Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Putting Numbers Together - Vouchers In Fond du Lac

Since the implementation of the statewide voucher program, I've decided to focus on my hometown of Fond du Lac.

You can read a little about that HERE and HERE.

But today, the FDL Reporter decided to really put out there information about what vouchers really mean to the private religious schools that receive them - A giant freaking check. 

You can read the full article HERE. 
A total of 57 students attend school this year in Fond du Lac through Wisconsin's Parental Choice Program. 
Winnebago Lutheran Academy — a parochial high school in Fond du Lac — is a newcomer to the program with 12 private school voucher students attending classes.
St. Mary's Springs Academy, Fond du Lac's Catholic parochial school system, has 45 voucher students enrolled for the 2014-15 school year. This is the system's second year of participation. 
There is one additional small private religious high school in Fond du Lac. However, between the Fond du Lac School District's large 2,000+ student high school, St. Mary's Springs, and Winnebago Lutheran Academy, you have the vast majority of students who are from Fond du Lac and attending high school.
Cost of tuition at WLA is $5,225 per year. The cost to educate a student is $7,350, offset by funds donated through the Association of Congregations (41 congregations) that support the school, said Principal Dave Schroeder. 
Okay, so tuition is $5,225 per year and the school covers the rest by church funds? How much is a voucher worth again for a high schooler? Answer - $7,856. That means at least with every student the school nets from the voucher program, WLA is making $506. When you take out the tuition and look at only the "net" increase and money that the church saves because of the voucher, that's $2,631 PER STUDENT that WLA saves with a voucher every year.

That's not chump change.
All of the voucher freshmen were new students to WLA, the rest were existing students. Total enrollment is 331 students. 
"We were guaranteed 10 students, so anything more than that is a bonus for us," Schroeder said. 
Cha-Ching! Cha-Ching! Cha-Ching!
At Springs, 20 choice students were rolled forward from last year, said President Kevin Shaw. 
"This year we received 25 additional students, including seven new SMSA students," he said. "Each year we qualified for 10 students but then received more students in the second draw." 
So, they in effect just admitted that they only received seven new students out of 25 who are new voucher students. That means 18 students at Springs were already there but now are having the state bankroll the instead of them paying tuition or Springs providing them scholarships.

CHA-CHING!
Tuition to attend St. Mary's Springs Academy High School is $5,735. 
And they don't provide any information based on what the church provides to the school to help educate students. (In a posting I did a while ago, I noted how the Fond du Lac School District is required to provide them someone on the taxpayer rolls for assisting Special Education students.)

So, when you take $7,856-$5,735=$2121 that Springs makes every year accepting voucher students.

CHA-CHA-CHA-CHING!

Oh, and I'm sure that many of those who received a voucher are now not accepting a Springs scholarship, meaning that there's even more money being saved.
WLA received 74 applications and SMSA had 80 applicants for the program. Students participating in the program were chosen randomly through a state lottery. 
I'm going to bet the severely Cognitively Disabled students or those who need such extreme special education services were not part of those applications...
Statewide there are 1,013 students receiving vouchers. Of the 538 new students, 101 were previously attending a public school. There were 39 voucher students from last year that chose not to participate again. 
Pathetic numbers...
State law provides each eligible private school participating in WPCP with a voucher payment of $7,210 for students in Grades K4 through 8, or $7,856 per student in Grades 9-12. The funds are generated from public tax dollars. 
There are 31 private schools or school systems in the state participating in the program. State law limits enrollment to 1,000 students, up 500 from last year.
There is great reason to elect Mary Burke... Keep you public tax dollars under your own supervision of your locally elected school board. Avoid the money-profiting that these private schools now have with vouchers.

Charm City Bound

I'm going to be out of Wisconsin over the next five days enjoying my time in charm-city, Baltimore, MD.

So, don't expect too many updates... Not that I've been very update-ish lately. However, with the election right around the corner, I will write more. I promise.

Thanks much!
- Soapbox

Monday, October 27, 2014

Brad Schimel's Generic Thank You

Apparently Melissa Baldauff of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin captured this beautiful picture on Republican Attorney General candidate Brad Schimel's website:


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fondy Area Legislators to City Council - Practice Fiscal Irresponsibility!

When two staunchly Neo-Stalwart conservative state lawmakers appear in front of their formerly elected-to local city council as "citizens," you have to wonder what's REALLY happening. 

That's what piqued my interest when I read in the FDL Reporter today about how at last night's City Council meeting, both State Sen. Rick Gudex and Assembly Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (both alums of the Council) came and spoke as "citizens" on budget matters. 

You can read the article HERE. 
Fond du Lac City Council will take a couple more weeks to consider applying more reserve funds to the 2015 budget. 
Council decided Wednesday to delay budget approval until Nov. 12. 
Members are considering whether they should apply additional fund balance to reduce the tax rate and how such a move would impact future budgets. 
Ohhh... So, the conservatives are ticked that the city isn't dipping into it's reserves and running them dry before raising the tax rate.
Sen. Rick Gudex and Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, both former councilmen, were in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting and spoke as “city residents” during the audience comments portion of the meeting. 
Gudex suggested Council use some or all of the $1.5 million in unassigned fund balance to help reduce the tax levy that includes a 5.4 percent increase. He said the $1.5 million is taxpayer money and he said it was unfair to have that sum in reserve and ask taxpayers to “pay more” in the form of a tax increase. 
Umm, no. No it's not. It's called fiscal responsibility and smart budgeting. You don't run yourself dry in case something like a flood comes through and necessitates the city to make expenditures they weren't expecting.

Mind you, we're talking about the City of Fond du Lac here. Not Madison. Not some liberal bastion...
The proposed increase would equate to an additional 45.4 cents per $1,000 of equalized valuation. A home valued at $121,000 (the city’s average value) would see an increase of $55 in the city portion of their tax bill. The owner of a home valued at $150,000 would see an increase of $68.10 over last year’s bill. Tax increase, though, will vary in the wake of a citywide property revaluation, where some properties increased in value and others decreased.
Funny, my parent's home is valued at $155,000, meaning they will see a bill of about $70.00 more than last year. I mean, it's not like there wasn't inflation in there or anything...
The proposed budget already includes about $715,000 from the city’s fund balance. 
So, it's not like the city is completely bilking taxpayers here. They're trying to be fiscally smart.
Thiesfeldt said every budget has challenges and he said the current council is focused on payback of debt. Still, he believes there is enough excess to put more toward the budget. 
“I am very uncomfortable with maintaining a fund balance well beyond Council policy of 15 percent and ... increasing taxes by 5.4 percent of equalized value,” he said. “There should be some consideration to knocking that down.” 
Council has a self-imposed policy of retaining at least 15 percent of its expenditures ($31 million). With a projected $6.2 million in fund balance, a total of $4.7 million would be considered the “floor,” or least amount to retain, said City Manager Joe Moore. 
Gudex said if the 15 percent figure isn’t the right number, then Council should change its policy. 
Typical Republican logic here... Oh, well, if that number isn't the "right" guide number, just change it at random to make it look better.
Thiesfeldt said when he was on Council, members were dealing with the recession, Mercury Marine threatening to leave Fond du Lac and the flood of 2008.
Oh yeah, that worked out real well for everyone...
“We felt, as a Council, that we could not burden the people with great tax increases,” he said Thursday, adding that the council during his tenure refinanced debt from 10- to 20-year repayment. “And they are trying to get back to that (10-year payment) policy and I support that.” 
Congratulations. You're no longer on the council. You decided to run for the Assembly and make decisions there. Don't come swoop back in to the council chambers and start talking to them like they are a child. They're no more important in our democracy than you good sir.
Moore and Director of Administration Hal Wortman both voiced concerns Wednesday about the use of additional fund balance to reduce a tax rate increase. 
You know, the City Manager and persons who work directly with these budgets on a daily basis and have considerably more background in functioning within a budget than Mr. Thiesfeldt.

He was a private school teacher. I'm a public school teacher. I'd absolutely love to be in elected office one day, but I'll be damned if I would ever feel it appropriate to
Wortman said the city could get into a cycle of increasing budget deficits and would have to cut services.
Sounds like a Republican budget to me... Or, a Thiesfeldt-Gudex DREAM WORLD.
Moore said by lowering the levy — no matter how it’s done — it would “re-set” the baseline property tax levy and the amount cannot be recovered. There is no additional state aid and the levy may be increased only by the percentage of new construction and increases in debt service.
Ohhh, state aid. Funny, who were the ones who had votes in screwing local municipalities over the last few years with the loss of shared revenue? Gee, those 2011 Act 10 reforms worked so well for local municipalities...
“If you don’t levy up to the levy limit, you’ve reduced your levy and that is the new base for the next budget year and years going forward,” Wortman said. “You’ve lost forever whatever amount you reduce it by.”
Welcome to why you have to levy up to the limit. This is exactly part of the problem with rural school districts in Wisconsin as well right now and the funding problems with those districts.  The Republicans over the last few years have done nothing but create havoc for local municipalities  and gave them "tools" to piss off their employees and drive morale through the basement floor.

Nice work Neo-Stalwarts...
Wortman said there would be better ways to use excess fund balance, including repayment of debt, avoidance of new debt and for economic development. 
DING, DING, DING!
“I would say stick with the levy budget as is,” he said. “It would be a poor financial decision to draw down the tax levy.” 
Can I once again point out that two state level lawmakers appeared in front of a local City Council to advocate for poor financial planning decisions? One of these men could very likely be chair of the Assembly Education Committee.

Lord save us...
Moore said the risk inherent in using the entire $1.5 million is having no fund balance at the end of 2015 for use in 2016. Previous budgets have used some fund balance to support the upcoming year’s budget. If an emergency arose, there would be no funds to draw from. Moore said staff would have to ask Council to go below its 15 percent minimum in reserve and that could trigger the concern of auditors and bond rating agencies.
I mean, because it's not like the city hasn't had a few floods over the last 10 years. Or excess snow plowing is out of the question. Or a wind storm. Earthquake, locust, whatever...
Council President Sam Meyer said he is not opposed to giving extra time to council members who need it to consider the budget. The postponement also would allow Karyn Merkel, who was absent and excused from Wednesday’s meeting, to vote.
In other words, the local GOP is going to twist some arms and do some pretty high-level "discussing" with the relatively conservative members of the council about making the "right" decisions.  Or, as I suspect, have state legislators tell members of the council what the legislature and Governor have in store should they win Nov. 4th with the 2015-17 Biennium Budget.

I cannot possibly fathom what the race to the bottom in the GOP looks like, but I fear it's happening, and you can see it in the Fond du Lac City Council and their budgeting process right now. What's funny though is that last night's meeting provided a prime example why having more than the minimum reserves makes sense for the city...
Meyer said he believed it prudent to keep a portion of fund balance in reserve so there is the ability to react to situations and opportunities as Council did Wednesday by authorizing up to $255,000 in assistance to Marian University for the development of the AC Nielsen building. Meyer said he wanted to be comfortable about the city’s ability to pay bills in the future.
Let's watch this a little closer.

Oh, and hey Mary Burke! Here's something for you to latch onto as well!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Petri Won't Endorse Grothman - BFD

This is a BFD. The 6th Congressional District, while it may lean Republican, does have a healthy group of older voters who take a lot of direction from Rep. Petri's decisions.

Today, Rep. Petri noted that he won't endorse State Sen. Glenn Grothamn, the Republican, who is running to take his place.
From the FDL Reporter, a quote from the Representative:
"Why would I endorse a person who has said that if in two years people said he was 'just like Petri' he would be insulted?" Petri said. "I don't want to smother him with love or anything like that."
Later, I think we can read some tea-leaves with respect to how Winnebago Co. Exec. Mark Harris wants to debate in all counties of the 6th CD:
As for Grothman's comments, Petri falls back on his old habit of turning the other cheek. 
"Grothman said if the GOP turns down the path Petri did, he will go against it," Petri said. "I always feel you want to reach out and work with people — that has been my approach to both parties." 
'Fine job' by Harris 
He said Harris has done "a fine job" as county executive. 
To his long-time constituents, Petri suggests the best way to get a sense of each candidate is to view them in person at political debates. 
"We have a tradition of having debates in each of the counties in the district and this is healthy and helpful," he said. "Rather than looking at ads and reading second-hand accounts, go see for yourself and ask candidates questions in a forum setting, in real time."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sabbatical

You've probably noticed a lack of posting on here over the last few days.

It's not unintentional.

I have a lot to reevaluate right now in life, and that means not dedicating time to writing on here in the present.

I love the platform that this blog has given me, the outlet that it has been for venting on the news I read, and directing people towards what I feel they should know about. While I will return soon in some limited fashion, right now I need to take a break.

So don't remove me from your blogroll. Don't think, "awe shucks I'm going to miss him." I'm not disappearing off the face of the earth. I just have a lot to sort through right now, and spending part of my evening writing on here doesn't fit into my sorting process.

Solidarity for now. Thanks for all the kind wishes. I promise to write the week of the election at the latest.

- Soapbox

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Let's Sidebar From Wisconsin For a Moment...

Sometimes in Wisconsin, we are insane with out politics.

Yes, pre-2011 I would've thought otherwise, but in the Scott Walker world, our politics are insane.

However, in tonight's Florida Gubernatorial Debate between Gov. Rick Scott and Gov. Charlie Christ, the following happened. Gov. Scott decided to not appear because Gov. Christ had a fan on stage.

You can't make this stuff up:



However, what this moment does allow me to do is show, one more time, the absolutely insane moment from another Florida politician, Sen. Marco Rubio:




Moraine Park's Educators File a Lawsuit Against The School Board

It's landmark time in the lawsuits with respect to 2011 Act 10 in Wisconsin.

I touched upon something peculiar that happened at Moraine Park Technical College this past spring HERE, HERE, and HERE when the technical college board decided to go away from a 2% raise for all employees to offering the teachers only the CPI 1.46% because they recertified their union. 

That's a no-no.

Well this week, the teacher's union filed a lawsuit. And for those of you keeping score at home, this one is going to be precedent setting with respect to how school districts and other public ententes are allowed to give raises to employees who are in a union under 2011 Act 10.

From a letter that was distributed to union members this week:



The "Timeline of Events" on the 2nd page is crucial.

Notice how the board discussed on April 16th, during the middle of recertification, giving all employees a 2% raise but will only give 1.46% if they recertify. You can't do that. It's election tampering, it's prohibited practice by an employer, and it's intimidation.

And yet the board freely discussed their decision in a meeting with union representatives sitting in the audience like it was no big deal.

I'm actually quite shocked how spot-on I was with my June posting on this matter saying that that union would likely file a lawsuit. In fact, that posting pretty-much goes point-by-point with a news article that occurred when employees were first made aware of the board did and why they did.

From that posting, where it talks about the board announcing the change of 2% to 1.46% if the teacher recertified while splicing in quotes from an FDL Reporter article:
Announcing a change like that in the middle of an election period is shenanigans. Not to mention, not couth with present law.
The Board’s attorney John St. Peter said at the meeting that the union’s interpretation of the law was correct. 
Yes folks, the Moraine Park Board's attorney agreed with the union's interpretation of the law. But that didn't matter, they did what they wanted anyway and retired into closed session. 
While discretionary raises are an option, it was not something that the college’s Board chose to do, said Kathy Borske, MPTC vice president of human resources. 
Board Chair Richard Zimman of West Bend said the Board would not respond to the issue at the meeting, but did make the following statement in an email: 
“State law prohibits any negotiations — or anything which resembles or could be construed as negotiations — between the teacher’s union and the college (administration and board) on any topic other than base wages as restricted by the CPI cap. The board and administration are prohibited from engaging in any non-base wage compensation discussions with the teacher’s union either publicly or privately, and we are following that law.”
Except for, Moraine Park already budgeted the 2% increase for all employees in their budget and were never asked by the union to do so. Additionally, while there are tight limits on things related to bargaining with 2011 Act 10, Chair Zimman is essentially saying in this e-mail that the board and union cannot ever discuss anything because it could be construed as negotiations. That's flat out false. Administration and unions can meet at any time, on any topic, to meet and confer on issues.
This is precedent-setting stuff folks, at all levels.

No matter what happens in 19 days with the election, 2011 Act 10 will still be law for the foreseeable future. This lawsuit will likely drag out for a long while after this, but the case of the teachers seems very rock-solid. 2011 Act 10 does nothing to restrict what employers offer to employee units, and discussing openly giving lower raises to a group of employees if they recertify their union is long-standing prohibited practice.

Let's see where this goes and when it will finally break statewide.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Recent 3rd Party TV Ads In The Gubernatorial Race

So, in case you haven't figured this out yet, the debate last week opened the floodgates for third-party groups in trying to support either Scott Walker or Mary Burke.

A prime example? The Greater Wisconsin Committee is going HEAVY against walker and trying to extend that gender-gap with women breaking for Mary Burke:



Sure, there is still that whole federal law about equal pay, but good luck actually getting your employer to comply if you feel you've been wronged. Hence why the state law was created and put in place, and no, it's not like it was something that was ravaging businesses. The only reason it was done was to make it easier for business to turn the screws on their workers with them having fewer options of recourse. (Sounds like a familiar trend with the Governor.)

I wonder what tomorrow's Marquette University Law School Poll will tell us...

Today's Gubernatiorial Candidate TV Ad's

Jake and I have been harping on it since June 2012. Craig Gilbert and the Journal-Sentinel finally got on board over the last year.

And now today we finally see the candidates for Governor of the America's Daryland finally release TV ads that relate to farmers.

And to think we have a new Marquette University Law School poll coming out tomorrow...

The Governor today released two new ads. The first centers on Mary Burke hammering him on how jobs numbers have sucked under his tutelage and how she supposedly drove out all those high-paying manufacturing jobs. (Umm, news flash - 2008 financial collapse, off-shoring, automation, all things that have been happening for years.)



I find it funny that this is set in a relatively dark "shop" with a welder and torch that are more reminiscent of manufacturing jobs of 50 years ago as opposed to the majority of high-paying jobs that are related to automation, technology, and in shops that look considerably different than those of yesteryear.

Plus, is anyone ever going to tell the governor that manufacturing jobs of $10-15 per hour are NOT high-paying jobs. $30,000 a year is not high paying...

Then again, this is coming form someone who just today said that he doesn't believe the minimum wage serves any purpose...

His second ad though circles back as a response to the Greater Wisconsin Committee ad that debuted this weekend. It focuses on farming and rural voters and is audio only, meaning that those who are in the tractor are more likely to hear it. (Highway 21-29 Corridor voters)



Just know that when they say "family farms" they mean large mega-farms that are owned by a single family and have the muscle to force the DNR to change groundwater regulations. Oh, and don't even get me started with the recent rash of manure spills.

As for Mary Burke, well she obviously got some cash-influx, because her ad titled "red barn" is a full minute long:



It touches on many of the same themes that have been hallmarks of hers since she launched her campaign - Founding of Trek as a family business, her growing the European sales, her time as Commerce Secretary, it's all there. (Funny that she manages to point out that there were 50,000 more jobs when she was in office as opposed to right now...)

It really is a "closer" type of ad. Focusing on all the positives she brings to the table and selling herself to the voters as an alternative to Walker. The ad is probably her best yet, because it's conveying the message, don't just vote against Scott Walker, vote FOR me.

Please, please, please run this as often as possible in Green Bay, Wausau, Eau Claire, Superior, and La Crosse.

Of course, that ad wouldn't be complimented if it wouldn't also have a quick little 20-second, what looks like a "Internet" ad that repeats over and over Walker's claim from last Friday's debate that "We don't have a jobs problem" in Wisconsin:



Let's see where this goes after this Friday's debate and the Governor's comments today to the Journal-Sentinel:



He doesn't think the minimum wage serves a purpose? Wow... Out of touch with the 20th Century is more like it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

FDL Superintendent - "No Comment," Except When He Does

Oh Fond du Lac... How you sometimes just can't get a break with your school system.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Sebert was put on the defensive right away today in his monthly interview on WFDL's "Between the Lines w/Greg Stensland." To say he was perturbed would be an understatement.

To listen to the interview, CLICK HERE. 

A little background.

Former soccer coach, longtime employee, newspaper contributor, and well known community member Greg Winkler left his job with the district at the end of September to take a job coaching and teaching in Florida. A combination of factors lead to this decision, but one of the overarching reasons why he was looking at leaving as soon as he did was related to the climate of teaching right now in Fond du Lac at the high school and a feeling that soccer was being relegated to a "second tier" sport.

These issues were first brought to "public" light in an interview he did last week with Greg Stensland, which can be heard HERE. 

I've covered the issue of teacher morale several times over the last few years, mostly tied to the "Cardinal Columns" having draconian policies imposed on it for prior-review before publication. However, I've also touched on the state of teacher morale when longtime teachers got screwed in the new post-contract teacher compensation scale. Oh, and then there's that little fact that I started this blog after I wasn't afforded the opportunity to interview for not one, but two open positions at the high school for which I was already filling in long-term for. Turns out, when the new football coach was hired, every open position at the school was "up for grabs" for them to bring in offensive line, defensive line, secondary special teams coordinators, flanker specialists, and any other coaching position imaginable.


Which brings us back to Greg Winkler, and his retirement. Even though he hadn't officially met the age 55 requirement from the district for his benefit, (he was less than 9 months short) he noted that one of those football coaches who came in when I was unceremoniously not hired on, was able to negotiate his own special contract. In that contract, it gave him a benefit that long-term employees would've been unable to attain in the same manner, 8 years post-retirement health insurance. To put proof in the pudding, he even got proof of the contract the school board approved.

And it is with that background information where Mr. Stensland's interview of the Superintendent begins - with Mr. Stensland asking about Mr. Winkler's interview on the program last week and his situation in feeling (and rightfully so) disrespected by the district he served for 24 years.

I find it funny that a topic which was brought up off the air, and requested to not be talked about, was discussed anyway. (I wonder how much of a doghouse Stensland will be put in for doing that.)

The Superintendent automatically deflects the question, either not trying to accelerate the story forward or trying to cling to the illusion that things are all peaches n' cream at the high school. The real reason why the superintendent won't get into a discussion about individual employee benefits (something that is search-able via a Freedom of Information Act request) is because he knows he's in a sling. It's the same situation that happened with teachers who were mid-stream of their careers were under a pay-freeze and yet new-hire teachers (Read: Football coaches) were allowed to count years of service in other districts when signing their own teaching handbooks.

The Superintendent has been found to not be treating long-term employees with respect time and time again, but doesn't want anyone to call him out on it.

He's also likely worried that community members will start asking questions about why certain employees (football coaches) who've dedicated, at this point, only three years of service to the the school system are being given more gracious benefits that other employees (coaches) who've given almost a quarter-century and already have a proven track record of success.

Hmmm... So, is Greg Winkler right? Is football being given preferential treatment at Fondy High over other sports? Were coaches of football (and has anyone checked the new basketball coaches?) allowed to negotiate better contracts than coaches of other sports like soccer, or more specifically girls soccer? What's going on at Fondy High in their athletics department?

This reminds me of what happened this past spring when the longtime Fond du Lac Girls Basketball coach was "let go" from his coaching duties while still retaining his teaching position. Doug Follis was a very long-time and successful coach for the Fondy program. Then, seemingly randomly, he loses his coaching position? What did Sup. Sebert say about that situation?

Unfortunately the link to the audio of that month's interview is no longer available, but THIS short news-blurb on WFDL's blog sums it up: 
The longtime Fond du Lac High School girls basketball coach is out. The school district athletic director says Doug Follis is no longer the head coach, but is not giving a reason why. Follis’ departure comes about a month after Adam Zakos resigned as the Fondy High boys basketball coach. Follis was the head coach of the girls’ varsity team for 14 years.
Needless to say the audio was a short statement about it being a personnel decision and that nothing more was going to be said. I have sadly distinct memories about how curt it sounded.

My bet - Mr. Follis decided that being a long-term employee and seeing the ungodly amount of resources being poured into the football program was just too much for him to handle, so he let someone have a piece of his mind. I have no knowledge of what really happened with this situation, but at this point, little would surprise me of what long-term employees of the FDL District would do or say.

As THIS other blog-item from WFDL last April points out, the issue of discontent among employees has been an ongoing issue since last school year:
As the Fond du lac school board reviews a new teacher compensation plan some teachers are concerned about what they say are salary inequities between longtime employees and new hires. At last week’s school board meeting, special education teacher Shannon Ferguson aired her concerns. Her husband is a second grade teacher at Riverside Elementary. Ferguson says at the start of the school year there were 60 new staff hired. "To me that's a red flag, coupled with the vast amount of people who have also left the district in the two years prior to that," Ferguson told the school board. "I feel the district is at a critical time and I truly fear that more and more teachers will be leaving to seek employment with other districts." Superintendent Dr. Jim Sebert says the compensation plan is designed to treat everyone equitably and to be sustainable into the future. "To give everyone a raise from where they are at, to put them on a three year evaluation cycle and also provides a professional development stipend every three years for $1500. That, combined with the fact that it is sustainable for the Fond du Lac School District I think are the important pieces of the new compensation plan." Sebert says teachers leaving the district is not unique to Fond du lac.
Quote, "teachers leaving the district is not unique to Fond du Lac." Let's remember that...

Because, it's the EXACT same reason Sup. Sebert gives in today's interview when asked about a charge from Mr. Winkler about a large number of departures from the high school after the last three school years and teachers leaving because they don't feel they are being treated fairly by the district.

Sup. Sebert says that teacher mobility is happening "across the board" and puts much of it back on 2011 Act 10. He says that after about five years of teaching in a district, you wouldn't have the opportunity to move to another district and make the same amount of money as you were in the district you started in.

I cannot begin to tell you the utter line of BS that is being sold on people with that.

Sure, teachers after about five years had little reason to try and move from district to district, but it wasn't for the reasons being described by Dr. Sebert. Teachers often times decided that it wasn't worth trying to leave their job when everyone was on relatively equal footing across the state and salaries were not anywhere near as far out of whack as they are now when it comes to cost of living and overall compensation when factoring issues like health insurance. In fact, the primary reason for choosing to stay in a district and not "shop around" related to post-retirement insurance benefits and accumulation of things like sick-time to use as a post-retirement payout.

All that even being said, there were still PLENTY of teachers who moved districts in the "contract" era for all the same reasons that the superintendent mentioned about why we are seeing more movement now. Plus, contrary to what the superintendent says, nothing about 2011 Act 10 makes young teachers look closer to their hometowns or to get out of their first district because of better opportunities. (On the contrary, my hometown apparently wanted nothing to do with my skills...) All the reasons why teachers left rural districts before 2011 are still in place, but only are now exacerbated by suburban districts having more funding and a greater ability to offer more generous compensation packages. The same would, in theory, hold true for districts where test scores are high and ample resources are available for both teachers and students. The only place you see mass-losses of teachers are places like West Allis-West Milwaukee where discontent is extremely high and administration at some level doesn't seem to care. 

I personally think that jumping district, to district, to district, really is a short-term phenomena where the dust is still settling from having such en-mass retirements hit the system over a number of years. More and more I think that people who will leave teaching jobs aren't people moving district to district, but as the Superintendent says, are people who leave and move to other lines of work.

It's interesting how at the end of the discussion about the Fond du Lac School District's climate Sup. Sebert tries to tread lightly about teachers who aren't as motivated to continually climb the ladder and run the rat-race he seems to be championing. He also alludes to the fact that some of what people are expressing in frustration is how education has changed and how those changes have happened incredibly rapidly. There is probably some truth in that, as I know I'm not entirely thrilled with the direction we are taking with our PUBLIC education system.

However, I also know that how individual districts react to those changes affects how the staff react to those changes as well. The disrespect Mr. Winkler was referring to can be summed-up in the fact that even before the issue of post-retirement benefits came up, there were no members of the Fondy High administration at Coach Winkler's last game. Oh, and that the teachers have been divided over the last year over a randomly imposed censorship policy on a newspaper who's up for major national awards by the National Scholastic Press Association. Oh, and that teachers who were dedicated to the district were not compensated at the same rate as new hires who had equal years of experience teaching. And that there is still the unresolved issue of around $300,000 needed to be paid back to build a giant brick archway to the football field when teachers were being told they had to accept a pay freeze. Lest we forget that there is essentially a revolving door of teachers who are at this point deciding that the toxic environment that has been fostered at the high school isn't worth staying in.

We're talking here about a Division 1 school of 2,000 students and district of 7,000. Yet, the Superintendent doesn't think that high young teacher turnover and veterans leaving because they feel disrespected is a problem? I cannot possibly fathom having been a student in the conditions that exist in Fond du Lac right now. I sure hope the ship gets righted soon.

Once you bleed Fondy Cardinal red, it's impossible to not want to see you alma mater succeed. Sadly, right now it's dark days in the halls of Fondy High.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Greater Wisconsin Committee Reads The Marquette Poll and Reads Craig Gilbert Too

Look no further than recent news reports about Gov. Walker having incremental, yet important growth in the last Marquette University Law School Poll in parts of Western and Northern Wisconsin.

That's farm country.

It doesn't take illegal coordination for any third-party company to figure out that if that's where the candidate you back is coming up short, you should sink some resources in that area. So, the Greater Wisconsin Committee has just put out a new ad which touches on those down-on-the-farm bread and butter issues of Wisconsinites that are outside the rim counties and the Madison beltline:

The Money Starts Flowing

Another, "I haven't seen that ad yet but it's already a week old" scenario.

This one is from the "Right Direction Wisconsin PAC," which is really just the Republican Governor's Association, and focuses on the faux scandal of Mary Burke's "plagiarism."



What does seeing this ad tell me now? It says that the RGA is starting to really dump in money if I'm seeing it in Milwaukee.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Oh The Things You Miss Living In The Milwaukee TV Market

You miss so much living in the Milwaukee TV market.

I miss the ability to watch both Green Bay and Milwaukee TV when I lived in Fond du Lac. You get such a more vivid picture of where the spending is happening and what it actually looks like with respect to TV ads.

Two ads that I just saw tonight while watching Green Bay TV that I have not seen in the Milwaukee market are good examples.

First, is an ad that's already almost a week old from the NRA:



Can we get a check on whether or not she actually did testify across the whole state?

Then, I saw the FIRST ad of the year by the WMC Issues Mobilization Council. It's curiously late in the game for the WMC to be getting into the race, but I find it incredibly funny that I haven't seen this ad in Milwaukee:



Again, all the more reason to really remember that the echo-chamber we live in with our media is important when trying to gain perspective on how this race is playing out across Wisconsin.

Again today when driving across Milwaukee I was awe-struck by the literal sea of Mary Burke signs lining lawns in the inner-city. I also saw a bunch of my fellow-workers hitting doors today and making voter contacts.

On the road up to the Fox Valley, it was funny how I didn't see anywhere near the Scott Walker signs I did in 2012. That says nothing about how Gov. Walker will perform in that region on Nov. 4th (yard signs don't vote, only make people feel better), but it is something to keep an eye on with respect to how people are "energized."

NARAL's "Honest" TV Ad

I've been insanely busy the last few days.

I will be honest with you, a great deal of that time has been trying to recoup and relax a little after so many long days at school. (Yes, I was there for two and a half hours today)

However, you may have missed the latest TV ad that just started airing around the state by NARAL. The abortion topic was certainly one of the more interesting ones last night in the debates, and I'm sure as we keep moving on it will be more and more a topic of discussion.