Whither MKE Cnty: What’s In It For the Greater Milwaukee Committee?

As Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote earlier this week:

A proposal to slash the salaries of Milwaukee County Board members is being drafted by a Republican lawmaker and promoted by the Democratic county leader.

But the real political muscle behind the legislation comes from a group that is working the issue behind the scenes:

The Greater Milwaukee Committee.

The GMC – a private group made up of local business and civic leaders – has long been interested in shaking up Milwaukee County government, especially after the 2002 pension scandal.

To get that done, GMC has formed a political nonprofit called Smart Government Inc.

As I’ve discussed earlier, the initial savings of cutting the salaries of the Milwaukee County Supervisors to $15,000 from approximately $50,000 today is a pittance at $850,000 out of a county budget of $1.348 billion. Less than 90 cents per every Milwaukee county resident and something like 0.06% of the overall budget. Even with the second part of the suggested legislation, restricting the boards annual budget to 0.25% of the county’s total tax levy still yields savings of only about $6 million.

So obviously, it’s not really about the money…it’s about the power of the Milwaukee County board! Is it also about the obstruction to the budgets and proposals of GMC’s handmaiden, County Executive Chris Abele? Not totally because GMC has been after the board longer than Exec. Abele has been in office…but apparently they think the planets are starting to align in their favor.

And they’ve hired lobbyists from the law firm of Foley and Lardner to help with the coup they are fomenting at the courthouse.

But it would be very nice to understand what they think they would get out of a defanged and declawed county board.

A little side note: if you are so inclined to comment on any of my blogs about MKE County government, I’d appreciate if you’d indicate if you are a county resident or not

Wisconsin parents call for re-investment in K-12 public education: ‘Repair the damage’

[This is the press release referred to in Parents Respond to Walker’s Education Policy post]

For Immediate Release, January 14, 2013
Contact: Jasmine Alinder, (414) 378-7262 or Angela McManaman, (414) 793-4815

Wisconsin parents call for re-investment in K-12 public education:‘Repair the damage’

It’s a new year, and new, improved education funding possibilities await Wisconsin
schoolchildren. Parents across Wisconsin are calling for a renewed commitment and reinvestment in the state’s public schools as Wisconsin expects a budget surplus of $300 million and substantial revenue growth. Devastating cuts to K-12 education in the 2011-13 biennial budget have resulted in layoffs, larger class sizes, reduced program offerings, and poorer results for Wisconsin’s nationally recognized public education system.

“The cuts in the last budget, on top of the past 20 years of revenue limits, have been devastating for urban and rural schools. We need to put money back into our education system if we want to prepare our children for the jobs of the future,” says Jill Gaskell of the Pecatonica, Wis., PTA.

A 2011-2013 expected budget surplus of $300 million, plus $1.5 billion in anticipated revenue growth in 2013-2015, means funds are available for increased K-12 funding for Wisconsin public schools. This after $1.6 billion was cut from public schools in the previous budget. http://www.doa.state.wi.us/docview.asp?docid=9976&locid=166

Concerned parents from Stevens Point, Wis. including Jeri McGinley and other members of School Funding Reform for Wisconsin, are writing to all Wisconsin legislators urging them to reinvest in public education and fix the state’s broken funding system. “Increasing class sizes, decreasing course offerings, and growing achievement gaps are only a few examples of the damage being done to our schools and children in every area of our state,” said McGinley. “Future projections indicate that these problems can only increase under the existing formula.”

In the last two years, Wisconsin school districts eliminated more than 3,400 teachers and other personnel. Districts have found additional ways to spend less on children’s education – from cutting foreign language, physical education and music offerings to neglecting necessary upkeep on aging school buildings and relying on outdated textbooks.

“Budgets are about values and priorities,” says public school parent and board President of Parents for Public Schools of Milwaukee Jasmine Alinder. “There is no financial justification to not put our children first. In fact, investing in our children is key to attracting families, businesses, and preparing our kids for employment in high-demand jobs. Our state cannot hope to be competitive if we don’t repair the damage that was done to public education with the last budget.”

“I work at a hospital, and physicians looking at coming to the area are looking at our education system; they’re looking at our district,” testified parent Anne Heise at a recent public hearing in Rhinelander, Wis. “They won’t come if we don’t have a quality school system.”
http://www.rivernewsonline.com/main.asp?SectionID=6&SubSectionID=47&ArticleID=54256&TM=49199.71

“In the last budget cycle, we saw the deepest cuts to our public schools in state history,” said Alinder. “My child lost her art teacher and her class size grew. Our schools are not the same or better, and there is no excuse not to do something about it now. Wisconsin can afford to this, and we can’t afford not to.” ###

Parents Respond to Walker’s Education Policy

[This is from my email inbox. And for full disclosure it was emailed to me by WEAC]

Important Message from Concerned Parents

Dear Friends of Public Education:

Tonight is an important night for Wisconsin K-12 public education. Scott Walker will present his State of the State address at 7pm, and is expected to go on the record supporting new education policies that members of the Wisconsin GOP and ALEC have been working on for years. As public schools are still reeling from the greatest budget cuts in state history, Tuesday’s State of the State address should tell us what additional, devastating K-12 education “reforms” our schools will face. We expect less accountability, more privatization, continued attacks on our teachers, and state authorized charter and virtual schools operating beyond local control and accountability.

View this statewide press release from parents that tells us what our schools have lost already. The voices and figures in this release are a reminder: Wisconsin schools in 2013 are not better. Drawing $1.6 billion away from public schools is not reform.

Read this release. Share it with your network. Respond with your experience, story, observation about the state of public K12 education in Wisconsin today. Ask everyone in your networks to do the same: write legislators, draft letters to the editor, point out where our schools are succeeding against all odds, talk to legislators about the harm that’s been done to schools in the face of a landmark $1.6 billion budget cut. According to the Wisconsin Department of Administration, we are in a much different fiscal situation than we were two years ago. We do have the funds to repair the damage to public education. But we have to show the political will to make that happen.

As Walker’s policies take shape and gain supporters in the legislature and beyond in the coming weeks, we will be told our schools are better off today, that Walker’s reforms are working. Your letters, stories and testimony are what’s needed to remind Wisconsin that our schools are not better. Wisconsin can afford to reinvest in our children; we can’t afford not to.

RESOURCES FOR RESPONSES, RECOMMENDATIONS, SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT:

Watch the State of the State address on Wisconsin Eye: http://www.wiseye.org

Respond with your stories, participate in the conversation, suggest real reform and a reinvestment in our public schools: http://www.wisconsinsfuture.org (Look up WAES, Penny for Kids, Schools in Crisis

Connect to your legislator — http://legis.wisconsin.gov/Pages/waml.aspx

Contact the Senate Education Committee — http://legis.wisconsin.gov/Pages/comm-info.aspx?c=1045

Contact the Assembly Education Committee — http://legis.wisconsin.gov/Pages/comm-info.aspx?c=1093

Read and respond — Wispolitics.com and/or you local media organization

Review and recommend a practical, responsible and ready “first step” toward fixing the state’s education-funding inequalities: http://fairfunding.dpi.wi.gov

Thank you for taking the lead and taking the time to tell the truth about our schools, their budgets and what our children really need to succeed in 2013 and beyond.

Your partners is supporting high quality public education,

Parents for Public Schools-Milwaukee
c/o Jasmine Alinder & Angela McManaman

Whither MKE Cnty: Abolish Municipal Governments

One of the continuing memes relating to reducing county supervisor salaries is the amount of money the county will save…approximately $850,000…which by the way is just under 90 cents per county resident.

And of course there is continued talk that county government is an unnecessary layer of government that doesn’t have many functions in the modern world…but if you look at the county website there are plenty of countywide services that county government supports that the local municipalities couldn’t perform more efficiently and probably can’t be relegated to the state…and there’s the pesky state constitution that establishes counties and the elected officials that run the county…not sure we could pull the plug on the county without a constitutional change…and that might stir up other counties who would also seem expendable.

But let’s get back to that savings. $850,000 out of a $1.348 billion county budget? Really? My computer calculator doesn’t even want to figure out the percentage. So lets face it, saving money isn’t the real issue…we’ll come back to that in another blog…but let’s say we are really interested in saving serious dollars and eliminating duplicative governmental services.

If you look at a map of the county divisions in Wisconsin, you will see that Milwaukee County is relatively small at 242 square miles…only two counties are smaller, rural Pepin and northern bedroom suburb, Ozaukee county…both at 232 square miles. And as has been stated many times, Milwaukee county has no unincorporated areas and the only first class city in the state, Milwaukee. So overall the county is fairly urban with some room to grow and shares many of the same issues although the suburbs and the city don’t always see eye to eye. But with under 950,000 residents the county would still make a fairly small city by US and World standards…puts us right below Dallas TX and ahead of San Jose CA…but…

BUT let’s save some real damn money…let’s upgrade the Milwaukee County board and Milwaukee County Executive to the chief legislative and executive branches of government in the county. Let’s abolish the 19 municipal governments that currently make up the county. 19 fewer mayors, common councils, police depts, fire depts, school boards, school systems, depts. of public works, health depts, sanitation depts, etc, etc, etc. (and yes I know that MKE county already has a number of consolidated schools and emergency services but you get the point).

And no, this isn’t a brave new world, similar situations exist in Nashville TN and Louisville KY and would make a lot of sense for an area like Milwaukee County.

So what do you think? Good bye Greefield, West Allis, Shorewood, Whitefish Bay? Hello Unified Milwaukee County?