Sunday, September 27, 2015


If you haven't noticed, I've been very quite as of late.

I still haven't finished my write-up on the Chris Abele Op-Ed from last week and am just keeping afloat with grad school and my own job. (Budgeting worksheets and 300 pages of reading just don't compare with grading essays and creating lessons.)

So, I'm on a bit of a Soapbox break.

No worries, I'm still around, still monitoring state level politics and news, and still very much engaged on a lot of levels. But for at least the next week, I'm not going to have a chance to write on here.

I'll be back, don't you worry :)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Walk In Third Friday For MPS

Today was "Third Friday" in the world of Wisconsin public education.

That's the day that DPI uses as the cut-off to determine school's and district's enrollment for monetary purposes. It's a very, very big red-letter day for any school and district in Wisconsin, but it always takes particular importance in Milwaukee because it's the day that MPS schools find out if they are under or overenrolled and teachers move buildings.

In MPS, Third Friday is a very, very big deal.

But today it was a major deal, because over 100 schools in MPS staged Walk-Ins as a response to the takeover plan that was included in the biennium budget.

Those walk in's were covered all over the Milwaukee media.

From the Journal-Sentinel:
"This is an attack on our democratic institutions," North Division social studies teacher Lukas Wierer told about 30 demonstrators gathered outside the building before the start of classes on Friday. 
Wierer acknowledged the Milwaukee Public School District's shortcomings, saying administrators and staff must "continue to strive to be better." But he said MPS is the "only institution in this city with the capacity, commitment and legal obligation to serve all of our students."


Although this story does include a very befuddling dissenting stance from a woman who says, "I don't agree with political activism on campuses." Gee, too bad all that school integration stuff happened back in the day, right?


The Fox 6 print story also includes a peculiar statement from takeover arcitech Sen. Alberta Darling, where she continues to repeat claims about "miracles" in New Orleans and Memphis while subsequently saying that parents and teachers want to trap kids instead of recognizing that we are fighting to give them what they deserve where they already are at.

And even in La Crosse, as all of the schools in La Crosse joined in what is nothing short of a spectacular moment of solidarity across Wisconsin.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout joked to me in December 2013 that "there is a big trench by Portage that all the news from this side of the state just falls into." Well, clearly, that wasn't the case today. La Crosse is SPOT ON.

But that was only part of the day.

The other part was spent downtown where the County Board's Intergovernmental Relations Committee passed by 4-1 vote a resolution opposing the MPS Takeover.

Yes, the takeover that is being overseen by Co. Exec. Chris Abele....

From the Journal-Sentinel: 
The measure passed 4-1, with Supervisor Deanna Alexander as the lone dissenter and Tony Staskunas absent. It was proposed by County Supervisors Jason Haas, Khalif Rainey, John Weishan Jr. and Eddie Cullen. 
The resolution is essentially symbolic, as the takeover measure is now law. But it draws a line in the sand between County Board members and Abele, and seeks to ensure that costs associated with operation of the so-called Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program do not fall to Milwaukee County taxpayers, who already pay separate taxes for their schools. 
"When he (Abele) says no county employees will be used, we don't believe him," Weishan said. He said the takeover measure was " undemocratic and has huge future costs for Milwaukee County." 
Alexander, an Abele supporter, suggested the opposition was motivated " by politics and money."
Sure, job security can be called money... I mean honestly, who doesn't want to fight for their job? But really, this is about equal access towards educational opportunities in Milwaukee, and independent charter schools do not give that. It's just that simple.
Abele was in Washington, D.C., and did not attend the meeting. 
His administration director, Tieg Whaley-Smith, read a prepared statement reiterating many of Abele's prior statements regarding the takeover, including the assertion that he never sought oversight of the schools "and frankly shares some of the same concerns of those who have expressed opposition." 
"Now that he has this authority, however," Whaley-Smith said, "he is taking the responsibility seriously and is committed to making sure this effort is a success."

Like I have pointed out before, if Abele really doesn't want to hurt MPS and truly believes what he's saying, he should shut up and ask for help about how to avoid any damage to MPS. But based on his statements and just general lack of any specifics, he clearly hasn't the faintest idea about the power he wields and how some actions he seems to want to take very well could be putting the death nail into public education in Milwaukee.

What's an even scarier thought is that he might know exactly what he's doing and is attempting to play us all for fools. Maybe he wants to see MPS get blown up, just like he seems to want to see so many county services be blown up and shipped out to the private sector.

Then again, maybe there's a reason why State Sen. Chris Larson will be announcing his bid for Co. Executive in short order.

No, I'm serious, just watch this from WISN-TV today:

WDJT-TV in Milwaukee decided, as many did with their evening newscasts, to focus on the County Board meeting as well:

CBS 58

The CBS story featured an interview with MTEA President Kim Schroeder. I'm proud to say that Kim is my union president, and I would certainly feel comfortable calling him my friend. Every word he says here is true. Every. Damn. Word:
"MPS teachers do the hardest job of any teacher in the state, and they do it better than anybody else, the challenges that we face in the classroom every day would baffle most people, yet we do it, and we do it successfully, the bad things get put on the news the great things tend to be ignored,” said Kim Schroeder, MTEA President.
If you're looking for more information and pictures from all across MPS where schools walked in, I suggest looking on the Stop The MPS Takeover Facebook page or you can also head over to the MTEA website which has lots of images as well.

And in case you were wondering, you'd better believe I took part in a walk at my school, and was the one who happily organized and distributed flyers to staff after school.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Soapbox Quick Hits

My life is busy, busy, busy right now. Seriously, taking two grad classes, teaching a new AP class, and being involved in so many different activities certainly has it's breaking point. Having a slight head-cold probably is the sign.

So, here a a few "quick-hits" that I think you should know about.

- Rep. Sanfelippo's proposal politicizing the State Superintendent:

Nuts. The idea that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would move from a constitutionally elected position to an appointed one is just plan nuts. The volume of press-releases and statements on this topic over the last few days are impossible to all link to here, but it should go without saying that the typical political divisions were seen.

However, even though there was conservative Republican support expressed for the proposal, I'm not sure that even this would pass the muster of the State Senate.

- Winnebago Co. Executive Mark Harris announces candidacy for 18th State Senate District

In a move that I had already expressed as likely earlier in the summer, today Winnebago Co. Exec. Mark Harris made it official, as he formally jumped into the ring as a challenger to State Sen. Rick Gudex in SD 18. Remember, Sen. Gudex beat former State Sen. Jessica King by only 590 votes, with most of the "loss" coming in the City of Oshkosh. Harris is very popular in Winnebago Co., and can be seen as a very legitimate challenger to Gudex.

Harris will need to work the crowds more than he did this past summer at the FDL Dem's picnic, but now that he's officially committed, I think he will. He has a bit of a donation network from his challenge to now Congressman Glenn Grothman, and certainly generated the name recognition needed. This one is key to getting a Democratic Senate folks, it's a biggie.

- Fond du Lac School Board E-Mail controversy

Did you know that some school boards don't encourage constituents to contact members by e-mail? I didn't either, especially one of the largest in Wisconsin, but that's exactly what has been happening in Fond du Lac over the last few years. Turns out, members of the board were given school district e-mails, but were told to keep them private and not published on the district website for constituent contact.

Yes, that's right... In this era of open records requests, it seems mighty befuddling why a school board would constantly harp on people to call or even snail-mail and not fire off a paper-trailed e-mail.

I'm just saying.

In fact, from what I hear from friends and former colleagues, the issues that have been discussed at board meetings go far beyond what is being published in the newspaper. From board members openly saying to other board members that they shouldn't talk to the press about this, to others walking out of meetings that are in "workshop," it sounds like there is a lot of fertile ground for the press to cultivate about open government in Fond du Lac.

Hmm... Hey teacher's union/FDL Democrats, et al, how are those open seats going with recruiting people to run for April?

- State Sen. Chris Larson at the Milwaukee Teacher's Educators Association Convocation

State Sen. Chris Larson was the special speaker this evening at the MTEA's yearly convocation. The speech was quite good, and felt a little campaign-y. Like, it was a test-run campaign-y.

This quote probably helps: "Stay tuned."

Remember when Dan Adams blasted Larson for being too chicken to challenge Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele this April? Seems to me that there may be a decision reached, especially because the entire tenor of the convocation centered around the MTEA's efforts at resisting the MPS Takeover.

On that note, there was an interesting date dropped by MTEA President Kim Schroeder - February. It sounds like that will be the time we finally know what school(s) will be the first selected by the commissioner. That is, if there is ever a list of possible candidates forwarded to Abele by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Gov. Scott Walker.

Well, that's it for me now. I'm off to the land of NyQuil.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Just A Good Point To Make

So, my life is INSANELY busy, which means that blogging has been pushed way, way, WAY towards the back burner.

Yesterday and today were full of WEAC activities, and I figured that one of the good pieces of information that I think people should know is this:

Saturday, September 5, 2015

MPS Is Still Hiring!

My employer, the Milwaukee Public Schools is still hiring!

My school is a tough environment for any educator, no question. It's mentally draining, it's physically draining, it's emotionally draining, but it's also a place that is so incredibly rewarding. The first week of school has been full of a lot of promise thus far, and hopefully we can get the rest of our students who registered for classes to come back before the third Friday count.

Oh, wait, you didn't know that MPS schools have slowly rising enrollment in the first few weeks of school because many students just don't come back right away? Or they are still with family down south still? Yep, it's a real struggle, and directly impacts our staffing levels and budgets.

But you know what, despite the struggles, I'm so incredibly proud to be an MPS employee. It's why I dedicate so much energy and effort to improve my school and our district. We need more people who are eager to do a good job, serve kids, and make a difference!

For a listing of jobs, click HERE. 

What The? Highway Gates?

Sometimes the shortest, most straightforward bills are also the most confusing.

What is the purpose of AB 330 as a bill? I mean honestly, there is a problem with the DOT installing non-access gates and message signs? 
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is authorized to spend moneys to maintain state highways. Under this bill, DOT is prohibited from installing on any highway overhead message boards, traffic cameras, or on-ramp gates.
Umm, why?

It's not like those things are just for-thrills. Closing highways in the winter when conditions are horrendous? Just close the gate. Speeding vehicles, manhunts, and any number of other reasons are why there are traffic cameras. And no more overhead signs telling us how far to destinations? Really?

I guess the fact there is no Senate co-sponsor to the motley crew of Rep.'s Kremer, August, Craig, Horlacher, Hutton, Jarchow, T. Larson, Schraa and Thiesfeldt speaks volumes.

Could it be to privatize those services, as has happened in Iowa? Nothing is impossible...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Gov. Abele? Nope, Not So Much According To Him

Remember when everyone freaked out because Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele hired former DPW Chairperson Mike Tate to do some consulting work? Then a few days later a staffer from the DPW decided to work for Abele in the Exec.'s office and the internet freaked out because they thought he was planning a quasi-coup to run for Governor in 2018?

Well, the AP's Scott Bauer squashed that today.

First, there is his article HERE:
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Democratic Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said Thursday he "definitely" will not be running for governor in 2018, putting to bed rumors that he was considering mounting a bid after hiring a prominent party official.
Mark this one down...

While I thought chatter of him running over the last few weeks was over-hyped, his name has kind of always been out there in the lower-tier Democratic mix of people who may jump on. While three years is a long time, this is a hard one to walk back.
Abele told The Associated Press he felt compelled to deny speculation he might run so it wouldn't impair his ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans in Milwaukee. Abele also is running for a second term as county executive next year.
This is the part that's annoying... It's not that you work together, it's that you don't assert your Democratic side authority. Be a damn Democrat and assert yourself on DEMOCRATIC principles every now and again.
"I am definitely not running for governor," said Abele, 48. "Not that I ever made any noise about it, but others have." 
Talk of Abele possibly preparing for a gubernatorial run has spiked since he hired former state Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate on Aug. 24 and followed that up by hiring the party's communications director Melissa Baldauff. 
Abele said he hired Tate as a political consultant because he had known him for years and Baldauff came highly recommended. Baldauff, who had worked for the state party for two years, will take a similar job with Abele.
The way that is written it sure sounds like Tate secured a job for Baldauff. As I wrote HERE, nothing against her in the least, this is likely a very positive step for her. But the way that's written, it just sounds bad.
Abele succeeded Scott Walker as county executive in 2011. Walker, the Republican governor now running for president, is up for re-election as governor in 2018. Walker has not said whether he will seek a third term should his presidential aspirations fizzle. 
Which it looks like they are, but the conventional wisdom is that he's either going to cash in on Wall St. or be appointed ambassador to someplace like Iceland.
Abele is up for re-election in April. State Sen. Chris Larson, a Democrat and former Milwaukee County board member, has said he is considering running against him. 
Abele joked when asked whether he could change his mind about a gubernatorial run. 
"In the same way I suppose I could become an astronaut or hit the winning shot for the Bucks it's possible," he said, laughing. And, just for good measure, he further joked that the only way he would consider a run is "if the capital is moved to Milwaukee."
So, I'm taking that as a "no."

Then, there is THIS from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. It pretty much sums up the AP article, but does add a quote:
"I didn't get in (to politics) to just focus on what the next step is," said Abele, who was elected county executive in 2011 after Republican Scott Walker left the post to become governor. 
Abele said he hopes Democrats nominate a candidate who is pragmatic and can work across party lines.
I hope the Democrats can nominate a person who STOPS THE BLEEDING!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Local Control My Foot

There has been much ado down in Racine with their school board lately.

First, there is the fact that they have a clause in their teacher handbook that says they should at least consult with the union about compensation and language in the handbook.

Then, there is the issue of vacancies on the Racine School Board and how certain board members want to push a radical agenda over the summer when a quorum is present, but not all board members that are representative of the community.

It's further complicated, because one seat on the board is vacant, one seat that the conservative side would LOVE to secure to push their agenda.

So, enter State Sen. Van Wanggaard and some lackeys in the Assembly to introduce SB 244 and AB 325:
This bill allows the school board president of a common, union high, or unified
school district to appoint a person to fill a vacancy on the school board if the
remaining school board members fail to fill the vacancy within 60 days.
Under current law, if a vacancy occurs on a school board of a common, union
high, or unified school district, the remaining school board members appoint a
person to fill the vacancy. This bill allows the school board president of one of these
school districts to appoint a person to fill a vacancy on the school board if the
remaining school board members do not fill the vacancy within 60 days of the date
on which the vacancy first occurs. A school board member appointed to fill a vacancy,
whether by remaining school board members or by a school board president, serves
until his or her successor is elected and takes office.
Remember, Republicans are all about local control! So long as you do what they want.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The New School Year Begins

It's my last Sunday of solace.

My last Sunday without worrying what we're all going to accomplish in my classes as a high school teacher in the coming week, month, year.

It's also likely my last Sunday without having to complete grad school homework on either introductory topics related to public administration or budgeting and finance too.

Last week was only a taste of what I'm going to be experiencing this school year. Between wrapping up my summer work as a union organizer and readying my newly moved classroom, it's always a whirlwind. There truly is no rest for the weary. However, it was by all measures, a great week.

Last Thursday was the first day MPS teachers and support staff had to officially report to to work. That happened with an astounding rally at the UWM Panther Arena downtown. (Being a history buff and Supertramp bootleg recording fan, I'll always refer to it as the MECCA.) It was a phenomenal experience! Would I have maybe liked some more time in my classroom? Yes, but never have I ever seen all of my colleagues from across the district in one spot.

We in MPS are truly all in this together, and that was the message our leader Dr. Darienne Driver wanted to make sure everyone knew. Well that, and a new slogan that truly encompasses what we need to be - MPS PROUD.

That's probably no better embodied than through this student's amazing speech. Seriously folks, as my friend Jay Bullock said online Thursday, "This kid for Governor. My checkbook awaits."

There were tons of moments like this one though. It was also a chance for me to see and reconnect with people I haven't seen since my first year in MPS. That's the funny thing about MPS, because so many people move around, for various sundry reasons, there are people you see daily 190 or more times over the course of a year. Then one day they're gone, off to some other school. This was a great chance to see those people, meet new people.

There was also this very powerful moment where MTEA President Kim Schroeder presented an "I Love my Public School" T-shirt to Superintendent Driver.

The happiness on everyones face was just a great way to bring that inner-feeling of happiness to the surface for everyone who's involved in working for the students of MPS.

This was a wonderful, wonderful event. I could link you to Alan Borsuk's Journal-Sentinel article that splashes some water on the pomp and circumstance, but I'm not going to do that. We know the challenges we face, we know the threats we face in MPS.

We know... We know all too well.

I'm taking this opening gala for the positive it was. To reinvigorate the mind, the body, the soul is so very, very important when it comes to education. It's why taking a nice break over summer is so necessary, both for teachers and students.

I don't care what anyone says, any time, any place, anywhere. Teachers are in it for the kids. The ones who aren't are pushed aside. They're pushed aside by their colleagues, by the union, by the district. We don't have time for people who aren't in it for the right reason, we just don't.

Time for year four with MPS to begin. I couldn't be happier to be where I am right now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What A Tangled Web We Weave - Chris Abele Edition

A few days ago, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Dan Bice had a story that former Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson Mike Tate was hired by Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele for some limited term work as a consultant. Then today, there was THIS story, which notes how DPW staffer Melissa Baldauff is moving in to replace Abele's current spokesperson who is moving up in the world.

Needless to say, these moves have set off a firestorm in progressive online groups and blogs. Many people are making comments about Abele and Tate as so-called "corporate Democrats" organizing in Milwaukee as a way to both stave off a possible Abele challenger in 2016 and make way for a statewide run in 2018. Interesting theory...

I'm no Chris Abele fan, not by a long shot. However, I have to give a tip of the cap towards Tate and Baldauff for getting good work and advancing their own careers.

I've thrown plenty of stones at Mike Tate on this site over the years, and while I think there were some bad decisions he made as party chair, I don't think his entire tenure should be characterized as such that every election outcome was based SOLELY on some decision he made. In 2010 there was a wave year which overtook the entire nation that nobody could've stopped. In 2011, we saw the State Senate recall victories and Democratic control, but the 2012 elections were held under newly redistricted maps, which are still choking Democrats to this day. 2014 wasn't much better for many of the same reasons, not the least of which was another national conservative wave that blindsided lots of us.

It's not entirely fair to blame Tate for such violent national waves. The benefit of hindsight is 20/20.

However, to somehow think that Mike Tate is going to stay out of politics, or doesn't have the right to offer his consultation advice for a fee now that he is done as party chair, is absurd. The man has to earn a living, and if he can draw a check from Chris Abele wanting his services, that's where he'll be. That's smart business, and in the post Citizens United world that's also how election campaigns work.

We as liberals may not like it, but the sooner we admit that we live under Citizens United's rules (or lack there-of) the better off we'll be to actually win and work towards overturning them.

As for Melissa Baldauff, she's just a simple staffer, who clearly sees a different and likely better opportunity. I can't imagine being the communications person for the DPW has very stable hours or glory beyond being the name on fundraising e-mails.

I must admit though, the timing of this announcement, a few months after the election of Martha Laning as Chairperson and a few days after the announcement of Executive Director Jake Hajdu leaving, does give me pause and wonder what's happening down in Madison at the "home office."

I may disagree up and down with many of Abele's policies and positions, and been very happy with his lack of communications gravitas up until now. However, I can spot a smart career move when I see it, so what's maybe not good for me as a liberal blogger in Milwaukee is probably a good thing for the office of County Exec. overall. Baldauff's move is smart, and likely strengthening a weakness of Abele's.

And that's one thing that I think some people may have a hard time understanding about my own two cents worth of analysis on this.

I don't think Chris Abele is somehow a bad person, or even not a Democrat. The man pays dues and donates a ton of money to the party. (Check the finance reports people.) He's got a card.

No, my problem with Abele is that when you hold one of the most powerful positions in one of the two epicenters of Democratic politics in Wisconsin, YOU NEED TO BE A TEAM PLAYER. Abele's good on many, many issues except the one that Milwaukee MUST be the leader on - Labor. Chris Abele is an abysmal failure on labor issues and carrying a Democratic message.

Abele and his supporters play this off as him somehow straddling this fine-line middle ground, which by in large is FRUSTRATINGLY true. But when you're the County Executive of Milwaukee, that's NOT what you should be doing. Your job is NOT to cast off labor, but to work with them! Show the rest of the state how to work together with them! Madison is the college-liberal artsy side, we are the working class bread and butter side of the party. You don't have to cave in to them, you don't need to bow at their feet, but you shouldn't be beating them down like a Republican.

Chris Abele is an abysmal failure as a Democrat in my eyes because he doesn't understand that.

If you want to make changes to the Co. Board, you don't go about donating to Republican Rep. Joe Sanfelippo and have him eviscerate them through state level legislation while building your own power. That's NOT being a team player. If you're a labor Democrat, you realize that board members are working people with family supporting jobs and you'd know how to use them to your advantage, not see the need to break them at the knees. (Oh, and building the Democratic bench...)

The list goes on. If you want to restructure the way union contracts are done in the wake of 2011 Act 10 and save money, you don't publicly go against every union you have. Just look at the bus strike for example. I saw a lot of right-wing blowback, as would be expected. But the residents themselves? They're on the drivers side, even with their terribly unpolished messaging. You didn't see huge blowback from those in the city of Milwaukee. In fact, you even had people like Gerard Randall coming out in support of their decision because they wanted to go to the table and the county turned them down.

There's a reason why Abele and the county was forced to sit down with the arbitration officer, which is still happening and sounds like will be resolved in short order. The three day strike worked.

Abele is an okay Democratic candidate to put up in other parts of Wisconsin, just not Milwaukee. If you're going to be a good Democrat in Milwaukee, you should be a team player and someone the party trots out at every turn as the face of the party. And we all know that's not happening right now for good reason.

So, you know what?  Let Abele run for governor in 2018. Here's what hilarious, he'll never make it out of the primary.

The richest pots of Democratic votes in Wisconsin? Milwaukee and Dane County, two places that are in no way considered fertile Abele territory. Plus, with Republicans very, very likely engaged in their own competitive primary at the same time, there's little reason to think that Republican cross-over voting will be a threat towards Democrats.

If someone like Outagamie Co. Executive Tom Nelson runs, what traction will Chris Abele have in the Fox Valley? How will the "Milwaukee Democrat" stick play in Eau Claire or La Crosse, especially if someone like Sen. Jen Schilling or Sen. Kathleen Vineohout runs? The pathway that Abele has used in Milwaukee doesn't exist statewide, because there will be a competitive primary on the Republican side, which Abele hasn't really faced in Milwaukee.

So, everyone who's freaking out online about Mike Tate getting paid for a few weeks of consulting advice and having one experienced Democratic communications staffer switch jobs from the state party to Milwaukee should just cool it. I'm no Abele fan, but from where I sit it's pretty clear that people are making smart moves for themselves right now, and what happens in 2015 behind the scenes is going to make an incredibly minimal impact on any statewide run in 2018.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some Teaching Data From Public Policy Forum

The Public Policy Forum is putting out a report tomorrow about teaching and teachers in the pre and post 2011 Act 10 Wisconsin world.

You can read about it from the Journal-Sentinel HERE:
Over a five-year period that included the near-elimination of collective bargaining in Wisconsin's public schools, the teacher workforce in metro Milwaukee is smaller, less experienced and still largely white, according to a new report. 
I'm shocked!
The metro region also lost 700 teachers during that time, but that trend was most pronounced in Milwaukee Public Schools, which lost a total of 730, the report said.
Those are the key takeaways of a teacher workforce analysis to be published Wednes
day by the Public Policy Forum. The report surveys key characteristics of public school teachers in the 53 school districts within Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, between the years of 2009-'10 and 2013-'14, the most recent year available. 
Again, I'm shocked... I mean, not that the major losses in funding over that time have anything to do with that.
"This is giving us a valuable pre-Act 10 and post-Act 10 snapshot," said Rob Henken, president of the Public Policy Forum. 
Act 10 was the controversial legislation signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011 that all but eliminated collective bargaining for most public workers and sparked widespread protests. 

It severely curtailed what unions could bargain for, which is only for raises up to the cost of living consumer price index. It means that unions now may only use the legal "meet and confer" process instead of bargaining when discussing issues outside of base pay.
But some predicted consequences of the law — like widespread teacher mobility — did not materialize in the data. 
Hmmm, interesting, but what also is important here is WHERE the data is coming from. It's coming from the richest school districts, aside from Milwaukee, in the state. Go outside the WOW counties and it's a whole different world! CRAZY WORLD... Just ask the good people in Fond du Lac.
The report shows that only about 7% of teachers in the metro region moved to a different district over the years studied, despite anecdotes from district administrators that suggest otherwise. 
Again, look at the geography.
It became easier for teachers to move between districts after Act 10, because new employee handbooks did not offer the same incentives as collective bargaining agreements to stay with one district until retirement. 
"We didn't see widespread evidence of districts poaching teachers" from other districts, said Joe Yeado, senior researcher of the new study. "Even when we looked at (teachers in hard-to-staff subjects), there wasn't an outsize impact of teachers jumping from one field to another." 
You didn't find poaching between high performing districts because there wasn't a need to. Go outside that and there's lots and lots and lots of movement. Plenty of people are moving in the state, but it's not around suburban Milwaukee.
The analysis showed no real change in the average age of the region's public school teachers over the past five years. But teacher experience declined in the region.
This is directly related to the lessening of the profession of education. I'm more and more amazed at the mid-career people who are picking up teaching as a second profession. That can be both good and bad at times in my opinion, because many people just aren't aware of how vastly different schools are from their years there.
"That suggests that districts are hiring teachers who are not necessarily younger, but are less experienced," Yeado said. "They're not necessarily hiring new college graduates to fill these vacancies, but older teachers with less teaching experience." 
Mostly because those numbers of graduates has severely declined too.
That drop in experience did not occur among MPS teachers, where the average years of experience remained at 12 over the time studied. Suburban districts such as Maple Dale-Indian Hill, Muskego-Norway, New Berlin and Pewaukee saw a decline in experience over the time studied. 
New Berlin has been a revolving door from what I hear. As for us in MPS, we have a strong handbook, salary schedule that has been devised, and strong union that advocates for members. Experienced educators are seeing that MPS is not anywhere near as bad as people make it out to be and as en employer is superior to much of the "good old boys" clubs forming in the suburbs.
And while the students educated in the four-county metro area became more diverse before and after Act 10, the teacher workforce across metro Milwaukee remained 89% white. 
That's an issue, and sadly one that I contribute to.

We're looking hard at our school to fill vacancies with teachers with similar cultural backgrounds to our students. It's a challenge to say the least.
Yeado noted that 16 of the 53 districts analyzed have no minority teachers. In 34 districts, whites make up 98% or more of the teaching workforce. 
That's a sad statistic in 2015.
MPS has the highest degree of racial diversity; about 29% of teachers are racial minorities. 
That's still incredibly low in my opinion.
The data analyzed by the forum comes from the state Department of Public Instruction. Private schools are not covered in the report because the data is not publicly available. 
The report is the first in a three-part series, according to Henken. The second report will analyze principals, assistant principals and superintendents in the metro area, and the third report will analyze the teacher workforce pipeline, he said.
I eagerly await further reports...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Walker's Shifting Positions

We knew it would happen. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has changed his stance yet again on immigration policy. And for that, we thank the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza's tweeting skills:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bruce Murphy Nails It On The Head

As the teacher shortage grows, how will state leaders respond? Based on the last four years of policymaking, you can expect more proposals – with no study of the possible consequences — to reduce standards for the profession.
I couldn't say it any better myself. Bruce Murphy examines why there's a new teacher shortage in Wisconsin, and it's simple - THE PROFESSION IS UNDER ATTACK!

You can read the whole thing on Urban Milwaukee HERE, but I'll repost it below:
Across the state there are reports of growing problems for school districts trying to fill vacant teaching positions and universities trying to attracting education majors. The La Crosse School District needs to fill 23 different positions, “but the district said that’s proving to be difficult because the number of applicants continues to drop each year,” in LaCrosse reports. 
But that isn’t the only district coming up empty, the story noted. “I have received increased e-mails and communications from superintendents and principals about openings,” Marcie Wycoff-Horn, director of the college of education at UW-La Crosse, told the TV station. As of early August the education job website WECAN had listings for more than 2,000 teaching jobs, “a number experts say is high for this close to the school year,” Madison TV channel 3000 reported. 
Four times this summer, the Waukesha School District had to post the same opening for a high school position teaching biology and chemistry, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District experienced “shallow or nonexistent” pools of candidates for teaching jobs in family and consumer services, physics and chemistry, district officials told the paper. 
Diana Hess, professor of curriculum and instruction at UW-Madison, told Wisconsin Public Radio there is a teacher shortage across the state in both urban and rural school districts. “Even though we don’t know the exact figures… we are hearing from school districts that this late in the summer, they still have vacancies that they haven’t filled, and that’s really unusual,” she said. 
Percy Brown, director of equity and student achievement at Middleton High School in Dane County, told Madison radio station WKOW the school is “struggling” to fill its business education positions — “and the reason for that is – why would someone want to be a teacher and make $35,000 a year, when they can go into the private sector and make $55,000.” 
Officials from the Yorkville, Whitewater and Elkhorn school districts say they are having trouble finding substitute teachers, and officials in the Fond du Lac, North Fond du Lac, Rosendale-Brandon, and Green Lake school districts face the problemas well. 
The problem is likely get worse because the number of teachers that needs to be replaced is getting bigger. “We’ve seen a reduction in teacher salaries and because of that you’ve seen more and more early retirements, but because of the attack on the profession, it’s not as attractive to want to become a teacher,” Brown said. 
The Spooner school district saw 25 percent of its faculty retire, resign, or not have their contract renewed this year, and the Madison and Milwaukee districts are also losing high numbers of teachers, as Paul Doro reported for Urban Milwaukee. Experts say there will be a huge number of openings to fill in the coming years because 22 percent of the state’s current teaching base is aged 55 or older. 
Meanwhile, the supply of new teachers is shrinking, providing fewer new teaching applicants. At UW-Oshkosh, which has one of the state’s largest teacher training programs, the number of students majoring in education has declined by 25 percent over a four year period. 
UW-Milwaukee’s School of Education has seen a 23 percent decrease in enrollment in a five-year period from more than 3,000 in 2010 to a little more than 2,300 in 2015, as Jeremy Page, assistant dean of student services in the School of Education, told Urban Milwaukee. Marquette’s College of Education has decreased steadily, from 445 students in 2010 to 385 in 2014, the JS reported. 
UW-Stevens Point has seen an 18 percent decline in students are studying to become teachers. “In fall 2010 we had about 1,409 students, now we have about 1,150 students,” the university’s head of education Patricia Caro told, the ABC affiliate in North Central Wisconsin. 
Why the sudden decline in the supply of teachers? Steve Salerno, associate superintendent of human resources for the La Crosse School District, told that until 2011 the district had virtually no issues trying to fill an open position, but since then, trying to find a teacher or even a teaching assistant has been been difficult. “At the height of Act 10 we began to see fewer and fewer people entering into the profession,” he said. 
Brown blamed the reduction in compensation for teachers: “because of that you’ve seen more and more early retirements,” yet “because of the attack on the profession, it’s not as attractive to want to become a teacher,” he told WKOW. Caro, too, pointed to Act 10 as a key reason for the decline of teaching majors. 
The reduction in compensation and security for teachers resulting from Act 10 comes at a time when recent college graduates are facing record student loan debt. The improvement in the economy also means more private sector jobs are available. 
Meanwhile, the criticisms directed at teachers may send a message to young people that teaching is not a valued or respected profession in Wisconsin. 
What’s remarkable about this whole situation is that no one pushing for Act 10 and arguing that teachers earned too much ever presented any evidence to support this point. Indeed, Act 10 was simply the first step in a series of un-studied policy changes launched by Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators. 
No one had any idea gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker intended to propose Act 10. Walker had signaled he’d want greater contributions to pension and health insurance for state workers only, and never mentioned wanting this from teachers or municipal workers. In fact, his aide Ryan Murray wrote a deputy sheriff to assure him that “Scott’s plan (to require higher pension contributions) will apply to active state employees only” and “not to….teachers and local government employees.”

And when Walker justified Act 10, he repeatedly said the state’s taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for better benefits for public employees than they themselves received. Not once did Walker point to a study of comparable jobs to suggest teachers were overpaid compared to other white collar workers in this state or nationally.
The reality is that Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson had imposed state limits on school spending and teachers union arbitrations to steadily reduce teacher salaries. In the late 1980s, Wisconsin spent 47 percent more than the average state in per-pupil expenditures and average teacher salaries here ranked among the top 10 states. By 2007-08, Wisconsin had dropped to nearly the national median in school spending, and Wisconsin average teacher salary ranked 23rd nationally, at 93 percent of the average pay nationally. 
So it would hardly be surprising if the significant reduction in compensation for teachers passed in 2011, along with the end of their collective bargaining rights and a reduction in the stature and prestige of the job, might reduce the supply of teachers. Add to that the increase in voucher schools, which means more cheap schools with much lower salaries replacing public schools, and there are many reasons that students might see teaching as a less attractive option in Wisconsin. 
In Indiana, where the number of people obtaining a teaching license fell by more than 50 percent since 2010, critics of the state’s policies have blamed the growth of private school vouchers and widespread bashing of public school teachers by Hoosier elected officials. Indiana also passed a law reducing collective bargaining rights. Two legislators there have asked for a study of why the teacher shortage of teachers has arisen. 
But Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Idea once married academic research to public policy, now prefers government by whim. Walker and Republican legislators clearly see that school districts are having problems attracting teachers, but their solution is to simply lower standards for the profession. 
A proposed budget item would have allowed anyone with a bachelor’s degree to be hired and licensed to teach sixth- through 12th-grade English, math, social studies or science, and would have allowed any person with relevant experience — even a high school dropout — to teach in any other non-core academic subject in those grades. The final budget cut the first item but allowed the reduction in standards for teachers of non-core subjects. 
As the teacher shortage grows, how will state leaders respond? Based on the last four years of policymaking, you can expect more proposals – with no study of the possible consequences — to reduce standards for the profession.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dan Adams, Chris Larson, And Stealth Campaigns?

Dan Adams, one time Assembly Candidate and token quasi-Democrat on the Charlie Sykes Sunday TV show had an interesting Tweet today:
What's funny is, I don't remember Sen. Larson ever saying that he won't run... In fact, if you're someone considering challenging a sitting County Executive, I'd think sitting in the back row of a budget hearing and passive-aggressively tweeting about what their perceived shortcomings are would be the exact type of thing you'd do. Especially if you're trying to build an online presence with your followers.

We can debate til the cows come home about the chances Sen. Larson would have against Co. Exec. Abele in an April election. But until he officially says he passes, there's every chance he'll run.

Well, not if you believe Adams. Yesterday, he posted this tweet:
Apparently we know where Dan Adams stands on the matter, so thank heavens for that. Not that anyone who thinks they'd have a snowball's chance in being elected to the Assembly on Milwaukee's east with stances like this should be even taken seriously...

Milwaukee Co. Exec. Chris Abele's Budget Hearings - MPS Takeover Edition

Milwaukee Co. Executive Chris Abele held his second of two budget town hall meetings today. If you missed the fact that they were even scheduled, you're not alone. The media barely even covered them being announced, and yes, they were only announced last week, so if you wanted to try and get to it with a job in the way, good luck.

One group that did manage to show up were advocates for the Milwaukee Public Schools, and pressuring Exec. Abele to throw off his role as czar appointer for the MPS Takeover district.

You can read the write-up from the Journal-Sentinel HERE:
A town hall meeting Wednesday set up to receive comments on Milwaukee County's 2016 budget instead was dominated by Milwaukee Public Schools teachers and retired teachers critical of County Executive Chris Abele's role as overseer of a small number of failing schools.
I see what you did there Journal-Sentinel, you framed the school takeover as being a "small thing" by saying "small number of schools." Sorry guys, it may be one school this year, but the long-term effects of this program are entirely designed to make him oversee a very, very large number of schools, if not the entirety of MPS.
Abele was given authority to appoint the commissioner of a special district made up of poorly performing MPS schools under an Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program approved as part of the state budget.

Gov. Scott Walker signed the two-year state budget on July 12. The legislation directs Abele to appoint a commissioner within 120 days of the signing.
Ahh, that's right, we are coming up on that date ever more. So, who's the options there Gov. Walker, Mayor Barrett, and Exec. Abele?
Retired MPS teacher Joan Christopherson urged Abele "to stand up to Gov. Walker and say no" to appointing the commissioner and forming the separate district. She spoke at Wednesday's meeting inside the Mitchell Park Pavilion.
I like the cut of her jib...
The program will take several schools from the control of the Milwaukee School Board and put them under the control of Abele and the commissioner he appoints, or directly under MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver, if she agrees to use the authority. Republican legislators said their intent was to turn those schools into public charter schools or private nonparochial voucher schools.

OKAY, let's go through this again.

The law gives Abele the authority to appoint a commissioner to control schools that are taken away form the MPS School Board. The bill also give PARALLEL AUTHORITY to the MPS Superintendent. This isn't an "OR" proposition such that Abele can give the schools to Dr. Driver and the commissioner. This is an "ALSO" proposition where Abele AND Driver can both take schools.

But I digress...
"Let the elected public School Board do its job," Christopherson urged Abele. The teachers union is opposed to the program and has vowed to fight it.
Huh, interesting choice of keeping sentences together, but true and true.
Other teachers and retired teachers told Abele that he should have refused to participate in the program, while several speakers described the program as a step toward a take over of public schools by private companies and private schools.
Which he should've, and which the program is.
Abele did not respond to critics of the opportunity schools program.

He has said he would not partner with private voucher schools, under the program.
That is at least one smart thing...
"We are still assessing the new law," Abele said later Wednesday. "I am optimistic about the opportunity to have a successful program that puts students first and minimizes any negative fiscal impact on Milwaukee Public Schools."

If you think that answer is somehow supposed to sooth the fears of people who are worried, it's the wrong damn answer.

Assessing the new law? Smart... You should've just said that. Say that and GET OUT.

But no, you need to say you're "optimistic" about your new found authority. Okay, minimizing fiscal impacts to MPS is nice, but YOU SHOULDN'T EVEN WANT TO INFLICT A FISCAL IMPACT!


THIS, THIS right here is why many Democrats in Milwaukee cannot flipping stand Chris Abele. The man just doesn't get how to be a team player. He doesn't get how to not play right into Republican's hands by saying things that are so vague they give credence to Republican arguments.

I have ZERO sympathy for the man being the target of the teachers union's actions this fall. He could've just stayed quiet, tried to voice displeasure with the proposal in subtle ways, but nope.

More and more he's putting himself out there as the person who's excited and happy to have this new-found power, so when he becomes the person who's attacked, I won't be sympathetic. He could avoid this, or at least minimize the tone those voicing displeasure would have. He's choosing not to.

There's a reason the phrases "Boss Abele" ring true for many in this city. More and more, power is being condensed under one person and office, and it is not good for democracy. I don't think Chris Abele wants to set out and destroy MPS, I legitimately don't. But the more and more he talks about it, the more it seems evidently clear that he doesn't realize how many moving parts are working and how his words are so very, very important.