Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Politifact Disdain Continues... C/O Uppity Wisconsin

Politifact is a joke once again.

Jud over at Uppity Wisconsin points it out way better than I possibly could, so I'll direct you to his posting on the matter. 

But once again, Politifact shows that it's usefulness doesn't really exist, especially when it doesn't immediately report that the newspaper carrying it printed verbatim the same information a candidate reported on the campaign trail.

This is once again, why I don't really care what Politifact says about any candidate...

Governor Walker's Ad Blitz

Today, I saw my first "Friends of Scott Walker" ad on Milwaukee TV.

In fact, there were three of them put out today by team pay-for-play Walker. They all essentially feature the same stock-footage and same message, it's just rearranged or paired down from one minute to 30 seconds:







The message each time is the same: The deficit is gone (a lie of epic proportions), jobs are back (250,000 are non-existent and by most measures we are drastically behind everyone else in job creation), taxes are lower (but being raised by local municipalities or services have been slashed to the point where nothing works as intended) and everything is doing a lot better (can I hit someone in the face?)

Alright folks, Gov. Walker's an official candidate as of today. What are we going to do?

Congressman Petri on Brats

With the retirement of Con. Petri from congress, we'll no longer get to hear barn-burner speeches like this:



In all seriousness though, all of what's happening in the EU with cheese and bratwurst names being trademarked is not cool.

James Causey's Weekend Column on Milwaukee's Schools

James Causey, community columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, on Sunday wrote about the sorry state of education for minorities in Wisconsin.

You can read his column HERE. 
When it comes to educational and financial achievement, a national study released recently ranks African-American children in Wisconsin dead last. 
The latest study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation isn't the first to highlight how children of color in Wisconsin lag behind their white counterparts. The most troubling part of the study doesn't even show in the numbers — a lack of outrage from Wisconsinites. 
"I don't know why people are so quiet," said former Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Howard Fuller. "I didn't need a study to tell me how bad things are for black children because I see it every day. Everyone would see it if they just opened their eyes." 
Howard Fuller hasn't been the Superintendent of Milwaukee's Public Schools since 1995, and yet he is still held up as one of the preeminent education experts in Milwaukee. (In 1995 I was in third grade, moving into fourth and we were still in the first term of the Clinton administration. THINK ABOUT THAT!)

Yes, he has a long history and experience in this city with education, and yes, he is operating a school in town right now, but mention the name Howard Fuller to many of the younger people working within MPS and they have absolutely no idea who the man is. When they hear he was a proponent of vouchers and "choice" you see a lot of people place the blame on him about why our current state of educational opportunities in Milwaukee is such a hodgepodge cluster of...

It's not that he deserves the blame, it's just where it gets placed. What I would be interested in reading is a short biography of his from a non-biased source that isn't based in the Milwaukee educational community. The feelings are still very strong on him from all sides.
This isn't the first time Fuller has questioned the lack of outrage over poor student outcomes. In 2010, when a study ranked black fourth-graders' reading scores in Wisconsin the lowest in the nation, he questioned the will of adults to change things. 
"It's an outrage. And the thing that angers me more is that there is no widespread outrage. We get these statistics, and people mutter the normal this and that, but then everyone goes back to whatever they were doing," Fuller told me in a 2010 interview.
Four years later, not much has changed.
I wholly agree with this statement. There should be outrage. There should be outrage on all levels that this is happening, and there should be consensus on the understanding about WHY it's happening and what needs to happen to correct the problem within the context of ensuring equal access and education to everyone. (Notice that last little caveat that people who advocate "choice" don't like to mention...)
MPS is undergoing a major transition. Superintendent Gregory Thornton is leaving to become the chief executive of the Baltimore City Public Schools system, and the Milwaukee School Board needs to choose a leader who is not afraid to make bold changes — even if those changes are unpopular with the board. 
Here's the problem with that... The board is the representative of the City and it's residents. If anything, shouldn't the board craft the policies and have the Superintendent execute them? I'm not saying that the Superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools should have no power, but really, it's the Executive Branch that carries out the laws (or code) passed by the legislative.

In my short time being in Milwaukee, I haven't seen the school board be this huge obstacle to change. I've seen people constantly throwing them under the bus because they just don't go along with the Superintendent, even though there were several people who felt his course was the wrong one for students. But hey, why would we want to let people speak out without fear of their jobs?
Here's one: the old-fashioned farm calendar that allows kids to be off school for three months over the summer. It is failing our kids. If education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, then more time in school is something this city should embrace.
Whoever heads the state's largest public school district also must work to build bridges with the business community, parents and students. 
Slight problem I have with this statement... KIDS AREN'T OUT THREE MONTHS! We end in MPS two weeks into June. It's really only 10 weeks that students are gone, and even then it's not that long sometimes.

Second, it takes so long to have students "come back" to school as it is in the fall. I'm not saying Mr. Causey doesn't understand this, as I'm sure he does, but far too many other people don't realize how many of our students in MPS live down south during the summer months. They visit their families, they work, they do any number of things that make extending the school year in it's traditional sense extremely challenging. It's something I had absolutely no clue about until I came to teach in MPS.

Third, I don't like the idea of a longer school year for my own kids (when that time comes). They need time to learn on their own, they need time for me to take them on trips and not miss education in school, they need time to go to camp, and do all the things that kids do without fear of losing out on things in school.

Now, this isn't to say that I think what we currently do is working. I think it's insane that there aren't more summer educational opportunities for students within MPS. (We can't fund things adequately during the regular year right now, so how do we do something in the summer?!) But really, why don't students have the opportunity to retake classes during the summer when they are in high school no matter their age, grade, etc? Why aren't there enrichment programs where students who don't go to Bradley Tech get the chance to learn about shop classes?

These things I wonder.

Oh, and don't forget, that with summer education comes summer weather. If you think learning is easy in a room that's 100 degrees because it has no air conditioning and was built during the cold war, go right ahead. But don't for a second think that putting teenagers in a hot room during the summer won't stir their emotions and cause issues...
Education must be revamped top to bottom. Teachers need to learn more effective ways to teach reading; students need to come to school prepared every day, and that means addressing the issues of trauma that some kids endure on a daily basis. There also needs to be a larger investment in early childhood education. 
Teachers right now on the state level are learning how to teach reading more effectively. I see my girlfriend going though her books all the time learning about the new reading assessment that prospective teachers have to take. As a high school educator who graduated four years ago, I didn't have to take it, but now I would've had to.

She is far, far, far, far better prepared to teach reading than I was. In fact, as a high school teacher, I wasn't really prepared for it.

However, I cannot underscore the idea of students needing to come to school prepared every day, and how difficult that makes my job. No pencil, no notebook, no, nothing, and I have to provide it all to the student. Every day. EVERY DAY. Yes, this is what happens. I go through boxes of pencils (at my own cost) to give my students the tools they need to be successful in my room. I've resorted to buying golf pencils to save money. Sure, kids forget things some days. I do too, but that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about consistently coming unprepared to learn.

If someone has a good idea about how to change the culture of not coming to school prepared, let me know. Just simply not admitting them to class until they get a pencil does nothing for the student's education. Suspending them is wholly the wrong answer. We take all students as they come to us. That's what makes the public schools TRULY public...

But it would be a lie to not say it drives me bonkers and my students unpreparedness hampers my ability to plan innovative lessons. You lose a lot of time having to hand out pencils and paper.
The study "Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children" says that these issues must be addressed now because minorities will represent a majority of the nation's children by 2018 and a majority of our workforce in the future. 
The study used a number of measures to determine how states were ranked. These included: babies born too early; children enrolled in early childhood education; fourth-grade reading scores; teen pregnancy; students graduating from high school on time; children growing up in two-parent households; and children living in poverty. 
Wisconsin ranked 50th for black children, 37th for Asian, 17th for Latino and 11th for whites. 
That. Is. Pathetic.
There is no denying the role poverty plays on a child's educational outcomes, and the Casey report found that 70% of Wisconsin's white children live in households with incomes above $47,700 a year for a family of four, while only 20% of black children have that level of economic security. 
Once again, I can only imagine what an influx of middle income jobs to Milwaukee would do to the outcomes of our students educations. Then again, I also wonder what would happen if there would be a way for people to get to jobs beyond County Line Road and 124th Street...
But this doesn't mean that we simply throw up our hands at poverty and continue to point fingers at parents. The only way we can end poverty is by ensuring that every child has the same opportunity to succeed. That means giving teachers, school leaders and parents the tools they need to succeed at educating children. 
I don't like the mantra of "blaming parents" when talking about how students come to the schoolhouse unprepared to learn. However, I have a lot of internal strife when "in the heat of the battle" and students continually coming to my room almost demeaning that I provide them things that they are expected to have. I know my job is to empower my students to explore and to build their internal capacity for knowledge, but when it's 10th period, you have students who say they haven't had a pencil all day, don't come with something as simple as a notebook, and haven't gone and checked-out their textbook all semester, which requires lots of wasteful photocopying, it gets to you.

If people want to give me the tools I need to succeed at educating children, I need a way to enforce rules, procedures, and expectations that doesn't include suspension and expulsion. I have so many students who've come to my school because they were kicked out of a private, voucher, or other school because they just didn't follow basic directions it's sickening. They aren't bad kids. They aren't "stupid." They just acted like teenagers and pushed their teachers buttons by not bringing notebooks. They do it to me too, but I have to make due because we aren't allowed to just kick students out for not having a pencil.

But really, if we kick students out of school for not having a pencil, what are we teaching them? It frustrates the hell out of me they don't have it, but I'll gladly give them what I can provide from my own pocket to avoid them walking the streets. If I don't give the kid a pencil, someone could very well give them a gun. This is the world I work in...
If the parents can't read, we need to teach them how to read as well. More than 50,000 adults in the Milwaukee area cannot read above a second-grade level. Many of these adults have children, whom they can't help with basic homework. 
Something that people who talk about education, and how "it's not that hard, just give the kid homework to do at home" don't understand.
While some of the largest gaps exist in reading scores, the same gap exists in math, with white children six times more likely to be proficient in eighth-grade math than black students, according to the study. Both issues can be addressed with more time in both subjects. 
Maybe, but I don't want to marginalize the other subjects. I teach social studies, and it does aggravate me that the first time many of my students have a true "history" class is freshman year of high school. That's not to say we shouldn't be teaching reading and strategies for understanding reading in history or social studies work in elementary school, but I hope that they have a dedicated time that is labeled "history" or "science" and not just simply having it infused along the way with absolutely no scope or sequence to what students are getting. Especially when they are in upper elementary and middle school.

I have vivid memories of social studies in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade right to this very moment. I absolutely loved it. I would've quickly learned to hate school if I didn't have that in my day, and I know that other kids feel the same way about other subjects. I don't want to deprive them of that too.
Fuller said teaching educators better ways to teach reading benefits both the student and the teacher. He cited his Summer Reading Project, which started five years ago, as a small example of what can work when more time is spent on a subject. 
The attitude displayed by Mr. Fuller in the previous section shows why teachers don't have the highest regard for him anymore. It always sounds like he's hawking a product...
The only problem is that the reading project is on a small scale. It's time to take a hard look at successful programs and bring them to a larger scale. Too many children are slipping though the cracks, and not enough adults seem to care. 
I don't need to see any more studies ranking black and brown children near the bottom. The question is: Do we care enough to get them to the top?
I sure hope we do.

The problem is that right now in Milwaukee the major players in this city are divided. You have special education groups that are sponsored by the Association of Commerce trying to train people to run for office to explicitly on the belief of school vouchers and drawing resources away from the public schools. When the business community essentially says, "we don't care about educating all children," what does that say about caring enough?

I've never once met a parent who doesn't care to high hell about their child having the best education possible. But when we have parents and grandparents who've come through with only an 8th grade education or less, how do we convince them to support (X), (Y), or (Z) measure and that it's not for profit or exploitation of their child? Buy-in from parents and those who live in the community is hard as well, considering those education groups have done a damn fine job selling their product.

Then again, there is the government angle as well. Some will say this all falls at the MPS School Board of Directors and their (perceived) incompetence. You have nut-jobs like THIS constantly at their throats and not allowing them to do their jobs as well. Once again, we go back to the notion that somehow the legislative branch isn't allowed to set policy and have the executive branch carry it out with fidelity.

I don't know what the answer is. I'll have another posting later this week (hopefully) about what I saw in Cincinnati and their Community Schools model of education and how it could work in Milwaukee. But what I do know is that every day I walk into my school, excited about what we can accomplish, excited to see my students, and knowing that I'm doing what I can. It may not be perfect, it may not be what everyone else would do, but it's the best I can do.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Confirmation Before Publication - Cardinal Columns Saga

Since their February issue created such a firestorm, the Fond du Lac High School Print Journalism class hasn't been able to publish the follow-up issue of "Cardinal Columns."

That is, until possibly this week...

Over at the "First Draft" blog, someone is also writing on this issue of how the Fond du Lac School District is screwing with the newspaper's journalistic freedom. I don't know who's writing there, but they have some damn good intel.

Their latest post from Friday is HERE, and being reprinted in full with some of my own commentary:
It’s been about a month since media outlets from coast to coast started eviscerating the Fond du Lac school system for its treatment of the student press at the high school. Tanvi Kumar’s piece on “The Rape Joke” highlighted the way in which students in her school treat the concept of sexual assault like a running joke. It is a great read that demonstrated what students can do if given the chance to take charge of their own First Amendment rights. 
The administration has been playing “Armadillo Defense” to this point, hunkering down, taking the beating and hoping eventually people will tire of this. In some ways, they probably are right. Journalists are taught to chase the story. When the story is no longer running, they find something else to chase. The story arc for this one piece has pretty much ended.
And that's a sad commentary on what's happened. The story was still very much alive in the halls of Fondy High, but most other people on the outside have stopped calling for Superintendent Jim Sebert and Principal Jon Wiltzius to make some major changes to their operation. I wonder however if that will flare up again though:
That said, it’s about to gear up again, because the Cardinal Columns publication hit the principal’s desk this week. According to several sources, it’s about 40 pages and “really deep.” I’m assuming that means very few stories the administration would view as “good news” and more of what we would call “reality.”
I also have sources that say the stories in this issue are about the reality of what's going on with the student body of Fond du Lac High School. I have had a few topics leaked to me, but to honor the students, I will hold off publishing them on this space. Needless to say, seeing one of them, I can only wonder what Mr. Wiltzius' red pen will do to it with redactions.
Principal Jon Wiltzius is in an untenable position right now. Based on what I’ve heard, I get the sense that his boss (James Sebert) was the one who decided this censorship approach was a good idea. That said, Sebert put Wiltzius in place as the censor, which forces him to go against the wishes of his own faculty, many of whom signed a petition asking the school board to rescind the rules on prior review and prior restraint.
Everyone I've talked to as well has also confirmed that the idea of censorship came from Sup. Sebert and not Mr. Wiltzius. Smart politics by the Superintendent... (Incase you haven't figured out, everything comes down to politics.)
If Wiltzius lets the issue go untouched, he pisses off his boss. 
If Wiltzius changes things in the issue, he pisses off almost everyone else.
The ultimate question? Will Mr. Wiltzius actually grow a backbone? Or, is he too far marginalized that any attempt at asserting authority will look childish and he is then buried by Sebert with a principal reassignment this fall? (There is at least one elementary school looking for a principal...)

Better yet, does Sup. Sebert do nothing because he knows Wiltzius will be his pawn and keeps him on as a punching bag?
Still, the issue is sitting on his desk and no one knows what will happen next. The school board will next meet on Monday, but there is no sense this will be resolved at this meeting. The best guess is that they might discuss this in June after the school year ends (Part II of the “Armadillo Defense” is wait until no one is looking before trying to do something half-assed).
Half-assed? This is Fond du Lac people... We don't have time for half-assed! Ass-backwards is the only way to accomplish things!
In the mean time, for a school district that didn’t want a story on the realities of rape floating around the school, things are about to get really real.
It's that last comment which really makes me wonder who the person is writing on this blog. They clearly have some great insight on what's happening and know who the players are in this saga. (My bet? Former teacher, as there are many who've left the district in the last few years...)

As for Principal Wiltzius, he was on KFIZ this past week. You can listen to the interview HERE.  (The audio is a little sketchy, but it's still clearly audible.)

As with every KFIZ interview, it's not exactly the most "hard-hitting" with focuses on things like spring break, prom, and graduation times. You'd think that there would be something on the newspaper, but nope...

I guess it only reaffirms the ADHD mentality we have. However, one bit of foreshadowing. Pay attention to the discussion of working on a presentation about drinking in high school and saying that the students asked for it. Hmm, wonder what the paper has on why that happened...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Conservative Purge - My Analysis of Sen. Ellis's Retirement

In case you haven't notice, I took a break from blogging.

Damn right, it felt good.

But, after being in Cincinnati Tuesday-Friday and visiting family in Appleton over the weekend, there was only so much time I had to write, collect my thoughts, and just plain old keep up with the news.

Needless to say, there's been a lot to catch up on.

Last June I wondered about Sen. Ellis' future in the Wisconsin State Senate. You can read it HERE, and really should because I'm scared at how accurate it was in some respects.  
Sen. Ellis' hold over the state budget has been infuriating, especially to those in his own party who want to steam roll through now that they have the majority. He's way more of a "check" on the political power of the crazies than liberals/Progressives want to give him credit for, and probably more responsible for moderating the crazy positions that could have been taken than Sen. Schultz simply because of his place as President. (Ever notice how much Ellis' name gets mentioned with vouchers, yet he has absolutely no place on Joint Finance?)
I made note in a hastily written post while still in Cincinnati on State Sen. President Mike Ellis' political kerfuffle of being filmed while talking about illegal political fundraising activities. I certainly didn't see it ending the way it did. It's sad that the matter would prove to the be the straw that broke the camel's back, and force him on Friday to retire his post. His statement can be found HERE: 
Instead of being criticized form our opponents, independent thought is being attacked from our own backyard. Like my dear friends, Tim Cullen, Bob Jauch, and Dale Schultz, I see that compromise is not valued in today's Capitol environment, and that means I don't fit anymore. Special interests hold too much sway, instead of the voice of the people. I'm a senator from a different era, and I value my integrity too much to compromise it any more.
Yes, Mike Ellis is a Republican, and yes, he did MANY cringe-worthy things over the last four years that I've been intently watching Wisconsin politics. But, as crotchety, cranky, and dated he seemed, he still had a quality about him that I liked. He wasn't a blind partisan, he was a practical legislator who believed in the Wisconsin government idea that the best ideas are born out of discussions with people from Wisconsin. Jake at the Economic TA Funhouse summarized it best in a post where he notes that the voucher lobby is who pushed Mr. Ellis out:
Of course, a lot of us wish Ellis hadn't spent the last 3 years compromising his integrity on a whole lot of the Walker agenda (for example, Ellis gave the "Wisconsin 14" some extra time to leave the State Senate in 2011 before informing others, knowing that Act 10 would be as divisive and wrong as it was. But he ended up voting for it anyway). But let's see if the old guy grows a pair over the last 7 months and reveals where the bodies are buried.
It was THIS large post-mortem in the Journal-Sentinel that revealed much of what Sen. Ellis did  in trying to hold back Gov. Walker and gave insight to what he really thought about 2011 Act 10:
In early February, Walker met with Senate President Mike Ellis, an independent and cantankerous Republican, fiscal hawk and son of a paper mill worker-union leader from Neenah. 
Ellis wasn't shy. He implored Walker to drop the collective-bargaining piece of the bill before it went public and undermined Walker's early legislative successes.At that point, according to Ellis, the plan on the table would have ended all collective bargaining except for firefighters, police and troopers - a broader plan than Walker ultimately introduced. 
"My God, this is going to cause a firestorm," Ellis told Walker.
Sen. Ellis' work at getting Sen. Tim Cullen out of the Capitol was further documented in JS reporter's Jason Stein and Patrick Marley's books - More Than They Bargained For." During my time living in Madison during the spring and summer of 2011, I witnessed many votes that the Senator took where he hesitated and vocally noted his displeasure with taking the vote he did. It was clear in his voice, in his tone, that he didn't agree with or believe in what he was doing.

No legislator should have to feel that pressure from groups who aren't even part of their state.

Yet, he voted in the majority anyway. It was his record in taking votes that he didn't really believe were right which made me conclude right away that his desire to remain in the Senate wasn't so much rooted in his ability to affect positive change, but to hold off the absolute #batshitcrazy.

Jake continues:
With over 20% of the State Assembly not running for re-election in 2014 and at least 5 of the 17 State Senators doing the same (assuming Joe Leibham jumps into the now-open 6th-district Congressional seat), there's definitely something going on behind the scenes at the Capitol that a lot of people don't want to be part of.
I sure hope we get some bodies to turn up. Based on his comments about Gov. Walker in the video that turned out to be his undoing, it wouldn't surprise me if there were some important points dripped out of his office to the appropriate mouthpieces. (Feel free to e-mail me!)

Sen. Ellis in the last four years took a lot of votes he had no belief in, and as much as I wish his political capital was strong enough to have held his ground more, I appreciate all of the hard background work he did do. Much of it is only speculative because we honestly don't know he did it, but can only assume. He did, after all, still need to raise money to remain in office and not be "Dale Schultzed" by conservative purists.

Sen. Ellis in a former life was a math teacher. That is a vital and important point to remember when reading about why he analyzed the state budget on chalkboards and whiteboards in his office. It's also important to remember when discussing issues related to education, and how he stemmed the tied for most of this past session on many of the most insane pieces of legislation that were proposed. (SB 286's un-introduced amendment, AB 549, just to name a few.)

WAYYYY back in November of 2012, Sen. Ellis made note that he had absolutely no desire to see voucher expansion in the state budget for 2013-15. His speaking out on it was the first indication that it would even be included in the debate, and lo-and-behold, there it was. Remember when the original proposal was to do a major expansion to cities who had a laughably small number of schools that were not succeeding according to the State Report Card? Sen. Ellis was a vocal critic in those discussions as well, having it changed to the current statewide system.

While I wholly disapprove of vouchers in general, and do think that the statewide system we have now in some respects is even worse, he advocated the expansion in such a way that the damage of funding was spread out instead of concentrated in certain school districts. Despite his comments on Green Bay's school system, and an always apparent desire to poke at Green Bay's Mayor on the matter, he realized that voucher expansion would further bleed those systems of resources. (See Milwaukee as a prime example.)

Sen. Ellis also was a loud voice on the need to expand the per-pupil funding for schools during the past biennium. After horrific cuts in 2011's ulcer-inducing session, and talk that there could be a freeze in place, he championed the fact that funding needed to up, and suggested $200 per-pupil:
Until today we have had Sen. Luther Olsen and Sen. Mike Ellis on the record as advocating for a $150 increase in the 2013-15 Biennium Budget, but that changed with tweets from the AP's Scott Bauer:
He also famously has bucked something that Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said is "teed-up" for next session - Special Education vouchers. Sen. Ellis has absolutely no need for them.

One of the best things I've ever seen on Wisconsin Eye was the subject of THIS blog post, and it was a conversation with Sen. Ellis on the biennium budget:
Sen. Ellis take the first 1/3 of the conversation to talk about the state budget, and how it breaks down on things like the Transportation Fund and bonding over the long term. While there are times that I can honestly say I disagree with the man, he has his facts straight, and it's more of an argument over choices than a complete operation on a different plane of reality than can sometimes be said for other State Legislators. 
The middle part of the conversation focuses on the school choice question, and how he and State Sen. Luther Olsen feel it should be changed. He emphatically says he does not agree with Special Education Vouchers, but says that he supported then, and still supports now the Milwaukee Choice Program. That being said, he feels very strongly that the way the voucher system has been proposed in this budget is completely insane, and that it should be stripped out of the budget PERIOD. 
The final part of the conversation featured the Senator at a blackboard, and walked the audience through the education funding for the Biennium Budget. It breaks down the numbers so people can easily see where the money comes from, and where it goes, and why it comes/goes where it came/went. There's a lot of talk that can happen around the edges with the conversation, and I'm sure Progressives would love to make a few tweaks to what was presented, but overall it was a great presentation about why there needs to be an increase to funding for public education in the budget. 
Want to know why it was a conservative outfit that targeted Sen. Ellis with the hidden-video footage? There you go...

Sure, Sen. Ellis had his times where you wanted to get up and scream. His absolutely cringeworthy "Sit DOWN!" moment is right up there:



Even though he was right with the rules, his procedure was wholly inappropriate. You might want to re-watch Rachel Maddow's breakdown of SB 206:



But what I keep coming back to was something I wrote back in December of 2012. It was when I was still greener than I am now about politics, the rules, procedures, protocol, and agreements that govern Wisconsin's state government, but it was something that caught my eye which was written by Sen. Ellis. My post is located HERE and titled: "State Sen. Mike Ellis, I Hope We Can Trust You":
State Senator Mike Ellis is not a Neo-Stalwart, he is a Republican. He ultimately went along with Act 10, and other parts of the Neo-Stalwart legislative agenda despite being visibly torn in casting his vote.
Today in the Appleton Post-Crescent, Sen. Ellis wrote a commentary about what he knows and his vision of the Republican agenda moving forward into 2013. You can read the article here:  http://www.postcrescent.com/article/20121209/APC06/312090072/Sen-Michael-Ellis-column-Senate-Republicans-won-t-distracted?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s&nclick_check=1  
(Remember, you only get a limited number of views per month) I hope I can believe his article and that the Senate President isn't being hung out to dry by his Majority Leader, Assembly Speaker, and Governor. Sen. Ellis' calls for jobs legislation and avoiding distractions, which echoes comments he made just last month to WBAY-2 about how he doesn't like sneaking things into the state budget or all the talk of ideologically divisive issues: 
Recently, a number of Republican legislators have called for things such as elimination of same-day voter registration, changes to the Government Accountability Board, private-school vouchers, changes to abortion laws and other issues.
It’s important that Wisconsin citizens understand that those opinions belong to the individuals voicing them, but they are not the Republican Senate’s official position. 
I like to think I can trust and believe Senator Ellis. However, I have to remain skeptical, especially with the lengthy history his caucus has of just randomly introducing things into legislation that have no earthly reason being there. I can only wish that his caucus would take up his advice and follow his years of experience being in state government. Sadly, I just don't think that is going to happen.
It didn't...

The whole column Sen. Ellis penned is worth reading in light of his retirement, and can be viewed HERE:
As the state Legislature prepares to convene the 2013-14 session in January, the most important issues facing Wisconsin are job creation, improving our economy and sustaining the economic viability of our middle class. Those are the issues that unite the Senate Republican caucus. 
Recently, a number of Republican legislators have called for things such as elimination of same-day voter registration, changes to the Government Accountability Board, private-school vouchers, changes to abortion laws and other issues. 
It's important that Wisconsin citizens understand that those opinions belong to the individuals voicing them, but they are not the Republican Senate's official position.
Since the election, we haven't met as a group and discussed these other issues, and therefore we don't have a caucus position on any of them. We have discussed, and we all agree, that our top priority is the economy and enhancing the buying power of the middle class through tax cuts where possible. A strong and growing middle class is the engine that drives a healthy economy and creates jobs. 
Some legislators think it's vitally important that we eliminate same-day voter registration. Others think that photo identification addresses their concerns and goes a long way toward protecting the integrity of elections in Wisconsin. Both sides deserve to have their views discussed and debated among their colleagues. 
But however that issue is decided, it will not result in a single new job in Wisconsin. It does nothing to sustain and enhance our middle class. 
It's the same with regard to proposals to reconstitute the membership of the Government Accountability Board. The GAB was created just five years ago. With any new agency, there are bound to be problems and concerns that hadn't been anticipated in its creation. This is especially true with the GAB in light of the wave of recalls and issues related to those recalls that is simply unprecedented in our history. 
I and other colleagues believe many of the concerns that have been raised can be addressed legislatively, but without the need to completely overhaul the makeup of the board. Both sides have a right to their opinion, but neither side speaks for the Senate Republicans. 
The same can be said about any other issue or proposal considered by any Republican senator. Whether it's abortion law, expansion of voucher schools, immigration law or anything else, unless it has a direct effect in improving our economy, sustaining the middle class and creating jobs, it isn't an official position of the Senate Republican caucus. 
Reasonable people can have different ideas on how to address these problems and everyone has a right to express their opinions publicly, but it's incorrect to assume that because one Republican senator makes a statement on a topic he or she is speaking for the entire Republican caucus. 
As Republicans, we share a number of values and we can readily agree on the general direction when approaching an issue before us. Generalities, however, do not constitute a specific agenda. 
Today, our agenda, our primary focus, is the economy. On that, we all speak with one voice.
Upon reading this, how can anyone think that the conservative, dark-money, political opportunist national forces would ever let Sen. Ellis continue in his role as Senate President?

Which brings me back to that video which caught him talking about fundraising illegally. Was what he was discussing illegal? Absolutely. But the motive behind his fundraising mechanism wasn't so much just to attack Rep. Bernard-Schaber in her attempt at challenging the seat, but to run his campaign devoid of big money national organizations. Sen. Ellis's positions, as documented above, meant that he would receive no help from Americans for Prosperity, the American Federation for Children, or any of the other national groups that have become entrenched in Wisconsin during the Walker years.

His desire to raise campaign money locally, while in an illegal manner, was in some strange way noble. He wanted to win, and yes, he wanted to attack his opponent negatively, but he wanted to do it without being beholden to national groups. And that was ultimately his downfall. The fact that Sen. Ellis had to speak about (supposedly hypothetically) setting up an illegal PAC to avoid the national money donors who have absolutely no connection to Wisconsin. 

A sad, sad commentary on the influence of money in politics...

So, who replaces the old lion of the Senate on the Republican side of the isle?

On this weekend's "Up Front w/Mike Gousha," conservative radio commentator Jerry Bader gave his own take on the matter. It can be viewed HERE.

Back in a previous posting I offered up my own thoughts, with a little help from Jack Craver of the Cap Times:
Then of course, there are the, "yikes!" possibilities. Former Assembly Rep. Michelle Litjens is one of them. She of course left the Assembly in 2012 after one term to spend time with her family following a divorce, but she has kept up a profile since then appearing on Chuckles Syko's Sunday morning TV show. I'm not sure if she still lives in the area, (there have been a flurry of rumors I've heard as of late), but if she is she could run and have nothing to lose. That's the scariest kind of candidate in my opinion. 
Rep. Litjens' replacement in the 56th has been pretty quiet so far, Rep. Dave Murphy. But, don't doubt his conservative credentials. Example one: 
— Dave Murphy (@davemurphy56) February 12, 2013
A small business owner from the Appleton suburb of Greenville, he's got a lot going for him that the current crop of conservatives love.

Rep. Murphy was featured as a possibility in THIS WBAY-TV story as well.
"This week has been a whirlwind, let's face it," Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville) said to the crowd in Appleton. 
Murphy said he's been contacted by both Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Saturday Murphy said he'll decided next week whether to run for Ellis' senate seat. 
"I think it's extremely critical that we hang onto this seat," Murphy said in an interview. "Sometimes people talk about clearing the field for a candidate. I never believed that. I believe that good candidates come through tough primaries a lot of times." 
Former state representatives Steve Wieckert and Roger Roth from Appleton have said they're considering a bid, too. 
"Oh my gosh is it tempting, let me tell you," Wieckert said Saturday, adding it may not be the right time for his family and his business.
The Journal-Sentinel article written Friday on Sen. Ellis' also offers former Rep. Steve Wiecker and Roger Roth as names being considered:
Roth, an Appleton businessman, served two terms in the Assembly before running unsuccessfully for Congress. He said in a statement he would consider running for Ellis' seat. 
Another former GOP representative, Steve Wieckert of Appleton, said he was still absorbing Ellis' surprise announcement and would weigh a run.
But as of tonight the only candidate still in the race is Rep. Bernard-Schaber. Hey Democrats, don't look now, but if you pick off this, the 17th, and only one more seat, you can take control of the State Senate. Today's Wisconsin State Journal puts an unnecessarily sour note on it, but their analysis is true:
Instead, Democrats are focused on six Republican-held seats. One of those is the open seat held by retiring Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, which leans Democratic. However, Rep. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, has been campaigning for the seat for months and has built a sizable war chest.
Even if Democrats can win the Schultz and Ellis seats, if they lose the Lehman seat they would have to pick up one of four other seats held by Leibham, Terry Moulton, Frank Lasee and Jerry Petrowski.
Sen. Lassee's seat could be vulnerable, so look for someone to possibly challenge for that seat. Either way, it's time to get on the Democratic horse and start pointing out how the loss of Sen. Ellis is an even further march towards Neo-Stalwart, #batshitcrazy, conservative control in Wisconsin.

Let's go people. Time to get your walking shoes on and start knocking on doors.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wisconsin Political News Round-Up

I leave Wisconsin for one day...

And wow, what a day was yesterday apparently! I don't have access to free Wi-Fi in my hotel, and believe me, it was a chalk full day of activities yesterday. I can't remember the last time I fell asleep at 8:30...

But back to Wisconsin (for the news at least.)

Rep. Don Pridemore's announcement of retirement sent some shock through those of us who follow politics that are on the trip. Can't say we saw that coming, especially after he just ran against Tony Evers for the Superintendent of Public Instruction position. The joke that people (okay, myself) were circulating was that he retired so he could have a spot on the UW Board of Regents.

Isn't it amazing I don't have nightmares at night?

And following-up on some other posts I've made about Assembly Speaker Robin (Boss) Vos's wishing his colleagues fairly-wells, his statement on Rep. Pridemore's retirement is located HERE. (Yes, it is longer than the one for Rep. Kestell too...)

But that's only the beginning of the political news. The real stuff hit the fan yesterday afternoon with State Sen. Mike Ellis' comments on SuperPAC funding coming from a conservative sleazebag who recorded the Senator at Inn on the Park making comments about his campaign.

Project Veritas put the video, which includes psudeo-news style reporting, on their website with the following opening: 
Project Veritas has uncovered some troubling information with regards to dishonesty and possible corruption in Wisconsin. Our main goal is to provide transparency, inform you of the facts and then let you decide. 
Wisconsin State Senate President Mike Ellis has been a staunch advocate against outside money from special interests and SuperPACs, conducting several interviews with various media outlets on the very topic. But behind closed doors, he sings to a different tune. 
You’ll be shocked at Senator Ellis’s dishonesty, the comments he makes about fellow Republican, Wisconsin Governor and possible Republican Presidential candidate Scott Walker and the potential criminal acts he conspires to commit by violating Wisconsin’s election laws by planning to coordinate with SuperPACs. 
That and much more is all caught on this bombshell undercover video. Is Wisconsin State Senator Mike Ellis corrupt and dishonest? Take a look and the video and you be the judge.
The video itself is posted on YouTube:



As much as I disdain James O'Keefe, he did give the Penny Bernard-Schaber campaign a gift.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: 
Madison — Secret recordings released Wednesday by a nationally known conservative group revealed state Senate President Mike Ellis discussing setting up an illegal political action committee to attack his Democratic opponent. 
Ellis, a Neenah Republican facing his first challenger in 16 years, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel acknowledged he made the comments about two weeks ago at a hotel bar across the street from the Capitol. He said he had learned the next day his proposal was illegal and did not pursue it.
While I may dislike Sen. Ellis' politics (mostly), and have a wholly negative view on how he shutdown debate last year when discussing yet another round of abortion restrictions in Wisconsin, I love that he speaks his mind and doesn't want to play in the petty political crap that people like the Americans for Prosperity want.

However, it looks like that is his undoing here.
"Ellis has been pretty vocal on this issue (of campaign finance reform), and the hypocrisy was pretty out in the open," said conservative activist James O'Keefe, head of Project Veritas, which made the recording. "He was talking in a bar, and it was something that was easy to catch."
When you watch the video, it's clear that Mr. O'Keefe's position isn't that Sen. Ellis is just potentially breaking the law, but that he was a champion of those laws and isn't living up to them because he won't be a good conservative foot solider and just get money from the national groups that want to pour it in.
In the video, Ellis discussed having his fundraiser, Judi Rhodes Engels, help run the supposedly independent group. But in the interview, Ellis said he had never spoken to her about the matter. 
Rhodes Engels also said she had never discussed the idea with Ellis — and quit working for his campaign just hours after the recording of Ellis' barroom comments was posted online.
Ellis' opponents pounced on the recording, calling it hypocritical for a longtime champion of campaign finance reform to talk brazenly of setting up such an operation. They said it was implausible Ellis wouldn't have known such a move would be illegal given how long he has worked on campaign finance legislation. 
"I think Ellis is being a little bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," said Mike Maistelman, a lawyer who advises Democrats on campaign finance law
I have to agree. Seriously, how do you not know what you're doing is illegal, and if you were going to try and set up an underhanded PAC to not be easily seen as attacking your opponent (which I'm sure happens all the time), why would you do it in a public place?!
In an interview Wednesday, O'Keefe declined to say why his group has focused on Ellis, saying it has called out politicians from around the country for their hypocrisy. O'Keefe declined to say whether Project Veritas was involved in secretly recording the veteran Republican lawmaker in 2012 when he was caught at the same bar calling a Green Bay high school a "sewer."
I have a disdain for those comments...
Some conservatives have called for a primary challenge to Ellis, who has been at odds with other Republican leaders on issues such as expanding voucher schools.
Okay, NOW we're cooking with gas.

See, here's the problem, as much as Republicans like to get all "primary happy" and pure with doing things like giving votes of "no-confidence" to elected officials who have common sense with education policy, it's not a smart move in the Fox Valley.

When you think "mill-town" and "working class communities" you generally think in terms of being Democratic voting areas. Sadly, the Fox Valley historically hasn't fit that mold. Yes, this goes all the way back to the La Follette's time as Governor, so it's not exactly a new phenomena. But, the Republican officials who've represented the area are those who've generally been moderates. They aren't tea-partiers. Look at Rep. Dean Kaufert, who is now going to become Mayor of Neenah and how he didn't vote for 2011 Act 10. 

There's a reason why Rep. Bernard-Schaber still won her Appleton district in the 2010 election. While the area may go Republican, it's not a conservative bastion. 

There's still plenty more to the Journal-Sentinel article that is referenced above, but I'm short on time here this morning.

Hey folks, we NEED TO WIN THE SENATE! We need to get the challenger to Howard Marklein out there and have his name plastered across the media in southwest Wisconsin in the 17th Senate District. We need to get people knocking on doors in the Fox Valley talking about how awesome Rep. Bernard-Schaber was in the Assembly and how she's exactly what we need in the State Senate. (She was the first true politician I ever got to just sit and talk with. She's so real. She's just a normal woman who wanted to run)

So, let's not pity-parade ourselves. Let's get some damn work done!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cincinnati Sabbatical-ish

One thing I've covered quite extensively on the Soapbox is the recent push on "school accountability" and trying to raise the achievement of our low performing schools in Wisconsin.

It's never been my intention to make this blog be exclusively based around education matters, but much of it focuses on my own experiences working within the Milwaukee Public Schools at an inner-city high school that ranks statistically as one of the worst in Wisconsin. One of the reasons I continue to write, and often focus on education, is because so often the perceptions of teachers and what our trials and tribulations are in the inner-city are completely misunderstood. And sadly, it happens to be those tasked with creating policy that governs us who seem to understand the least.

Last week there was THIS posting I made referencing a newspaper article on different options that MPS could consider in turning it's persistently low performing schools around. I'm not sure the most effective way to convince people that those of us who teach in MPS and are members of the Milwaukee Teachers Educators Association are always trying to solve the problem of low performance, but writing about it is the only way I know how.

Unfortunately my updates over these next few days are going to be lite. I'm heading to Cincinnati with a bunch of my fellow educators to the Community Schools Conference and a chance to see Community Schools in action. You can learn about those schools HERE. 

So, please accept my apology for not updating as much as I would normally over the next three days. I'm busy trying to help my students and give them a better future.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Some Days Others Say it Better - Jake on Milwaukee's Voucher Program

Jake at the Economic TA Funhouse did a most excellent update today analyzing a new Public Policy Forum brief on the Milwaukee Parent Choice Program, also known as "the voucher program." 

You can read the post HERE. 

The whole posting is worth reading but I found this particularly interesting:
And it isn't just that students are coming in and out of voucher schools without innovation being expanded, but the students in voucher schools don't do as well as those who stay in MPS.

2012-13 Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination scores, all grades
Rates of proficiency 
Math- 20.5% MPS schools, 13.1% Voucher schoolsReading- 15.0% MPS schools, 11.1% Voucher schools 
Bad enough, but the Public Policy Forum notes that if a private school has an increasing percentage of voucher students, it actually does worse.
If you want to read the whole Public Policy Forum brief, it can be found HERE.

As someone who teaches in a north-side MPS high school, there were a LOT of things I found interesting in the full report. Including this:
One explanation might be that a large number of choice students exit the choice program and are offset by a significant number of new voucher students. Such high turnover has been documented by the School Choice Demonstration Project (a five-year longitudinal study of MPCP completed in 2012), which found that three out of four students in an MPCP school in ninth grade were no longer in the voucher program by 12th Grade.  
The whole report is worth reading, and once again reaffirms my belief that people who are making educational policy in the legislature have absolutely no idea what they are doing. No wonder they ran Rep. Kestell out of office and they're pushing it on Sen. Luther Olsen. 

Rep. Vos's Comments on the Retirement of Rep. Severson

Remember last week when Rep. Kestell announced his retirement, and I made note of Assembly Speaker Vos's rather short comments about his length of service?
As a point of order, HERE'S the comments he made about Rep. Erik Serverson's retirement today after only four years in office:
“I want to thank Rep. Erik Severson for his service to the 28th Assembly District and the state of Wisconsin. Erik is finishing his second term as representative and has made an impact on the state during his tenure. He helped pass the tough reforms that turned our state around and transform a budget deficit into a surplus.  
“This session, the emergency room physician chaired the Assembly Committee on Health and the Speaker’s Task Force on Mental Health, which put forth the most comprehensive package of reforms on mental health in decades.  
"I know that Erik will continue to help and serve his community and I wish him well in his future.” 
Rep. Severson is perhaps only claim to fame is as the person who tried to hamstring the chemotherapy bill, which ultimately passed, in the Assembly. Not too much of a legacy to leave compared to Rep. Kestell. 

Just sayin'...

The Neo-Stalwartness of Wiscosin's Republicans Displayed

Mike Gousha yesterday at the end of "Up Front" gave a very good bookend to his program, which began with Wisconsin State Sen. Glenn Grothman speaking on his upcoming challenge to Con. Tom Petri. The closing featured a cadre of examples on how the Republicans in Wisconsin are becoming increasingly conservative, and how that's forced out people who only a few short years ago were seen as solidly Republican and even on the conservative side themselves.

You can view the video HERE, but the transcript provides enough context:

IN 1979, THE SOVIET UNION INVADED AFGHANISTAN. A GALLON OF GAS COST 86 CENTS. AND REPUBLICAN TOM PETRI WAS ELECTED TO REPRESENT THE STATE'S 6TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. OBVIOUSLY, A LOT HAS CHANGED SINCE THEN, INCLUDING THE BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT ITSELF.

BUT WHAT'S ALSO CHANGED IS TOM PETRI'S POLITICAL PARTY. FOR YEARS, PETRI WAS VIRTUALLY A LOCK FOR RE-ELECTION. OFTEN, HE HAD NO DEMOCRATIC OPPONENT. ONLY ONCE IN THE LAST 30 YEARS, DID HE FAIL TO GET MORE THAN 65 PERCENT OF THE VOTE.

BUT NOW HE FACES A SERIOUS PRIMARY CHALLENGE. WHAT'S HAPPENING TO PETRI REFLECTS BOTH A PHILOSOPHICAL AND GENERATIONAL SHIFT IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. THE ENERGY IN THE PARTY TODAY IS COMING FROM THE RIGHT, NOT THE CENTER RIGHT. BY ALMOST ANY MEASURE, THE GOP IS A MORE CONSERVATIVE PARTY TODAY THAN IT WAS IN 1979, ESPECIALLY ON FISCAL ISSUES. PETRI IS NOW IN HIS 70'S, AND HIS LOW-KEY, DELIBERATIVE STYLE PUTS HIM AT A DISADVANTAGE IN A POLITICAL WORLD DRIVEN BY SOCIAL MEDIA, TALK RADIO AND TELEVISION SOUND BITES.

BUT PETRI ISN'T THE ONLY LONGTIME REPUBLICAN INCUMBENT EXPERIENCING THIS NEW REALITY. 
UNIMAGINABLE JUST A FEW YEARS AGO, CONSERVATIVE ICON JIM SENSENBRENNER FOUND HIMSELF THE UNSUSPECTING TARGET OF A CRITICAL WEB VIDEO PRODUCED BY A YOUNG CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST. FACING A PRIMARY CHALLENGE, SENATOR DALE SCHULTZ RETIRED. REPRESENTATIVE STEVE KESTELL QUIT AFTER A NO- CONFIDENCE VOTE BY SOME IN HIS PARTY. SENATOR LUTHER OLSON IS UNDER FIRE.

TOM PETRI SAYS HIS "PRAGMATIC CONSERVATISM" WILL WIN OUT IN AN AUGUST PRIMARY AND HE'LL HAVE PLENTY OF MONEY TO MAKE HIS CASE. BUT THIS WILL BE A RACE TO WATCH, A BATTLE OVER WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A REPUBLICAN IN 2014.
So to this, my question is, who's the Democrat that's going to step-up and make a run in the 6th Congressional District? Sure, they have a snowball's chance in actually being elected, but as Republican as the 6th District is, it's certainly not a place that is fully supportive of Sen. Grothman's style either. If Mr. Petri decides to run again, holding off more moderate (sane) Republicans from challenging him, who's the Democrat that will run should he somehow lose in August?

Seriously, who's the person that's going to run in this district as not only "insurance" against a crazy Sen. Grothman should he somehow miraculously knock-off Petri, but also as someone to help turn out the vote for Mary Burke in the governor's race? This matters people, down-ballot races and the local face help get people out knocking on doors and help spread the message for the top of the ticket. If the WisDems are serious about a "72 County Strategy" they'd better have someone in place to challenge for this seat.

Do you really want to say the words, "Congressman Grothman?"

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How Does Teacher Pay & The Censorship of Journalism in Fond du Lac Tie Together?

While much of the discussion out of Fond du Lac's schools has recently focused on their dismal handling of a new policy that allows for censorship of their high school newspaper, there's new news on the horizon. Those same teachers at the high school that have been battling administration on behalf of their students have had a new salary scale approved by the school board this past week. You can read about the scale HERE, but what you should know is that this scale absolutely gives the royal screw to mid-career teachers who've remained loyal to the school district over the last three years, while giving better treatment to those who are newly hired.

From the Reporter:
The plan eliminates steps and lanes that teachers moved through when contracts were negotiated and replaces them with 13 salary levels based on evaluations. 
The Fond du Lac Board of Education held a special meeting Thursday to approve the new Teacher/Professional Education Compensation Plan. The plan passed on a 5-1 vote. Elizabeth Hayes, Mark Strand, Julie Nett, Kathleen Nagle and Eric Everson voted yes, Mark Jurgella voted no and Susan Jones abstained.
And yes, the two candidates on the April ballot were Mr. Strand and Ms. Nett, and yes, they both won reelection. Unfortunately there was only one other candidate running and she didn't have a great campaign put together. (Hey Wisconsin Progress! They need your help!!! For the love of everything Fond du Lac needs your help!)
Julie Ziegler, who teaches special education at Fond du Lac High School, was among a handful of educators who spoke at recent school board meetings about the proposed changes. 
“I would implore you to look at all the people you have working here currently,” she said. “I am at Year 11 but have been frozen at Year eight. Yet there are people coming in getting paid for their 11 years (of experience).”
And that ladies and gentlemen was not rectified in this latest proposal. Teachers who've remained in the district since the pay freeze was implemented three years ago are being paid less than teachers who have transferred into the district and have the same level of experience and education. More on this in a little bit.
Human Resources Director Sharon Simon said that, while the plan has created some inequities for a small group of teachers, it is important for the district to always hire quality educators.
100% agree that it is important for the district to always hire quality educators, but that doesn't mean you should piss down upon the ones who've remained loyal and are already quality educators. Why is it when schools talk about attracting quality educators they never do anything about retaining the ones they have and listening to them?
The district employs 535 teachers and has hired more than 130 of them over the last three years. Teachers have received a 1 percent pay increase for the past few years, Simon said, but have not moved up in steps or lanes.
BUT.... those 130 teachers are not all created equal.

Take for example my own situation should I have been hired in Fond du Lac after my stint there as a long-term employee. Let's say for example that I was hired on full-time in Fond du Lac for the 2012-2013 school year after having had a long-term contract. This would've meant that for 2012-13 I would've been at step two and then this year, 2013-14 I would be at step three on the pay scale. However, under the pay-freeze that's been in place, I would still only be at step one on the scale.

Now, let's say this past September when my third year started and I was frozen at year one, a new hire to the district who already had two years of experience in another district was hired as well. They would've been brought in and compensated for those years of experience outside the Fond du Lac Schools. Hence the disparity which is contributing to an already negative environment. It's not that the teachers don't think those coming into the district don't deserve to come in and be compensated for their experience, they just don't think that they should get to come in on a higher scale than those who've remained with the district and not jumped ship.
“My goal is to hire the very best teachers and sometimes we have to pay them where they are on a salary schedule,” Simon said. “Moving to a different way of doing things will be a transition for everyone.”
That is, unless those teachers are already employees. Because this is Fond du Lac! Where wages are severely depressed and the ability to find middle-class college educated work is difficult unless you have a rich uncle. The school system knows this, and now has it's employees under their thumb so it can freeze pay with little recourse.
Fond du Lac High School teacher Sara McVeigh, who was nominated as a teacher of the year, said the plan doesn’t take into consideration employees like her. After 11 years she will still be on the lowest rung of teacher pay. 
“If I were a single parent, my kids would qualify for free and reduced lunch,” McVeigh said. 
She is among a group of 20 to 30 teachers negatively affected by the plan.
Only 30 teachers? I find that spectacularly hard to believe considering the district has hired so many teachers. The place where the problem is most noticeable is at the high school, where everyone is together and can be compared relatively easily at a staff meeting. With the large number of hires into the school in recent years, (more on that later) it's easy to have negative feelings develop between staff.
Shannon Ferguson is a special education teacher with 11 years experience and her husband, Joel Ferguson, teaches second grade at Riverside Elementary School. She said her husband brings home less pay now — with a master’s degree — than he did in his first year of teaching with no experience. 
Gee, thanks Gov. Walker and 2011 Act 10.
“I think the district is at a critical time and I think more and more teachers will leave the district,” Ferguson said. “Teacher morale is at an all-time low.”
Can't imagine why not feeling appreciated with the salary schedule, having principals and a superintendent bringing negative attention to the district because of a wholly Byzantine policy on publishing a monthly school newspaper, and lack of having a voice in the wake of 2011 Act 10 makes anyone want to say in Fond du Lac as an educator.

So, what does this mean for people working in the Fond du Lac schools?
Beginning in 2014-15 new teachers entering at Level 1 will be paid an annual starting salary of $37,000 and will be eligible to move up a level each year until year three. After that, they would be considered a continuing educator and could potentially move to the next level every three years. 
Simon said the plan does not reduce salaries. Everyone will slide into the next highest bracket. The current top salary is $74,139 for more than 23 years experience, a master’s degree and 30 credits of continuing education.
Wow, such takers from society.  The current top salary is just under $75,000 a year for someone who's been doing their job for almost 25 years and has more than a masters degree? Why are we saying this is unacceptable again? Oh, and don't look now, but if you do the math, with this new compensation plan, teachers would only top-out in the upper $60,000 range, meaning that those who are at the top of the pay scale in 2014 will make more than people 15 years from now who get there.

And people look at me weird when I say, this is no longer a profession in Wisconsin. Especially having a two-teacher household...

Oh, but there's one more thing to consider with Fond du Lac and their compensation of employees, specifically teachers, and why new hires aren't all equal. Fondy High, in just the last month, essentially fired both their head girls and boys basketball coaches from their coaching positions. (Don't kid yourself when you read in the paper when it says they "stepped down," they were asked to leave.) It's part of a cycle that began when I was teaching there, and part of the reason why I wasn't brought on full time. I also hear that other coaches are being replaced too, in sports such as volleyball.

I lost my job prospect in order for the school to hire a whole new football staff. No, not just head coach, but a whole new staff. Anyone that helped with the program had to reapply for their positions and if they weren't re-hired (which more often than not happened), the new co-head coaches OBVIOUSLY had to bring in someone new for the position. And yes that meant teachers.

So, when the Fondy Football coaches went on their hiring binge, they brought in coaches whom they'd previously worked with. That meant that those coaches were already teachers, and yes, that meant that they were brought in wherever on the previous salary schedule they were in their old job. This meant you had teachers who'd lost their jobs as offensive line coach or special teams coach (and the stipend associated with it), and were being replaced by people who made more money than them and may not have had as much experience as they did!

In fact, there's always been background talk about how the new co-head football coaches were brought in and paid for years of experience they did not have, and were offered benefit packages that other teachers didn't have access to. Again, this was always just background talk, but I'm sure if someone really was curious they could find this information out. (It was only two years ago, open records requests exist for a reason.) But, I mention this because I wonder what this means for the selection of new boys and girls head basketball coaches. Seems to me there's little reason why history wouldn't repeat itself.

I made mention a while ago about how Fond du Lac was financing an elaborate gateway at their football field, and yes, it's part of the same narrative that is becoming more and more clear to people outside the walls of Fondy High. Sports is where the high school, and ultimately the district, is putting their resources. Not in encouraging intellectual aspiring journalists who are identifying social problems at the school and working to solve them. Nope, they're putting their power into securing community financing of almost $1 Million for a gateway to the football field, putting upwards of $250,000 into a new weight room (and mandating it's usage), and spending time vigorously defending administrations ability to limit student's speech because they were tackling "adult issues" in the school newspaper.

In a previous posting I noted my history in starting this blog and the way my time at Fondy High came to pass. I closed that posting saying- To think I was this close to having a job there... If that were the case, I'd find myself wholly opposed to my administration's handling of the school newspaper, subjected to a pay freeze that teachers being hired after me were not being held to, and looking at a future where I'd never make after 40 years what my colleagues were making.

Columnist Joel McNally published a column in the Cap Times this week that once again explored "The Rape Joke" article from the school newspaper. It can be viewed HERE, and it it he notes the following:
There are always going to be people in any community who object to much of what goes on in our schools. Lately, some even object to national standards for what should be taught as some kind of nefarious government plot. 
We call those people uneducated. 
We should expect highly educated school administrators not only to know better, but also to have the courage to stand up for good educational practices by good teachers engaging good students.
One could only have hoped the school board would stand up for good educational practices by good teachers engaging good students too. Sadly, once again, many of the teachers in Fond du Lac have been backhanded. They aren't asking for the moon. They're asking to be compensated for their commitment to the children and education in Fond du Lac. Instead, they're being denied pay that others have received who are new to the system, and being told that they need to stop having students do good, intellectual work.

Oh, don't forget about summer weightlifting: