happens in 2015 behind the scenes is going to make an incredibly minimal impact on any statewide run in 2018.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some Teaching Data From Public Policy Forum

The Public Policy Forum is putting out a report tomorrow about teaching and teachers in the pre and post 2011 Act 10 Wisconsin world.

You can read about it from the Journal-Sentinel HERE:
Over a five-year period that included the near-elimination of collective bargaining in Wisconsin's public schools, the teacher workforce in metro Milwaukee is smaller, less experienced and still largely white, according to a new report. 
I'm shocked!
The metro region also lost 700 teachers during that time, but that trend was most pronounced in Milwaukee Public Schools, which lost a total of 730, the report said.
Those are the key takeaways of a teacher workforce analysis to be published Wednes
day by the Public Policy Forum. The report surveys key characteristics of public school teachers in the 53 school districts within Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, between the years of 2009-'10 and 2013-'14, the most recent year available. 
Again, I'm shocked... I mean, not that the major losses in funding over that time have anything to do with that.
"This is giving us a valuable pre-Act 10 and post-Act 10 snapshot," said Rob Henken, president of the Public Policy Forum. 
Act 10 was the controversial legislation signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011 that all but eliminated collective bargaining for most public workers and sparked widespread protests. 

It severely curtailed what unions could bargain for, which is only for raises up to the cost of living consumer price index. It means that unions now may only use the legal "meet and confer" process instead of bargaining when discussing issues outside of base pay.
But some predicted consequences of the law — like widespread teacher mobility — did not materialize in the data. 
Hmmm, interesting, but what also is important here is WHERE the data is coming from. It's coming from the richest school districts, aside from Milwaukee, in the state. Go outside the WOW counties and it's a whole different world! CRAZY WORLD... Just ask the good people in Fond du Lac.
The report shows that only about 7% of teachers in the metro region moved to a different district over the years studied, despite anecdotes from district administrators that suggest otherwise. 
Again, look at the geography.
It became easier for teachers to move between districts after Act 10, because new employee handbooks did not offer the same incentives as collective bargaining agreements to stay with one district until retirement. 
"We didn't see widespread evidence of districts poaching teachers" from other districts, said Joe Yeado, senior researcher of the new study. "Even when we looked at (teachers in hard-to-staff subjects), there wasn't an outsize impact of teachers jumping from one field to another." 
You didn't find poaching between high performing districts because there wasn't a need to. Go outside that and there's lots and lots and lots of movement. Plenty of people are moving in the state, but it's not around suburban Milwaukee.
The analysis showed no real change in the average age of the region's public school teachers over the past five years. But teacher experience declined in the region.
This is directly related to the lessening of the profession of education. I'm more and more amazed at the mid-career people who are picking up teaching as a second profession. That can be both good and bad at times in my opinion, because many people just aren't aware of how vastly different schools are from their years there.
"That suggests that districts are hiring teachers who are not necessarily younger, but are less experienced," Yeado said. "They're not necessarily hiring new college graduates to fill these vacancies, but older teachers with less teaching experience." 
Mostly because those numbers of graduates has severely declined too.
That drop in experience did not occur among MPS teachers, where the average years of experience remained at 12 over the time studied. Suburban districts such as Maple Dale-Indian Hill, Muskego-Norway, New Berlin and Pewaukee saw a decline in experience over the time studied. 
New Berlin has been a revolving door from what I hear. As for us in MPS, we have a strong handbook, salary schedule that has been devised, and strong union that advocates for members. Experienced educators are seeing that MPS is not anywhere near as bad as people make it out to be and as en employer is superior to much of the "good old boys" clubs forming in the suburbs.
And while the students educated in the four-county metro area became more diverse before and after Act 10, the teacher workforce across metro Milwaukee remained 89% white. 
That's an issue, and sadly one that I contribute to.

We're looking hard at our school to fill vacancies with teachers with similar cultural backgrounds to our students. It's a challenge to say the least.
Yeado noted that 16 of the 53 districts analyzed have no minority teachers. In 34 districts, whites make up 98% or more of the teaching workforce. 
That's a sad statistic in 2015.
MPS has the highest degree of racial diversity; about 29% of teachers are racial minorities. 
That's still incredibly low in my opinion.
The data analyzed by the forum comes from the state Department of Public Instruction. Private schools are not covered in the report because the data is not publicly available. 
The report is the first in a three-part series, according to Henken. The second report will analyze principals, assistant principals and superintendents in the metro area, and the third report will analyze the teacher workforce pipeline, he said.
I eagerly await further reports...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Walker's Shifting Positions

We knew it would happen. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has changed his stance yet again on immigration policy. And for that, we thank the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza's tweeting skills: