Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CNN's Jake Tapper And Ferguson, MO

I'm not saying people should be looting, or shooting guns in the air, or throwing rocks, or destroying property, or doing anything like that.CNN's Jake Tapper last night makes the case about why what's been happening in Ferguson, MO is being sparked by the police. I'm not saying people should be looting, or shooting guns in the air, or throwing rocks, or destroying property, or doing anything like that, but people are clearly frustrated. Those people who are frustrated are acting out, but their frustration and acting out aren't being quelled when you have what was actually referred to, albeit in jest, as the "101st Airborne."

I don't know about you, but Jake Tapper makes some very blunt observations and it's certainly made me question what in the heck is happening in the heartland.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Teacher and Principal Evaluation Process in Wisconsin

For those of you who've been keeping track of the news related to education in Wisconsin, you may know that there is a new system of teacher evaluation debuting this fall. Some districts have been piloting the system (with varying levels of success) over the last year, but as of the start of school this year, it's live for every teacher in Wisconsin's public schools.

You can read the blurbs in the newspapers if you want. It's good info, mostly, but it whitewashes a lot of what we teachers have to do to actually prove we're not just riding out the system until retirement. The farcical notion that there are all these teachers just wasting away waiting until they can retire with some golden parachute is maddening.

However, if you're so inclined, you can read the 99 .pdf page manual on teacher evaluation from DPI. Or, you can see how principals in your local school district are going to be evaluated too.

Click HERE for links to both sides. 

Or, as always, DPI is on Twitter:

ABC News Interview With Mary Burke

Earlier today, Mary Burke was on with ABC News' political team via Yahoo.com for an interview.

You can view their conversation with her, which focuses on ads, jobs, the governor's fundraising, and all other manner of things here:

Sad Monday Morning

I once again last night watched what happened in Ferguson, MO.


Peaceful protestors who assemble on the streets.

Police who are inept at understanding the optics of their response.

Looters and holligans who are in no way connected to the protestors usurpting their message.

Hardened racial stereotypes and perceptions reinforced for many.

Questions answered for few.


We're better than this...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

West Allis - West Milwaukee - Another Microcosm of Education in Wisconsin

Want to know what it's like teaching in Wisconsin in a post 2011 Act 10 world? Erin Richards, education reporter from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel documents it in her latest column.

You can read her article HERE. 
This summer, an English teacher sat down to type a four-page letter, single-spaced, explaining to the West Allis-West Milwaukee administration and School Board why he was resigning from a job he loved after 18 years. 
If you want to read that letter, it's online HERE. 

I was first shown this letter at a gathering with my former Fond du Lac colleagues during the Fourth of July weekend. I'm somewhat surprised that it took this long for it to find it's way into the mainstream, but alas, even I didn't write about it then, so who knows what other's thoughts were.
In any other year, the concerns of former Nathan Hale High School teacher Eric Zentner might have carried less weight. 
But the letter that reached School Board members in June was the first public indication of what might have spurred an uptick in staff departures from West Allis-West Milwaukee's schools this past year. 
His concerns — the micromanaging of teachers, pressure to adapt too quickly to new technology, increasing workloads, pressure to make discipline and academic data look favorable, and low staff morale — were soon echoed by dozens of other teacher letters that reached board members. 
DING, DING, DING! We have a winner!

It's not that teachers are being asked to incorporate technology, it's that we're being asked to incorporate technology into EVERYTHING. Sometimes paper and pencil works just fine and is actually more adapt to how things still operate in large segments of the working world. I'm all about having high-tech jobs and having students be prepared to explore those options, but really, just incorporating technology into a lesson doesn't make it a better lesson.

ESPECIALLY at the high school level.
The next month, Superintendent Kurt Wachholz suddenly retired.  
Now the board is searching for a new superintendent, and the board president is vowing a renewed effort to connect with teachers and address their concerns. 
There's something I've heard all too often before.

I'm lucky that in Milwaukee we have a school board who's decided, as a whole, to take a very positive step in working with their teachers in many instances. Other districts, especially those that are smaller, have not always taken that approach.
But top administrators in the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District say the issues raised by Zentner are not singular to the district. Instead, they express some universal sentiments in the teaching profession at the moment. 
Much of that can be traced to legislation that limited collective bargaining in recent years, coupled with a host of new state reform initiatives that teachers have been asked to adapt to all at once. 
Gee, ya don't say.

The loss of collective bargaining rights in 2011 Act 10 was not about the money for so many people. Sure, that may be one thing that they notice time and time again when they go to the doctor, but really, it was the loss of having a voice in the workplace. The loss to negotiate things like working conditions was huge for teachers, because it mean having a loss in the structure of their classrooms and students learning environments.
School Board President Patricia Kerhin said about 200 teachers and other staff, such as guidance counselors and academic directors, have left over the past year. 
"We are high — higher than a number of other districts," said Kerhin, who said the board was briefed by human resources. "What's more concerning is how many teachers left from January to June 30 of this year." 
Zentner said half of the English department at Nathan Hale High School, including him, recently left." 
GOOD LORD! What is this place, Fond du Lac? (Hardy-Har-Har)
It comes down to micromanaging teachers and no accountability for students," Zentner said in an interview. "There's a lot of fear of repercussions if you speak out." 
Welcome to reason 6,231,369,384 why I'm a member of my union.
The district could not provide the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with a spreadsheet of retirements and resignations over the past three years, but tallies a spokesman provided showed 139 teachers and administrators resigned or retired in 2013-'14, compared with 100 in 2012-'13 and 111 in 2011-'12. 
I'm sorry, but having over 300 teachers and staff retire or resign in that time frame is high. It does nothing to promote consistency for students and give them a nurturing environment where things are normal and upheaval is limited.
"When I look at the numbers, I don't see a significantly larger number of teacher resignations than in previous years," said Johnna Noll, the district's director of instruction. 
I'd still be curious to see what those numbers look like pre-2010. Additionally, I'd be very curious to know what the average length of service was with people retiring/resigning then versus now.
Noll pointed out that according to the district's figures, 109 teachers resigned in 2013-'14, compared with 86 the previous year and 81 the year before that. 
Act 10 spurs mobility 
She said districts around the state have seen a spike in resignations in the years since Act 10 took effect. That's in part because the law, in limiting collective bargaining, ended union contracts with salary schedules tied to seniority that made it financially attractive to stay in a district until retirement. 
You know, and gave teachers that stability factor that workers desire in a workplace. I'm not your average millennial. I don't want to constantly flip and flop jobs. I want to settle in, hone my craft, and be able to succeed and buy-in to a district over the long haul. That's not becoming a crotchety old teacher who's only riding it out in tenure. That's not using the union to protect bad ways. That's creating a stable family life and environment for yourself while providing and being active in the community.
Now quality teachers or those with specialized skills — such as being bilingual, or able to incorporate more technology and personalized learning strategies — can be more easily wooed by other districts. Noll said some districts offer signing bonuses to teachers, or offer to pay the teacher's broken contract fees for resigning midyear.
Don't even get me started with the fact that there are contract fees even in the summer. I want someone to explain to me why I have to pay $2,000 to resign a job during the teaching year and only $1,000 in June or July. I mean, I'm not breaking a signed contract anymore...
"We're no longer stuck on salary structure," Noll said. "It's an open marketplace."The West Allis-West Milwaukee district is at the intersection of urban and suburban Milwaukee, with 18 schools and 9,725 students. Just over half come from low-income households. 
And that open marketplace has always existed, except now it's so much more strongly favored for districts to change on a whim and not actually invest in quality on the front end. It's now about nepotism and paying (X) teacher so much money because they have some set of skills, and not compensating the people you do have for the skills they poses already. (Just ask those in Fond du Lac about the hiring process over the last three years  and how new employees were given more money than those already in the district with equal or more standing.)
Over the past four years, the district has positioned itself to transform teaching to become more student-centered, and to emphasize personalized learning. Both are code words for education driven more by students, where teachers play more of a role in assisting, guiding and giving feedback, instead of lecturing.
It's more than just having teachers stopping lecture. I as a teacher struggle with this too even though I'm far younger than those more senior teachers who've been doing it longer because I LOVE lecture. I learn well from lecture, debate, and free flow of thoughts. All the projects and analogy strategies teachers had me do in school just ticked me off because we never discussed the facts, the information, the nitty-gritty.

And that's part of what the teacher who resigned letter talks about. It's not that teachers are angry the district wants them to lecture less (which by the way, TRUE lecture is generally an incredibly small part of teaching anyway), it's that they want none of it. Its' that they think students can just guide their own learning and somehow get to all the same or more topics, gather information, synthesize it, and then create something with it while using technology without having the foundation in place to actually understand.

It's part of a general problem I'm noticing in education today - elementary school models of education creeping further and further up the age range and districts failing to acknowledge that teaching methods and needs are different for sixteen year olds than ten year olds.
The model relies heavily on technology and the Internet for research and learning. Next year, the district will complete a full 1-to-1 initiative, meaning every child in West Allis-West Milwaukee will be issued a district-owned iPad. 
Oh, I'll have more on that in a minute. I have a love-hate relationship with 1:1 initiatives.
Eye-catching changes 
The shift, which started in the lower grades and only last year was fully implemented in the high schools, has attracted attention. 
In the past two years, more than 850 outsiders — even educators from other countries — have visited the district to see how West Allis is transforming its practices. 
Noll said the new style of teaching is showing results. On tests taken several times a year in reading and math, some "student-centered classrooms" were showing an average of almost two years worth of academic growth, she said. 
Parents were saying their kids were more engaged in school, she said. 
Scores on state achievement tests haven't changed much. State data shows that in elementary schools over the past two years, there's been a slight uptick in reading proficiency, and a slight downturn in math proficiency. In middle schools, reading and math proficiency have decreased slightly. 
And right there you have what the teacher talked about in his letter about data manipulation and trying to make everything seem all bright and shiny when it might not be. The "student-centered classrooms" are made up of who exactly? Students who wanted to be in there? Teachers who were fully versed in their technology's uses? There are lots of questions to be asked about why all this internal data looks spectacular while outside interpretation shows little change.
"The standards are more rigorous now," Noll said. "So are accountability procedures. Students need to collaborate and communicate in ways now that they haven't done before, and in ways that most teachers weren't trained to (facilitate)," she said. 
I'm not sure I agree with that "weren't trained to facilitate" part. Teachers are pretty damn smart and you know, have to keep up on current practices in their field.

If districts wouldn't have limited things like compensation for teachers to attend trainings and classes outside the school day/year, maybe they wouldn't have had such a problem? Oh, right... That loss of bargaining thing.
Noll also said more high school teachers might have left this year because the technology emphasis and personalized learning style of teaching were implemented in the high schools for the first time. The shift was difficult for subject-area specialists that might have been more accustomed to single-handedly doing the teaching, rather than urging students to research and learn to be curious. 
"We've put a lot of support structures in place to make the transition from a teacher-centered learning environment to a student-centered learning environment," she said. 
Zentner doesn't see it that way. 
I don't either because I've seen this play out in other places too. Teacher's aren't going to up and leave when the district gives them a whole host of tools that can help enhance their teaching. They'll up and quit when the district says, "you have to stop doing this and start doing this or else..."

That's when teachers leave. When the district doesn't let them incorporate things that work well for their individual teaching style and subject matter.
In his letter, he outlined concerns touching on everything from ethics to how teachers are treated as professionals to workloads, technology and student accountability. 
He said new behavior policies that emphasize keeping kids in the classroom rather than sending them outside class when they disrupt the learning environment is difficult for teachers. 
Teachers are also undermined by interesting content children can access on their iPads, and he said, they're limited in their ability to take away the devices. 
DING, DING, DING!

As an MPS teacher, I could have a long, long conversation about discipline policies, the lack of it, why suspension isn't always the answer, the lack of in-school discipline options, and the like.

But, what's happening in West Allis - West Milwaukee is happening everywhere. It's that teachers are being told that disruptive learners need to say in the room and if the teacher can't control them, it's their fault. That can mean they are downgraded on teacher evaluations. It's not just taking away teacher's ability to discipline a student, it's taking away that ability and then judging them on how they adjust to their students adjusting to the new rules.

It's not just not sending students out of the room. Teacher's abilities to enact discipline in the classroom revolve around rewarding students and taking things away that mean something. Carrots and sticks. The state and districts often refer to the positive rewards system as PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports). It's a nice thing, and it works well at the elementary level where students respond to things like free pencils and stickers.

At the high school level, it doesn't work like that. Student's aren't always motivated to do something with the possibility of receive something they don't consider of much value. Often times, forcing them to do things like turn in work in a timely manner means influencing something they do care about - grades. It's not a perfect system, especially where you're intermixing things that deal with student academic achievement (points earned on tests, quizzes, etc.) and behavior management (disruptive, late work, etc.)

However, it does have it's advantages in that it for many, many students, it does work.

As for the iPads and other 1:1 initiative devices, I absolutely LOVE the idea that I can have students look up information, work together on project, and create things in a digital form. But, when the district forces you to change to incorporate EVERYTHING there, that's an issue. When they try and convey to the students that things like learning how to do things in books is bad because "it can just be looked up online" is sending a dangerous message to students who are college bound. When we fail to let teachers incorporate devices at different speeds in different classes, we fail to teach students that different bosses have different expectations, that different environment require different things, and that you don't just get to keep your laptop open all the time.
Teachers are also urged to give students as many tries as necessary to complete assignments, and pass students even if they're not ready, he said. 
That is what's happening now.


Teachers are being told to give countless tries. Instead of saying a student just isn't ready to move on or that they haven't demonstrated they can achieve on a first or second attempt, it's them coming back again, and again to try for a higher and higher grade. In fact, it's the student who's disappointed they get a B-, so they retry and get a B +, and then retry hoping to get an A -.

With classes of 30+ at the high school level, it's enough to make your eyes bleed as a teacher when it happens. It's also another reason why internal district data can always be manipulated to look good.
Zentner said there appear to be more administrators in the building at a time when teachers are asked to attend more meetings, limiting their time for meaningful interactions with students.
When Act 10 hit, districts decided to often times "enact" 8 hour workdays for teachers. But really what they did was hamstring all of the hard working and dedicated teachers that used before and after school time to lesson plan or work with kids. Now, they are going to meetings which many times, are just meetings for meeting's sake. I like and enjoy the fact that we meet more often as a whole staff and can discuss things together. That, I do think was a good change. But when districts force meetings and then force principals and teachers to adhere to a meeting schedule and not give teachers another day in their rooms to do work like lesson plan, it's crazy.

With all the writing we want students to do these days (and rightfully so), do they think that one hour I get a week before school and then one hour during the school day actually gives me time to plan 5 days worth of lessons and grade 140 papers?
Noll said there are explanations for all of these concerns. 
For example, students are not sent out of the classroom for every minor disruption anymore because that limits their ability to learn in class. Also, she said, the district placed in each of its 18 buildings academic deans whose sole role is to support and coach teachers."I think our teachers are very empowered," she said.
YOU think the teachers are empowered? News flash, but the teachers that I know who've read the letter agree with it, and they don't feel empowered worth a damn in a lot of respects.

As for not sending students out of the room for every minor infraction, I think that's a classic deflection by administration who doesn't want to acknowledge that we teachers don't believe in sending students out for minor infractions. What's happening is that teachers are having it highly suggested to them to not send students out of the room for multiple reasons.

A) The administrators are busier now than ever with blinding paperwork of their own and the discipline problems they do face are more complex than in years past. B) There is no alternative placement for students when the are sent out of the room. There's no place where students who need a moment to calm down can go and take that time. There's no in school suspension anymore because it's been cut due to budgets. There are just no pathways for teachers to take anymore aside from calling home or having major infractions go to a suspension process. Teachers don't feel empowered at all.

As for teacher support,
"I feel bad that a disconnected person can sway many to feel these beliefs are pervasive." 
Can you say condescending? I'm sorry, but that comment really feels like a person trying to play character assassin to someone who's been in the classroom and first hand sees how the school board's policies have impacted his students.
Two School Board members, however, felt strongly that Zentner's concerns were not an isolated rant. 
Kerhin, the board president, said Wachholz pushed hard and fast on the technology front, and that ruffled some feathers with teachers. 
She said Zentner opened the floodgates for people to express their concerns. 
"It's something we need to take into account, because we need good employee morale throughout the district," she said. "We need to refocus on building concerns, and the climate for teachers. Sometimes it isn't all about instruction." 
That could be a real divisive stance to take, but it's true. Good teachers, and happy teachers lead to good and happy instruction. I'm not saying teachers need to have everything bestowed upon them, but when your school buildings are fractured or have low morale, it affects the students.
Kerhin said the board believed in the initiatives Wachholz put in place. She said she knew it wasn't easy for teachers to go from using textbooks to iPads to writing curriculum on iPads. 
See, why do you need to make that switch full force?! No wonder teachers are rebelling. Heck, I'd rebel and I'm in my 20's! I've grown up with technology! But carte blanche moving from textbooks and requiring teachers to do all curriculum on iPads without teacher input is NOT how you build positive morale. Why not transition over the course of a year so teachers can learn ways to adapt lessons to iPads? What does that hurt? Making massive sea-change does nothing to ease teachers and students into the world of 1:1.
"We were just amazed that we went from having no communication whatsoever from teachers, to all these letters coming in," she said. "We didn't know teachers felt like they could not share their story. The pressure is very high. 
What rock are people living under?

Teachers by in large do feel they cannot share their feelings. Evaluations now tied to test scores, loss of bargaining rights and the ability to have input in their working conditions, all tie in.

You know, or it could be that the teachers were happy but once Act 10 hit the district decided to not seek teacher input. I mean, I couldn't possibly be that could it?
"Wachholz did not respond to a request for an interview. 
But Kerhin and School Board member Sue Sujecki said they don't think that even he knew the extent of teacher discontent. 
"Superintendent Wachholz truly loved the children of West Allis," Sujecki said. "There was no question that he loved the children and loved this community." 
Walchholz's contract was up this summer. 
After Zentner and other teachers sent letters about the state of the district this summer, the board held closed meetings about the superintendent's contract. 
Walchholz resigned July 31.
It's a scary, scary world in education right now.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Robert Reich Explains The Conservative Strategy

Robert Reich explains exactly what I've been feeling, saying, experiencing, railing against for the last number of years.

Even in high school I remember making the argument, between how bad the Iraq War was, that the economy wasn't really that great for the average worker. These days, data has taught us that was wage stagnation.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Good Talent Costs Money - The Pay Gap On Display in Fond du Lac

Fond du Lac Economic Development Corporation President Steve Jenkins said as much in a radio interview on KFIZ this past week, wages have to go up if businesses want to attract talent. 

It's something I've been harping about for a while now, and while he says that the "Skills Gap" is going to keep getting wider if businesses don't address it, I've maintained for a while now that this is really a "Pay Gap." People aren't going to go out and spend loads of their own money to get trained for high skilled jobs that only pay $15-20/hr and are then forced to work mandatory OT, which is where businesses like to frame the talk about making $60,000 a year to start.

And those low wages are one reason why college educated people like myself often times leave places like Fond du Lac. Sure, I have friends from high school who're college educated and have been able to find a job in town. But too often, the desire to leave town isn't because they disliked their childhood, but because the cultural institutions or values don't align with them and they aren't able to find a job that matches their level of education.

From today's KFIZ news site:
FDL County Wage Ranking A Concern
While Fond du Lac County has ranked among the top metropolitan statistical areas in the country in terms of manufacturing job growth, it’s not doing as well when it comes to wages. Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corporation President Steve Jenkins says the bottom ranking in terms of wages isn’t something the County will be sitting still for. The County ranked 179th out of as many small metros examined by area development. He says unfortunately it’s something that will take time to remedy, but attracting talent to fill the skills gap will drive up wages.
Entry level opportunities for people who are college educated, tech school educated, or high school educated, all need to exist and pay wages that align with their level of education. Right now, that's not happening. Nor is that match of Millennials cultural and societal beliefs. When Fondy and other small-town communities figure that out, things will change.

I Messed Up - Undissecting Gov. Walker's Lates TV Ad

I messed up.

The other day I wrote a highly viewed (for this little slice of the internets anyway) blog post about Gov. Walker's latest TV ad. In it, I called in question the identity of one of those appearing in the ad, re-posting a tweet from an online user who noticed that the employee, while wearing a Murtha Tools t-shirt, bore a striking resemblance to the company CEO.

This is that part of blogging where you're the faceless hack who deserves the flack you get.

Turns out, one of those professional people, which is why they're called journalists, actually did the leg work I was unable to, and obtained the identities of said people in the ad. Despite the state of journalism, paid journalists are still vital to investigating issues like this and putting people like me in my place.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Dan Bice:
His story can be viewed HERE. 

My apologies to the CEO of Murtha for writing the post and suggesting that he posted in the ad without further proof. That may not clear up everything with respect to exactly WHEN they started creating jobs (I'll leave that to Uppity Wisconsin's latest post), but I done messed up.

Which is why, as always, I like to caution the gentle reader. I'm not a journalist. I'm a commentator. I take what I see, I repost it, analyze it, frame it from my point of view, provide context, or simply just spew whatever thoughts come into my mind.

Take what you read on here with a grain of salt.

- Soapbox

Burke's Tremendous New Ad

I got to school a little after 8 again this morning to do some more prep-work before school starts. Unfortunately I just missed Mary Burke's latest TV ad being posted online.

The only word I can use to describe it is tremendous:

Such A Lot of Pain Friday

I've featured this song more than once as a Friday song. But it just seems so truthful.

Rush's 2007 effort titled "Snakes and Arrows" is a phenomenal album. Even if you're not a big Rush fan, it's solid music that came out when music was anything but solid.

One of their songs was actually written as a pantoum style poem, and it was titled "The Larger Bowl."

The chorus of the song conveys the essence of the lyrics, which are particularly timely considering what we've seen in Ferguson, MO this week:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Glenn Grothman - Still Going Off The Deep End

You would think that with a mere 214 (or 215 depending on who you ask) lead over State Sen. Joe Leibham in the election results, State Sen. Glenn Gorthman would have a more refined message when speaking about such congressional issues as food stamp usage.

Then again, that wouldn't be Glenn Grothman.

Today, Glenn was on the radio with Greg Stensland to discuss the primary election, it's results, and in effect talk about his campaign. Folks, it was classic Grothamn, and while it may play well to the Ozaukee Co. Republican base, it's not a message that sells across the 6th CD.

You can listen to the interview HERE. 

While the beginning of the interview largely focuses on the election, the possibility of a recount, and everything that happened Tuesday, at about 2:45, Glenn starts being Glenn.

When asked about his message in the race for November, he responds with some classic lines that I'm not sure will sell well with the rural poor of Waushara and Marquette Co:
I've talked with listeners before about the welfare state and the fact that more and more people are deciding to, not unintentionally, but intentionally live a life in which you aim for these benefits and it is destroying the American work-ethic
That may work well for the commuter-class Republicans of the north shore suburbs of Milwaukee, but it's not something that resonates with the rural working poor of Wisconsin. There's a reason why the Republicans in those areas have largely been moderates.

He continues:
There are many people who need food stamps out there, but the number has increased from 17 Million to 49 Million in the last 14 years. I mean, the economy's been down, more people need assistance, but not that many more.
Aside from your raw data, any statistics or reasons why people are seeking out those benefits? Any indication about where those people are living? How many of them are working and have a job but it doesn't pay a living wage? Any information about how big of a spike happened in 2008-09? Any statistical data showing people living off of the state food stamp program? What about W2? What about...

In other words, it's just more of the same classic Glenn Grothman platitudes that we've become accustomed to in Wisconsin.

Again, while this district may lean Republican, it's not Glenn Grothman Republican. There are lots of rural poor who are working but need assistance from programs like SNAP. Do they vote Republican? Often times yes, so don't for a second try and have me explain why. But when Republicans talk about reigning in "waste, fraud, and abuse" it doesn't resonate with them because they aren't being wasteful or defrauding the system.

Glenn Grothman in almost no uncertain terms just said that people who have recently needed food stamps don't have work ethic. That's an attack on specific people.

Any wonder why Mark Harris wants a 11 county debate?

Next, Glenn says that high food prices and high gas prices are because the government is printing too much money and it's causing inflation. Again, no statistics, no sources, no raw data, just him saying it so it must be true. The popping sound you just heard was the part of your brain that comprehends logic.

When asked if he knows Mark Harris, he says he does and that they've met on the campaign trail. Then, WHAM! Attack mode! He says that Harris has been "oddly" critical of him because he's championed business tax cuts in the industry heavy 6th CD and then proceeds to turn that into "Mark Harris has been critical of me for being too pro-manufacturing." The pop you experienced before has now likely subsided to a low-sustained inner brain pressure... I understand.

On the subject of debating in all 11 counties of the 6th CD or debating on "Between the Lines" he responds with "probably" and quickly pivots to talking about how the election isn't settled and that there are 7 or 8 radio stations, so he can't make it to all of them. (Which tells you all you need to know about how eager Glenn Grothamn is to debate Mark Harris.)

Buckle-up for the ride to November.

1,259 Absentee Ballots in 6th CD

Not that I enjoy using a conservative-front news source like Wisconsin Election Watch, but they're reporting that there are 1,259 absentee ballots left to be counted in the highly contested 6th Congressional District Republican primary.

From their article: 
Wisconsin Election Watch obtained outstanding absentee ballot data from clerks via their website or on the telephone on Thursday. The Sheboygan Press initially reported on Wednesday that there 1,500 absentee ballots outstanding. The following is an actual count of the outstanding absentee ballots: 
County Number of Outstanding Absentee Ballots 
Columbia 68
Dodge 76
Fond du Lac 113
Green Lake 17
Manitowoc 82
Marquette 8
Milwaukee 15
Ozaukee 397
Sheboygan 205
Waushara 10
Winnebago 268

Sources: County Clerks in Columbia, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Manitowoc, Marquette, Ozaukee, Sheboygan, and Winnebago Counties. Bayside and River Hills Village Clerks
As of Thursday, Glenn Grothman still holds onto a slim lead against Joe Leibham. A large majority of the absentee ballots are in the more-populated counties of Fond du Lac, Ozaukee, Sheboygan, and Winnebago which account for over 78 percent of the total absentee ballots outstanding. On Election Night, Leibham won Sheboygan County while Grothman carried Ozaukee, Winnebago, and Fond du Lac counties. 
County canvassing boards will meet next week to determine the final results of this closely contested race for the Republican nomination in the 6th Congressional District. After the canvassing boards make their final decision, it is up to the losing campaigns to request a recount. Because the margin of victory is less than half of one percent, the State of Wisconsin will pay for all the costs associated with the recount.
Meanwhile, Mark Harris just keeps plugging away. If you want to see an absolutely tremendous website for a candidate, you should look at his site.  Professionally done and it conveys the same tone that the candidate does when you speak with him in person or his interactions in the media.

Here's yet another reason why he can win this race. From his site:
MARK LOWERED SPENDING AND REDUCED THE DEBT WHILE MAINTAINING SERVICES  
As Winnebago County Executive, Mark faced many challenges. The County nursing home was in two old and inefficient buildings, UW Fox Valley sponsored by Winnebago and Outagamie counties had a critical need for additional and improved engineering space and state support for local government was in decline. With hard work, collaboration and a little creativity a new nursing home was built, new engineering space was acquired, and he was able to improve the long-term financial health of the county.

COUNTY BUDGET/TOTAL SPENDING

Previous Executive - 2005 Budget $151,236,000
Mark Harris - 2014 Budget $145,150,000

TOTAL DEBT

As of 12.31.05 $54,625,000
As of 7.1.14 $36,934,049*
*Debt fluctuates with principal payments and new bonding
Why would you not want this man as Congressman?

Ferguson, MO - I Guess We're Not Better Than This

My only update this morning, after watching several hours of coverage last night on what's been happening in Ferguson, MO, is that I am once again reminded that after 2011 I have a distrust of what the media reports during situations like this.

Such a lot of pain on the earth...

What has been happening in that city, shouldn't be in 2014. It just shouldn't.

Maybe the reports of journalists being arrested and the retweets I saw last night of local journalists saying they recognize other local journalists who've been tear gassed, things will change.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dissecting Gov. Walker's Latest TV Ad

*** This post was updated below due to new information***

Remember Gov. Walker's latest TV ad he officially debut today?

Then, remember how he's decided to try and keep the identities of those appearing in the commercial private?

Well, thanks to the detective efforts of one sleuth @gnarlytrombone on Twitter, we may have been able to figure out why the Governor has decided to withhold the identities of people who are saying "they got a job" in his commercial.

They aren't actual people who've found jobs.

If you look at the picture on the left, that's the commercial, and a "Murtha Tool Corp" logo is prominently displayed. On the right, that's Murtha Tools CEO, Ken Murtha.

Thanks to Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce for confirming identities and showing yet another wonderful picture, which includes Assembly Rep. Dan Knodl receiving an award from WMC at the Murtha plant:

While I can't confirm identities for sure, it's hard to not see the striking resemblance and desire to assist in an ad for the Governor. Just remember, where there's smoke, there's likely fire.

*** UPDATE: According to Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the story of the CEO appearing in the ad as someone who got a job may be too good to be true:
UPDATE: I have obtained the names of the people in the new Walker TV ad, and the stories of the first three check out. I will post a complete item once I finish with all of them.
I will post an update as well. As much as I wish the story of a CEO appearing as a new worker to be true, it looks like it could be DOA. While I never technically said it was definitely the CEO, I highly suggested that it looked to be the case. That deserves a retraction when more information becomes available.

My retraction post can be found HERE. 

6th CD Democratic Candidate Mark Harris on WFDL's "Between the Lines w/Greg Stensland"

Hot off of last night's nail-biter in the 6th CD Republican Primary, Democrat Mark Harris joined Greg Stensland on the radio to day to discuss all manner of things related to the election in November.

You can hear that interview HERE. 

When asked about the closeness of the vote in Sheboygan Co. and State Sen. Leibham narrowing the gap overnight, Harris noted that he has faith in the electoral system and will wait for a day or so before things are formalized. However, that doesn't stop his strategy in marching towards November, and he pivots right away into talking about fiscal integrity and how he's been fiscally responsible in Winnebago Co.

He also takes a heck of a dig at the TV ads that were being run in on the Republican side about how they may have cut and cut and cut in the budget, they are adding massively to the debt and state spending is still at an all time high. Remember when I said that Sen. Grothamn goes off message easily? That's NOT Exec. Harris.

When asked about the conservativeness of the other candidates and their falling over themselves to claim that mantle with how it relates to the general election and historical trends of Democratic tendencies, Harris says that he believes there's a reason why the district has consistently returned a moderate to Congress. He says that the way both candidates framed themselves as extreme conservatives during the primary may have appealed to the base, but that isn't what people have demonstrated in returning Petri to office again and again. Like I've said before, he can win this race!

It was noted that there is a press-conference later today for a campaign announcement, and he previews that announcement by saying that he's running a full 11 county campaign and that he's going to be more than willing to go after the statements made during the primary in the general election. He says that what he hears from the district is runaway spending and debt in Washington is a problem, and that's how he's going to frame his campaign. Mark Harris is a fiscal guy, he's a banker by trade and knows his way around a balance sheet, something Glenn Grothman doesn't have experience in aside from his days as a litigator.

Discussion then turned to what type of race this will be in terms of spending. While Harris notes that he wants a low spending race that plays out in debates, he's willing to work whatever race develops depending on outside influence. (Hate to say it, but this is not going to be low spending...) When asked specifically if he would be willing to debate Sen. Grothman on "Between the Lines" he replied, "absolutely."

This will be a fun, fun race people. If you're someone who likes sending smart people to Washington who have real world experiences and are approachable no matter what your political color, you'll love Mark Harris.

As to that press-conference that was referenced, it was Harris issuing a "debate challenge" to whomever his opponent will be, in all 11 counties. You can view that video HERE.