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May 2015
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How Republicans ruined Wisconsin’s education system while you were sleeping

Last night Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee voted along straight party lines to put forward an education budget that will do immeasurable harm to Wisconsin’s children for years to come. While I wanted to recap exactly how awful the Republican-approved education budget is, Monologues of Dissent does an outstanding job of explaining how awful the Republican-approved education budget is, and it’s an absolute must-read for anyone who cares about what Republicans are doing to our state.

I don’t know if you were following what happened at the Wisconsin Capitol last night, but here is a summary:

The Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines to put forward an education budget that will harm our kids into perpetuity. There IS increased funding (as opposed to the $150/pupil cuts the Governor wanted), but the increase is illusory; expansion of vouchers and changes to the funding formula mean that it’s difficult to tell how much of the “increase” will actually go to public schools. Waiting for the fiscal analysis of that. In the meantime, here’s how Wisconsin schools were sold out from under you while you were sleeping:

The budget includes the worst of what thousands of parents, school board members, administrators, advocacy groups, and grassroots local citizens spoke out against in droves at the hearings and in writing over the past months. In the guise of giving an increase to the public school budget, it creates a new, complicated, confusing & unwanted way of “accounting”
for private voucher school students that allows voucher money to be laundered through the public school budget. Districts that do not have voucher schools will lose even more money than they already do, and the voucher money will continue to come “off the top” as the program is expanded statewide. All over the state, communities will be forced to go to referendum and raise taxes to fund local schools. Many of these referenda will fail. The JFC voted against its constitutional obligation to fund public education at a level that allows uniform instruction at all schools. We are a state of haves and have-nots, and the “haves” got a shiny new gift last night.

It also includes two unconscionable and highly controversial measures:

  1.  Inclusion of the Special Needs Vouchers that every single disability rights advocacy group in Wisconsin opposes and that are the heart of an ALEC/AFC campaign to get more public money into private schools by taking advantage of our most vulnerable kids. Private schools do not have to follow federal regulations and discriminate regularly against kids with special needs. They are also not required by the bill to use the vouchers to meet the needs of the children they’re intended to serve. It is the ugliest of entitlements and it was slipped into the budget at the final hour, with no public hearing, because it is the weakest chink in their armor and they knew that public outrage would be widespread, as it was in previous years when the proposal failed on every attempt after much dissent.
  2. Inclusion of a proposal to “phase in” takeover of the highest poverty, lowest performing Milwaukee Public Schools by revoking local control – a few schools at a time, more each year. This is a perverse, unvetted, ill-considered idea that has virtually NO local support, involved NO local leaders, and was given NO forum whatsoever for public input or community engagement. It will bankrupt MPS. It is the most paternalistic “we know best” of ideas and doomed to fail, as it provides no funds for the “wrap around services” it claims it will provide, and essentially hands public property over to privateers despite their having no track record of greater success in working with high-need schools, and despite the failures of similar takeover programs in Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans & Philadelphia. The kicker for the rest of the state, who will pay the tab for this, is that the language of the bill allows for replication of the program in other large cities – Racine and Madison will be next. Under the plan, public schools will be “managed” by an appointed czar and the local
    community/democratically elected school board will have no say in their governance as they’re converted into a charter or even a private school, though a provision demands no tuition can be charged. Constitutionality is questionable to say the least. In the meantime, the bill would “help” just a few of the schools that most need help and the budget does nothing to meet the needs and call for fair funding and much-needed services and staffing for high-poverty schools. It is both a slap in the face of Milwaukee and a message to the rest of the state that local control and democracy have no place in the “business” of the school privatization movement.

Finally, the 51 items in the Omnibus Bill included all sorts of other things that will boggle your mind. Like allowing people with a bachelor’s degree and “experience” to become licensed teachers. And a Jim Crow-style Civics Test that will be required for graduation (despite the fact that we already have a civics requirement in Wisconsin). And changing the current school “report card” system to a star rating system (not joking). And allowing charter and voucher schools to take different tests than the ones required for public schools so that all of these measures can be used to cook the books and feed the hoax that our beloved public schools underperform the schools that are stealing their funding. And much, more more. Read the whole thing here: http://wispolitics.com/1006/150519Motion457.pdf

I just hope everyone gets the message from that civics test: democracy means you vote. And elections sure do have consequences.

Education is not a partisan issue.  That was brutally clear when citizens of every stripe testified at the JFC hearings, and school districts and boards all over the state spoke as one to let the JFC know exactly what they need and want to keep our schools great.  It’s brutally clear in the latest polls that show public education is the #1 issue for Wisconsin taxpayers and  78% oppose cuts to schools.  For the first time ever, a majority would rather see a raise in taxes than cutting funds to schools.

Given the climate of bipartisan consensus in the state, it was shocking to see party line votes on a budget that so clearly is deaf to the will of the people last night.  Every single person in this state, regardless of party or politics, should be outraged at these attacks on local control and the democratic process.

Be prepared to fight these things tooth and nail. Organize locally.  Speak up and speak out and speak loudly.  They’re not law until the governor signs the bill.

There is hope — when we speak as one, we cannot be ignored. 

Our children have never needed us to speak up more.

Time for true progressives to take a stand on behalf of Wisconsin/American workers

Within only a week or so of announcing his run for US Senate Russ Feingold has come out strong against the Trans Pacific Partnership. Feingold is clear that trade deals like the TPP are written by and for corporations and not the workers who are stuck with whatever is negotiated.But not every Wisconsin Democrat feels the same way.

Last week 42 Wisconsin state Dem legislators sent a letter to Wisconsin’s congressional delegation calling on them to oppose the TPP and Fast Track Authority. Eight of our 50 Dem state legislators didn’t sign it. Why not?

Mark Taylor of the Daily Call suggests that five who didn’t sign, Reps Jill Billings, Steve Doyle and Chris Danou, and Senators Jennifer Shilling and Kathleen Vinehout, abstained so as not to ” out ” their Congressman, Ron Kind. Kind is aggressively supporting the TPP at community events around the 3rd CD. The other three who didn’t sign are Senators Julie Lassa, Janet Bewley and, most inexplicably, Fred Risser.

Given that Janet Bewley is my state Senator I called her office to see why she didn’t sign. One of her staffers told me that Senator Bewley has a policy of not signing such letters because she feels she wasn’t elected to tell congresspersons how to do their job. I don’t find that an acceptable rationale and told the staffer so.

A good friend of mine, Eleanor Wolf, called her state Senator, Kathleen Vinehout, and was told by one of her staffers that Vinehout didn’t sign the letter because she didn’t know what was in the TPP. I’m not making that up. Eleanor responded that because the TPP is being negotiated in secret and Fast Track Authority allows for no correction of the end result it was all the more imperative Senator Vinehout oppose it. The staffer said he’d pass that information along.

I’m of the mind that if a true progressive like Russ Feingold knows enough about the TPP to vigorously oppose it then any Democrat in Wisconsin who calls him or herself a progressive better oppose it too. 42 of our 50 Dem legislators have done just that. I’m waiting on the other eight.

“Our Dumb Senator” Ron Johnson: Ayatollah more trustworthy than President Obama

This is beyond bizarre….it’s absolutely stunning.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, suggested at a recent town hall event in Cerdarburg, Wisc., that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may be more trustworthy than President Obama when it comes to the nuclear deal.

“Now, a President who was awarded the 2013 Politifact Lie of the Year, if you like your healthcare plan you can keep it, period. If you like your doctor you can keep it, period. They lied boldfaced to the American public repeatedly with Obamacare,” Johnson said, according to a clip surfaced by Buzzfeed News on Tuesday.

“I don’t know, I hate to admit it, but in terms of this framework, do I trust President Obama, or do I trust the Ayatollah? In terms of what the framework actually says? I’m not so sure I’m trusting President Obama on this,” Johnson continued.

I understand conservatives like Ron Johnson absolutely hate President Obama, but for a sitting United States Senator to say he trusts the Ayatollah Khamenei over the President of our country is absolutely mind-blowing.

Cudahy alderman calls residents “dip-shit dumb dumbs” (VIDEO)

In yet another example of Cudahy’s elected officials behaving badly, Fox6 News is reporting Cudahy alderman Jason Litkowiec sent out an internal email calling Cudahy residents who didn’t follow rules pertaining to curbside pickup of trash “dip-shit dumb dumbs.”

Kahle was working on his garden last week. It is a memorial to his son, Elliot, who passed away six years ago. Kahle ended up with a big pile of old lumber, and he dragged it to the curb for a special, city-wide garbage pickup for special waste.

“Maximum length is four feet. I had two pieces that weren`t, so they didn`t pick up anything,” Kahle said.

Kahle chopped down the pieces of lumber to meet the city’s size requirement and the lumber still wasn’t picked up, so Kahle called his alderman Richard Bartoshevich.

“There were some emails sent out internally at City Hall,” Kahle said.

Bartoshevich says he provided copies of an email fellow Alderman Jason Litkowiec sent in response to the situation.

“Direct it to the dip-(expletive) dumb dumbs who cannot read, comprehend or follow simple instructions,” Kahle said as he read the email for FOX6 News. “The days of coddling those who can`t , don`t or refuse to follow simple instructions are over. We do not have the time and resources to change diapers for whiners and complainers anymore.”

What’s remarkable is that Ald. Litkowiec didn’t bother to offer even a token apology for his disparaging remarks, and one can only wonder if that’s because he thinks so little of the residents he serves that he can’t be bothered to apologize for a complete lack of tact and civility.

Here’s video of Fox6’s report on Ald. Litkowiec’s disparaging remarks.

Bill Clinton wins at Twitter

This is how to own Twitter.

ConAgra to close Wisconsin cookie plant, eliminating 300 jobs – clearly they forgot WI is “Open For Business”

Apparently ConAgra didn’t get the message that Wisconsin is “Open For Business” thanks to Gov. Scott Walker and his rubber-stamp Republican legislature.

ConAgra Foods plans to close its west cookie plant in Ripon.

The move will put about 300 full-time employees out of work, according to the company. Workers are being told today and layoffs are expected to be finished by December. Employees have the option of applying for other open positions within ConAgra.

The company released a statement Monday, which read:

“Following an extensive evaluation of our plant network, we have determined that we need to close the soft bake and enrobed cookies facility in Ripon, WI. We are currently meeting with employees to let them know that the transition will occur in phases between September of 2015 and the end of the year.”

“Because we can”: the stunning greed of our nation’s corporations

To say there are problems with corporate America is a gross understatement. During a recent appearance on “Wall Street Week,” Mike Novogratz, president of $70 billion investment fund Fortress Investments, relayed an anecdote about a conversation he once had with Brent Callinicos, the former Chief Financial Officer of Uber (emphasis added).

Novogratz didn’t mention Callinicos by name, referring to him only as “Uber’s CFO.”

The meeting took place as Uber was raising money this past winter. Novogratz asked Callinicos how the company justified its $40 billion valuation. Callinicos walked Novogratz through the numbers.

According to Novogratz, Callinicos said that, right now, Uber drivers return between 20% and 25% of the fare they collect, but that in the future, Uber could easily raise that rate to between 25% and 30%. This would drastically improve Uber’s profit margin, Novogratz recalls Callinicos saying.

Novogratz said this answer prompted him to ask a “cheeky question.”

“‘You’ve got happy employees, you’ve got happy customers, you’ve got happy shareholders. The holy triumvirate are all really excited about your company. Why are you going to risk that and push the employees salary down 5%?'”

Callinicos simply responded “because we can.”

Scott Walker exposes himself as being full of crap on foreign policy (VIDEO)

During an appearance on Face The Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked Gov. Scott Walker what his foreign policy credentials were, and GOv. Walker’s answer was revealing – as in revealing that he’s full of crap.

Well, I think as a governor, it’s really ultimately about leadership. To me, in my lifetime, one of the best presidents when it comes to foreign policy was a governor from California. My lifetime, one of the worst presidents when it comes to foreign policy, was a freshman senator from Illinois. So I think it’s not just about past experience. It’s about leadership. As a governor, you have to put a cabinet in place. Hopefully, you pick people who are as smart or smarter than you on any given topic.

I think that’s something that’s required of a successful president is putting people in place, be it Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, Secretary of State and others, and then having the good sense to listen to them and to others, chain of command in the military, consulting with the Congress. All of those sorts of things I think are important to the president, and I think a successful governors in either party have to do that every day.

You can watch Gov. Walker’s exchange with Bob Schieffer below.

Campaign 16: We The People!

Sometime between the inauguration speech and the first ball, I would start pressuring Congress to replace the current motto, ‘In God We Trust’ with ‘We The People’!

Originally I thought this was just going to be a trivial add on to my thoughts on Campaign 16 and I would throw it out here during a peak time when there wasn’t much time to write. But then I got busy with real life and haven’t had the time to spend writing and researching…and some of the big issues I want to address just haven’t got to the Blogging Blue yet.

Then I realized that the concept to change the motto is the perfect starting point to the campaign. Because ‘We The People’ perfectly describes the difference between how I interpret government’s role in America and the ‘professed’ beliefs of most all of the other candidates.

‘We The People’ represents the entire Constitution as the guiding principle to protect and support ALL of the people of the United States. The principle that we all have the rights outlined in the document, that we all have the protections outlined in the document and that we all share the responsibilities inherent in those rights and protections. The actions of the government need to be directed to benefit the common good…the entire common good…not a select few…not a particular class…not a particular race. It implies a proactive nature, a proactive stance…where a love of nation is exhibited in a love of our fellow man…not in flag waving patriotic zealotry…where jobs provide the means of life…where education provides the means to jobs…and where the national goal is to build the greatest nation to live in…not the greatest military might on earth.

I am not going to go to great lengths to dis ‘In God We Trust’ on first amendment grounds nor that it doesn’t reflect the diversity that is the United States. But it just doesn’t suit the vision and promise that should be the United States.

Another Note Or Two On Ron Johnson:

Zach already posted a piece on Senator Ron Johnson’s tone deaf swipes at Russ Feingold…as Mr. Feingold enters the field to retake his seat in the US Senate.

But he left out a telling piece from that article. After being critical of the McCain – Feingold campaign finance reform bill, he just had to add this:

Johnson did not back new disclosure laws, saying people had a right to anonymously make donations to groups that engage in political speech.

It should come as no small surprise that Sen. Johnson wouldn’t want to prevent the very ethically challenged financing that helped him into office from providing support in 2016.

And back to his statement that he’s an outsider in Washington! After four years in the Senate it’s time to stop acting the outsider and work to actually get something done. Let’s face it. Even the McCain – Feingold bill he maligned came from Mr. Feingold’s ability to actually work across the aisle!

P.S. Everyone has the right of free speech…but I don’t believe the Constitution provides for the right of anonymous speech for anyone.