Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mary Burke's "September" Ad

Mary Burke began airing this ad as early as Sunday. I first saw it on the WBAY-TV 2 Green Bay airing of "Up Front w/ Mike Gousha" at 10am. However, only now is it getting online:

This came out before Walker's "Plagiarism" ad today, but is still an effective message. While it doesn't address the full "scandal that really isn't," it does hone in on the fact that she's not afraid of the attacks and what's in her jobs plan. Telling people to go towards it and that this is really a phony "scandal" is a good move for the Burke campaign.

Can't wait to see how she responds to this charge in the first debate.

Holy Walker Ad Day

Governor Walker's YouTube Channel just got updated today with all of the latest ad's he's put out over the last few days.

Some doozies indeed...

First, the "plagiarized" ad:

This is really what they're pinning their hopes on? Something that happens in political campaigns all the time and really isn't plagiarism because the staffer who wrote it also wrote it for the other campaigns he worked on? If you want a good take-down of the plagiarism stuff, CLICK HERE. 

The next ad is a 1 min radio spot by Lt. Gov. Kleefisch:

She's "especially proud" of the reforms on public education? Give me a damn break!!!

Lastly, another 30 sec TV spot:

That's right! They're playing the "my husband beat me, so now that somehow means you should trust me for making political endorsements" card. Really what this is all about is the campaign again going back to the gender-gap that has persisted again, and again, and again, and again in their polling.

Women don't trust someone who defunded Planned Parenthood centers and had them lose access to their healthcare.

Women don't trust someone who worked to repeal that STATE equal-pay law, allowing an actual mechanism for people to go after businesses who discriminate. (For more on that blow-up today between One Wisconsin Now and the Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce, click HERE, and HERE, and HERE.)

So the money's now being turned on for Gov. Walker. Three ads in as many days... They're worried.

Leave a comment about what you're seeing in your part of the state. I'd love to know what's happening in the La Crosse and Eau Claire media markets!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rep. Kestell and His Legacy

When I first got into Wisconsin politics in the spring of 2011, I remember watching Joint Finance Committee and other legislative meetings with an eye towards understanding who the power-players were and what their roles in the legislative process were. 

Being someone who's a teacher, I quickly gravitated to Rep. Steve Kestell of rural Sheboygan Co. who is now the outgoing Chair of the Assembly Education Committee. In 2011, he was usually held as a strong conservative, and someone who was not exactly a friend of liberal teachers who held disdain for his views on some topics.

Oh the difference only a few years makes... By the spring of 2014, Rep. Kestell was seen as a firewall by common sense education-minded individuals, and a no-confidence vote was taken at the Republican Party of Wisconsin convention over his lack of support for extreme conservative causes.

Well, with his retirement imminent, Jason Smathers of the Sheboygan Free-Press published an interview yesterday with the Representative, and reflections on his time in the assembly. You can read the full article HERE. 
Rep. Steve Kestell believes his best asset in the Legislature was stopping "bad bills." 
Yet, as he exits the Legislature after 16 years as a state representative, the Elkhart Lake Republican said he sees one potential mistake on the horizon: school choice expansion.

Mistake on the HORIZON in school choice? Do tell more...
While the outgoing education chair said he supports the notion of choice, he warned that state leaders could put the state back into the sort of "fiscal mess" they found themselves in before Act 10 if they don't think the idea through. 
Think an ideologically driven idea that has produced absolutely no noted benefits to education through? No...
"This is a case where ideology sort of overwhelms good sense and judgment," Kestell said. "Where people who should have known better and are good mathematicians aren't willing to do the math. It's because they don't want to show what would be detrimental to their plans. And the math doesn't work. It just doesn't work." 
The math??? What he really means is, the money. School choice money comes out of the state "pot" for education before disbursements are made to local school districts. It's simple as this - Expand school choice, less money goes to the public schools. While one can argue that fewer students will also be in the public system, you will see a higher percentage of students with special needs in the public system. Couple that with the current problem of rural school funding and you have how the math just doesn't work.
Kestell, speaking to the Sheboygan Press in an exit interview, said that expanding school choice could exacerbate already declining enrollment in rural schools. With the state funding schools on a "per pupil" basis, the former Howards Grove school board member said he fears there's no plan on how to handle that funding squeeze. 
DING! DING! DING! The same happens with our public system in Milwaukee. Declining enrollment in MPS due to the city's population shrinking meant that MPS has been dealing with that squeeze, and the "funding flaw," for over 20 years now.  Even though that flaw is being slowly phased out, the concept of declining funds as vouchers expand at the state level remains.
"That [rural schools] problem will be on steroids with the wide-open school choice program cutting across the state," Kestell said. "No one has even tried to explain how we're going to deal with that as a state. No one has tried to explain how we're going to fund parallel school programs. Because that's where we're heading."
You're right! And the reason is because, we can't. That's why Sen. Olsen and Rep. Kestell, along with people like Sen. Dale Schultz and Sen. Mike Ellis were vehemently against voucher expansion. They said parallel systems would have to be funded and it was unsustainable.  It was something I touched on last year when the Gov. was in front of the Journal-Sentinel editorial board, and the word "parallel" was actually a word I used: 
He then goes off to talk about the Senators like Olsen and Ellis who want to narrow the focus of vouchers and how he's willing to work with them, but the fact remains that it's pretty clear he wants to create two parallel school systems in this state. While watching this interview I can definitely say that the Governor is not an idiot... the man knows exactly what he's trying to do. What scares the hell out of me is that he doesn't understand what the outcomes are.
What really scares the hell out of me right now is that Rep. Kestell is scared about what will happen to schools if Gov. Walker is reelected. Rep. Kestell sounding a warning at this stage of the game signals to me that there are some pretty dark conversations happening in Walker's camp on education.

Back to the Journal-Sentinel article:
Kestell said he already took issue with one aspect of the initial statewide school choice program, which gives students publicly funded vouchers to go participating private schools. While Kestell hoped the program would benefit poor students stuck in failing schools, there was nothing in the final budget that specified it would go specifically to children currently in public schools. 
Oh, so the fact that over 70% of students who are now in the statewide program were already private school students was on Rep. Kestell's mind? Sigh, while the Rep. held off a lot of bad things, the fact that he couldn't do anything about that really shows just how much school choice is not about improving educational opportunities for kids but about political payback.
As a result, around two-thirds of those receiving vouchers in the first two years of the program already attended private schools. He said that while the main authors said they didn't intend for that to happen, they didn't try to fix it either. That, Kestell said, was because there was a campaign fighting any fix. 
Gee, this is the first time we've heard about this fight. Even though those of us who watch the legislature pretty much assumed it was happening, this is a little insight to what happened two years ago in May and June when the Joint Finance Committee was ready to amend the Governor's budget on education matters.
"It's sort of like if you went to the bank and they gave you too much change for their check, you started a campaign saying, 'I'm going to keep this! How dare you!' That's kind of what happened there. So going forward, one of the biggest reasons given for vouchers is gone and without explanation." 
No explanation needed. The explanation is that free-market business mindsets work for enriching the non-profit operators who funnel money into their schools through tax dollars and ultimately into their pockets and back to political donations by the corporations who put up the non-profits as school operators.

At least when unions donate their money, it's coming from teachers who are donating based on whats best for their students.

Next, Rep. Kestell touches on what really drove the educational establishment bananas this past winter - School accountability.
Kestell's disappointment over the state's direction on education issues extends to the issue of school accountability. While the Legislature passed a bare-bones version of a bill near the end of session, it came nowhere near addressing the sanctions Gov. Scott Walker originally wanted. While conservatives and the state Department of Public Instruction battled back on those details, Kestell said during one committee meeting that one of the sides has got to compromise. 
Considering that Rep. Kestell and Sen. Olsen were the ones who originally introduced SB 286 and AB 379 last fall, this should be interesting to read about. ESPECIALLY in light of what their discussion with WisEye was about in Aug. 2013.
That, it seems, has not happened yet, Kestell says now. He attributes part of the failure to State Superintendent Tony Evers, whose department decried later versions of the bill as emphasizing "punishment and labels, not support for struggling schools." While he said that Evers, also from the Sheboygan area, is a "nice guy," he said that DPI has become too partisan during his tenure and needs to "play it straight" when presenting information like state test scores. 
"If facts are on your side, that should be sufficient," Kestell said. "Give people cold hard facts without window dressing, without skewing, without making arguments. Just give people facts. 

This is where Rep. Kestell's conservative nature still comes through.

The fact is that Rep. Kestell and Sen. Olsen's bills had to be changed last December because they were too middle-of-the-road and not conservative enough for their own party. Then, when they made them more conservative, public education officials flipped their lid because it punished public schools at the expense of private ones who did not have to be held to the same accountability.

As for DPI becoming too partisan, what's really happened is that DPI has had to fight against a legislature that has done nothing but try and gut the public system and put ridiculous pressures on DPI for things like testing compliance and the Common Core State Standards. DPI has tried time and time again to give people facts without window dressings, but when the legislative Republicans who've tried to kill things that benefit students of the public schools, they've fought back. Then again, Rep. Kestell should know about fighting back against bad policy...
Kestell has faced his own fair share of criticism in his final terms in office. When he supported Common Core standards, he got a barrage of hate mail, while several activists in the Republican Party pushed a party resolution to censure Kestell and Senate Education Chair Luther Olsen. 
His was a voice of reason in a sea of insanity.
In addition, he was one of only four GOP state legislators to vote against the state budget, a choice he attributes to not knowing the full impact of last minute additions by legislative leaders. 
Kestell said it was after the budget vote that he was leaning toward retirement. It was only because of the "no confidence" resolution pushed by Common Core opponents that Kestell held off on the announcement longer than he normally would have. 
"I just didn't want to give those folks the satisfaction of thinking they'd gotten to me," Kestell said. 
In reality though, I'm sure it did. Him having to not conform to every one of the conservative leadership's #batshitcrazy ideas likely contributed. I can't imagine how it didn't.
But he doesn't regret his decisions. Kestell said that he made the best decisions given the information in front of him. Whether it be Common Core, the budget or school accountability, Kestell says he did what he believed was right. 
"I made a point of telling the truth," Kestell said. "I think sometimes I did that too much for some people."
The lack of a voice like his on the Education Committee scares me.

I don't agree with him on everything. In fact, I don't agree with him on an awful lot of things, but I respect the man for being a person of his word when it comes to speaking from the heart and what he truly believes was right. I hope that his voice is not lost forever because of his retirement.

But, back to that comment about school choice expansion on the horizon....

What does he know about Gov. Walker's plans and when is the Governor's campaign going to say exactly what they are?

I. Am. A. Robot. And. I. Support. Glenn. Grothman.

Glenn Grothman put up his first TV ad of the general election today. It features three women, many of whom speak like robots into the camera, talking about how Glenn doesn't finger point and gets things done.

Huh, funny how these women never mention anything about Glenn's women's issues history. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cardinal Columns - Matt Smith Speaks

Advisor to the Fond du Lac High School Cardinal Columns, Matt Smith, penned an entry over at Journalism Education Association's Scholastic Press Rights Commission blog that was published today. 

It's the first real place to have his views on what happened over the past seven months regarding the controversy over prior review and the student newspaper, Cardinal Columns, at Fond du Lac High School. It's a long entry, but does a great job at conveying why he largely remained quiet in the face of adversity by having the district come down on his students.

While I HIGHLY recommend reading the whole entry, I think this party largely speaks to how quality a teacher he is, and what type of individual he is as well: 
In our case, cooperation largely workedI know such a strategy cannot always work. There are some places where intentions may be less than pure or where personal vendettas of one side might seem to trump educational concerns. In such cases, additional strategies may have to be employed, and the best-case scenario might not be possible. 
Luckily, in our case, aiming for cooperative support in abandoning prior review has largely worked. Although it cannot always be successful, I believe such a best-case scenario must be the first thing we shoot for, and it can be made more likely if relationships and understanding are built before a crisis occurs. That I had not done much to explain what we do and why to the district is one regret I do take from this episode. 
Moving forward, rather than see possible enemies, I choose to see future allies. Rather than burn bridges, I choose to build them. My students do what they do because they truly want what is best for the school and our community. If the district has the same desire and is willing to listen, then the facts about the power of a free press and the dangers of prior review are the greatest weapon for cooperation that we have.

Really Working at Redefining Your Image, Huh GOP?

Nothing screams transparency, openness, big tent political party, and appealing to a young audience than scotch, cigars, and dark, dim-lit rooms:
Because the best image of politics is that of smoke-filled back rooms with plenty of scotch? Nice touch GOP.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fresh Friday

I'm sure at this point I'm recycling songs I've already featured on Fridays more and more often. But, I don't really care, because this is just a great song to mellow out to. Plus, it really captures that feeling of the late 60's in California.

With a name like Quicksilver Messenger Service, you know there wasn't a lot of "Fresh Air" to be found when writing their songs:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mary Burke's Latest TV Ad

Building on a lot of the same themes she's touched on before with job loss and lack of accountability under Gov. Walker for his statements on job creation, Mary Burke's latest ad is once again going after the Governor.

You can view that ad  below:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Have Sen. Darling and Rep. Sanfelippo No Shame? Day Two of Attacking MPS

The press-release war between conservative suburban legislators and the Milwaukee Public Schools Board of Directors over a school located in the central city, is entering into it's second day.

The latest release from Sen. Darling and Rep. Sanfelippo, which can be viewed HERE, is one of the most obscene and frankly offensive ones I have ever seen come out of Madison. (I also love how they don't want their PDF being copied for sites like this one.)

Their release:
After their phony real state deal fell through, MPS is trying to rewrite history. Open records requests prove MPS was more concerned with rushing their deal without public scrutiny rather than improving educational opportunities for children. In fact, MPS board members never mentioned a "high performing school" of any kind during their pitch to hurry up their scam. 
You know what, MPS was more concerned with playing the game that the damn conservative Wisconsin State Legislature makes them play with treating children like damn dollar signs and not living breathing human beings who have human rights to quality PUBLIC education from an institution that is sponsored by their community.

That's the damn problem.

Also, claiming that MPS never mentioned a "high performing school" during their "hurry-up" is a damn lie. 
According to an open records request by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty:
On November 4, 2013 MPS Board Member Larry Miller sent an e-mail trying to rally support to approve the sale of Malcolm X to Holdings. Miller said that there was "urgency" to approve the deal, citing to "pressure from the State legislature concerning MPS facilities." 
And this is a problem because??? Because why? Because it wasn't true? Sorry, IT WAS! In early October last year I wrote about how SB 318 was on the fast-track to being passed.  That bill put ridiculous restrictions on MPS to sell buildings that were only 40% used as classroom space, meaning that buildings that were fully in-use by the district for various activities would have to be sold. 

The State Legislature since last summer has been trying to snatch land and buildings from MPS. I first covered the St. Marcus group trying to buy Malcolm X HERE last September . The introduction of SB 318 put pressure on MPS to move on things that had already been in the works since at least 2011.  While we can debate all day long about whether or not MPS moved too fast or too slow with their project, when SB 318 literally threatened vast swaths of MPS, the board felt it needed to move quickly.

And that's where the conservatives got pissed. They got outsmarted by the MPS Board of Directors.

Notice that the Nov. 4th e-mail is supposed to sound like MPS was rushing in early November and like somehow Director Miller is doing something shady and back-channeled by soliciting support for the sale of Malcolm X.

Truth is, by November 4th, Director Miller was trying to rally support to have the Milwaukee Common Council sign-off on what the MPS Board had already agreed to on October 14, nearly three weeks earlier. That was when MPS decided to sign with 2760 Holdings LLC. Needless to say, Sen. Darling and Rep. Sanfelippo probably didn't do the research to find that on Oct. 15th Sen. Leah Vukmir and Sen. Paul Farrow issued a press-release of their own with almost identical talking points to the one Sen. Darling and Rep. Sanfelippo are using now.
State Senator Darling says MPS can't justify their effort to prevent poor children from
accessing good educational opportunities. 
From the Oct 15th press-release in 2013:
“MPS continues to make decisions that are not based upon the needs of students, but on trying to protect their monopoly on state funds.
I cannot tell you how offensive this is to me as an MPS teacher. Back to the current day's presser:
"MPS is trying to rewrite history to hide the facts. MPS could have opened a new school at Malcolm X without selling the building to a fly-by-night developer in a bait-and-switch  deal," Darling said, "The worst part is that children and taxpayers are the ones hurt by the shady deal." 
First off, the deal itself was not shady based on an e-mail from Larry Miller on Nov. 4th, 2013. The deal had to be rushed because the conservatives in the legislature got their undies in a twist when MPS didn't capitulate to their demands.

In fact, the e-mail from Dir. Miller on Nov. 4th was in response to what happened on Oct. 29th with the Milwaukee Common Council's Zoning Committee putting on hold the sale of Malcolm X. As I noted in that blog posting, it wasn't exactly surprising that they put the decision on hold until they had more information. Right after that meeting, there was an all-out blitz to have public education supporters call on the full council to support the sale of the building.

MTEA President Bob Peterson wrote his own blog post on the matter Nov. 3rd, noting that on Nov. 5th the council would vote on the matter. So, Director Miller soliciting support on Nov. 4th in an e-mail? That was long after the board voted on Malcolm X and becoming an IB middle school. In fact, on Oct. 28th on his blog, Dir. Miller noted what the plans were for Malcolm X. This was BEFORE his Nov. 4th e-mail where he solicited support from people and putting it towards the Common Council.
State Representative Joe Sanfelippo says Malcolm X could and should be a high performing school right now. 
Agreed. Which is why MPS is putting in an IB middle school campus on the site when it is completely gutted and brought into the 21st Century. It's unfit for a school of any kind to use as it presently sits.
"If MPS intended to put a high performing school in the abandoned Malcolm X building, then the district should not have left the building vacant for seven years," Sanfelippo said, "And if it's such a priority now, then why is MPS waiting until the fall of 2016 to get a high performing school in the building?" 
Because it's the end of 2014 and construction takes time? If work begins over the winter at the start of 2015 it will take more than six months to completely rehab the building and put in what is outlined in the plans for the site. It's not like you can randomly open a new school in November of the school year, so yeah, it kind of makes sense that the fall 2016 school year is when the building will be ready for school. Ready for community uses and apartments? That could be sooner. But to open as a school, that kind of has to happen in the fall.

This person is a legislator?
The two Milwaukee County area lawmakers say re-introducing and passing their legislation which will prevent these types of orchestrated schemes from continuing is a top priority next session.
In other words, they want to gut the hell out of Milwaukee's public education sector and turn it private. I literally feel like the November election is me fighting for my job, because should Gov. Walker win you will see him come at MPS with the arsenal of a small Mideastern nation. "Recovery Zone" legislation to strip the lowest performing schools from the district and turn them private. Selling all vacant buildings to charter operators either by force or by the recovery zone taking them over. Then, the high performing schools will likely be forced to become charters themselves because they won't be able to survive with a district that's 60% smaller than it is now.

Gov. Walker wants to bankrupt MPS and force it to allow for a total privatization take-over.

To understand why MPS holds on to buildings, Bobby Tanzilo at OnMilwaukee.com today explains exactly what the district's thinking is with keeping buildings. It's sad that his logic isn't brought out by many of the more broad news-outlets, who only like to point out how MPS holds on to buildings and talk up again and again how it costs money to keep them on MPS's roll.

From his posting:
Yesterday, in a news report, a district official was quoted as saying MPS ended the deal with the development team after a member of the latter made a "questionable request," though apparently that same news outlet -- which also ran a pro-voucher school editorial yesterday -- didn't ask about, or at least didn't report on, what that request might have been.

On a related side note, the local media continues to ignore the fact that a number of school buildings that were recently vacant have been sold, among them Jackie Robinson, Dover and Centro Del Nino. An RFP was issued for the sale of the former Garfield Avenue School yesterday, after a previous prospective buyer failed to get financing.
Many more such buildings have recently been called back into service by the district -- 27th Street School, Green Bay Avenue, Howard Avenue, Sarah Scott, Milwaukee Education Center, Fritsche Middle School, Happy Hill, Morse Middle School, Webster Middle School, Burroughs Middle School, Westside Academy II building, 38th Street School (in some cases to house charter schools) among them. There's been talk, too, of re-opening Fletcher on the far northwest, and/or 88th Street on the far southwest sides. 
Changing needs and changing demographics mean that the district is smart to hold on to buildings that could be of future use. What would taxpayers -- and Milwaukee media -- say if MPS sold a building and then five years later needed to build a school down the block from it?
Bobby's whole column is well worth the read, and brings up many, many good points about why MPS makes the decisions it does.

Trust me, with teachers constantly watching over them, MPS doesn't have the luxury to wast money. We are constantly begging for more supplies and upgraded facilities for our students. There are many of us who watch the budget, watch the board, and keep a healthy working relationship with them. If conservative suburban legislators who have the benefit of never once living a life like those of many families who attend MPS do decide that they are "Father Knows Best" over public education in Milwaukee, where does it end?

Truth is... It doesn't.

Hey, coming soon to you this next Biennium Budget - Statewide vouchers and underfunding schools across Wisconsin! Gee, why aren't you selling your under-used school buildings Green Bay, or Wausau, or Racine? We have lots of religious schools who'd love to expand their "successful" offerings...

Some Days Others Say It Better - Dom On Cash For Kids

Dom, over at his domain, has the latest on the Milwaukee Common Council looking at passing a resolution to try and outlaw voucher schools handing out money to people who refer them students.

You can read his post HERE. 

A quick sample:
Starting today (September 23) leading aldermen of the Milwaukee Common Council are working out a resolution declaring illegal the use of financial incentives for adults to lure children to sign up for state taxpayer money at the city of Milwaukee charter schools. 
UWM is currently investigating its own legal reaction to similar “cash for kids” maneuvers -- a $100 referral at Urban Day School and a quizzical $50 grocery store card at another school. State legislators are also asking for answers to the legality of the “cash for kids” concept, one even arguing it is “100% against the law according to federal guidelines” for K-3 and K-4 education.
The whole positing is well worth a read, as it goes even deeper into the pay-for-registration schemes that private schools in Milwaukee have recently been exposed as participating in.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sen. Darling and Rep. Sanfelippo - Forcing Unwanted Choice

State Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Joe Sanfelippo issued a press-release today that all but assures that they are going to re-introduce the MPS building-snatch bill of last session, SB 318.

They are aggravated that the deal with the original land developer for the former Malcolm X Academy fell through, and the district wouldn't sell to one of their competitors, a deeply religious school who's titles of "high performance" only come from their own tests.

You can read their press-release HERE. 
"It's frightening how far the Milwaukee Public Schools will go to prevent poor children from receiving a quality education," Darling said, "Making taxpayers pay for these schemes seriously calls into what else they are doing with all the money the entire state provides them."  
Representative Sanfelippo says MPS is preventing hundreds of poor children the opportunity for a  good education.  
"MPS is blocking the future success of inner city kids, who are mostly minority children, from obtaining a life-changing education," Sanfelippo said, "Their self-serving actions are frankly obscene." 
I should be the last person to chastise punctuation and grammar, but for being a press-release from two state officials, I've seen better work out of my students.

But all that aside, I'm offended that I have elected state officials saying that my employer, and by extension myself, are trying to hold students back and denying them a life-changing education.


MPS is not doing anything to deny students a quality education, they are playing the game the state set up for them in trying to have true competition in the "free-market" of students in Milwaukee. Now, the state is pissed that the public system is playing the game well. But beyond all that, MPS is really doing no such thing as trying to deny students a high-quality education. In fact, they want to create even more opportunities to do just that. Any insinuation that MPS is wasting the state's money is offensive and shows just how disconnected these suburban legislators are from the inner-city schools that need help.

Plus, just because this developer and MPS have severed ties does not mean the project of rehabbing Malcolm X is over.

From an MPS Board press-release this evening: 
MILWAUKEE — Dr. Michael Bonds, president of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, issued the following regarding the erroneous statement issued today by State Senator Alberta Darling and State Representative Joe Sanfelippo regarding the district’s plans to continue the development of the former Malcolm X Academy building: 
“From the beginning of this process, Senator Darling and Representative Sanfelippo have clearly misunderstood this effort to bring a high-performing International Baccalaureate school to the Malcolm X neighborhood. Their statement today only further serves to illustrate that fact. 
“There is nothing inappropriate about the decision made by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors to move forward with this project without the developer we initially identified. What was most critical to this Board is that the project move forward. 
“It is unfortunate that Senator Darling and Representative Sanfelippo have characterized this effort as phony, crooked and obscene. In fact, the Board took the appropriate steps to continue the project itself and keep our promise to the neighborhood to deliver what it asked for: a high-performing school. 
“I have asked the Office of the City Attorney to provide legal options with respect to the inflammatory and false allegations by Darling and Sanfelippo against the district, alleging corruption.”
The fact that my employer and two state elected politicians have to be involved in wars of words over bringing a high quality school to an inner-city neighborhood saddens me.

Post-Crescent Editorial on DPI Report Cards - Again, Another Thing to Remember This Spring

Yesterday's editorial by the Appleton Post-Crescent is worth remembering this spring should Gov. Walker be reelected. While I certainly don't wish for that to happen, and dedicated a few hours last night to hand-writing post-cards to encourage people to turn out and vote, it is a possibility.

The editorial focused on the DPI Report Cards, and using them in the upcoming budget. 

You can read the article HERE. 
As an educational tool, the state's report cards for public schools can teach us some things — but not everything that's important about a school or school district.
Damn right. The Report Cards do little to truly measure the well-roundedness of a school.
The report cards, which were released last week for the 2013-14 school year, measure a number of factors, including math and reading scores on standardized tests. They're important subjects for every student, so there's value to those measurements. 
The report cards measure improvement on reading and math standardized test scores. They measure schools on closing achievement gaps in those two subjects. They measure graduation rates, for school districts and high schools, and attendance rates, for districts and elementary and middle schools. They measure ACT participation and performance for districts and high schools. Those are all important, too. 
They also measure the participation rate on the standardized tests in those subjects, which may not be so important — but more on that later.
Don't get me started on this as an MPS teacher. I mean, it's not like these things automatically favor suburban districts that have nowhere near the attendance issues urban schools do.
So the report cards have value in determining how a school or district is doing in educating its students. But there's a lot more to education that the report cards don't measure. 
For starters, the rating system has been found by educational researchers to be very closely correlated to the income level of the families in the school or district. 
Fortunately, the report cards include the percentage of "economically disadvantaged" students in a school or district. So, using that as a factor, it's possible to determine which schools look like they're doing something extraordinarily well in reading and math. 
For example, in the Appleton Area School District, five schools rated higher than the middle of the "meets expectations" category while having about half or more economically disadvantaged students: Edison, Horizons, Jefferson and Johnston elementary schools, and West High School. 
Good schools doing good things. But remember, this is Appleton, where there are a lot of resources in the community. Community buy-in and use of resources in immeasurable.
Likewise, if a school has middling or lower scores, but a low percentage of economically disadvantaged students, it may have a problem it needs to address. 
But again, those scores measure a limited number of factors. They tell nothing about subjects like science, social studies, history, world language, psychology, music, art, band, choir, orchestra, technical education, family and consumer education, economics and personal finance, physical education, or any subjects that aren't communication arts and math.
Gee... Thanks for noticing that math and English aren't the end-all, be-all.
Reading and math are vital, but they aren't all that students go to school to learn about.
And the standardized tests that lead to the ratings are a moment in time — a snapshot of students that day, without factoring in their health, state of mind or motivation. In particular, the five-point deduction that a school gets if less than 95 percent of its students take the tests seems severe. Yes, a school could game the system otherwise by preventing low-achievers from taking the tests, but we'd like to think there wouldn't be that kind of moral failing. 
This is almost an automatic -5 points for my school. 95 percent? Do you have any clue how difficult that is for a school where you have students incarcerated or suspended constantly with attendance being a constantly fluctuating issue?

It's horribly penalizing to our school. Thanks for noticing Appleton! Someone, somewhere is actually thinking about us outside of Milwaukee.
Which leads to another point. The report cards are meant to be educational for schools, to spur improvement. Beware of any attempts by legislators or anyone else to attach higher stakes to them, such as a loss of state funding or a loss of local control of the school or district.
There's the money statement. This is why I wanted to focus on this. Remember when Gov. Walker wanted to use the report cards for voucher expansion in the original 2013-15 Biennium Budget and Sen. Olsen and others flipped their lid? There you go. Remember this passage.
There's already a "teaching to the test" danger in this system. Raising the stakes simply adds to the danger — and detracts from actual education. Students may, or may not, do better on the tests if more classroom time is spent on them, but what would students lose in the process?
An education? Is the answer an education?
The point is, the report cards do have value and should get the attention of school officials, parents and the public that funds schools. 
But we need to recognize what exactly that value is. And, more important, what it isn't.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Gov. Walker's Latest Web Ad

So, after not allowing embedding on their last YouTube video, is Gov. Walker now to the point of just releasing them on his own website without posting them to major sharing sites?

Talk about being in your own echo-chamber...

His latest video is HERE,  and features a bunch of news clips about how the Governor signed an executive order making it easier for veterans and their families to get jobs. In reality, the whole video is just a play towards veterans and trying to play up the governor's role in signing bi-partisan legislation which almost everyone supports.

He really must be worried about his poll numbers...

Some Day's Others Day It Better - The NYT Op-Ed Contributor Vicki Madden

I'm short on writing time right now. (Darn teachers with all their wasted time. It's not like they aren't grading on Sunday nights or anything...)

Anyhow, the New York Times has a wonderful Op-Ed about preparing students for college I think you should read. It's not your typical "high schools suck" contribution, but instead about how low-income students have a hard time transitioning in college because of a culture-shock.

You can read the article HERE. I strongly suggest you do.

What really makes me sad is that I know I'm not doing enough to prepare my own students...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Craig Gilbert Says What I've Been Saying For A While Now

I love reading the Journal-Sentinel's Craig Gilbert. His analysis of the polls and take on Wisconsin politics is usually top-notch and relatively unbiased.

However, in his column this week, he really just buttresses something I've been saying since last summer - Walker's vulnerable, and it's that 21-29 corridor that I've been mentioning since I started this blog right after the recall, where he's seeing the biggest changes.  (Forgive me for that blog post. I was young and naive.)

You can read Craig's full column HERE. 
Gov. Scott Walker owed much of his victory in the 2012 recall fight to the big margins he piled up in the small cities, towns and countryside of northern and western Wisconsin. 
But replicating that striking performance two years later is proving difficult. 
Which I've been saying for a while now would be. Everyone putting stock in the governor's 2012 recall results clearly doesn't understand the lay of the political land in Wisconsin.
One big reason this race for governor is closer than the last one is that Walker has lost ground in the Green Bay, Wausau and La Crosse media markets, according to an analysis of 2014 polling data. 
DING, DING, DING! 21-29 corridor! As someone who lived in the Green Bay TV market until just last year, I can assure you that the GB market is the one to really watch. As a Wisconsin history guy, it's was amazing to see the results of Bob La Follette's gubernatorial elections and how he lost ground in Northeast Wisconsin each time.
For example, the governor won the Green Bay media market by 23 points in the 2012 recall election. But this year he is leading the region by 14 points in the combined polling that Marquette University Law School has done from May through September of this year. 
A lead is a lead, but remember, that market is huge. A loss of nine points is big, and where that loss is happening is key to understand too. Just look at my old "Land of Confusion" posts from after the recall, (again, forgive the poor writing), where I looked at OutagamieTrempealeau, Eau Claire, Monroe, and Adams Counties, and you can see exactly where the Governor's race is going to be won by Democrats this time around.

In fact, I love putting this chart out from the Wisconsin State Journal after the recall where they point out the counties that show where Gov. Walker really over-performed in the recall compared to 2010:

Just look at that Green Bay TV market... He had nowhere to go but down.
In 2012, Walker won the Wausau/Rhinelander market by 18 points. But he is leading by only 1 point in the 2014 polling. 

Gee, is there any reason why I keep mentioning places like Phillips or Eagle River when it comes to the statewide voucher program? Oh, and is there any wonder why Mary Burke again and again this past fall and winter was in Rhinelander? Like HERE and HERE for example...
And two years ago, Walker won the La Crosse/Eau Claire markets by 9 points. But he is trailing Democrat Mary Burke by 3 points in the 2014 polling. 
Again, don't for a second not think rural school funding is having a pull in these places. Not to mention issues like high capacity wells and frac sand mining.
Why the drop-off? 
Much of the answer lies in the fact that the governor over-performed in these areas in 2012 compared to how Republicans typically do in big statewide races, and even compared to his earlier 2010 victory. 
Remember that 2010 landslide for conservatives? Yeah, that hangover was still there in 2012. But in 2014, that honeymoon is over, and people who depend on government services in our rural communities are starting to see that cut and gut isn't all that appealing in real life.
That performance was always going to be hard to duplicate. Strategists on both sides believe it was boosted by at least two factors that aren’t present today. 
One was running against the mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett. Walker highlighted Milwaukee’s crime and joblessness in his campaign ads, and that message may have resonated in many rural and suburban areas far from the state’s biggest city. Republicans also attacked Barrett over his support for gun control.
Running against Milwaukee is an easy tactic that works well. And you know what, until I moved to Milwaukee, I bought a lot of what they said hook, line, and sinker too.

Milwaukee's a great city, but we have a lot of problems that other communities in Wisconsin don't have. Even being from Fond du Lac, we never ventured anywhere west of I 43 or east of US 45/ I 894 outside of the Menominee Valley and Miller Park. You mean to tell me people from Wausau or La Crosse have ever even been to Milwaukee? They don't know what the east side is like, or what great places you can find in Washington Heights, or the near south-side's great food choices.

Running against Milwaukee is easy. Not being able to do that with Mary Burke is an inherent advantage to the Democrats. It's sad, but true.
But perhaps a bigger factor involved voter attitudes about the recall itself. Many voters throughout the state had reservations about the recall process. Those concerns were especially strong among rural voters, the 2012 exit poll shows. Walker ended up winning the rural and small-town vote by 28 points — the biggest margin in any race for governor or president in Wisconsin since the 1990s. 
Reservations about the recall were especially sharp in northeastern Wisconsin, home to a mix of mostly suburban and rural voters from the Fox Valley north. In the 2012 exit poll, 76% of voters in northeastern Wisconsin said recalls should only be used for “misconduct” or “never” — the highest number of any region in the state. 
I tell people that in Milwaukee and they look at me all cock-eyed.

"Yep," I say, "I don't get it either, but it's true." And damn right it was. People in the Fox Valley just didn't agree with the recall, so they voted for the Governor for that reason, or they stayed home and skewed numbers. Just look at Obama's map of 2008 or even Doyle's in 2006, and you can see there are more than a few places in northeast Wisconsin where Democrats turn out.

But man alive, did they just go berserk for the fact he was being recalled. They couldn't stand it.
For these and other reasons, Walker dominated in 2012 in much of the north and west. He won the Green Bay media market by 23 points in 2010 compared to 16 in 2010. He won the Wausau/Rhinelander media market by 18 points compared to 12 in 2010. And he won the La Crosse/Eau Claire media market — a region that often leans Democratic — by almost 9 points, compared to 5 in 2010. 
Trempeleau County. There's your county to watch on election night.

That region is again coming in touch with it's Democratic self. Loss of local control with frac sand mining regulations, school transportation aid and having to constantly go to referendum, high capacity wells, loss of local initiatives and tax breaks for farmers who are interested in sustainability... Western Wisconsin should be coming home folks.
The governor made sizable gains in those areas in 2012 even though his statewide margin was almost identical to 2010. 
Turnout, turnout, turnout is how Democrats win.
To track Walker’s support this year in the same parts of the state, Marquette pollster Charles Franklin combined four statewide polls from May, July, August and September, creating a large enough sample (over 3,200 registered voters) to gauge public opinion within Wisconsin’s five key TV markets. 
Oh, hey Eric Hovde! (Remember THAT name?) He's the guy that didn't realize TV markets mattered and put all his marbles in the ones south of Highway 29.
Two years ago, a similar pre-election analysis of Marquette’s polling found Walker surging in the Wausau and La Crosse markets, which was borne out later in the election results. 
This time, the numbers suggest the governor’s support is reverting in these areas to more typical levels for a Republican candidate. 
Typical levels which still mean he can win, but hardly guarantees it. Wisconsin is NOT a 50/50 state because of the WOW counties,  Dane, and Milwaukee. It's because of rural Wisconsin and it's industrial centers north of US 60.
Walker leads Burke 53% to 39% in the Green Bay market in Marquette’s polling since May, based on a combined sample of 603 voters in the region. 
He is essentially tied with Burke — leading her 47% to 46% — in the Wausau/Rhinelander market, based on a sample of 291 voters in the region. 
And he trails Burke 45% to 48% in the La Crosse/Eau Claire market, based on a sample of 285 voters in the region. 
Burke keeps pounding pavement, TV ads keep running, and direct mail keeps being sent
Results for the state’s two Minnesota media markets — the Wisconsin counties outside the Twin Cities, which are GOP-leaning; and the counties outside Duluth, which are Democratic-leaning — were not included because those areas are too small to produce meaningful polling data. 
Again, hey Eric Hovde! Those markets still matter!
Taken together, the polling numbers in the three northern and western media markets suggest a more competitive battle than in 2012 for voters living outside the state’s two big political hot spots, the Milwaukee and Madison metro areas, where the geographic base of both parties can be found and where the majority of votes in the state are cast.
The Wausau/Rhinelander market supplied only 8% of the votes in the 2012 race for governor. So did the La Crosse/Eau Claire market. The much bigger Green Bay market supplied 19%. 
But EVERY. VOTE. COUNTS. Every one. Democrats will work like hell at turning out the City of Milwaukee and Madison, even in the wake of Voter ID. Republicans can drive their Volvo's in Waukesha just fine after being told to vote a the gym before picking the kids up from the nanny. But really, it's that person who drives 20 minutes and 15 miles to work in Antigo and having that 1st shift factory worker in Neenah swing by the polls before they go home. That's where this election will be won.
But all these areas matters hugely in statewide elections. They are home to a higher share of swing voters than the ultra-Democratic counties of Milwaukee and Dane and the hyper-Republican counties of Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee. Some of the state’s “swingiest” counties can be found in the northeast and southwest. 
They are the Obama-Walker voters. The ones I'll never figure out because I fear what moral compass they have guiding them. But, I want them to swing my way and see the light.
And the campaigns are competing fiercely for those voters. They are spending more on broadcast TV in both the La Crosse and Wausau markets than they are in the much larger Madison market because they believe voters in those smaller markets are more persuadable. The La Crosse/Eau Claire market has received about 20% of the broadcast TV spending since June, even though it provided only 8% of the voters in the last governor’s race. 
I've seen so few TV ads in Milwaukee it's hard to believe it's September. Spending down here makes some sense, especially if you target certain demographics. But the best bang for your buck is getting on a strong signal like WEAU-13 in Eau Claire, WSAW-7 and WAOW-9 in Wausau, all the Green Bay and La Crosse stations, and WFJW-12 in Rhinelander. Those stations love the ad revenue and are more than willing to cover campaigns when they make a quick stop at the Rural Route 9 coffee-shop.
The TV spending in these markets is far more competitive than it was in 2012 when Republicans aired roughly twice as many ads in the state. Democrats have actually outspent Republicans in the Green Bay, Wausau and La Crosse markets from June 1 through Sept. 16, though that could change with the National Rifle Association and the Republican Governors Association beginning to air ads on Walker’s behalf. 
Democrats leading the way. Mary Burke's gun-policy is pretty lite, and god willing, she won't fall into the same "city guns" vs "country guns" debate Barrett couldn't wage.
Scott Walker doesn’t have to do as well as he did in 2012 in northern and western Wisconsin to win a third race for governor. 
That's the sober statistic in this whole article. He can still lose ground and win a second term.
But polls this year suggest those voters are more up for grabs than they were two years ago. And that’s a major reason that Wisconsin may have the tightest governor’s race in the country.
And don't for a second think that this race is somehow safe for the Governor.