Friday, April 18, 2014

Mellencamp Friday

Gov. Walker's use of John Mellencamp's music is again at the forefront of the division between artists political beliefs and those of the politicians using that music.

Early Mellencamp, during his "Johnny Cougar" days, features some awesome writing that doesn't get the airplay his mid-80's hits do. I wish they would, because it shows a nice bridge of how country and rock are still intertwined in history and that the current "pop-country" that seems to dominate the airwaves has roots in something deeper.

But why I'm really featuring "Dream Killing Town" off Mellencamp's first album. It's a somewhat Springsteen-esque song that features disjointed lyrics but shows a lot of potential and future growth. That's what I think we have right now in Wisconsin, we have a lot of potential and future growth ahead of us. What we need now is to let that come together and grow, but it will take time. Mellencamp only broke through in 1979 with "I Need a Lover" but really didn't hit it big until 1982's American Fool album.

It will take time, but we can make it happen. Right now, we need to work for Mary Burke to start down that path.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sen. Ellis Swan-Song Interview With Wisconsin Eye

Sen. Ellis had his post-mortem with Wisconsin Eye a few days ago, but I've only been able to get around to covering it today.

Luckily, the entire interview is visible on YouTube:



However, not being someone to completely trust YouTube, it's on WisEye's website HERE. 

It's a good watch.

Sen. Ellis is one Republican I would love to sit down and have a conversation with. He's a seasoned hand who I'm sure I could find lots, and lot, and lots of Wisconsin government topics to talk about. His divisiveness on certain issues really does bug me, but there are still a lot of places that, I know, he helped stay off drastically bad legislation this term.

If you watch, you'll get his opinions on all of the governors of the last 40 years, his thoughts on who set him up with the video, Act 10, his relationship with the TEA party, among other topics. I also love what he says about MPS's teacher, and it shows why I'm scared that the Republicans are losing someone who at least somewhat understands our plight in MPS:
"It's certainly not the fault of those warriors called teachers in that community. It is not the teacher's fault that half of them don't graduate."  
It's a good closing to a long political career that sadly came to an end in the way it did. What scares me though is that as a teacher, I'm losing a voice that often times backed me up on the side of the isle that all too often in the last four years has been out to get me. What now?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Some Days, Others Say it Better - Scott Dreher's Letter to the Appleton Post-Crescent

As a history teacher, it makes me sad when I can make comparisons between things in history and the modern day. It makes me feel like I haven't done my job, or my fellow history educators haven't conveyed the message well on why those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Sadly though, modern state history isn't exactly something we cover in school. I was an elementary and middle school student when Tommy Thompson was Governor and my memories of his policies are fleeting at best. I remember hearing about things he did, but sadly time has ravaged my mind from remembering exactly what those policies were. I guess most 7th graders aren't even able to name their Governor, so I had a leg-up in some small way.

But, in a letter to the editor that appeared today in the Appleton Post-Crescent, a writer reminds us just how important history is in analyzing the current context of today:
A quick lesson in Wisconsin history: Does anyone remember Scott McCallum? He was Tommy Thompson’s lieutenant governor and, when Tommy went off to be the federal secretary of health and human services, he became Wisconsin’s 43rd governor. 
McCallum was a good soldier for the Republican Party, but good soldiers sometimes get stuck holding the bag. McCallum’s tenure was plagued with terrible budgetary shortfalls. His bid for re-election was doomed to fail and he was easily defeated by Jim Doyle. 
It wasn’t really McCallum’s fault. Thompson cut a billion dollars in property taxes in 1995. Then he cut close to another billion in 1999. Naturally, as he did this, Thompson was only too happy to parade around the state, proclaiming Wisconsin’s robust budgetary health and riding the low-tax platform to re-election. And people bought it.
Two years later, Thompson was skipping around Washington and good soldier McCallum was getting skewered over the woeful state of Wisconsin’s economy and budget.
 
It’s been 15 years and what have we learned? Well, Gov. Scott Walker has learned that Wisconsinites have short memories and a poor sense of history. Walker is pulling the same cheap election-year stunt that Thompson did not long ago. And some people are falling for it all over again. 
Lower taxes are great, but let’s wait until our budget is truly under control. We face a projected structural deficit and our state is still borrowing money at near-record rates while our infrastructure and education budgets have been gutted. Our budget situation is not nearly as rosy as Walker would have you believe. 
But people are gullible and Walker doesn’t plan on being in Wisconsin when the bill comes due. 
Scott Dreher,
Appleton

From the Inbox - Institute for Wisconsin's Future on Privatizing Schools Not Paying Off

From the inbox:

IWF logo

Study: Privatizing struggling schools doesn’t pay off;
Come to release of this report, April 24, in Milwaukee
 
A new report reveals that legislative moves to convert struggling public schools in Milwaukee into private charters─whether for-profit or non-profit─may actually damage the academic futures of far too many of the city’s children.Gordon Lafer
The report, "School Privatization and Online Learning: Assessing Proposals for Improving Education in Milwaukee," was written by
 Professor Gordon Lafer in conjunction with the national think tank Economic Policy Institute. 

A special briefing on this provocative study will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 24, in the ground floor rotunda of Milwaukee City Hall, 200 East Wells Street
. We hope you will join Dr. Lafer and public school supporters from the area to hear about the growing private charter industry and its impact on Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and students. 

There was a strong push by Wisconsin legislators in the last session to enact bills aimed at closing low-performing public schools and replacing them with less accountable, privately-run enterprises. Considering many of the unanswered questions, EPI commissioned Prof. Lafer to actually look at the results of these privatization efforts would have on MPS.

The report is an eye-opening investigation into the rapidly growing private charter industry, its impact nationally, and the effects profit motivated schools can have on the depth and quality of education children receive in Milwaukee and elsewhere.

We hope you will join us on April 24 at 11 a.m. for the release of this important study. The event will be held in the Milwaukee City Hall ground floor rotunda
.

Prof. Lafer, a political economist at the
 University of Oregon's Labor Education and Research Center, will talk about his findings followed by a response from education expert Dr. Alex Molnar and fourth ward Milwaukee Alderman Robert BaumanA question and answer segment will follow.

The
 Institute for Wisconsin’s Future (IWF) is coordinating the Milwaukee release of the report. For more information, contact Gina Palazzari, IWF executive director, at 262-391-1449 or gina@wisconsinsfuture.org.


For more information, check out the IWF webpage and, if you plan to attend, please visit the event Facebook page.
-- 
Tom Beebe, project director
Institute for Wisconsin's Future
920-650-0525
tbeebe@wisconsinsfuture.org
http://www.wisconsinsfuture.org

Mary Burke's Campaign Continues

Mary Burke is constantly on the campaign trail. Maybe it's her Twitter presence, but I feel like I see way more out of her than I have in the past with people like Mayor Barrett and Jim Doyle. This is good.

However, one place where I know there is some friction is that she hasn't done very many campaign events in Milwaukee. While I agree with, and understand her strategy, there's a perception out there that she doesn't care about Wisconsin's largest city. I don't think that's the case at all, but I think it's a calculated move that people in Milwaukee are more likely to be engaged in the summer and fall months, and her ability to do evens in Milwaukee will be more successful with summer warmth and the vote-turnout operations running on full bore.

However, one thing that she can do right now, and I think she is doing very well, is looking to small town Wisconsin.

Her Twitter feed tonight has this:

That's a heck of a crowd for April in rural Southwestern Wisconsin.

I think Mary Burke's running a smart campaign right now. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but for mid-April, the more work we can do building a base in western and northern Wisconsin, the more fruit we'll bear in November. At least that's how I see it...

Rep. Steve Kestell's Swan-Song Interview With Wisconsin Eye

Rep. Steve Kestell, who announced his retirement this month after being given a "no-confidence" vote by the 6th Congressional District Republican Caucus, had a departing interview with Wisconsin Eye's Steve Walters.

You can view the entire 20 minute interview HERE, but a roughly three minute clip is up on YouTube and focuses more on his views of what being a "conservative" really means:



Believe it or not, he even throws some of the "Ronald Reagan is God" mantra under the bus and says that the party needs to have a conversation about what it really means to be a Republican.

His advice, for anyone that runs for political office from any political party? "Protect your integrity at all costs."

I admire that. I'd love to serve in office one day, (I'm sure some of my ramblings on here will prevent me from doing so because I'll likely have spouted off something I shouldn't have), and as much as I would want to run a campaign on protecting my integrity, it doesn't seem to work well these days.

- 51% of people according to the last MULS Poll said that Gov. Walker doesn't represent people like them, yet they vote for him anyway.

- Sen. Dale Schultz was the Majority Leader of his party less than a decade ago and has some serious conservative bona fides when it comes to abortion and other social issues. Now, he's been run out because he doesn't believe in the craziness that his party has adopted on other issues.

- Sen. Mike Ellis was forced to resign because he was caught up supposedly, hypothetically, saying that he would set up at SuperPAC to raise money from wealthy Wisconsinites because he would get no help from conservative national organizations who were pissed that he didn't agree with them on issues of school vouchers.

- Congressman Tom Petri resigned after years in the House of Representatives and the threat of a conservative challenger who's absolutely #batshitcrazy. His quote "pragmatic conservatism" and extremely deep pockets may have kept him in the house, but it gave him no favors with the extremists in his district who wanted nothing more to see someone who make Michelle Bachman look like President Teddy Roosevelt.

All of these Republicans retired because in one way or another they were forced to. They stood by their convictions or being a person who could work with both sides of the isle, and for that, they weren't even given the dignity of party support. I admire Rep. Kestell for sticking by on his convictions, but sadly think that winning in a competitive seat will somehow not even let you rise to the top in a primary.

Democrats have their own special brand of moderates too, and yes we get ticked at them. Sen. Tim Cullen is probably the most famous example, as someone who almost left the Democratic Caucus in the State Senate.  But you know what, he was someone who Democrats may have had a disdain for, but didn't believe in fully sacking because he disagreed on some issues. Sure, there were some calls for a primary, and yes, it might have been nice on some levels, but that does nothing to build a "big tent" party.

State Sen. Bob Jauch's retirement is also in no small part due to the divisiveness of partisan politics. But how much of that is rooted in his desire to not have to play with Sen. Minority Leader Chris Larson or the lack of any compromise on issues from Senate Republicans remains to be disclosed. Either way, he's been a champion for Democrats on many issues, and if you saw him on Joint Finance during 2011, you know he was a big "D" Democrat.

You should watch the entire discussion with Rep. Kestell. It sheds light on education, this past session's divisiveness on the matter with Common Core and school accountability, and how his views were shaped. I won't re-hash it here, but needless to say, he goes over how the process came about, how difficult this session was, and his thoughts on where he'd like to see it go next year.

While I may still wholly disagree with his 2011 Act 10 vote, and yes he does reaffirm it here and says he wishes it happened earlier, when it came to education policy he generally looked out for students. That's what I'll miss of him chairing the education committee.

Conservative Purge - Con. Tom Petri Retires

While the news broke last Friday when I was on a bus coming back from Cincinnati, Monday was the day the official announcement came of Congressman Tom Petri's retirement from Congress after 35 years.

You can view his announcement HERE.  One thing he addressed in the announcement would keep coming back during the town-hall he held in Neenah, and continues to dog him until the writing of this post:
Petri said there were “several factors” that contributed to his decision, and no one factor led to his decision not to run.
Yet, he's never really revealed what those factors are.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had a large article on his announcement and town-hall today, and they noted this:
Asked twice during a town hall meeting to elaborate on his reasons, he said, "I figure 35 years is a pretty good start."

But Petri said he would like to remind lawmakers "there's a difference between being a competitor and being an enemy." Neither party should concentrate on destroying the other, he said. "Look for areas you can agree on."
While we hear this time and time again from people on both sides of the isle when they've retired, I think it's fairly clear to anyone with half a conscious that the Republicans are the small-tent party right now. The number of liberal progressives who are as left-wing as the tea-party is conservative is maddeningly small. Today's middle-ground Democrats could easily pass for Republican in the 1950's.
Petri described himself as a "pragmatic conservative," which in today's political culture translates to being a moderate. Over the course of his career, he received fairly good ratings for his voting record from interest groups across much of the conservative spectrum. However, his percentages have dipped into the 70s and 80s — considered low — with some core issue groups, such as the influential Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth.
There's no such thing as a "pragmatic conservative" in 2014. It's like Project Runway - Either you're in, or you're out. Being a conservative isn't just as simple as saying "oh, I don't like to spend money," it's an ideology of laissez-faire society and government assistance. Mr. Petri doesn't fit that mold.
Earlier this month, tea party Republican Glenn Grothman announced he would run against Petri, saying he didn't think the congressman — or Republicans in Washington in general — had done enough to address a rising "culture of dependency" that has broken down the family unit and built up a huge deficit. Grothman said he sensed discontent within the 6th District, although he acknowledged he didn't actually live there.
The discontent is with the increasing number of conservatives who drown out voices of reason. THIS article from Bill Lueders on the retirement of State Sen. Dale Schultz speaks volumes:
As Schultz relates, one attendee objected: “Wait a minute, we’re the party of Abraham Lincoln” — who, as a matter of historical fact, was not a big fan of secession. Someone else then rose to criticize Lincoln.
A sad, sad commentary about who's pulling the strings of the Republican Party these days.

Just look at the Journal article and some of the things Mr. Petri supported:
In addition to legislation on federal highway programs and cost-sharing for federal water projects, Petri discussed his legislative initiatives on student loan reform, tax reform, banking reform and health care reform.

In 1962, he graduated from Harvard University, where he had been a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Petri graduated from Harvard Law School in 1965.
Congressman Petri is the same age as my grandparents, and actually graduated high school with them. When I was growing up, I didn't really follow or know much about my local congressman except that he had been there for a long time and that he wasn't particularly powerful. As I grew older, I learned that he never really moved up in committee assignments because of his streak of being a moderate.

There were times while I was living in Fond du Lac and voting that I did vote for the Congressman. His championing student loan reform and direct lending of loans is wonderfully overdue and sadly without any appetite in a Republican Party that on some fundamental levels believes that only people with money should get to  choose what they study in college. He also brought home the bacon with respect to transportation funds and federal funding for bike trails. His belief in the "Rails to Trails" program would make the most ardent conservation voter consider voting for him.

However, there were plenty of times that I did not cast a ballot for the Congressman.

His support for the Iraq war and "surge" were things that I did not believe in. Too often during the 2000's it was easy to see him trend more and more conservative with his votes. It was also incredibly frustrating to not see any candidates being put up by the Democrats as an alternative to vote for. I was much, much more naive about how candidate recruitment worked then, and I have wondered where the "bench" was for candidates to challenge for the seat when he retires.

Sadly, we don't have one that is well known.

In a sign that the Congressman isn't above political shots, Monday saw this tweet from the Appleton Post-Crescent political reporter at the town hall where the Congressman announced his retirement:
Roll Call on Friday reported who they thought could run for the seat for the Dems:
State Democrats named Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels and Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris as potential candidates.
Mayor Nickels is YOUNG. Like Age 24 young, and he would actually turn 25 (eligible age to serve in the House of Representatives) just before being sworn in.

I like Mr. Nickels and have spoken with him a few times at Democratic Party Conventions, but I'm not sure he's quite at the level of being a Congressman yet. Not to mention, does he really want to spend political capital on a race that likely will be won by a Republican? (Sorry guys, just look at the district.)

Co. Exec. Harris is someone I covered on here several times before when he mulled a run for Governor last summer. He's a very logical choice for me, as he doesn't give up his seat as Co. Executive, can help turnout the base in Winnebago County for Democrats, and serves as a better person to turn out the Dem. vote for statewide candidates. (Oh hey Mary Burke! You need turnout in the Fox Valley? Really now?)

As for who else may challenge on the Democratic side, I have no idea.

For the Republicans challenger for the seat, we'll go back to the Journal article:
State Rep. Duey Stroebel (R-Town of Cedarburg) announced last week he will enter the race. He is the owner of a real estate management and development company. John Hiller, longtime adviser to Gov. Scott Walker, said Friday he was forming an exploratory committee to consider a run. One other possible Republican contender for the seat is state Sen. Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan). He said he will make a decision in the next few days.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said in a news release Monday he won't run for Petri's seat.
And of course, we all know about State Sen. Grothman's initial primary challenge.

Don't kid yourself, you're going to see a far, far more conservative 6th Congressional District should one of these Republicans be elected. Take THIS from Rep. Strobel just this February where Democurmudgeon hit him on an insane bill. Sen.'s Grothman and Leibham have records all their own, and a litany of votes on the Walker agenda over the last four years attached to their names.

I just didn't see it ending this way for Congressman Petri.

Maybe I'm still too naive, but I would've thought that at his age, he would've known long ago that the wouldn't run and would anoint a "next-of-kin" who could run for the seat. But, much like the retirement of Sen. Mike Ellis, the party clearly left the man and forced him to be marginalized and without the ability to bow out on his terms.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Politifact Disdain Continues... C/O Uppity Wisconsin

Politifact is a joke once again.

Jud over at Uppity Wisconsin points it out way better than I possibly could, so I'll direct you to his posting on the matter. 

But once again, Politifact shows that it's usefulness doesn't really exist, especially when it doesn't immediately report that the newspaper carrying it printed verbatim the same information a candidate reported on the campaign trail.

This is once again, why I don't really care what Politifact says about any candidate...

Governor Walker's Ad Blitz

Today, I saw my first "Friends of Scott Walker" ad on Milwaukee TV.

In fact, there were three of them put out today by team pay-for-play Walker. They all essentially feature the same stock-footage and same message, it's just rearranged or paired down from one minute to 30 seconds:







The message each time is the same: The deficit is gone (a lie of epic proportions), jobs are back (250,000 are non-existent and by most measures we are drastically behind everyone else in job creation), taxes are lower (but being raised by local municipalities or services have been slashed to the point where nothing works as intended) and everything is doing a lot better (can I hit someone in the face?)

Alright folks, Gov. Walker's an official candidate as of today. What are we going to do?

Congressman Petri on Brats

With the retirement of Con. Petri from congress, we'll no longer get to hear barn-burner speeches like this:



In all seriousness though, all of what's happening in the EU with cheese and bratwurst names being trademarked is not cool.

James Causey's Weekend Column on Milwaukee's Schools

James Causey, community columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, on Sunday wrote about the sorry state of education for minorities in Wisconsin.

You can read his column HERE. 
When it comes to educational and financial achievement, a national study released recently ranks African-American children in Wisconsin dead last. 
The latest study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation isn't the first to highlight how children of color in Wisconsin lag behind their white counterparts. The most troubling part of the study doesn't even show in the numbers — a lack of outrage from Wisconsinites. 
"I don't know why people are so quiet," said former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Howard Fuller. "I didn't need a study to tell me how bad things are for black children because I see it every day. Everyone would see it if they just opened their eyes." 
Howard Fuller hasn't been the Superintendent of Milwaukee's Public Schools since 1995, and yet he is still held up as one of the preeminent education experts in Milwaukee. (In 1995 I was in third grade, moving into fourth and we were still in the first term of the Clinton administration. THINK ABOUT THAT!)

Yes, he has a long history and experience in this city with education, and yes, he is operating a school in town right now, but mention the name Howard Fuller to many of the younger people working within MPS and they have absolutely no idea who the man is. When they hear he was a proponent of vouchers and "choice" you see a lot of people place the blame on him about why our current state of educational opportunities in Milwaukee is such a hodgepodge cluster of...

It's not that he deserves the blame, it's just where it gets placed. What I would be interested in reading is a short biography of his from a non-biased source that isn't based in the Milwaukee educational community. The feelings are still very strong on him from all sides.
This isn't the first time Fuller has questioned the lack of outrage over poor student outcomes. In 2010, when a study ranked black fourth-graders' reading scores in Wisconsin the lowest in the nation, he questioned the will of adults to change things. 
"It's an outrage. And the thing that angers me more is that there is no widespread outrage. We get these statistics, and people mutter the normal this and that, but then everyone goes back to whatever they were doing," Fuller told me in a 2010 interview.
Four years later, not much has changed.
I wholly agree with this statement. There should be outrage. There should be outrage on all levels that this is happening, and there should be consensus on the understanding about WHY it's happening and what needs to happen to correct the problem within the context of ensuring equal access and education to everyone. (Notice that last little caveat that people who advocate "choice" don't like to mention...)
MPS is undergoing a major transition. Superintendent Gregory Thornton is leaving to become the chief executive of the Baltimore City Public Schools system, and the Milwaukee School Board needs to choose a leader who is not afraid to make bold changes — even if those changes are unpopular with the board. 
Here's the problem with that... The board is the representative of the City and it's residents. If anything, shouldn't the board craft the policies and have the Superintendent execute them? I'm not saying that the Superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools should have no power, but really, it's the Executive Branch that carries out the laws (or code) passed by the legislative.

In my short time being in Milwaukee, I haven't seen the school board be this huge obstacle to change. I've seen people constantly throwing them under the bus because they just don't go along with the Superintendent, even though there were several people who felt his course was the wrong one for students. But hey, why would we want to let people speak out without fear of their jobs?
Here's one: the old-fashioned farm calendar that allows kids to be off school for three months over the summer. It is failing our kids. If education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, then more time in school is something this city should embrace.
Whoever heads the state's largest public school district also must work to build bridges with the business community, parents and students. 
Slight problem I have with this statement... KIDS AREN'T OUT THREE MONTHS! We end in MPS two weeks into June. It's really only 10 weeks that students are gone, and even then it's not that long sometimes.

Second, it takes so long to have students "come back" to school as it is in the fall. I'm not saying Mr. Causey doesn't understand this, as I'm sure he does, but far too many other people don't realize how many of our students in MPS live down south during the summer months. They visit their families, they work, they do any number of things that make extending the school year in it's traditional sense extremely challenging. It's something I had absolutely no clue about until I came to teach in MPS.

Third, I don't like the idea of a longer school year for my own kids (when that time comes). They need time to learn on their own, they need time for me to take them on trips and not miss education in school, they need time to go to camp, and do all the things that kids do without fear of losing out on things in school.

Now, this isn't to say that I think what we currently do is working. I think it's insane that there aren't more summer educational opportunities for students within MPS. (We can't fund things adequately during the regular year right now, so how do we do something in the summer?!) But really, why don't students have the opportunity to retake classes during the summer when they are in high school no matter their age, grade, etc? Why aren't there enrichment programs where students who don't go to Bradley Tech get the chance to learn about shop classes?

These things I wonder.

Oh, and don't forget, that with summer education comes summer weather. If you think learning is easy in a room that's 100 degrees because it has no air conditioning and was built during the cold war, go right ahead. But don't for a second think that putting teenagers in a hot room during the summer won't stir their emotions and cause issues...
Education must be revamped top to bottom. Teachers need to learn more effective ways to teach reading; students need to come to school prepared every day, and that means addressing the issues of trauma that some kids endure on a daily basis. There also needs to be a larger investment in early childhood education. 
Teachers right now on the state level are learning how to teach reading more effectively. I see my girlfriend going though her books all the time learning about the new reading assessment that prospective teachers have to take. As a high school educator who graduated four years ago, I didn't have to take it, but now I would've had to.

She is far, far, far, far better prepared to teach reading than I was. In fact, as a high school teacher, I wasn't really prepared for it.

However, I cannot underscore the idea of students needing to come to school prepared every day, and how difficult that makes my job. No pencil, no notebook, no, nothing, and I have to provide it all to the student. Every day. EVERY DAY. Yes, this is what happens. I go through boxes of pencils (at my own cost) to give my students the tools they need to be successful in my room. I've resorted to buying golf pencils to save money. Sure, kids forget things some days. I do too, but that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about consistently coming unprepared to learn.

If someone has a good idea about how to change the culture of not coming to school prepared, let me know. Just simply not admitting them to class until they get a pencil does nothing for the student's education. Suspending them is wholly the wrong answer. We take all students as they come to us. That's what makes the public schools TRULY public...

But it would be a lie to not say it drives me bonkers and my students unpreparedness hampers my ability to plan innovative lessons. You lose a lot of time having to hand out pencils and paper.
The study "Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children" says that these issues must be addressed now because minorities will represent a majority of the nation's children by 2018 and a majority of our workforce in the future. 
The study used a number of measures to determine how states were ranked. These included: babies born too early; children enrolled in early childhood education; fourth-grade reading scores; teen pregnancy; students graduating from high school on time; children growing up in two-parent households; and children living in poverty. 
Wisconsin ranked 50th for black children, 37th for Asian, 17th for Latino and 11th for whites. 
That. Is. Pathetic.
There is no denying the role poverty plays on a child's educational outcomes, and the Casey report found that 70% of Wisconsin's white children live in households with incomes above $47,700 a year for a family of four, while only 20% of black children have that level of economic security. 
Once again, I can only imagine what an influx of middle income jobs to Milwaukee would do to the outcomes of our students educations. Then again, I also wonder what would happen if there would be a way for people to get to jobs beyond County Line Road and 124th Street...
But this doesn't mean that we simply throw up our hands at poverty and continue to point fingers at parents. The only way we can end poverty is by ensuring that every child has the same opportunity to succeed. That means giving teachers, school leaders and parents the tools they need to succeed at educating children. 
I don't like the mantra of "blaming parents" when talking about how students come to the schoolhouse unprepared to learn. However, I have a lot of internal strife when "in the heat of the battle" and students continually coming to my room almost demeaning that I provide them things that they are expected to have. I know my job is to empower my students to explore and to build their internal capacity for knowledge, but when it's 10th period, you have students who say they haven't had a pencil all day, don't come with something as simple as a notebook, and haven't gone and checked-out their textbook all semester, which requires lots of wasteful photocopying, it gets to you.

If people want to give me the tools I need to succeed at educating children, I need a way to enforce rules, procedures, and expectations that doesn't include suspension and expulsion. I have so many students who've come to my school because they were kicked out of a private, voucher, or other school because they just didn't follow basic directions it's sickening. They aren't bad kids. They aren't "stupid." They just acted like teenagers and pushed their teachers buttons by not bringing notebooks. They do it to me too, but I have to make due because we aren't allowed to just kick students out for not having a pencil.

But really, if we kick students out of school for not having a pencil, what are we teaching them? It frustrates the hell out of me they don't have it, but I'll gladly give them what I can provide from my own pocket to avoid them walking the streets. If I don't give the kid a pencil, someone could very well give them a gun. This is the world I work in...
If the parents can't read, we need to teach them how to read as well. More than 50,000 adults in the Milwaukee area cannot read above a second-grade level. Many of these adults have children, whom they can't help with basic homework. 
Something that people who talk about education, and how "it's not that hard, just give the kid homework to do at home" don't understand.
While some of the largest gaps exist in reading scores, the same gap exists in math, with white children six times more likely to be proficient in eighth-grade math than black students, according to the study. Both issues can be addressed with more time in both subjects. 
Maybe, but I don't want to marginalize the other subjects. I teach social studies, and it does aggravate me that the first time many of my students have a true "history" class is freshman year of high school. That's not to say we shouldn't be teaching reading and strategies for understanding reading in history or social studies work in elementary school, but I hope that they have a dedicated time that is labeled "history" or "science" and not just simply having it infused along the way with absolutely no scope or sequence to what students are getting. Especially when they are in upper elementary and middle school.

I have vivid memories of social studies in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade right to this very moment. I absolutely loved it. I would've quickly learned to hate school if I didn't have that in my day, and I know that other kids feel the same way about other subjects. I don't want to deprive them of that too.
Fuller said teaching educators better ways to teach reading benefits both the student and the teacher. He cited his Summer Reading Project, which started five years ago, as a small example of what can work when more time is spent on a subject. 
The attitude displayed by Mr. Fuller in the previous section shows why teachers don't have the highest regard for him anymore. It always sounds like he's hawking a product...
The only problem is that the reading project is on a small scale. It's time to take a hard look at successful programs and bring them to a larger scale. Too many children are slipping though the cracks, and not enough adults seem to care. 
I don't need to see any more studies ranking black and brown children near the bottom. The question is: Do we care enough to get them to the top?
I sure hope we do.

The problem is that right now in Milwaukee the major players in this city are divided. You have special education groups that are sponsored by the Association of Commerce trying to train people to run for office to explicitly on the belief of school vouchers and drawing resources away from the public schools. When the business community essentially says, "we don't care about educating all children," what does that say about caring enough?

I've never once met a parent who doesn't care to high hell about their child having the best education possible. But when we have parents and grandparents who've come through with only an 8th grade education or less, how do we convince them to support (X), (Y), or (Z) measure and that it's not for profit or exploitation of their child? Buy-in from parents and those who live in the community is hard as well, considering those education groups have done a damn fine job selling their product.

Then again, there is the government angle as well. Some will say this all falls at the MPS School Board of Directors and their (perceived) incompetence. You have nut-jobs like THIS constantly at their throats and not allowing them to do their jobs as well. Once again, we go back to the notion that somehow the legislative branch isn't allowed to set policy and have the executive branch carry it out with fidelity.

I don't know what the answer is. I'll have another posting later this week (hopefully) about what I saw in Cincinnati and their Community Schools model of education and how it could work in Milwaukee. But what I do know is that every day I walk into my school, excited about what we can accomplish, excited to see my students, and knowing that I'm doing what I can. It may not be perfect, it may not be what everyone else would do, but it's the best I can do.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Confirmation Before Publication - Cardinal Columns Saga

Since their February issue created such a firestorm, the Fond du Lac High School Print Journalism class hasn't been able to publish the follow-up issue of "Cardinal Columns."

That is, until possibly this week...

Over at the "First Draft" blog, someone is also writing on this issue of how the Fond du Lac School District is screwing with the newspaper's journalistic freedom. I don't know who's writing there, but they have some damn good intel.

Their latest post from Friday is HERE, and being reprinted in full with some of my own commentary:
It’s been about a month since media outlets from coast to coast started eviscerating the Fond du Lac school system for its treatment of the student press at the high school. Tanvi Kumar’s piece on “The Rape Joke” highlighted the way in which students in her school treat the concept of sexual assault like a running joke. It is a great read that demonstrated what students can do if given the chance to take charge of their own First Amendment rights. 
The administration has been playing “Armadillo Defense” to this point, hunkering down, taking the beating and hoping eventually people will tire of this. In some ways, they probably are right. Journalists are taught to chase the story. When the story is no longer running, they find something else to chase. The story arc for this one piece has pretty much ended.
And that's a sad commentary on what's happened. The story was still very much alive in the halls of Fondy High, but most other people on the outside have stopped calling for Superintendent Jim Sebert and Principal Jon Wiltzius to make some major changes to their operation. I wonder however if that will flare up again though:
That said, it’s about to gear up again, because the Cardinal Columns publication hit the principal’s desk this week. According to several sources, it’s about 40 pages and “really deep.” I’m assuming that means very few stories the administration would view as “good news” and more of what we would call “reality.”
I also have sources that say the stories in this issue are about the reality of what's going on with the student body of Fond du Lac High School. I have had a few topics leaked to me, but to honor the students, I will hold off publishing them on this space. Needless to say, seeing one of them, I can only wonder what Mr. Wiltzius' red pen will do to it with redactions.
Principal Jon Wiltzius is in an untenable position right now. Based on what I’ve heard, I get the sense that his boss (James Sebert) was the one who decided this censorship approach was a good idea. That said, Sebert put Wiltzius in place as the censor, which forces him to go against the wishes of his own faculty, many of whom signed a petition asking the school board to rescind the rules on prior review and prior restraint.
Everyone I've talked to as well has also confirmed that the idea of censorship came from Sup. Sebert and not Mr. Wiltzius. Smart politics by the Superintendent... (Incase you haven't figured out, everything comes down to politics.)
If Wiltzius lets the issue go untouched, he pisses off his boss. 
If Wiltzius changes things in the issue, he pisses off almost everyone else.
The ultimate question? Will Mr. Wiltzius actually grow a backbone? Or, is he too far marginalized that any attempt at asserting authority will look childish and he is then buried by Sebert with a principal reassignment this fall? (There is at least one elementary school looking for a principal...)

Better yet, does Sup. Sebert do nothing because he knows Wiltzius will be his pawn and keeps him on as a punching bag?
Still, the issue is sitting on his desk and no one knows what will happen next. The school board will next meet on Monday, but there is no sense this will be resolved at this meeting. The best guess is that they might discuss this in June after the school year ends (Part II of the “Armadillo Defense” is wait until no one is looking before trying to do something half-assed).
Half-assed? This is Fond du Lac people... We don't have time for half-assed! Ass-backwards is the only way to accomplish things!
In the mean time, for a school district that didn’t want a story on the realities of rape floating around the school, things are about to get really real.
It's that last comment which really makes me wonder who the person is writing on this blog. They clearly have some great insight on what's happening and know who the players are in this saga. (My bet? Former teacher, as there are many who've left the district in the last few years...)

As for Principal Wiltzius, he was on KFIZ this past week. You can listen to the interview HERE.  (The audio is a little sketchy, but it's still clearly audible.)

As with every KFIZ interview, it's not exactly the most "hard-hitting" with focuses on things like spring break, prom, and graduation times. You'd think that there would be something on the newspaper, but nope...

I guess it only reaffirms the ADHD mentality we have. However, one bit of foreshadowing. Pay attention to the discussion of working on a presentation about drinking in high school and saying that the students asked for it. Hmm, wonder what the paper has on why that happened...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Conservative Purge - My Analysis of Sen. Ellis's Retirement

In case you haven't notice, I took a break from blogging.

Damn right, it felt good.

But, after being in Cincinnati Tuesday-Friday and visiting family in Appleton over the weekend, there was only so much time I had to write, collect my thoughts, and just plain old keep up with the news.

Needless to say, there's been a lot to catch up on.

Last June I wondered about Sen. Ellis' future in the Wisconsin State Senate. You can read it HERE, and really should because I'm scared at how accurate it was in some respects.  
Sen. Ellis' hold over the state budget has been infuriating, especially to those in his own party who want to steam roll through now that they have the majority. He's way more of a "check" on the political power of the crazies than liberals/Progressives want to give him credit for, and probably more responsible for moderating the crazy positions that could have been taken than Sen. Schultz simply because of his place as President. (Ever notice how much Ellis' name gets mentioned with vouchers, yet he has absolutely no place on Joint Finance?)
I made note in a hastily written post while still in Cincinnati on State Sen. President Mike Ellis' political kerfuffle of being filmed while talking about illegal political fundraising activities. I certainly didn't see it ending the way it did. It's sad that the matter would prove to the be the straw that broke the camel's back, and force him on Friday to retire his post. His statement can be found HERE: 
Instead of being criticized form our opponents, independent thought is being attacked from our own backyard. Like my dear friends, Tim Cullen, Bob Jauch, and Dale Schultz, I see that compromise is not valued in today's Capitol environment, and that means I don't fit anymore. Special interests hold too much sway, instead of the voice of the people. I'm a senator from a different era, and I value my integrity too much to compromise it any more.
Yes, Mike Ellis is a Republican, and yes, he did MANY cringe-worthy things over the last four years that I've been intently watching Wisconsin politics. But, as crotchety, cranky, and dated he seemed, he still had a quality about him that I liked. He wasn't a blind partisan, he was a practical legislator who believed in the Wisconsin government idea that the best ideas are born out of discussions with people from Wisconsin. Jake at the Economic TA Funhouse summarized it best in a post where he notes that the voucher lobby is who pushed Mr. Ellis out:
Of course, a lot of us wish Ellis hadn't spent the last 3 years compromising his integrity on a whole lot of the Walker agenda (for example, Ellis gave the "Wisconsin 14" some extra time to leave the State Senate in 2011 before informing others, knowing that Act 10 would be as divisive and wrong as it was. But he ended up voting for it anyway). But let's see if the old guy grows a pair over the last 7 months and reveals where the bodies are buried.
It was THIS large post-mortem in the Journal-Sentinel that revealed much of what Sen. Ellis did  in trying to hold back Gov. Walker and gave insight to what he really thought about 2011 Act 10:
In early February, Walker met with Senate President Mike Ellis, an independent and cantankerous Republican, fiscal hawk and son of a paper mill worker-union leader from Neenah. 
Ellis wasn't shy. He implored Walker to drop the collective-bargaining piece of the bill before it went public and undermined Walker's early legislative successes.At that point, according to Ellis, the plan on the table would have ended all collective bargaining except for firefighters, police and troopers - a broader plan than Walker ultimately introduced. 
"My God, this is going to cause a firestorm," Ellis told Walker.
Sen. Ellis' work at getting Sen. Tim Cullen out of the Capitol was further documented in JS reporter's Jason Stein and Patrick Marley's books - More Than They Bargained For." During my time living in Madison during the spring and summer of 2011, I witnessed many votes that the Senator took where he hesitated and vocally noted his displeasure with taking the vote he did. It was clear in his voice, in his tone, that he didn't agree with or believe in what he was doing.

No legislator should have to feel that pressure from groups who aren't even part of their state.

Yet, he voted in the majority anyway. It was his record in taking votes that he didn't really believe were right which made me conclude right away that his desire to remain in the Senate wasn't so much rooted in his ability to affect positive change, but to hold off the absolute #batshitcrazy.

Jake continues:
With over 20% of the State Assembly not running for re-election in 2014 and at least 5 of the 17 State Senators doing the same (assuming Joe Leibham jumps into the now-open 6th-district Congressional seat), there's definitely something going on behind the scenes at the Capitol that a lot of people don't want to be part of.
I sure hope we get some bodies to turn up. Based on his comments about Gov. Walker in the video that turned out to be his undoing, it wouldn't surprise me if there were some important points dripped out of his office to the appropriate mouthpieces. (Feel free to e-mail me!)

Sen. Ellis in the last four years took a lot of votes he had no belief in, and as much as I wish his political capital was strong enough to have held his ground more, I appreciate all of the hard background work he did do. Much of it is only speculative because we honestly don't know he did it, but can only assume. He did, after all, still need to raise money to remain in office and not be "Dale Schultzed" by conservative purists.

Sen. Ellis in a former life was a math teacher. That is a vital and important point to remember when reading about why he analyzed the state budget on chalkboards and whiteboards in his office. It's also important to remember when discussing issues related to education, and how he stemmed the tied for most of this past session on many of the most insane pieces of legislation that were proposed. (SB 286's un-introduced amendment, AB 549, just to name a few.)

WAYYYY back in November of 2012, Sen. Ellis made note that he had absolutely no desire to see voucher expansion in the state budget for 2013-15. His speaking out on it was the first indication that it would even be included in the debate, and lo-and-behold, there it was. Remember when the original proposal was to do a major expansion to cities who had a laughably small number of schools that were not succeeding according to the State Report Card? Sen. Ellis was a vocal critic in those discussions as well, having it changed to the current statewide system.

While I wholly disapprove of vouchers in general, and do think that the statewide system we have now in some respects is even worse, he advocated the expansion in such a way that the damage of funding was spread out instead of concentrated in certain school districts. Despite his comments on Green Bay's school system, and an always apparent desire to poke at Green Bay's Mayor on the matter, he realized that voucher expansion would further bleed those systems of resources. (See Milwaukee as a prime example.)

Sen. Ellis also was a loud voice on the need to expand the per-pupil funding for schools during the past biennium. After horrific cuts in 2011's ulcer-inducing session, and talk that there could be a freeze in place, he championed the fact that funding needed to up, and suggested $200 per-pupil:
Until today we have had Sen. Luther Olsen and Sen. Mike Ellis on the record as advocating for a $150 increase in the 2013-15 Biennium Budget, but that changed with tweets from the AP's Scott Bauer:
He also famously has bucked something that Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said is "teed-up" for next session - Special Education vouchers. Sen. Ellis has absolutely no need for them.

One of the best things I've ever seen on Wisconsin Eye was the subject of THIS blog post, and it was a conversation with Sen. Ellis on the biennium budget:
Sen. Ellis take the first 1/3 of the conversation to talk about the state budget, and how it breaks down on things like the Transportation Fund and bonding over the long term. While there are times that I can honestly say I disagree with the man, he has his facts straight, and it's more of an argument over choices than a complete operation on a different plane of reality than can sometimes be said for other State Legislators. 
The middle part of the conversation focuses on the school choice question, and how he and State Sen. Luther Olsen feel it should be changed. He emphatically says he does not agree with Special Education Vouchers, but says that he supported then, and still supports now the Milwaukee Choice Program. That being said, he feels very strongly that the way the voucher system has been proposed in this budget is completely insane, and that it should be stripped out of the budget PERIOD. 
The final part of the conversation featured the Senator at a blackboard, and walked the audience through the education funding for the Biennium Budget. It breaks down the numbers so people can easily see where the money comes from, and where it goes, and why it comes/goes where it came/went. There's a lot of talk that can happen around the edges with the conversation, and I'm sure Progressives would love to make a few tweaks to what was presented, but overall it was a great presentation about why there needs to be an increase to funding for public education in the budget. 
Want to know why it was a conservative outfit that targeted Sen. Ellis with the hidden-video footage? There you go...

Sure, Sen. Ellis had his times where you wanted to get up and scream. His absolutely cringeworthy "Sit DOWN!" moment is right up there:



Even though he was right with the rules, his procedure was wholly inappropriate. You might want to re-watch Rachel Maddow's breakdown of SB 206:



But what I keep coming back to was something I wrote back in December of 2012. It was when I was still greener than I am now about politics, the rules, procedures, protocol, and agreements that govern Wisconsin's state government, but it was something that caught my eye which was written by Sen. Ellis. My post is located HERE and titled: "State Sen. Mike Ellis, I Hope We Can Trust You":
State Senator Mike Ellis is not a Neo-Stalwart, he is a Republican. He ultimately went along with Act 10, and other parts of the Neo-Stalwart legislative agenda despite being visibly torn in casting his vote.
Today in the Appleton Post-Crescent, Sen. Ellis wrote a commentary about what he knows and his vision of the Republican agenda moving forward into 2013. You can read the article here:  http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20121209/APC06/312090072/Sen-Michael-Ellis-column-Senate-Republicans-won-t-distracted?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s&nclick_check=1  
(Remember, you only get a limited number of views per month) I hope I can believe his article and that the Senate President isn't being hung out to dry by his Majority Leader, Assembly Speaker, and Governor. Sen. Ellis' calls for jobs legislation and avoiding distractions, which echoes comments he made just last month to WBAY-2 about how he doesn't like sneaking things into the state budget or all the talk of ideologically divisive issues: 
Recently, a number of Republican legislators have called for things such as elimination of same-day voter registration, changes to the Government Accountability Board, private-school vouchers, changes to abortion laws and other issues.
It’s important that Wisconsin citizens understand that those opinions belong to the individuals voicing them, but they are not the Republican Senate’s official position. 
I like to think I can trust and believe Senator Ellis. However, I have to remain skeptical, especially with the lengthy history his caucus has of just randomly introducing things into legislation that have no earthly reason being there. I can only wish that his caucus would take up his advice and follow his years of experience being in state government. Sadly, I just don't think that is going to happen.
It didn't...

The whole column Sen. Ellis penned is worth reading in light of his retirement, and can be viewed HERE:
As the state Legislature prepares to convene the 2013-14 session in January, the most important issues facing Wisconsin are job creation, improving our economy and sustaining the economic viability of our middle class. Those are the issues that unite the Senate Republican caucus. 
Recently, a number of Republican legislators have called for things such as elimination of same-day voter registration, changes to the Government Accountability Board, private-school vouchers, changes to abortion laws and other issues. 
It's important that Wisconsin citizens understand that those opinions belong to the individuals voicing them, but they are not the Republican Senate's official position.
Since the election, we haven't met as a group and discussed these other issues, and therefore we don't have a caucus position on any of them. We have discussed, and we all agree, that our top priority is the economy and enhancing the buying power of the middle class through tax cuts where possible. A strong and growing middle class is the engine that drives a healthy economy and creates jobs. 
Some legislators think it's vitally important that we eliminate same-day voter registration. Others think that photo identification addresses their concerns and goes a long way toward protecting the integrity of elections in Wisconsin. Both sides deserve to have their views discussed and debated among their colleagues. 
But however that issue is decided, it will not result in a single new job in Wisconsin. It does nothing to sustain and enhance our middle class. 
It's the same with regard to proposals to reconstitute the membership of the Government Accountability Board. The GAB was created just five years ago. With any new agency, there are bound to be problems and concerns that hadn't been anticipated in its creation. This is especially true with the GAB in light of the wave of recalls and issues related to those recalls that is simply unprecedented in our history. 
I and other colleagues believe many of the concerns that have been raised can be addressed legislatively, but without the need to completely overhaul the makeup of the board. Both sides have a right to their opinion, but neither side speaks for the Senate Republicans. 
The same can be said about any other issue or proposal considered by any Republican senator. Whether it's abortion law, expansion of voucher schools, immigration law or anything else, unless it has a direct effect in improving our economy, sustaining the middle class and creating jobs, it isn't an official position of the Senate Republican caucus. 
Reasonable people can have different ideas on how to address these problems and everyone has a right to express their opinions publicly, but it's incorrect to assume that because one Republican senator makes a statement on a topic he or she is speaking for the entire Republican caucus. 
As Republicans, we share a number of values and we can readily agree on the general direction when approaching an issue before us. Generalities, however, do not constitute a specific agenda. 
Today, our agenda, our primary focus, is the economy. On that, we all speak with one voice.
Upon reading this, how can anyone think that the conservative, dark-money, political opportunist national forces would ever let Sen. Ellis continue in his role as Senate President?

Which brings me back to that video which caught him talking about fundraising illegally. Was what he was discussing illegal? Absolutely. But the motive behind his fundraising mechanism wasn't so much just to attack Rep. Bernard-Schaber in her attempt at challenging the seat, but to run his campaign devoid of big money national organizations. Sen. Ellis's positions, as documented above, meant that he would receive no help from Americans for Prosperity, the American Federation for Children, or any of the other national groups that have become entrenched in Wisconsin during the Walker years.

His desire to raise campaign money locally, while in an illegal manner, was in some strange way noble. He wanted to win, and yes, he wanted to attack his opponent negatively, but he wanted to do it without being beholden to national groups. And that was ultimately his downfall. The fact that Sen. Ellis had to speak about (supposedly hypothetically) setting up an illegal PAC to avoid the national money donors who have absolutely no connection to Wisconsin. 

A sad, sad commentary on the influence of money in politics...

So, who replaces the old lion of the Senate on the Republican side of the isle?

On this weekend's "Up Front w/Mike Gousha," conservative radio commentator Jerry Bader gave his own take on the matter. It can be viewed HERE.

Back in a previous posting I offered up my own thoughts, with a little help from Jack Craver of the Cap Times:
Then of course, there are the, "yikes!" possibilities. Former Assembly Rep. Michelle Litjens is one of them. She of course left the Assembly in 2012 after one term to spend time with her family following a divorce, but she has kept up a profile since then appearing on Chuckles Syko's Sunday morning TV show. I'm not sure if she still lives in the area, (there have been a flurry of rumors I've heard as of late), but if she is she could run and have nothing to lose. That's the scariest kind of candidate in my opinion. 
Rep. Litjens' replacement in the 56th has been pretty quiet so far, Rep. Dave Murphy. But, don't doubt his conservative credentials. Example one: 
— Dave Murphy (@davemurphy56) February 12, 2013
A small business owner from the Appleton suburb of Greenville, he's got a lot going for him that the current crop of conservatives love.

Rep. Murphy was featured as a possibility in THIS WBAY-TV story as well.
"This week has been a whirlwind, let's face it," Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville) said to the crowd in Appleton. 
Murphy said he's been contacted by both Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Saturday Murphy said he'll decided next week whether to run for Ellis' senate seat. 
"I think it's extremely critical that we hang onto this seat," Murphy said in an interview. "Sometimes people talk about clearing the field for a candidate. I never believed that. I believe that good candidates come through tough primaries a lot of times." 
Former state representatives Steve Wieckert and Roger Roth from Appleton have said they're considering a bid, too. 
"Oh my gosh is it tempting, let me tell you," Wieckert said Saturday, adding it may not be the right time for his family and his business.
The Journal-Sentinel article written Friday on Sen. Ellis' also offers former Rep. Steve Wiecker and Roger Roth as names being considered:
Roth, an Appleton businessman, served two terms in the Assembly before running unsuccessfully for Congress. He said in a statement he would consider running for Ellis' seat. 
Another former GOP representative, Steve Wieckert of Appleton, said he was still absorbing Ellis' surprise announcement and would weigh a run.
But as of tonight the only candidate still in the race is Rep. Bernard-Schaber. Hey Democrats, don't look now, but if you pick off this, the 17th, and only one more seat, you can take control of the State Senate. Today's Wisconsin State Journal puts an unnecessarily sour note on it, but their analysis is true:
Instead, Democrats are focused on six Republican-held seats. One of those is the open seat held by retiring Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, which leans Democratic. However, Rep. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, has been campaigning for the seat for months and has built a sizable war chest.
Even if Democrats can win the Schultz and Ellis seats, if they lose the Lehman seat they would have to pick up one of four other seats held by Leibham, Terry Moulton, Frank Lasee and Jerry Petrowski.
Sen. Lassee's seat could be vulnerable, so look for someone to possibly challenge for that seat. Either way, it's time to get on the Democratic horse and start pointing out how the loss of Sen. Ellis is an even further march towards Neo-Stalwart, #batshitcrazy, conservative control in Wisconsin.

Let's go people. Time to get your walking shoes on and start knocking on doors.