Friday February 23, 2018

Always Forward with Education & Reason

FacebookTwitterYoutube
Newsletter
Feeds:

Progressive Thinking

Looking forward with education and reason.

Subscribe to feed Latest Entries

The Wisconsin Way Forward in 2018

Posted by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling lives in La Crosse with her husband and two children. She curr
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 03 January 2018
in Wisconsin

kewaunee-harbor-familyWisconsin families are working harder than ever but can’t seem to get ahead, while Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans are draining resources from our schools, roads and local communities to fund the huge taxpayer giveaway to Foxconn. We need to work together to move ahead.


LA CROSSE, WI - As I look back at the political battles of 2017, I’m reminded that our state does better when we all work together for the shared values of stronger communities, opportunity and fairness for all. In short, Wisconsin does better when we all do better.

Despite other states rebounding from the Great Recession, Republican policies have shrunk Wisconsin’s middle class, shifted more costs onto working families and created an 111,000 jobs deficit.

Seven years of failed Republican budgets are felt every time we drive over a pothole or cast a ballot for a school referendum. We feel it in our pocketbooks as our wages remain stagnant, while 47 millionaires receive a new tax break.

walker-terry-gou-foxconn-flagWisconsin families are working harder than ever but can’t get ahead because Republicans continue to favor the wealthy and foreign corporations. Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans are draining resources from our schools, roads and local communities in order to fund the largest taxpayer giveaway to a foreign corporation in U.S. history.

Instead of pitting families against one another and favoring out-of-state corporations at the expense of home-grown businesses, we should work to level the playing field and make sure everyone who works hard has an opportunity to succeed.

In 2018 Democrats remain united in our values to create a more fair economy, expand opportunities and strengthen communities.

Democrats have offered dozens of forward-looking solutions to expand access to affordable health care, invest in infrastructure and improve workplace flexibility for hardworking Wisconsin families. We’ve introduced bills to address the sky-rocketing costs of childcare, expand the family medical leave act, provide student loan debt relief, and invest in our local schools.

These are the issues that impact families across Wisconsin and these are the issues that families want fixed. By focusing on policies that encourage growth and drive innovation, we can expand economic opportunities and move Wisconsin forward.

I know we can do better. If we want to grow our middle class and help our next generation succeed in a competitive global economy, we need to invest in our state and retain the best and the brightest. We will continue to fight for common-sense solutions to lower student loan debt, expand access to child care, raise family wages and increase retirement security.

Onward, upward and forward to 2018.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Looking Forward to 2018

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 03 January 2018
in Wisconsin

new-yearState Senator and possible gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Vinehout writes about the big events happening in 2018 and about the work the Legislature will be doing throughout the course of the year.


ALMA, WI - Snow falls gently on the farm. It’s the light, fluffy snow that comes when it’s very cold.

We’ve seen bitter temperatures to end the year. Like many, the cold caused its share of problems on our farm. I was reminded to appreciate running water when our well pump went out Christmas Eve. When an electric waterer failed, we carried buckets of water to our horses.

farm-snowBitter cold weather and a dwindling supply of propane caused Wisconsin to declare a state of energy emergency related to intermittent propane supplies. For the 250,000 Wisconsinites that depend on propane for heat, a shortage can be a big deal.

After the relative calm of the Holiday Season, I expect the activities of the Legislature to heat up quickly in January. No one quite knows when will be the last day to pass a bill. This uncertainty is causing a great deal of urgency among lawmakers.

What causes the uncertainty is the tension and game playing between the Senate and Assembly Leaders. As usual, both leaders have bantered about when each body will adjourn for the campaign season. The banter somewhat resembles the school yard game of “chicken”.

Members of the Legislature will soon meet the voters. Many lawmakers ponder their promises made but not-yet-kept. They work with staff to put the final touches on bills they hope to pass.

2018 will be the year of many campaigns. Special elections in January, a nonpartisan primary in February, a Supreme Court race, and local nonpartisan elections – including every county board member in the state – in April.

gotv-chippewafallsCandidates who want to run for partisan elected office will begin collecting nomination signatures in mid-April. Fun begins in June when all partisan races will be set. June 1st is the deadline for turning in signatures for all partisan races. August brings us two big partisan primaries: the GOP US Senate race and the Democratic gubernatorial primary. November 6th is the general election date.

Mid-March is likely the time both legislative chambers will have their final days to meet as the full Senate and Assembly. But this does not mean the work of the state is finished.

The Finance and the Audit Committees meet all year, every year. Special “study committees” will be formed with members of the public adding their voices to help lawmakers address complex problems.

We will see new issues arise in the next few months. I expect to see at least some discussion of how to fix big problems. Woefully inadequate broadband, a broken system of school funding and the rising problems related to addiction, especially opioid abuse, are major problems many constituents want addressed.

Many Democrats, including myself, will continue to push for real changes to improve health care access and affordability. A great beginning is to create a state marketplace for health care – a bill I’ve written to give Wisconsin the flexibility we need to fix health care.

wisstatereformatory-allouezAlso, on the agenda in 2018, is taking a good look at what’s happening with our justice system. We have roughly double the number of people in prison compared to Minnesota. Even though we have a similar crime rate and similar population. Late in 2017, GOP leaders pushed through several bills to increase the minimum required penalties on some crimes and changed rules related to probation.

The bills would cost the state more and add to already overcrowded prisons. But leaders did not have any way to pay for the increased costs. Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) recently told the Wheeler Report “we need to figure out, probably, a way to build a new state prison. … I think that is something we will probably do this spring, but probably putting either revenues or bonding into upgrading our prisons.”

Borrowing to build a new prison is going to cause controversy when our neighbor to the west already has a corrections system that costs less and reduces crime.

Looking forward, 2018 will be an exciting year of change.

The New Year is a great time for resolutions. I encourage everyone to resolve to be active in our great democracy, and be involved in the direction of this change.

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Looking Back on 2017

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 27 December 2017
in Wisconsin

foxconnwisconsinSen. Vinehout writes about what legislation received the most attention in 2017. The Foxconn deal, biennial state budget, Prove it First Mining Law and high capacity well permit oversight were the dominate topics on people’s minds throughout the past year.


ALMA, WI - As the year draws to a close, I often look back on my time in the Legislature and think of decisions that have an effect on our families and our neighborhoods.

This year, big companies are unwrapping gifts. The luckiest of really big companies is Foxconn. The $3 billion deal to bring the flat-screen TV and computer monitor manufacturer to Racine County is overwhelmingly unpopular in western Wisconsin. I’ve received over one-hundred calls and letters from folks who asked about the lack of taxpayer and environmental protections. They wonder where the money will come from in an already tight budget.

2017 was the year of a late budget that failed to address many problems lawmakers promised to fix: roads, schools and local government relief. I wrote an alternative budget showing a path to fixing many of these problems.

One new tax was passed to help roads - hybrids and electric car owners will pay more. But the money collected won’t cover a fraction of the long term needs of fixing our roads and bridges.

No changes were made to the way local governments are funded. Flat state spending for local communities means more struggles to provide local services like police, fire and social services.

school-bus-kidsTo address the criticism the Legislature was not fixing the problems with funding our public schools, a new task force called the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding was created and just recently started its work. I’m cautiously optimistic changes will come to provide fairness in school funding. Meanwhile, many families are paying higher property taxes because of school referenda passed last year to keep schools afloat.

Two other bills stand out in 2017 as topics that brought a great deal of contact from constituents: sulfide mining and high capacity wells. Overwhelmingly, people opposed getting rid of our twenty-year-old “Prove it First” law. The old law required a company to first prove metal mining was safe before it was permitted to mine. A few weeks ago, Governor Walker signed into effect a new law. It will allow mining for silver, gold, copper and other minerals without proving it can be done without polluting the environment.

People were opposed to getting rid of DNR oversight of high capacity wells. The new law created permits for these wells to be “in perpetuity,” or forever.

sand-mining-wiWestern Wisconsin is home to more mines than any other part of the state. A big part of sand mining is access to a high capacity well permit. Here, folks know, up close and personal, what happens when a sand mine moves in next door.

A horse named Apples helped tell the story about what happens when mines open shop and neighbors are not protected. Poor Apples died, likely of toxic metals in the water. Later the family found almost ten times the limit of arsenic in their water. The family lives a little over a half mile from a sand mine. The courts will decide what killed Apples, but the family pointed out, when an oil industry down-turn caused production to stop at a nearby mine, the water cleared up.

The state failed to protect folks and their critters in Apples’ neighborhood.

clean-drinking-waterDrinking clean water and enjoying our beautiful outdoors are joys we all share. Which is why protecting the environment has been a long-standing bipartisan effort. It was a bipartisan legislature, including our current Governor when he was a State Assembly Representative, that created the Prove it First mining law.

As we close 2017, I’m grateful for a bipartisan group of lawmakers working together to legalize hemp as a commodity. This is a bill I’ve introduced for several years. I recently spoke with former Senator Sheila Harsdorf. She shared that many farmers around Wisconsin have contacted her to say they want to grow hemp.

I’m grateful for the work of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to write rules so farmers can get hemp seeds in the ground next spring. The Senate lost a strong voice for agriculture in Senator Harsdorf resignation, but we’ve gained a big voice for agriculture in her appointment as the new DATCP Secretary.

Wishing all of you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

Wisconsin Elections Commission Needs to be Run by Best Administrators

Posted by League of Women Voters WI, Erin Grunze
League of Women Voters WI, Erin Grunze
Erin Grunze is the Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 21 December 2017
in Wisconsin

voterThe WEC was established to be bipartisan. Bringing a partisan dispute to the commission harms it's reputation and the public trust.


MADISON – It is troubling to see the John Doe investigations and fallout back in the news as it has escalated to the point where legislative leaders are calling for Elections Commission Administrator Mike Haas and other officials to resign, despite no accusations of wrongdoing or any recommendation by the DOJ for their resignation.

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin trust the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission to be able to evaluate their staff and make decisions about their ability to maintain nonpartisanship of our elections.

Under Haas’ leadership, the Elections Commission has successfully administered the 2016 statewide presidential recount, implemented online voter registration, provided training for clerks across the state on changes in election law, and implemented a new statewide voter database and election administration system. The League has interfaced with Mr. Haas and other WEC staff in our voter service work and always found them to be helpful, nonpartisan, and highly professional.

Heading into an election year our hope would be that lawmakers be concerned with how to support the Wisconsin Elections Commission in running accessible and fair elections. They can do that by restoring the needed staffing which the Governor cut in the state budget. They certainly will not improve elections by stripping the agency of its leadership at a critical time. Bringing a partisan dispute to a bipartisan commission that has been functioning well harms the reputation of the Wisconsin Elections Commission in a time when it is working to address the real challenges with election security, how to implement new and evolving technology, and educating voters so they can understand and comply with the many changes in voting laws.

Our commitment to an adequately funded Wisconsin Elections Commission with strong leadership has only grown stronger in the face of recent challenges. Faith in our election system is a bedrock of democracy. We need to work on strengthening voter confidence in the system, so that citizens feel, as they rightly should, that their vote matters and will be counted. Casting doubt on the process, by unduly trying to dismantle the leadership of the agency responsible for running our elections, is not keeping voters’ interests at heart. It harms the whole system.

Call off the attack on the Elections Commission and Ethics Commission staff who are not implicated in the recent DOJ report and let them do their jobs.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes

It’s Time for a Hard Look at How We Pay for Schools

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 20 December 2017
in Wisconsin

school-kidsSenator Vinehout writes about the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, the problems we face with how Wisconsin pays for schools and ideas she’d like the Commission to consider.


MADISON - “It’s important, every so many years, we take a good look at how we fund schools,” said Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon). “How do we … make sure our schools have what they need for the next 20 to 50 years.”

Co-chairs Senator Olsen and Representative Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) recently convened a Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding. I serve as the only Senate Democrat on the new Commission.

Wisconsin has seen studies to change the way our schools are funded come and go throughout the years. The co-chairs emphasized they did not want the work of the Commission to sit “on a shelf and collect dust.” The impression that the Commission existed only as an election-year “talking point” was clearly on the minds of some members.

As I mentioned in the hearing, I’ve long been an advocate for changing Wisconsin’s approach to funding schools. We pay for schools, largely, with a combination of property tax and state aid. Schools are paid on a per-pupil basis.

Many school funding problems come from demographic changes happening in our state. Shifting patterns in our population affect schools. For example, Wisconsin has more children living in poverty today, than ten years ago. Rural areas have seen a decline in students.

Not all students have the same needs. Different school districts have different costs. These needs are not adequately reflected in the funding formula.

teaching-studentsTo add to problems, the fallout from Act 10 and the criticizing of public school teachers had a profound effect on our schools. Teachers left or retired. Fewer college students are going into education. School districts have trouble filling vacancies. Standards for teachers were lowered. Morale is low. Student opportunities were diminished. Cuts in state aid forced taxpayers to pass referenda and raise property taxes just to keep their schools running.

Of the two major problems with our school funding, the first is the level of state aid.

Despite increases in the recently-passed budget, schools haven’t recovered from the massive cuts to state aid in 2011. In real dollars, public schools will be getting less in the next two years than a decade ago.

The second problem with how we pay for schools, is the state aid formula itself.

At the heart of the problem is the economic disconnect between district revenues and district costs. Revenues assume education is a constant cost activity. In other words, you get so many dollars for every student.

Education, however, is not a constant cost activity. Schools have high fixed costs and low marginal costs. Fixed costs are those bills that are the same regardless of how many students attend the school. For example, keeping the building heated or the lights on are costs that don’t change much even as the number of students change. As time passes, this disconnect between the way the state pays for schools and the way the schools incur costs, causes a lot of problems. Difficulties are particularly acute for districts with declining enrollments.

We need to move toward an “adequacy formula” that takes into account fixed costs, recognizes that some students cost more to educate than others, and recognizes that school districts in different situations face different costs.

We also need to reduce our reliance on the property tax to fund schools. The cornerstone of school funding should be state aid.

We must address today’s school funding problems. But we must also plan for how we educate our children of tomorrow.

For too long, rules, regulations and testing requirements stifled the creativity, excitement and challenge of teaching. Our state spends so much time and money on testing and evaluating, that teachers don’t have the time to teach or the resources and energy to try innovative approaches. We need a different plan to meet the needs of tomorrow.

Our children and our schools are our future. A lost opportunity for a child is often forever lost.

Since the formula was first enacted, our demographics have changed and our economy has changed. Tinkering around edges is not enough.

Tags: Untagged
Rate this blog entry
0 votes
Copyright © 2018. Green Bay Progressive. Designed by Shape5.com