Tuesday, August 4, 2015

New Anti Ron Johnson Ad

Just in case you haven't seen this ad yet, it looks like the 2016 US Senate race between Sen. Ron Johnson and former Sen. Russ Feingold is getting an early start.

American Bridge 21st Century just put out the following ad online yesterday against Sen. Johnson. It's a nice little "greatest hits" package of recent memory:

Ellen Proxmire - The Passing Of A Legend

I'm shocked I didn't see this news sooner!

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has lost one of it's old-school champions. Ladies of Emerge, WI and other organizations doing work promoting the value of women in politics, take a look at the grandmother of them all, Ellen Proxmire, who sadly passed away Sunday at the age of 90.

The news was first reported by the Cap Times in THIS article. 

The article focuses some on her life after the 1950's when she spent a large part of her time in DC and ran one of the premier event planning organizations in the city. If there was a Democratic ball of some kind, chances are she or her company were involved. However, the short mention of her time in Wisconsin during Bill Proxmire's rise in the 1950's is worth mention:
Ellen had long been active in Wisconsin Democratic politics during her early years and was secretary of the state party when she and William married. She would come back to Wisconsin during his senatorial campaigns and served as his campaign chair. Proxmire famously spent a few hundred dollars in his campaigns, relying instead on personal appearances around the state.
Bill Proxmire's campaign style is sadly long since dead, especially in the era of Citizens United, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and George Soros. You can't even practically win a contested rural school board seat on a few hundred dollars these days, but during the 1960's - 80's, the Proxmire campaigns are the stuff of legend. (And almost to the stage of myth today considering how much money is a necessary evil in the process.)

However, Ellen Proxmire was never just the dainty wife who kept a tidy home for her husband. She was deeply involved in state party politics during those years and in many ways helped do the behind the scenes organizing that makes political parties work. If Belle Case La Follette is the fore-runner for women in Wisconsin politics, Ellen Proxmire in many ways is the grandmother of the modern day movement for Democratic women in Wisconsin to be in positions of power. She even wrote a book in 1963 titled, One Foot In Washington which chronicles her early years, and can be viewed online from the Wisconsin State Historical Society.

I'm somewhat miffed that I haven't seen an official statement from the DPW about her passing because her status as a Democrat is fairly legendary. When the DPW was rebuilding itself in the 1950's, the Proxmires were front and center in the 2nd wave of reformers after those of the late 1940's who revived what was once a party so inept it's few elected members were still operating on 1890's principles. Bill and Ellen Proxmire were in on the ground floor and didn't just stand on it, they helped build it with their own sweat and tears.

While the modern day DPW is very much in flux, much can be learned from those lean years of the past, and how the period between 1946 and 1957 saw Democrats become not only a serious, but in many ways, dominant force in Wisconsin politics. That was in no small part to Ellen Proxmire and her work on the ground. The Soapbox wishes her family condolences.

*** UPDATE ***

You can read the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's own story on Ms. Proxmire's passing HERE. It was published after my initial writing of this post.

A part of that article that is worth keeping here:
"Not only did she work outside the home, she built a very successful business," Flynn said. "Ellen was always ahead of her time, and I think she was a quiet feminist in the best sense of the word." 
When her business took off, critics dismissed the firm as a politico wife's hobby.
"I said, 'What do you want me to do — wear a bag over my head? I have a right to do what I'm doing,'" Ellen Proxmire said, according to Politico. "They thought we were doing it for a lark."
Prior to marrying William Proxmire, Ellen came to Madison with her first husband, Wisconsin native Warren Sawall, and earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 
Then in the early 1950s, she served as the Wisconsin Democratic Party's executive secretary during its fledgling years. 
Family friend Ruth Zubrensky said Ellen was actively involved in a close-knit circle of the state's first party leaders. 
Civil rights, racial equality and collective bargaining were issues high on her political agenda, Flynn said. 
"She was a very dynamic woman who believed so much in the Democratic cause," Zubrensky said. "She was just a marvelous woman who stood her ground. She was out there in front."
This was a miraculous woman, one who Wisconsin Democrats should be celebrating.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Rep. Sanfelippo Should Just Say What He Means

Suburban Milwaukee Assembly Rep. Joe Sanfelippo set me off this morning. 

The chorus of calls against DPI using them as a proxy to attack not only MPS, but families of color has been steadily growing over the last few months, leading me to believe that DPI will be yet the next government agency with conservative firing sights set on it. GAB, open records, DPI, it just never ends. 

But what really struck me with THIS press-release from Rep. Sanfelippo was not only his attacks against MPS, but comparing black graduation rates across districts in Wisconsin and actually citing the wealthy Madison suburb of Middleton in his statistics. Funny story, after graduating from UWO in 2010 with my education degree I was an AmeriCorps volunteer doing parent engagement in... Middleton High School.

Yes, I'm an MPS teacher who, according to the DPI report cards, teaches at what is statistically one of the lowest performing high schools in Wisconsin. But before coming to MPS, I spent a year doing parent work at one of the highest in Middleton. My perspective on Rep. Sanfelippo's comments are certainly unique. 
State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, has responded to a news release from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers that claims recent state budgets have set up schools and educators to fail. 
Which it has, but hey, why let those pesky little details get in the way of a perfectly good ideological attack?
“It’s ironic that DPI is talking about failures when they have been failing children in Milwaukee Public Schools for years by turning a blind eye to the problems in that district,” Sanfelippo said. “DPI’s blatant unwillingness to hold MPS accountable has allowed the state’s largest school district to be a perennial failure, which calls into question DPI’s ability to carry out its core mission.”  
Turning a blind eye? What is he smoking?! This is nothing but coded language towards DPI where Rep. Sanfelippo can't say what he wants to. He wants to dismantle MPS and close the largest school district in Wisconsin because they aren't miracle workers, plain and simple.

DPI not holding MPS accountable? For YEARS we've been fighting to keep principals in a school for more than three years if a school is deemed "failing" because it takes much, much more time than that to turn around a school WITH THE SAME STUDENTS. Educators in MPS are held to the exact same standards as every other educator in Wisconsin, with Professional Development Plans every five years for license renewal, yearly evaluations with Educator Effectiveness Plan and Professional Practice Goals, and countless other mini-evaluations and walk-throughs.

Former Superintendent Gregory Thornton once said, "The 12 to 18 hours a day students spend
outside our buildings often have more influence than the 6 to 10 they spend in them." It still absolutely astounds me when suburban white legislators who have ZERO inclination what my job entails or what my students family life is like, seem to think that anything short of closing one of the few stable things in students lives, their school, is the only answer towards "fixing MPS." They clearly have no idea.

Did you know that if student attendance records were not counted towards the DPI report-card score, MPS would not have been deemed "failing"? Funny right, I mean, there's only so much that MPS can do to get students in their doors. Parents can't be arrested by MPS for not putting their kids in school. Students can't be arrested and brought into a classroom so the school attendance figure goes up. (Can you imagine the negative sentiment that would develop towards schools?) While everyone likes to dump on MPS as "failing" I invite ANYONE to come and actually live out a month in my school and see how you would simply and magically fix the systemic problems that poverty have on my school.
MPS was the only school district in Wisconsin that failed to meet expectations in 2013-14, according to the latest available state report cards. DPI has currently identified 55 MPS schools that fail to meet expectations, which represents 83.3 percent of all failing schools in Wisconsin. At least one MPS school doesn’t have a single student proficient in reading. 
Can we also have a conversation about where the greatest concentration of poverty is in Wisconsin? Can we have a conversation about where the highest mobility rates are in Wisconsin? Can we have a conversation about where the highest incarceration rates are in Wisconsin where family dynamics are destroyed? Can we have a conversation about the lack of diversity in classrooms across Wisconsin, and how peers and communities are sadly extremely segregated in this state? Can we have a conversation about that school and the make-up of their students? Let's talk about the details and nuances that affect ALL of these situations, because sadly, that is where many of the problems lie.
“We have more than 50 failing schools in Milwaukee year after year, yet DPI does nothing to ensure those schools are improving. We can’t let DPI preserve status quo and continue to turn their back on these students,” Sanfelippo said. “DPI has a massive budget and hundreds of employees and their only job is to make sure our children are receiving a good, quality education. But they have been failing at that job for years. And it’s not just Milwaukee. The graduation rate for black students in Madison is a paltry 55 percent. In the affluent Madison suburb of Middleton, the graduation rate is even lower at 52 percent. And across Wisconsin, only 36.6 percent of students are proficient or better at reading. That is simply unacceptable.”  
Coded language again. What he really wants to say is that DPI doesn't close these schools and fire everyone, which upsets him horribly. DPI is not the issue in MPS and Milwaukee. DPI is constantly looking over our data, constantly in the district working with training teachers, constantly keeping tabs on our Title I money. In fact, DPI was working with teachers on shifting their lessons and learning about their own biases with things like white privilege but conservative legislators flipped a gasket. This is nothing more than Rep. Sanfelippo taking pot shots at two organizations who have progressed far beyond the simplistic cultural frames that he is set in.

As for Madison and Middleton's graduation rates, they are significant issues. Madison has recently been implementing reforms such as the elimination of it's "zero tolerance" policy on discipline to keep students in the school and in classrooms where they can learn. A new effort with groups like the United Way to bring tutors into schools has been initiated too. Plus, once again, many of the issues that affect Madison's community of color also are the very issues that affect Milwaukee on the whole. High mobility, lack of stability, all contribute to those issues. As I've been saying for a while now, MMSD and Madison needs to stop having some of it's more bourgeois tendencies and realize that it shares a lot in common with Milwaukee. Let's learn from each other and not buy into the Republican mantra of dividing us against one another.

As for Middleton, wow, where to begin.

First, I will say that my experiences there were between four and five years ago, so naturally there has been an evolution in the district. Furthermore, there has been an evolution across Wisconsin with so many things related to education, and their district is part of that. Also, while there are numerous reasons why simply blaming DPI or school districts is not on point with helping lower the achievement gap between students of color and white students, it is very important to recognize that those gaps exist and work needs to be done to lower them. The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District should be held to this.

However, as far back as 2011 they began work on their achievement gap problem. I was first introduced to the concept of white privilege at a series of professional developments that the district was doing with DPI about how educators could do a better job of being culturally responsive to changing student demographics. Also, being a geography person, I naturally gravitated to the attendance region maps for the district, and it was incredibly clear that the massive and rapid growth of Madison's west-side suburbs was contributing to issues with students of color and access to district resources.

Do you know that the MCPASD district wraps around to the south side of the belt-line highway? Did you know that many students who live in the Elver Park neighborhood actually attend Middleton High School, and often times ride on yellow school buses past Memorial High School? Think that has any affect on students and their buy-in with the community? Also, let's not forget the fact that many of those students aren't able to participate in the bevy of after school activities that are offered that many of the more affluent white students can. Summer camps, mandatory practices, all become barriers to breaking into the culture of that school setting when you cannot afford to live the culture or put in the time some deem necessary.

My work as parent coordinator was on many levels unsuccessful. It was difficult finding ways to connect the community that was being undeserved with a school and district that were widely removed from the reality of where they lived. While some progress was made in shifting the way the district messaged and how it approached issues with families, it was even more telling when I took what I learned to Milwaukee and saw many of the same issues play out. Students who are bussed out of their neighborhoods, lack of diverse cultures and exposure to them all wall off students and create winners and losers.

Middleton was taking steps then, in a proactive way, to right what it saw was a problem, and there's little doubt in my mind that they have continued to work on that. I think that if you were to map out where students in the MCPASD lived and what their high school attendance looked like, what their ACT scores were, and what stability factors were in place, you would very, very quickly see that many of the issues are not related to factors the district can easily fix. It comes down to geography, historic boundaries, and constant professional development of staff to acknowledge those challenges.
DPI paid out $36.6 million in salaries and benefits to 415 administrative employees in 2014-15, according to data compiled by the state Legislative Fiscal Bureau. DPI also spent more than $140 million on operational costs and programs that same school year.  
“If we really want to get serious about stepping up for public education and improving the economic and social health of Milwaukee and the state, it’s time we look at making DPI more efficient by taking the millions of dollars being wasted there and putting the money directly into the classrooms,” Sanfelippo said.
You want to lower DPI's oversight on my schools, great! Then keep your damn legislative hands off of it too and actually practice that so-called "conservative" mantra of local control. Oh, I forgot, you don't like that either, hence the "recovery" district you've forced on Milwaukee where you take public assets and hand them over to so-called "management organizations." Smooth, real smooth Rep. Sanfelippo.

Tell ya what, until you actually have some conversations with those of us who wake up every day and face MPS students on a daily basis and truly want to improve outcomes for ALL students, check yourself.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rick Gudex Asks, How Can We Lower Oversight Even More At WEDC

It's been a while since I've written about everybody's (least) favorite voucher sponsored State Senator, Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac. Lo and behold though, the Wisconsin State Journal gave the gift of news on Friday that he, along with Rep. Rob Hutton of Brookfield, are being the stool pigeons for Republican leadership in retooling the WEDC with ZERO political oversight.

From the State Journal:  
Two GOP lawmakers want to remove themselves and their Democratic counterparts from the board of the state’s troubled job-creation agency.
Because, what could POSSIBLY go wrong there?
The proposal circulated Friday by Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, and Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, would replace the four legislators on the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board with private-sector members, two appointed by the governor with Senate approval and one each appointed by the Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker.
Oh, so what they're saying is that instead of having two Democrats on the board who are willing to call out the horrible corruption and waste, this would turn WEDC into a wholly Republican controlled business syndicate? Smooth, very, very smooth....
In a memo to legislators, Gudex and Hutton, who joined the board in January, wrote that the Legislature would still retain its oversight role through legislative committees, three statutorily required reports to the Legislature, multiple statutorily required reports and requests to the budget committee and reviews every other year by the Legislative Audit Bureau.

“Current Legislator board positions are better filled by private-sector experts with first-hand experience in economic development initiatives in Wisconsin,” Gudex and Hutton wrote. “We believe this change will bring additionally needed expertise to the Board, while at the same time fostering more open discussion and engagement. This enhancement to the Board will be well timed as WEDC realigns its future strategy.”
Tell you what, Why don't we convene a board of people representing local food pantries, United Way's, and actual poor people to serve on a board to allocate dollars for Food Share, Heating Assistance, and BadgerCare? Oh, doesn't sound like a good idea because you're worried that they are going to be unethical because they benefit from the money they would be allocating to themselves?


So, a group that has been accused of massive corruption, lost millions, if not billions of taxpayer dollars, and seen turn-over in leadership like a car wash goes through line-workers, has champions in the legislature who want LESS oversight?

Needless to say, Democrats are none too pleased...
Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, a WEDC board member, slammed the proposal, comparing it to recent attempts to gut the state open records law and dismantle the Government Accountability Board.
That GAB overhaul will be priority number one this fall for conservatives, just you watch.
“I think the people of Wisconsin want greater oversight at WEDC, not less,” Lassa said in a statement. “Over its brief four-year history, WEDC has been shaken by mismanagement, massive employee turnover, failure to follow the law, the loss of millions in taxpayer dollars in improperly vetted deals, and the withholding of information from its board of directors. Why would anyone think the Legislature should have less oversight at this agency?”

Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca has been equally veracious in his attacks on the WEDC over the last few years, so there is little doubt as to what he would think of this proposal.
Gov. Scott Walker proposed removing himself and legislators from the board in his 2015-17 budget proposal, which also included a merger of WEDC with the state’s low-income housing agency. The Legislature stripped out the merger, removed Walker as chairman, but kept legislators on the WEDC board.
Which at the time, was seen as the legislature asserting itself and in a case of wagging the dog, putting the governor in a corner. However, with light of this recent proposal, one has to wonder if there weren't more sinister motives. This of course, begs the question, when was this first brought up, and by who? (Gee, aren't those open record laws so nice?)
The Democrats on the WEDC board have been outspoken critics of the agency, especially in the wake of a State Journal report in May that detailed how Walker’s top cabinet secretary pushed the agency to give taxpayer funds to a company owned by a top Walker campaign donor. After the agency learned the company owner told a luxury car-leasing company he would repay more than $200,000 in debt with taxpayer funds, officials continued unsuccessfully to help secure additional financial assistance.

Lassa and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, have called for a federal investigation into the initial $500,000 loan to Building Committee Inc., which has not been repaid.
Lets once again review what Sen. Gudex and Rep. Hutton want to do - Remove legislative oversight directly on the WEDC board... Pretty much everyone who's an outside observer to the WEDC acknowledges that there have been problems (as an understatement), and unfortunately more and more keeps coming out about their lack of accountability hampering taxpayers.
Like the private-sector members of the WEDC board, Gudex and Hutton have been generally supportive of the agency and silent on further investigations. The board recently referred discussion of various policy changes proposed by Barca and Lassa to committee, while approving the hiring of a consultant to review agency practices.
Oh joy, we're hiring consultants! Consultants have their place in any industry, don't get me wrong. As easy as it can be to throw them under the bus as wastes of money, when used in the right way they can be effective in initiating change. But hiring a consultant in this instance seems somewhat puzzling.
Gudex said in an interview Friday that the state should do everything it can to try to recoup lost money, but declined to say whether he supported a criminal investigation. WEDC has already won a judgment against the defunct Building Committee Inc., but no taxpayer funds have been recovered.

Despite the BCI loan and at least 27 other awards where the agency didn’t conduct a proper financial review, Gudex said the agency has done “remarkably well.”
“I didn’t say there weren’t areas for improvement,” Gudex said. “We’re going to have a couple misses every now and then, (but) we’re going to have more hits and home runs.”
Typical Gudex reply... Say something without adding an ounce of substance to the conversation. It's almost rope-a-doping your opponent, because they get so twisted in nots trying to figure out what in the heck was actually said and if there was even something of substance associated with it.

Sen. Gudex also is clearly trying to raise his profile before 2016 and a reelection bid. In 2012, he beat then Sen. Jessica King by only 590 votes, mainly because of a low turnout in the UWO region of Oshkosh. With Sen. Gudex voting for so-called "right-to-work" legislation, and schools in his district consistently seeing less and less state aid, it's easy to see him as a flipable seat for Democrats during a Presidential year.

I've heard rumblings that current Winnebago Co. Executive Mark Harris is very strongly considering throwing his hat into the ring for the nomination. While usually seen as a step backwards, Exec. Harris has flirted with higher office in running for Governor before, and generally comes across as a public servant and not trying to advance his own political career. He would be good competition for Sen. Gudex in a general election.

Other possible candidates include former Sen. Jessica King of Oshkosh, but by all accounts she has no interest in running again at this time. Assembly Rep. and member of JFC Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh is yet another possible contender, and a very, very sharp contrast to that of Sen Gudex's style. However, as of right now, nobody has committed on the Democratic side to running and we have just over one month until the all important Labor Day benchmark. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Some Days Others Say It Better - Mike In Oshkosh on MPS's "Takeover" District

Here's an interesting perspective to read, especially for me, someone who's a K-12 teacher with the Milwaukee Public Schools and just this summer started pursuit of a masters in public administration from UWM.

Michael Ford is an assistant professor of Public Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, but before becoming a professor he worked in education and public policy, including a stint at the usually (but ever so infrequently not always) right leaning Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. He's recently started blogging with a place to both present his research and views on a variety of topics. Just yesterday, he put out a posting on Milwaukee's newly created Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (i.e. the MPS takeover-district).

You can read it on his site HERE, but I have reprinted it below as it is short and well focused:
Probably not. For those unfamiliar, the Milwaukee Opportunity District will transfer the governing authority of certain Milwaukee schools over to “a Commissioner appointed by the County Executive”(read all about it starting on page 557 of the linked document). Eventually, up to five Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) deemed failing under the Wisconsin accountability report card will annually be transferred over to the Milwaukee opportunity district. That district will hand operating authority of these failing schools over to charter school, voucher school, or new school operators via a contracting process. The caveat is that the schools under contract must have a demonstrated track record of operating a school with test scores that are higher than the schools they are charged with turning around. Simple, right? 
While I have no doubt this plan comes from a sincere desire to improve the lot of some of Wisconsin’s neediest students, it is premised on many questionable assumptions. First, it assumes that the MPS governance structure is the reason these schools are failing to meet expectations. Where is the evidence of this? Consider, if you accept that the MPS governance structure is the cause of the lowest-performing schools in the district than you must accept that the MPS governance structure is also the cause of the highest performing district schools. Further, does this mean that the lowest performing voucher and charter schools are low-performing simply because they are voucher and charter schools? This discussion is getting a bit muddled, and that is the point. If 25+ years of macro-governance reform in Milwaukee have proved anything, it is that there is nothing inherently superior or inferior about a voucher, charter, or MPS school. Yet, the Milwaukee plan seems to ignore this fact. 
Second, the unit of analysis is wrong. While it is smart that policy makers want to ensure only high-quality operators are given authority over schools in this new district, the spotty track record of replication and expansion efforts is telling. Every school is a unique organization with a unique culture. A high-performing school has built and cultivated that culture over time and cannot quickly transfer that into a different organization. Doing so will take time and effort, and it will not necessarily work. As a wise person in Milwaukee education once told me, everyone seems to underestimate just how difficult it is to create a quality school. It takes more than will. 
Third, this proposal further fragments Milwaukee’s disjointed public education system. I have written before and still believe the maintenance and strengthening of Milwaukee’s publicly funded education institutions is a moral imperative. While I doubt anyone would go back 25 years ago and create the system we have today, especially given the results, it is the reality on the ground. The public policy priority should be, in my opinion, recognizing the value of all sectors of Milwaukee’s education system by working towards building a coherent governance model with consistent goals, funding, and accountability expectations. Most importantly, any coherent governance model must be representative of the diversity of views held by Milwaukee citizens. I do not see how this is possible without a democratically elected board. 
I hope I am wrong and that the Milwaukee Opportunity School District turns around the lowest performing schools in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, so much of this plan tells me it cannot work.
Of course for those of us who are in Milwaukee, we know that the plan was never designed to work with the intended outcomes it says it will provide. It's intention is to destroy MPS slowly and methodically, while giving the best buildings and assets of MPS away to either private voucher schools or to so-called non-profits who will open independent charter schools. The intention of this bill is to break the MPS school board, much like Chris Abele has done with the Milwaukee Co. Board, and circumvent the constitutional will of the people to influence the direction a unified system of public education has in Milwaukee.

I'm extremely eager to see what else Prof. Ford publishes this fall as this plan begins to take effect. Within the next month, MPS must do an asset analysis and submit a list of all it's assets to the city and state for review. That then goes to Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele so he can forward it to his commissioner (whom everyone is wondering who that will be) so they can methodically decide which school/building (either opened or closed) to seize from MPS.

This district is designed to break apart public education in Milwaukee. Let us not forget that point.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Common Sense School Legislation Introduced

Now that the arena deal is over, and the season of taking vacations in the state legislature is slowly winding down, we're starting to see something we haven't seen much of recently - bills being introduced.

With the budget being somewhat negative towards schools and education (I realize that's a gross understatement), it's probably important to remember that some cheap political shots were taken during the debate portion of the budget.

Well, Democrats have responded to some of those swipes. Often times, it was chastising them for not introducing certain measures in the past when they were in charge (Doyle didn't do it!) Or somehow calling them out for never having staked a position on an item before.

AB 294 and 295 can help remedy that.

The text of AB 294:
This bill increases state aid to school districts for special education and school age parents programs provided by the school district to no less than 33 percent of the school district's certified, eligible costs.
Straight, simple, and to the point.

Wisconsin actually has one of the lowest reimbursement rates in the country, and funding hasn't been increased SINCE the Doyle administration. Presently, that number sits around 26.8%, which is substantially behind the 33% it was at in 2002 according to a report at the time by the La Follette School of Public Affairs. The report is fascinating to read, and notes that the introduction of revenue caps in 1993 severely hampered the way special education funding was handled, necessitating convoluted and complicated structures like those in place today.

Couple lack of per-pupil payments from the state this biennium, and only inflationary ones last year, and it's easy to see why so many schools are becoming more and more cash-strapped and not able to expand their programming. Tony Evers fair funding formula is still out there (for the third biennium in a row), but hey, why should we trust data and officials who's job it is to understand the mechanisms that make schools function? I guess the phrase "ignorance is bill" really does count for something.

The second bill, AB 295 also deals with school funding:
Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, this bill increases the limit on the per pupil revenue amount a school district may receive by the annual increase in the consumer price index. Under current law, beginning in the 2015-16 school year, there is no adjustment to a school district's per pupil revenue.
This goes back to a point I just referenced above, in that schools need a per-pupil inflationary increase every biennium just to keep up with costs they already have. This number has for the last few biennium been thrown out as $150 per-pupil, which is why you saw that amount added to the 2013 biennium through a separate funding stream. This was the same funding that was not re-allocated this budget-cycle (giving Walker a very, very brief claim he wasn't cutting the education portion of the budget), but that quickly it was seen as a cut and he backed off those claims.

However, winning back that $150 was not really a "win" for those in education, it was just curtailing a cut, which means we're still funding at those same 2013 levels. Throw in the loss of voucher money, a slow bleed from independent charter schools, and it's pretty quick to see that the public education funding formula in Wisconsin is beyond jacked. This bill is one small step to actually taking us back to that magical time of the 1990's where there was a legislatively mandated increase in funding.

I guess I was just lucky to have been in the K-12 system then and reap those benefits. Too bad we're constantly scraping the barrel these days and students of the post 2007ish era of education have faced barely there budgets and Scott Walker "gut & cut." Gee, such priorities we have here in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Because Public Health Be Damned... SB 218

Fond du Lac area assembly Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt has been hell-bent for the last four years on issues surrounding vaccination and not forcing people who work in health care to be vaccinated. Well, picking up that mantle in the State Senate appears to be Sen. Frank Lassee. Ladies and gentlemen, SB 218: 
This bill prohibits any employer, including the state and local governments, from demoting, suspending, discharging, or otherwise discriminating against an employee or contractor for refusing to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza. An employee, under the bill, includes any intern and any volunteer. The bill also prohibits any employer from doing any of the following: refusing to hire a prospective employee or renew the contract of an employee or contractor for refusing to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza; or denying an affiliation in a network of
similar employers to an individual who refuses to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza.
Doesn't it give you just a warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that health care decisions aren't being made by doctors, but instead by ideological politicians?

Friday, July 24, 2015

"Idiot Inner City Kids" - Sen. Ron Johnson

Words cannot describe how incredibly pissed I am right now at my United States Senator.

No, it's not because of a vote he took on some policy issue we disagreed with. No, it's not because of any number of things that he could be easily taken to task for. Nope, it's because he literally just made a statement and used the phrase "idiot inner city kids."

Read the story on JSOnline HERE.

There is so much I'd like to say right now it's hard to even quantify it.

First, I can appreciate the half-hearted explaining away that goes on with saying the word "idiot" should've been used in air quotes, but I think that's being a little too overly generous. He damn well knew what he meant when he said that.

Secondly, there's no flipping data to prove that democrats are somehow sending their kids outside of MPS schools at any rate differently than other group of people. Black, white, Latino, Republican, boy, girl... All this is doing is throwing out anecdotal evidence and trying to create division within the Democratic party.

Trust me, nobody's fooling themselves on the north side of Milwaukee with which party it is that's trying to help the community. Even those who who use vouchers don't think that Sen. Johnson is somehow their savior from a systemic system designed to keep them from accessing jobs. Schools can't do it all.

But hey, it's not like I wasn't just in Chicago on a three day excursion with members of the Milwaukee business community, community based organizations, MPS's central office, MPS Superintendent, principals, teachers, parents, and students to help redesign the MPS high school experience. Nope, I don't have a darn clue about what this looks like on the ground, or how legislation is working to divide people out instead of bringing them together.

No clue on this end.

Thank heavens for Sen. Johnson, so he can throw around phrases like that... Just makes you feel so warm and fuzzy inside.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I Read This Drug Trafficking Article Differently

First, you must read THIS from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about rolling drug houses and the increasing issues related to heroin and drug trafficking in Milwaukee.

Then think about why many students in MPS, often times the very students I teach every day in a north side comprehensive high school:

- Have instability in their living situation
- Have constantly shifting adults in their life
- Have little access to intellectual reading material
- Have little time to engage in reading
- Might not have the ability to do homework at home
- Why by high school some see little reason to graduate
- Why attendance is problematic at all levels, but especially from age 12/13 onward
- Why cell phones in schools are very problematic for us teachers (Who want to do technology integration but students are hesitant or don't have internet capable phones)
- Why maybe it's not MPS who's the problem in trying to innovate and increase student achievement, but instead systemic societal issues that cannot be battled through the educational system.

Frame this article through the WI legislature's conservatives argument that MPS is a "failing district" and that they aren't doing enough for student achievement. It's not a damn school board that's the problem. It's not teachers that are the problem. It's not students that you can blame as the problem either. Parents, while easy to blame as "the problem" are nothing more than living in the society that they inherited and are forced to survive in.

This isn't a black issue, a white issue, a brown issue, a yellow, red, male, female issue. It's a human condition issue.

In fact, where has the heroin epidemic been most pronounced in recent years? (Hint: It's not inner-city Milwaukee.) That's right, the rural areas, largely in northern Wisconsin. If you don't think this isn't having an impact on education across all areas of Wisconsin, not just in MPS and Milwaukee, think again. It is, it really, really is.

Any other insights, I'm more than free to share...

Monday, July 13, 2015

The 2015-17 Budget Is Signed - MPS Takeover Plan Is Included

2015 Act 55 has been signed by Governor Walker, but to most of us, it's the 2015-17 Biennium State Budget.

The breakdown of what's all in the budget has been covered time and time again, and there is plenty that's been seemingly lost in the shuffle that a few short years ago would've seen howls for it's radicalism. The voucher expansion, proliferation of independent charter school authorizer, special needs vouchers, redesign of the school assessment report-cards, absurd flat-line funding of K-12 education, insane cutting of $250 Million from the UW System, the gutting of faculty protections, elimination of one day of rest in seven for workers, and on, and on, and on.

But for me, this budget being signed is the beginning...

This budget debate happened the very first week I was in graduate school and still contains the provision that is designed to dismantle and eliminate my current employer - The Milwaukee Public Schools.

The MPS takeover provisions were first introduced in the Joint-Finance Committee education related omnibus motion this past may. It's was over a year and a half in the making and finally made it to bill form.

From there it was off to both houses of the legislature for their stamp of approval. They marked it up with an amendment of their own which contained the following language: 
Modify Joint Finance provisions to specify that the Commissioner or the MPS Superintendent could transfer operation and management of a school under their OSPP to a person operating any type of charter school, rather than limiting eligibility to only a person operating an independent charter school. 
That is a MAJOR change, which will require some digging into how it changed the statutory language of the initial proposal. More on this later.

Yesterday, while making his announcement of signing the budget, Gov. Walker released his list of 104 vetoes to the budget, many of which are very peculiar and interesting. (You can read about a dash-board view of them from the Journal-Sentinel HERE.)

However, there was one veto in the FULL list related to the MPS Takeover plans, the so-called "Opportunity Schools Partnership":
Custodian of Records for Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program 
Section 3387n [as it relates to commissioner records custodian powers] 
This section creates an Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program under the oversight of a commissioner. Among the powers of the commissioner is the power to designate one or more persons to be legal custodians of records on behalf of any authority defined in s. 19.32 (1), including state or local entities. I am partially vetoing this provision because I object to the broad authority that the commissioner is given to designate the custodian of records for any state or local entity.
Again, this is something I'll have to dive into a little further when the statutory language is put out online, but it seems to me that this simply means that the commissioner who is chosen by the County Executive cannot appoint someone else to oversee the records of students, schools, etc.

So, if I'm following this correctly, it means that the Commissioner cannot just let the board of a charter school hold on to the records of the school, but instead they must be held in the public office of the commissioner. I believe this must be as some modicum of protection for taxpayers by not having one person (say, the CEO of a charter management organization) be in charge of all records associated with the school, and instead they must be shared with the commissioner.

However, I could be way off here, so if you're more apt at reading this language than me, please feel free to chime in. I'm not a lawyer.

But what I want to go back to is the amendment that was added in the Senate and Assembly... The one that allows the commissioner or MPS Superintendent (who has dual powers) to transfer schools to ANYONE operating a charter school, and not just an independent charter school as originally stated.

That could be HUGE... Because it could potentially mean that MPS and the commissioner would not be barred from converting MPS schools into MPS charter schools. Again, we have to see how the statutory language shakes out, but that change could very well undermine several places in the original language of the proposal from JFC where it was designed to undercut the MPS school board. The attorneys who put the bill language into statutory language must be having fun with trying to interpret what the intent of that amendment was and where it should be applied in the bill, because so much of the language is tied to types of charter schools and even barring certain groups (the MPS school board) from operating a school by the commissioner.

Now, it seems we could very well have contradictory language... Seriously, WHAT DOES THE FINAL PROPOSAL SAY?! If you feel muddled in the weeds on this, good. We're all here sitting and waiting.

There is also the question of who decided to make that language change as an amendment and why. Oh, hey open records laws! Gee, isn't it nice that you weren't gutted so we can see which charter school operators contacted legislators making sure they wouldn't be barred from potentially taking over MPS assets? (Cough *Carmen* Cough)

Now that this is signed and MPS must start acting on some of the provisions of the law where it is forced to report out it's assets to DPI and the eventual commissioner, the ball has moved in to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele's court. He, Mayor Tom Barrett and Governor Scott Walker all get to pick one person for Abele to consider appointing as commissioner. (With Abele, who in the hell knows what he's thinking...)

Exec. Abele has been mighty mum about his thoughts on this since his initial press-release on the matter. (A press-release which drew the WRATH of Milwaukee area Democrats and public education advocates... Remember that WisPolitics luncheon?) If you go off of what Rep. Kooyenga said online yesterday via his interview with Mike Gousha, he's be THRILLED if the MPS Superintendent was chosen as the commissioner. (A somewhat scary prospect, because of how much division that could foster just within MPS.)

No matter what, there are a LOT of questions still surrounding the MPS takeover proposal, and make no mistake, that's still exactly what this was intended to do. Rep. Kooyenga in his interview never actually mentions these so-called "in-favor Democrats" to this proposal idea, but I sure haven't seen any of them. The entire Milwaukee delegation has come out opposed to it (although there are rumors), and many people who remember the 2009 mayoral takeover battle have converted away from it after seeing the ill effects in many other cities.

So what's next?

Lay the foundation... #NotOneSchool

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Senate Passes Budget

I've been busy this week, as I said on Sunday. However, I did manage to watch a majority of the Senate budget debate, and follow along with yesterday's consistently turning news stories on amendments.

I'll wait and see what comes out of the Assembly today before I make any comments on what floor amendments were added to the budget, but needless to say there were some VERY interesting amendments that were added beyond just repealing the 999 Motion open-records request changes.

You can read the amendments from yesterday HERE.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Republicans Need Democrats To Get The Arena Done? NO MPS TAKEOVER - PERIOD!

Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel put out THIS column Sunday evening about the process of the Bucks arena and Joint Finance Committee meeting that's scheduled for Tomorrow on it. 

From that article:
A vote on the arena is scheduled for Monday in the Joint Finance Committee. The Senate could take up the legislation as soon as Wednesday.
Wow... That's quick!
At the same private meeting, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said 10 to 15 Democratic reps would have to vote in favor of the deal for it to clear his chamber. One source said Vos emphasized that the number would have to be "more toward 15 than 10." 
That means he is expecting as many as two dozen GOP lawmakers to vote against the Bucks bill.
That seems awfully high. But then again, there are a lot of places in this state where conservative challengers to Assembly-persons can easily happen.

The article then goes on to note that 11 Democrats represent the City of Milwaukee in the Assembly, and while they may stand the most to gain from a vote being in their favor, they could also be targeted for voting for corporate welfare in a time where K-12 and UW funding is being slashed.

I know it's a narrative, but I wouldn't worry too much about that line myself. Then again, that's just me. I'm not in political office.

As for the Senate side of things, that's where it gets mighty interesting:
On the Senate side, there are four Democrats who represents parts of the city, the same number that Fitzgerald says he needs to approve the plan. 
But he cannot count on Sen. Tim Carpenter, a Milwaukee Democrat who is running for alderman. Carpenter has been a vocal critic of the arena package. 
On Friday, Carpenter sent out an email complaining about the Joint Finance Committee's scheduled hearing and vote on the Bucks deal on Monday. 
"THIS IS A COMPLETE JOKE!" Carpenter wrote. "For the third time, I am requesting that a public hearing on your arena deal be held in Milwaukee! Our taxpayers are the ones that are getting stuck paying for it. 
"Are you afraid to have a Milwaukee public hearing, because you're ashamed to explain your secret plan?" he continued. "If you expect to get votes to pass your plan, you should at least be willing to explain it to my constituents."
The column then goes on to note that more than likely, two out-state Democrats will have to sign on to the measure in order for it to clear. It mentions a conversation that happened between Sen. Erpenbach and Fitzgerald, but Sen. Erpenbach was tepid at best saying anything about support.

From someone in Milwaukee, here's my reply to this whole thing...


You want Democratic votes for the Bucks? TAKE OUT THE MPS TAKEOVER PLAN and expansion of independent charter schools from the budget. PERIOD. End of discussion.

If the MPS takeover goes into effect, it will bankrupt MPS and put the state on the hook for more taxpayer dollars in the future. As much as 2% of the WRS liability solvency could disappear, statewide taxpayers would have to fund countless national charter management organizations who bounce kids in and out of school who they don't want to keep, and ALL of it will be done without any local oversight or public accountability subject to a public hearing by an elected school board.

Democrats, if this is the one thing you do, DO IT to secure the arena and secure Milwaukee, Green Bay, Racine, and Madison's futures as public school districts. Remember when vouchers were "just a Milwaukee thing?" Remember when funding independent charter schools was "just a Milwaukee thing?" Don't kid yourself, down the line, they WILL come for your school district too.


If you want a Democrat to vote for the Bucks arena, the MPS take-over provisions MUST come out of the state budget.


Soapbox Quick Hits...

The long holiday weekend meant it was time for Soapbox to get away and enjoy some family time.

Oh, and buy some new Amish furniture. 

However, tomorrow also begins yet another busy week for me, and the start of grad school. So, with the weekend in full-tilt news mode, I need to do some quick-hits.

The 999 Motion, what a piece of garbage that thing is.

Let's start there.

- Open Records Request Changes

Okay, so the whole open-records request thing has pretty well been hashed-out by now, so you don't need me to go over it again. Jake at the Economic TA Funhouse did a heck of a job Saturday writing on it. The governor plans on deleting it, or telling Fitzgerald to delete it, or make changes... nobody's really sure, and because they aren't sure, we aren't sure, and because nobody's talking about who even wanted it in the budget, it's just not worth giving time to to me.

There are plenty of other people who will... Not to mention, it's going to be open-records request hell tomorrow for some poor staffers.

- The Milwaukee Co. Board Changes

Again, a horrible 999 Motion type of thing. It's also something that I haven't seen reported very many places, which is why reading Lisa Kaiser's Shepherd Express article on the changes is CRUCIAL!

Last night, on pages 23 and 24 of a 24-page catchall budget amendment, the Milwaukee County board was reduced to rubble. The county executive would be able to take over all authority over land sales and transfers. The board wouldn’t be able to approve contracts or have input on requests for proposals. The board would be prohibited from adopting a policy that conflicts with the county executive’s authority.
Just another happy-fun-time in Milwaukee where Exec. Abele will go off and continue saying "trust me, I'm a Democrat," donate a ton of money to the Assembly Democrats, and still screw those of us on the ground. Abele's given absolutely ZERO reason for unions to trust him, for MPS to trust him, for city residents to trust him on listening to them for their issues. He hasn't in the past, so why would he now that he gets to make decisions and not even have public comment?

The Republicans are tightening the vice around Abele and he doesn't even realize it. Abele may think he's playing the center miraculously, but in truth there are very few people on the democratic side who feel an allegiance to him other than being the least-worst candidate. If the MPS takeover happens, you can bet your bottom dollar that out-city voters (Republicans who can get behind him) will be ticked at him because now THEY are paying for the city of Milwaukee's schools in the form of a czar and staff.

How any of this benefits him in the long-run is beyond me. Who it does benefit is another opportunist like Scott Walker, who could potentially win and be a Republican Co. Executive that decides to turn the screws even tighter.

In short, Milwaukee's pissed.

- Other 999 Motion items

There are items in the 999 Motion, such as making it so 51% of a workforce is now needed to certify a new union. Jake again has a great list and analysis of what caught his eye. The same can be said for Blue Cheddar, who's done her own analysis at some of these items. Payday loans, screws set to Dane Co. over some of their rules

The 999 Motion is always bad, no matter which party is in charge. But it's abundantly clear that this motion is one of the worst ever advanced.

- Milwaukee Co. Transit Strike

The Milwaukee Co. Transit strike last week came and went with little new news out of the negotiations. I had heard that the federal mediator was out of town until sometime this week, so who knows how that front will pan out.

Reaction to the work stoppage was mixed. Conservatives were naturally ticked, some moderate Democrats were queasy about it. There were a few more moderate conservative voices that I heard who supported the notion behind the stoppage, but agree with one issue I have - the union's messaging is terrible.

Again and again the union needs to HAMMER home this point - They asked to go to arbitration, and the county rejected it.

As for the next turning point in this saga... It comes later tonight and tomorrow. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: 
All bus rides across Milwaukee County will be free Monday as a "thank you" to the tens of thousands of riders who weathered a three-day service stoppage following last week's union strike.
So wait, the county is angry with what the drivers want, but can afford to just spend money on giving away free rides?  Later in the short news-blurb:
According to WISN-12 News, the county will cover the estimated $50,000 to $70,000 to offer free rides for a day. 
Riders with monthly or multiple-ride passes will be reimbursed, and can look for upcoming information on how to do so on the MCTS website.
So, they can just give away upwards of $70,000 at a pop??? That doesn't exactly bolster their claims about not having money. I know it's not that much in the grand scheme, but seriously, free rides?

So, what's the union's reply?
The news channel also reported that the president of the drivers union will announce the group's most recent plans regarding the disputed contract at 3 a.m. Monday.
And yet again, we wait. Will this be another day of work stoppages? Will this be a call to return to the table?

Who knows...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Is Why Liberal Democrats Cannot Stand Chris Abele

I don't like a work stoppage by employees just as much as the next person. But it's ALWAYS the last option, and I think it's important to remember that...

Chris Abele may be a Democrat, but statements like THIS are exactly why Democrats in Milwaukee become aggravated beyond belief with him. So, so often he doesn't seem to acknowledge that he has heard their side or that he has an understanding of why people disagree with him

He may be a dues paying and large democratic donor, but he sure as heck doesn't act like a good Democrat.

From his press-release yesterday, is the following statement: 
Proposed Contract Facts:
- The average MCTS bus driver makes more than $62,000 per year in salary and overtime. 
- Between cost of living increases, pay increases, and pension contribution decreases, ATU members would see a salary increase of up to 3.3% in the first year with an additional 1% increase to base pay on top of that in the second year. Additionally, ATU members were offered a $1,000 employer matching contribution to their Flexible Spending Accounts during today’s negotiations. 
- The net compensation increase (salary and benefits) for ATU members over the next two years is $3,580 for workers with an individual healthcare plan and $2,848 for workers with a family healthcare plan.
In a time when State transportation funding has been flat and Federal funding has declined, ATU members rejected multiple contract compromises that increased overall compensation while allowing for the continuation of full transit services, stable fares, and respect for County taxpayers.
Reading that press-release, you would think that the drivers are complaining about their total compensation and pay. If you analyze the reasoning behind Exec. Abele's release, you would think it's because he's trying to play to county residents and have them go against the bus drivers because they are asking for more of their tax money.


From THIS Journal-Sentinel article (which does contain some language that does make me cringe when thinking about professionalism):
The company offered significant concessions Tuesday to reach an agreement, including a cap on the number of part-time drivers it would hire, officials said. But union leaders asked for higher wages that would have added up to $8 million a year, according to the transit system. 
Wait... Did you see what happened right there?

THAT ladies and gentlemen is the Journal-Sentinel being lazy and framing an argument, and it's framing an argument against the union. ALL of that information in that statement was FROM the transit system.

"The company offered concessions," and "union leaders asked for higher wages," was ALL according to the transit system.

You could also rewrite that paragraph from the union perspective too. It would've looked like this - "Union leaders offered to exchange the loss of overtime and hiring of some part time drivers with a slightly higher wage for drivers who would see a significant loss in previously forced overtime pay."

Then again, you could also be factual down the line AND START THE STATEMENT WITH "According to MCTS officials..."

Okay, so what exactly DID the union say in the article:
Macon said drivers were halting work for three days to protest the company's push for hiring retirees as part-time operators. 
"We had no intention of going out on strike," he said Tuesday. "We wanted to sit down. We wanted to talk to them. We actually were willing to go arbitration on all this crap they said they were trying to give us. If there was a problem, why didn't they take it to arbitration?" 
You know what, that's a DAMN good point.

Why didn't the county take this to arbitration and get it over with? The only reason that I can think of as to WHY the county didn't want it to go to arbitration is because they would've been called out publicly for having bad provisions in the proposal. In arbitration, every side doesn't get what they want. But when one side is asking for it and the other isn't, that raises some flags.
Macon blamed Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele for the impasse. 
"This is Abele pretty much controlling MCTS," he said. 
Abele wasn't available late Tuesday to comment. 
Macon said the union was willing to work on the issue of using part-time drivers.
And why wouldn't they? Forced overtime money is nice, but the idea of forced overtime and working six days a week isn't. I've seen a lot of misinformation in the TV media about this whole debacle, from the county not using any part time workers now, to them already using them, and on and on.

The Milwaukee media has been horribly, horribly lazy covering this, which is exactly why people are naturally in the dark, unaware of what either side has said since April 1st when the contract ended, and are unsure of what side to support.

Later in the Journal-Sentinel story, they published some of what was being offered by the county. Now, I'm not sure if this is the TOTAL final best offer, or just what was being floated Tuesday, but it's something tangible:
Contract offer 
The company's offer would cut annual pension contributions by 1.3% beginning next year and provide a 1% pay increase on Jan. 1, 2017. Drivers would continue receiving cost-of-living pay increases of up to 2% each year. 
Cost of living this year is 1.62%, so that's what they'll get, plus a 1% bump in two years? That's a pretty paltry pay bump all things considered. (Hey white-collar office worker who thinks bus drivers are overpaid, calculate what a $45,000 1% increase is...)
Drivers are paid an average annual hourly wage of $23.78 this year. Average hourly wages would increase to $24 in 2016 and $24.45 in 2017, under the offer. 
So, still under $50,000 a year. While certainly not a horrible income, it's not exactly living high off the hog. Mind you, this is AVERAGE.

Drivers typically work eight hours or more of overtime each week. Average annual pay swells to $62,830 a year with the extra hours. 
So, they work essentially six days a week. Plus, this number has been floated around time and time again, but it's pretty bogus to just force this on people as "average" with overtime. That means people are making either substantially more or substantially less... It's not a fixed number.

Plus, who would want to be forced, every week, to work up to 8 hours of overtime? (This is me being a TOTAL Millennial... During the school year, I work far, far more than 8 hours in a given day. But I'm not in an hourly job. If I punched a clock, you damn well better believe I wouldn't want to be forced to work beyond it all the time.)
Transit system officials said hiring a limited number of part-time drivers is one way to reduce the burden of overtime hours on full-time operators. 
And the union so far seems to be able to work with that.
But union members oppose the company's insistence that it be allowed to hire a few hundred or more part-time drivers as part of a new contract, Macon said. There are no part-time drivers now. 
The union is concerned that the company plans to change most driving jobs to part time in several years, Macon said. At the same time, the company is not offering to provide part-time drivers with health or pension benefits, he said.
THAT is what this WHOLE thing is about and why I support the drivers. They'll hire retirees now, but when they are done, they will only replace them with part time drivers. It's the nature of taking hourly work and forcing it to part-time status.

It's the philosophical fight we haven't been waging in this nation for the last 30 years, but need to. It's what Bernie Sanders has been railing against. It's corporate mentality over the mentality of what's good for families, what's good for people. Eight hours of work, eight hours of leisure, eight hours of rest is what we need to get back to. Opening the floodgates to part time workers, who aren't even offered health insurance, is the road to sealing your own fate as losing your full time job.

This is a fight worth having. The fight for living wage jobs with benefits. Until we decide to do universal healthcare, health insurance is a pretty basic thing to fight for. (Plus honestly, can you imagine someone responsible for driving a whole bus full of people who isn't offered health insurance?!)
In mediation Tuesday, the company offered to provide flexible spending accounts to help offset increases in health care costs. The company's offer included matching an employee's contribution to the account up to $1,000, a spokesman said.
Nobody from the union side has really made a peep about the healthcare contributions.
Union members this week also criticized the company's unwillingness to provide adequate time on routes for bathroom breaks. 
The current contract guarantees only four minutes for a driver at the turnaround point of a route to clear the bus of passengers and walk to a business with an available bathroom, union officials said.
About 23% of daily routes provide a layover of just four minutes, according to information provided by the transit system. Layovers of five to nine minutes are scheduled on 57% of daily routes. The remaining 20% of layovers at the end of a daily route are scheduled for 10 minutes or longer.
Just because it's only 23% of routes that have four minute breaks, that's 23% too many if you ask me. Four minutes? FOUR MINUTES?!?! Office setting employees have literally no idea what this is like.

Monday, June 29, 2015

How Charter Schools Work Discipline Numbers In Their Favor

I work at a comprehensive high school on Milwaukee's north side. Statistically, based on the DPI report cards, we are one of the 10 "worst" high schools in the state of Wisconsin. Our reading and math scores for students being on grade level are low. Our graduation rate, while improving, certainly isn't stellar. (Although I would argue looking at the five and six year rate and not just the four year rate would suggest we do a good job of keeping students pursuing their degree.)

There are numerous issues at our school, that cannot be denied. But one thing is sure, we take whomever comes to our door. Poor, tired, huddle masses, we take them as they are.

THIS article from The Progressive dives into how charter schools work at having exclusionary practices, and how so many students "fall through the cracks." Those students who schools like mine accept, work with, get frustrated with, and often times see succeed after much blood, sweat, and tears.
On Monday, I attended a presentation where Paul Pastorek, the ex-superintendent of Louisiana schools, said that charter schools have “improved the quality of life for the New Orleans community."

The average reader might say, “What is the problem with that statement?” All over the country people think that New Orleans is a model for public education, that we have done it right. We're respectable! Successful! Disciplined! Obedient! Ready to go to college! Or work in Walmart, or be a best model prisoner! To be all you can be in today’s Army! That’s us! 
We’re a growth district. A lot of our schools have a 100 percent graduation rate. We also happen to have 14,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24, who are not in school or working. They are the lost youth. No, excuse me, I meant to say “opportunity youth.” Somebody clearly has the opportunity to make some money off them.

John White, Louisiana state superintendent of education, said that the state has 26,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school or working. More than half of them just happen to reside in our “successful” New Orleans all-charter school district. These are not children in alternative schools. These are the invisible kids. They are the kids who, despite all the wonderful educational choices we supposedly have, don’t fit in anywhere.
That, right there ladies and gentlemen, is what we DON'T have in Milwaukee. We don't have 15,000 students (which would be one of the 10 largest school districts in the state on it's own) who aren't in school or working in Milwaukee. That is because for all the "success" that is touted by the conservatives in the legislature about voucher and charter schools, MPS is there to accept everyone who isn't "easier to educate."

What we do have is too few) social workers, school psychologists, and community programs that work with parents and track them down when they are not attending school. We work with families to find transportation, to find alternative programs, to provide community based help where needed. Should the MPS takeover provisions that are in the 2015-17 Biennium Budget go into effect, what you see above WILL become the reality in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee has many issues right now. But one thing we don't have? En-mass students who are left without a school environment that will welcome them in.

This is why you should oppose the MPS takeover provisions in the 2015-17 Biennium Budget.