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School Funding Hits Home

Kathleen Vinehout
School Funding Hits Home
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
What’s wrong with school funding? Explaining this to voters is difficult. Try explaining it to a ninth grader who is losing a favorite teacher. The teacher is not retiring. At 53 and after teaching for 29 years, he lost his job.
 
Recently I spent a day teaching high school students about school funding and the state budget. Later that day I presented similar material to staff and school board members. I learned much more than the students did during my day as teacher.
 
Prescott considers itself a suburb of Saint Paul. Only 20 minutes away, folks go to church, shop, and read the newspaper from the Twin Cities. Few hear news from Madison.
 
However, Wisconsin’s convoluted school funding formula is now the topic of conversation.
 
Prescott school district lost a referendum in February. Voters will soon decide another – the 27th referenda in just 15 years!

The legislature taketh and perhaps the courts giveth back

We're in another one of those interesting moments in Wisconsin where some of the more egregious acts of our state legislature are again in court. Despite our governor's assertion that Voter ID is working "fine" in the state, the current lawsuit in Wisconsin Western District court seems to be arguing otherwise. Walker is unwilling to admit that there's a problem here, yet he seems willing to write administrative rules to "fix" it. Well, only a little bit. 

Voter ID has been a painful issue right down then line, attempting to save us from the dire consequences of impersonation fraud at the polls. Fraud for which nobody seems ever to find evidence. The current case argues, I think convincingly, that the whole Voter ID law is a bare-faced attempt to disenfranchise voters who are likely to vote Democratic. Let's hope that the court sees the point here and is willing to act on it.

Playing Nice in the Sandbox and the River

Kathleen Vinehout
Playing Nice in the Sandbox and the River
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“People are being driven off the river,” Sue told Black River area residents. “My kids can’t dive off the dock with the big boats. … It didn’t used to be this way. We could all get along - kayakers, canoers, and boaters. I wouldn’t dream of letting my kids kayak now.”
 
Friends of the Black River gathered to talk with boat owners about river use. Some felt big boats had taken over the river.
 
Playing nice in the sandbox means respecting others play. The six-year-old bully who throws sand and drives other children away does not ‘play nice.’
 
The public meeting I attended with Sue and about seventy others had at its heart the request to ‘play nice’ on the river.
 

Recovery Court Celebrates Ten Years of Changing Lives

Kathleen Vinehout
Recovery Court Celebrates Ten Years of Changing Lives
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Addiction may begin in a very private way. But, healing from addiction can take a village and can be very public.
 
“This is a big challenge,” Taavi McMahon, the Trempealeau County District Attorney told me. “People get up in front of everyone in open court and spill the beans about their whole life.”
 
Recovery Court in Trempealeau County recently celebrated 10 years of helping addicts return to a healthy life and avoid prison. I was blessed to be a part of the anniversary celebration held in Whitehall.
 
“All of the Black Tar China Girls raise your hands,” said Kim Walker to the crowd of community members and graduates of the Recovery Court. Folks raised their hands. These were heroin or other opiate drug addicts who changed their lives.
 
Kim Walker worked with addicts through intensive outpatient counseling. Her smile and sparkling enthusiasm for life was infectious. Those recovering crowded around her and took “selfies” to mark the anniversary of the program that brought them from the brink of death to a full life in a supportive community.

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers

Don't blame me - blame Shakespeare. Or Dick the Butcher if you're character-driven. Some days it seems like a reasonable sentiment.  Let's compare and contrast two news stories that have passed over my desk in the last day or so. They're related both to my little neck of the woods and the state as a whole.

From the Eau Claire Leader Telegram re: the last Menomonie City Council Meeting:

 Approved Knaack’s appointment of the law firm Weld Riley, which has offices in Eau Claire, Menomonie and Black River Falls, for general legal counsel. John Behling will serve primarily as city attorney. Weber Law Office of River Falls will serve as the prosecution for traffic court issues. Allyson Baier will serve as the primary lawyer for that portion. City attorney Ken Schofield retired.

Remember when using the bathroom was simple?

bathroom

Okay, maybe not this bathroom, but -

I note that Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) is saying that he's going to bring back the transgender bathroom bill that failed to pass in the last legislative session because ""This North Carolina law has taken the blinders off for a lot of people," 

Well yes, it has taken the blinders off for me. It has made it clear that people proposing these ridiculous bills around the country really don't care about "protecting children" so much as they care about ridiculing and persecuting people for the crime of "being different". Which is apparently enough these days.

Mississippi River is One of America’s Greatest Treasures

Kathleen Vinehout
Mississippi River is One of America’s Greatest Treasures
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“A single drop of water falling into the headwaters of the Mississippi in Minnesota would travel the river for 90 days to reach the Gulf of Mexico.” Gayle Harper, author/photographer, read this detail on the National Park Service website.
 
“Every cell in my body felt the impact of that and came to full attention. It felt as if someone had hit the ‘pause’ button on the world.”
 
She was captivated. How would it be to voyage the entire length of America’s Greatest River for 90 days with an imaginary raindrop?

Robert McChesney interview with John Quinlan

John Quinlan has been running a series of interviews on his site Forward Forum - this is his most recent interview, with Robert McChesney.  You may know him from various media-related books and forums - most recently he has written a book with Wisconsin's own John Nichols called  People Get Ready and John interviews him here.

Will Broadband Show Up in Rural Neighborhoods?

Kathleen Vinehout
Will Broadband Show Up in Rural Neighborhoods?
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“I don’t want to promise you fiber where fiber is not going to come,” Kent Disch, AT&T Wisconsin External Affairs Director, told Ellsworth community leaders.
 
Pierce County business leaders and elected officials gathered with telecommunication company representatives and local cooperatives to push for resolution to Internet problems.
 
Business leaders asked companies why they would not or could not bring services to businesses that were more than willing to pay. A concrete company owner noted his company is growing but lack of good broadband “is a bottleneck.”  Broadband is needed to prosper.
 
One after another, the business leaders, county board members, and a former mayor shared community problems. People could not join mandatory webinars or attend virtual conference meetings. Locals frequently experienced dropped Internet connections. The Internet would not work at certain times of the day.

Referenda Sustain Schools During Time of Decreasing State Support

Kathleen Vinehout
Referenda Sustain Schools During Time of Decreasing State Support
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“School districts these days more or less live and die by these referendums in terms of their ability to sustain programs and staff,” Dan Rossmiller of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) recently said as reported by the Isthmus.
 
So far in 2016, voters approved more than three-quarters of the 85 ballot referenda to raise property taxes to send more local dollars to schools. The nearly 77% pass rate is much higher than a few years ago.
 
People are voting to raise property taxes to keep their schools alive.
 
Recently I met with officials from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to understand school funding trends.  I learned there was a big shift in the success of referenda. Prior to 2011 (and the deep school cuts that year) about half of school referenda passed. In the past five years about two-thirds passed.
 
Historically, communities voted to raise school property taxes to build buildings. Prior to 2011, nearly two-thirds of referenda votes were for the purpose of raising debt for building projects.

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