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The Bucks: "Cheaper to Keep Them, Indeed" PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Friday, 05 June 2015 10:33

milwaukee_bucksMILWAUKEE - Boy, the Milwaukee Bucks must really be feeling the love.

Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens think of their club and their dream of a gleaming new palace for the franchise as a “transformative economic and cultural asset” for Milwaukee and all of Wisconsin. But when Governor Scott Walker and top legislative leaders announced yesterday that they intend to put taxpayers on the hook for half of the cost of a new arena, they stood behind a sign reading “Cheaper To Keep Them.”

Now there’s a marketing slogan. The Milwaukee Bucks: Less of a burden if they stay.

Walker and his allies insist that taxpayers will be better off footing the bill for $250 million of the cost of building a new arena because they claim the Bucks pulling up stakes and moving to another city would cost Wisconsin even more in lost tax revenue. They pluck a number – $419 million over 20 years – out of thin air to justify their claim.

Of course, the very same kind of argument could be made against other budget decisions the governor and legislative Republicans are making. Applying the logic used to defend a taxpayer subsidy for billionaire owners and millionaire basketball players, it would undeniably be cheaper over the long haul to keep the University of Wisconsin System fully funded. The UW System is a proven economic engine that not only employs large numbers of taxpaying faculty and support staff but also spawns countless start-up companies that end up being big revenue producers as well. But the UW is in line for a $250 million budget cut, exactly the same amount the Bucks are in line to receive.

It also would be cheaper in the end to keep state parks as they are instead of eliminating all state funding for them as the governor and legislative budget writers aim to do. The parks are fuel for the tourism industry, another proven economic engine.

There is a virtually endless list of things in the state budget that are being cut sharply or eliminated altogether but would be cheaper to keep. Funny how this calculus is only used to justify feeding billionaires.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 June 2015 10:43
 
Mistaking Leadership PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Friday, 05 June 2015 10:13

millennialsMADISON - I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how young people want nothing to do with politics and are running away from civic life.

So Millennials don’t want to be politicians. Has anyone stopped to think maybe they want to be leaders instead?

By force of habit, we refer to elected officials as our nation’s leaders, our state’s leaders and our community’s leaders. But based on what I’ve seen over the course of my life, I can’t think of a class of people generally less involved with leadership than politicians.

True leaders give credit and take blame. Politicians almost always do the exact opposite.

Leaders don’t need handlers. Politicians rarely move a muscle without consulting their consultants. They have pollsters who tell them what to think, and speech writers who tell them what to say, and donors and lobbyists who tell them what to do. That is a lot of things, but it is not leadership.

Politicians are exceptionally practiced at knowing which way a parade is heading and running to the front and grabbing a drum. Leaders don’t look for parades.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more important to your average elected official than winning the next election. Doing the right thing doesn’t even come in a distant second. I am not sure what you call that, but it is not leading.

My observation over the years and especially in recent days is that there is indeed something more important than winning elections to those who call themselves party “leaders.” When forced to choose between losing elections and losing control, party bosses will sacrifice electoral success every time. They can live with losing members, they can explain away defeats at the polls. They cannot bear surrendering control. I don’t know exactly what kind of ship that is, but it is not leadership.

Millennials get badmouthed a lot by older folks. Teens and twenty-somethings are too dependent on technology. They don’t know the true meaning of hard work. They don’t this and they don’t that. There are a great many explanations for the bad rap, I suppose. But I think a big one is that those with more gray on the roof are much more likely to confuse behaviors commonly observed in the political arena with leadership.

I may be in a small minority, but I am bullish on the Millennials. I think they will turn out to be a transformational generation. One reason I have for this faith in them is their profound distaste for all those common political behaviors, which means they have a fighting chance to maximize their capacity for genuine leadership.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 June 2015 10:27
 
We All Have a Stake in Our Students' Future PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI)   
Thursday, 04 June 2015 10:53

teaching-studentsPeg Coyne, a real life teacher, comments on Gov. Walker and the Republican legislative majority's attack on public education in Wisconsin and the negative effect it has on teacher's morale and our kids.


MADISON - I write to address the attack on teachers by Governor Walker and the Republican legislative majority. They challenge teachers’ competency and integrity. As a teacher, our “so called” lack of accountability, our “so-called” Cadillac benefits, our “so-called” inflated salaries, and our “so-called” tenure for life are being unjustifiably challenged.

Teachers’ wages have not kept up with increasing inflation for years, and our fringe benefits have suffered greatly under Governor Walker. Tenure and similar provisions simply provide teachers with just cause protection and due process relative to improper discharge.

The Republican legislative majority espouses that these factors are to blame for the state budget woes. In February, 2011, the Governor dropped “the bomb”, as he called it. The “bomb” (Act 10) was intended to solve the State’s alleged budget problems. Walker said he would destroy our unions by “divide and conquer” techniques. Eventually, Walker’s bomb would be the beginning of the Republican’s mission to destroy public education in Wisconsin.

As I walked the square day after day in the winter and spring of 2011, to demonstrate the challenge by thinking people of the Governor’s professed strategy, I couldn't help but wonder how Act 10 would impact the education of my students?

Walker said it was supposed to be about giving school districts in Wisconsin the “tools” to control costs. He claimed that the provisions of Act 10 were to allow more money for students, facilities, and materials by reducing employee costs. This would be accomplished by cutting wage increases to an amount way below the increase in the cost of living, and by increasing employee contributions toward health insurance premiums and retirement deposits. A demoralizing fact for educators and their families, many of whom were already suffering from the effects of the 1993 Revenue Controls on school boards, and legislated limits on wage increases.

As a teacher activist, I attended school board meetings in Madison and other districts around the state. I listened to the angst the proposed legislation was causing both new and veteran educators. I listened to new educators explain how they would not be able to afford rent, payments for their car, and student loans. I heard how these “takeaways” would cause family income to shrink drastically, and in some extreme cases, would force educators into foreclosure on their homes and bankruptcy. And, I wondered how this stress on teachers would affect students. A teacher under stress does not help education.

Act 10 was also touted as a way to assess the educator’s effectiveness. After all, good teachers can make a huge difference in students' lives. But a well-intended framework that was meant to guide teaching practices becomes a system of “gotcha” or a systematic way of rating teachers as not performing well.

students-testingNext, standardized testing of all students became “the answer” to what is allegedly wrong with public education. These two worlds of so-called teacher accountability and student testing are on a collision course to destroy public education.

Tying student test scores to teacher worth is the ultimate “gotcha” for both teachers and students. Why? Because standardized tests are often false prophets or plainly just for profit, or both. Such tests are not culturally relevant, do not accommodate students of different abilities, and are a colossal commitment of time (taking time away from instruction) and money. After almost constant testing from April 20th through May 29th, it is painfully apparent that my students' glazed-over eyes or emotional-meltdowns are the result of too much time testing and staring at extremely unengaging formats on computer screens.

Misplaced priorities (corporate driven education reform) propose that Common Core Curriculum and high stakes testing solve the problems of the alleged “failing schools”. Those of us who are actually education experts know that these simple “fixes” are not what our students need. What do students need? Check with educators:

  • Students need early childhood education, safe and healthy daycare settings.

  • Well-rounded K-12 curriculum to include art, music, physical education, school libraries, playgrounds, updated facilities and technology to meet the needs of the whole child.

  • A society that addresses poverty, opportunity gaps, family health care and nutrition, social justice and equity.

  • School social workers and psychologists to assist with the negative impacts of poverty, family and societal dysfunction, and improper diet.

  • Hope for the future.

  • To be valued in their communities.

  • ...no simple fixes!

It is obvious that educators are not in the profession for greed. Rather, they truly want to educate children, guide students to reach their highest potential, and provide valued service to the community. Educators find joy and intangible rewards as they watch young people grow and blossom. Educators find value in learning, and in advanced education. These described political proposals, which not only de-value college degrees, hard-earned experience, expertise in child development and classroom management, are very discouraging to educators.

Isn't it ironic, that Legislators and the Governor with little or no advanced education or classroom teaching experience think they are qualified to write educational policy? In her article in the Washington Post, “What the heck is going on with Wisconsin public education”, Valerie Strauss quoted Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers, “We are sliding toward the bottom (of the states) in standards for those who teach our students. It doesn’t make sense. We have spent years developing licensing standards to improve the quality of the teacher in the classroom, which is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement. Now (with the proposed legislation) we’re throwing out those standards.” Strauss added, “Meanwhile, Walker hasn’t said anything publicly that would make anyone think he doesn’t agree with the education path on which the legislature has embarked.”

What do educators want for students? The same things that good parents want for their children. An opportunity for a whole, positive, and healthy childhood. Opportunities to grow their intellect and nurture their talents. For the advancement of our State, as well as the children, we must provide our students the dignity of attending well-maintained, modern public schools with sufficient funding, balanced curriculum, and progressive pedagogy.

UW Dean of Education Julie Underwood and UW Education Professional Julie Mead wrote about these legislative proposals, “It’s wrong to rewrite education policy in the budget bill. We are deeply concerned by the education policy changes approved by the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance. There is no research to show that any of these proposals would improve student learning. The changes continue a pattern of shifting tax dollars out of public schools in order to create a publicly funded entitlement to pay private school tuition. And finally, they were placed into the bill without sufficient notice and debate, subverting our democratic processes.” Hooray for these highly respected professors speaking out!

At last, we must all stand up. Wisconsin, we must raise our voices in protest. We must listen to the voices of reason. We must join together educators, parents of public school students, GRUMPS, members of school boards across the state, and school superintendents.

kathleen-vinehoutWe must join the efforts of State Senators Kathleen Vinehout, Jennifer Shilling, Dave Hansen, Janis Ringhand and Jon Erpenbach; Representatives Melissa Sargent, Dianne Hesselbein, Chris Taylor, Terese Berceau, Sondy Pope, Cory Mason, Gary Hebl and Dave Considine – all champions of education.

Sen. Vinehout recently wrote that she agrees with Governor Walker’s comment, “Our #1 priority gotta be to make (sic) sure that we make K-12 schools, public education in the state, a priority to make sure that they’re held whole.” Vinehout said she agreed that public schools must be made whole, but she questions how the Governor could make such a comment when, for the first time in Wisconsin history, the Governor proposes no increase the state-imposed revenue controls on local school boards. She said she took the Governor’s comment as an indication that he would adequately fund public schools, but instead he proposed huge state funding for private and parochial schools; $12,000 per pupil ($50 million for the next year) going to private and parochial schools from the budget of the local public school district.

As One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross said, “Governor Walker and legislative Republicans have proposed the largest cuts to public education in state history, and now the voucher program (public school funds to private and parochial schools) will suck up more state money.”

Stand Up! Raise Your Voices! An Educated Populace Benefits All Of Us!

***

Peg Coyne is President of the Madison Teachers Inc.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 June 2015 11:38
 
Walker’s Plum to the Bradley Foundation PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Friday, 29 May 2015 10:32

Michael GrebeMADISON - Cronyism has never been more apparent in Wisconsin than it is today.

One prime example is Walker’s recent appointment of Michael Grebe to the UW Regents. We lay it all out for you here:

Grebe, Bradley reap regent reward from Walker

A less noticed example is the proposed giveaway to the timber and paper companies. Check out the direct contributions from the CEOs themselves:

Republicans want to increase logging in state forests at behest of papermakers and timber interests

Then there are all the special interests behind school vouchers:

The payoff on school voucher expansion

And here is the back story on the new civics requirement that Republicans are pushing:

See who is behind mandatory civics tests to graduate from high school

But my favorite story of all that we posted over the past 10 days was how Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, with assistance from the DNR, actually gave an environmental award to Enbridge, of all companies. See for yourself:

Enbridge gets green award from WMC with DNR help

Even Orwell might blush at that one!

I hope you enjoy these stories.

***

Matt Rothschild is Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, 203 South Paterson Street, Suite 100, Madison, WI 53703-3689

608-255-4260 ~ www.wisdc.org

 
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