Sen. Darling's "recovery district" idea mimics the Republican Party's further sell-off of public education

Five years ago, State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) penned an opinion column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wringing her hands about the condition of public education in Wisconsin, especially the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS). But she brightened at the prospect that public schools would soon come under more political control. "I am optimistic on the prospects for real education reform because it's on the minds of leaders of all political stripes. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has ideas for breaking up MPS into more nimble and accountable pieces."

Walker is now governor, of course, and has deeded those ideas about breaking up the public schools to Republican state legislators, Darling included. Following past GOP actions designed to weaken public schools and rob them of revenue, the GOP is now considering a number of even more problematic "reforms," including a trial balloon from suburbanite Darling herself. She would "fix" MPS by enacting a law that would punish underperforming schools in the city. Judging by other GOP initiatives already in the pipeline, "performance" would be measured according to simplistic and self-serving standards. Punishment would range all the way up to a death sentence for targeted schools, judged to be "failing."

“I Don’t Have A Clue” - School Play Mirrors Confusion in Assembly Education Committee

January 21, 2015
 
“I Don’t Have A Clue”
School Play Mirrors Confusion in Assembly Education Committee
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Edgar: All right, everybody; back to the scene of the crime.
“Ella: New clues?
“Carol: What clues?
“Bob: What’s the next clue?
“Carol: I don’t have a clue.
“Norman: (At the window box, dramatically.) Guys, the body’s gone!”
 
So goes the hilarious comedy written by Craig Sodaro and performed by Alma students. The play begins as a murder mystery dinner invitation and ends wrapped up in an international smuggling ring.
 
Students spent the last three and a half months practicing lines and preparing costumes. Play Director Tom Brakke coordinated a cast of roughly a quarter of Alma’s Middle and High Schoolers with precious few resources. He even directed students to buy up half-priced dresses and police uniforms at After-Halloween-Sales.
 
The work shows. The fast-paced comedy pulled in record crowds at the rural high school. Teens of all ages delivered their lines flawlessly and kept everyone entertained.
 
I took in the show on a brief break. I couldn’t help but see parallels between the confusion of the dinner guests and the lines delivered at a recent Assembly Education Committee hearing.

TESTING THE LAWMAKERS: It's not about the schools; it's about poverty. Discuss!

The next time (and it'll be soon) that you hear Wisconsin state legislators talking about problems with our public schools and the need to "reform" them by taking them over, converting them to private schools, swiping their funding to subsidize existing private schools  and punishing poorly performing public schools with cuts in state aid, just remember this:

A majority of public school pupils across the United States now live in poverty. That's true for the first time in 50 years. All past gains in reducing child poverty, made by the "war on poverty" beginning in the 1960s, now have been reversed, arguably because inflation-adjusted wages for the working poor and the middle class have for much of that time remained stagnant, or have declined.

And it's not just that more kids are living in poverty; it's that among those impoverished kids, a growing number are living in extreme poverty.

Wisconsin, it is true, fairs somewhat better than the norm. Here in the Badger state "only" 41 percent of all public school pupils come from impoverished homes. Still, that's worse than the poverty in nearby Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio.

If it isn't obvious why this is important, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University explained it in a nutshell:

Jeff Smith running for Democratic Party Chair

This afternoon I talked to Jeff Smith on the phone about his run for Democratic Party Chair. Jeff is the former representative from the 93rd district, and has worked as an organizer for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.  I talked to Jeff about what his plans are, what he would do as party chair, and what makes him different from the other candidates.  Please excuse some of the audio quality here - this was a cell phone interview.

Walker plans to "right-size" -- more accurately right-wing size -- Wisconsin state government. RIGHHHHHHHT.

"Right-sizing" is a slyly meaningless yet onerous term used in the business community to explain cutting staff, outsourcing, reducing reserves of capital and commodities and generallty making everything smaller to boost profits. And it's also used by product marketeers trying to suggest to customers how economical and/or healthy their offerings are.

Now Scott Walker is using the term to justify and explain an obvious Republican move to further cut state social programs, environmental protection, low-income housing programs and other policies that helped build Wisconsin's superior quality of life. Before we started out on Captain Walker's downstream riverboat ride towards Wisconsippi.

Hey, Walker insists, things under his regime have turned out great. Who needs all that state "programmy" stuff, besides of course the citizens of Wisconsin who need all that stuff? Poor people, you see, simply don't deserve a helping hand because that only serves to impoverish them, even though they're already impoverished. Meanwhile, the state's dwindling middle class doesn't need any help either. At least not from your state government.

LAB Fraud Hotline: Working to Stop Waste, Abuse and Mismanagement

LAB Fraud Hotline: Working to Stop Waste, Abuse and Mismanagement
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“We waited and the ride never came,” said one disabled man. “I was so cold” another woman said. “They said the heater in the van didn’t work.”
 
The disabled folks from Black River Falls who called me were on to something. They described problems (like waiting for a van that never came) with state contractors who were supposed to transport Medicaid patients to a doctor or therapy appointment. The problems they described were happening in many parts of the state.
 
The complaints led to a public hearing. Last spring lawmakers directed the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) to conduct an investigation into contactors hired by the state to provide non-emergency medical transportation. Auditors were to investigate the complaints raised about substandard service. 
 
But some people were afraid to complain. For a kidney dialysis patient, life depends on the ride to the dialysis center.

Paul Ryan and the GOP "voodoo time machine" tries to change history

Reality is full of inconvenient truths. And facts (as comedian Stephen Colbert famously said) have a known liberal bias. Which explains why policy-deficient Republlicans react accordingly. Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman this week reflected on the GOP's continued insistence on believing in -- or at least spreading around -- sheer fantasy. In his New York Times column, Krugman in particular used Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) as an example of this.

Krugman first reflected on how newly minted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) now takes credit for months of national economic resurgence,  when before the fall election, McConnell and his brethren were blaming President Obama for the nation's supposed economic malaise.

Ron Johnson: A Working Single Mom Should "Find Someone to Support Her"

Oh, this is rich.

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, you know-- the guy who got rich by finding someone to support him, has a pearl of wisdom for all the working single moms out there:  If she wants to "increase her take-home pay” instead of having yet "another child out of wedlock" to increase her welfare windfall, she should instead "find someone to support her." (see video below)

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