Monday, December 26, 2011

Issue #39 December 26, 2011- The Holiday Season, Reaction to Madison Prep, Recalls, News of the Week

Issue #39- December 26, 2011
In this issue: The Holiday Season?, Recall News,  Madison Prep Reaction,  Educator Unions, Teacher Evaluations and more on Testing, National News, and Buy Local.

This is a favorite time of year for many of us, full of reflection, tradition and a sense of community.  This is a time when we are encouraged to "remember what's important" and focus on making a positive difference in the world around us. 

Here in the United States we have struggled with the contradictory goals of being a morally sound nation and being an economic and military world power.  Our economic power has been built on the idea of "conspicuous consumption" and tending to the "bottom line".  It is very difficult to balance these two, very different aspects of American culture.  Thus we get the increased giving to charity and the volunteer efforts to help the underprivileged on one hand and use of mace by a Wal-Mart shopper and the stress of holiday shopping on the other.

This video has some very funny moments, yet as I watched it I thought about the dual nature of our national psyche.  The reactions of these kids shows just how powerful the need for material possessions is in the U.S.   

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy giving and receiving gifts as much as the next person.  It just seems to me that we need to keep reminding ourselves and our children that no matter what religion, race, etc. you belong to, we are all one nation and need to keep working for unity, respect, justice and peace. 

Recall News…
Even with the holiday season upon us the recall effort continues to keep forward momentum.  Many recall activists are using the extra time with family and the chance to travel to gather signatures.  Even with the positive news of the large number of signatures already gathered there is a need to keep adding to our totals.  Find a trusted website for information, get together with like minded citizens and take a few hours to get more signatures in our battle to reclaim Wisconsin.

The MTI Recall Committee is adopting several specific events over Winter Break at an East Side and West Side location.
Monday, December 26
East Side Location – Reindahl Park / East Washington

We will staff this site on the Monday after Christmas to target shoppers out and about exchanging gifts.  This location has been effective during heavy shopping days. 
We’ll run three, two-hour shifts, 10AM – 12PM, 12PM – 2PM and 2PM – 4 PM.

West Side Location – Star Cinemas -  McKee Rd. and Commerce  Park Dr.
This site is targeting the hordes of movie goers on the day after Christmas.  We can set up between the parking lots and catch folks entering and exiting the theater.  Sign holders can also work the corners on McKee Rd (PD).  The hours will be  12 – 4 PM at minimum.  If the site is really productive, we would like to know and possibly staff the evening movies as well.
Saturday, December 31
East Side – Reindahl Park / East Washington

We will staff three, two-hour shifts, 10AM – 12PM, 12PM – 2PM and 2PM – 4 PM
Monday, January 2, 2012!
West Side Location – Star Cinemas -  McKee Rd. and Commerce  Park Dr.
The hours will be  12 – 4 PM at minimum
.  If the site is really productive, we would like to know and possibly staff the evening movies as well.
Sign up for a shift or two at one of these MTI Events Here
Ad Hoc Volunteer Circulating Shifts
If you want to volunteer on other dates or locations, there are other ways to get involved.  The United Wisconsin and Dane County Recall Offices are running shifts of circulators during specified times.  They are locating unstaffed “Hot Spots” and sending volunteers out from there.  Here are the office locations and the times that they are accepting recruits!

The East Dane Recall Office                         The West Dane Recall Office
330 East Wilson St                                          
6602 Normandy Ln
608-692-9740                                                  608-692-4573

United Wisconsin                              10:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 4:00 PM
1605 Monroe St


If you are interested in knocking on doors, there are two ways to do this:
1)      Join a neighborhood based grass-roots organization from this link and ask when they are canvassing:
2)      Organize an effort with your colleagues in an underrepresented population that your school community serves.  Last week during Total Recall, we collected a fair amount of signatures this way.
Other opportunities:
Volunteer Phone Banking from East Side Office
Monday – Thursday
3:00-6:00 and 6:00-9:00
Friday – Sunday

12:00-3:00 and 3:00-6:00
You can stop by the Dane County East Offices at 330 East Wilson Street (Map), or call / email to find out more info!  608-692-9740 /
Data Entry Help is also still needed!
Contact Jen Patterson: about helping out with the Recall Walker Office.  When you email her, put “Data Entry Volunteer” in the subject line.

As always, we can't forget the efforts to recall GOP senators as well.  Getting a majority in the senate would make a huge difference in our ability to slow down the Walker Agenda. 

While the number of signatures gathered continues to rise, so do the incidents of harassment and violent behavior directed at petition circulators.  These actions have no place in a democratic society and should be prosecuted severely.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the amount of money being generated by both sides during this recall effort.  Many broad generalizations and accusations of financial backing from outside Wisconsin have been raised by both sides.  It would seem like this is one area of the debate that could be proved or disproved by cold hard facts.  However, due to the tangled web of donations through private foundations or other difficult to trace sources this issue is as difficult to analyze as any other.  What seems clear is that there will be large sums of money spent and the interests of Wisconsin citizens will not be at the top of many contributors lists.    

Any time there are large sums of money and significant political power at stake the threat of corruption becomes very real.  Scott Walker's supporters (along with other Republicans being targeted for recall) would have us believe that the efforts to collect signatures for recall are being done by some pretty shady characters.  They want the public to think that it is only a small number of Wisconsinites who disagree with their policies and that the majority of signers are either frauds, misguided individuals or brainwashed union members.  In addition, they also want to call into question any agency that disagrees with them and which doesn't conform to their wishes. 

A great video where the leader of the Recall Fitzgerald effort confronts Fitzgerald about his accusations of fraud.

In typical conservative fashion there is a call for more oversight, but at the same time an effort to undermine that oversight.  A common theme is the public accusations of fraud and waste designed to reduce public confidence in the process.  One headline can change the mind of many citizens who don't take the time to be fully informed.

Madison Prep Fallout…
The Madison School Board voted 5-2 to reject the proposed Madison Prep Academy.  It was a hotly debated issue and many excellent points were made by both sides.  As with any current event, the long term impacts of this debate remain undecided.  We need to see what happens over time before we can fully evaluate and understand the effects that this proposal will have on public education in Madison.  A few initial responses:

- I'm proud of the way that our elected school board handled the debate.  It was moved to a larger venue to handle the larger audience.  Each speaker was given equal time and respected by the board.  The decision was made in a public way and each board member explained their thinking.  Our state and national leaders would do well to emulate this process.   

-At the same time, I'm also concerned about the overall tone and trends of public discourse in Wisconsin.  The public forums have strict rules and the people involved are, for the most part, committed to keeping them civil and productive.  I know that conversations outside the formal public settings (internet, mail, radio, etc.) don't always hold to these standards and instead focus on rhetoric and divisive statements.  Even within the structured settings of events like hearings and committee meetings it is easy for emotions to get heated and people to lose their composure.  We need to make sure that these negative voices are not allowed to become the norm for our political discussions.

-I respected the views presented by supporters of Madison Prep, but was troubled by a couple of themes that I heard.  First, the idea that public educators in Madison were primarily responsible for the failure of so many of our African-American youth.  We do have a share of the blame in this, but it takes a whole village to raise a successful child and it takes a whole village to raise a child who doesn't succeed, as well.  All families who send their children to us share in the effort to educate them.  I heard a lot of comments that sounded like parents were dropping their kids at the school doors and expecting results without really knowing what was happening at school.  We need to work as a partnership in education with all families.

Second, the idea that our schools are biased against minority students and therefore we need to segregate our schools is problematic for me.  I recognize that students from different backgrounds experience things differently.  As a society we need to continue to work on lessening the impacts that these differences have for all children.  By isolating a group of students primarily by race we don't do anything to help change the culture of our schools or our society.  We can only address the problems we face if we are together.  I feel like almost any of the proposals made for Madison Prep could be implemented in the regular public schools and that would be another step towards overcoming the divisions that exist in America.

-This is an issue that raises tremendous passions within our community.  Each of us has a role to play in attempting to solve the problem for the betterment of all.  We know that not every student will succeed academically at the same level.  Some of our students are gifted and others struggle to learn basic concepts.  Our end goal is to give each student the skills and knowledge so that they can have a successful future (as defined by them, not a standardized test or other uniform measurement).  The only way that we will succeed is to take responsibility for the things that we can control and respect the other people involved in helping educate our students.  Issues that deal with race are very difficult to adequately address in America today.  The leaders of the different groups along with their vocal supporters need to work hard to frame the debate in such a way that it is able to be discussed and solutions can be offered.  Negative rhetoric or grandstanding only creates an atmosphere of mistrust, anger and divides groups that should be working together.

The achievement gap is made up of many different individual stories.  Each of these stories is important in its own way, yet insignificant in other ways.  What I mean by this is that no one individual experience represents any group of people by itself.  Only by hearing a large number of different stories will we be able to find a way to develop a policy that will benefit the most people.  A narrow view based on a specific demographic will not serve the greater good.  Madison Prep would have benefited many of the people who spoke at the board, but there were significant numbers of voices that went unheard in the debate. 

-We need to be careful and identify the outside interests attempting to use issues like the achievement gap to their own advantage.  Several speakers directly addressed the goal of eliminating the unions that represent public educators.  Their statements showed their interest in dismantling unions, but not in supporting students.  The enemy here is the failure of specific groups of students to achieve in schools and society in general.  The enemy isn't the people who work daily to try and educate these students. 

-The debate is good for our schools.  We need to address the needs of all students and the different communities we serve.  By strongly expressing their ideas each speaker made a contribution to this discussion.  The most important thing is how we move forward from this point.  We can't simply return to the status quo and forget about the issues raised.  We must find ways to make progress in addressing the issues faced by students in our public schools.

So, where do we go from here?  At this time it looks like Madison Prep will open as an independent school in 2012.  They won't receive public money, unless the Wisconsin Legislature passes a bill that changes the rules for financing charter schools.  This is a big issue because of the support that the large conservative foundations have for legislation designed to undermine public education.  Another reason to recall and to stay active and vigilant in politics.  

School board elections will take on a different tone in the near future.  We need to stay engaged and make sure that one issue candidates and reformers who don't value public education aren't elected to oversee public schools in any community.

We have to keep sharing information and reminding the general public what the privately owned, publically funded charter school movement is all about.  There are many ways we can work to defend our public schools. 

We also need to be careful to not undermine our own efforts to improve education. 

Most importantly we need to keep the focus on educating kids.  Public educators must continue to advocate for all of our students and defend our schools from the attacks made by groups and individuals who either don't support public education, or who represent only a narrow interest group.  We can only do this if we stay united and committed to our primary goal, educating all students.  We need to be open to new ideas, but also conservative in our endorsement of untried proposals put forward by non-educators or biased sources.

Public Educator Unions…
It has been an ongoing theme in this publication that public educator unions are necessary and vital to the success of our society.  Unfortunately, the attacks on public educators continue to increase and are taking their toll on the public servants who work in our schools.  This is especially true here in Wisconsin, but isn't isolated to one state.  In Highland Park Texas, one of our nation's most affluent suburbs, students at the high school held "Trailer Trash Day" and came to school dressed as their teachers.
It is important to remember that unions are a vibrant and active part of our democratic traditions.  They represent the ability of people to join together to become more powerful than they would be individually.  They also give people hope for the future and protections in the present.

Testing and Evaluating Ed…
Part of the assault on public education has been driven by the call for  public educators to be held to higher standards of accountability than they had been previously.  Not all aspects of testing and educator accountability are negative.  It is this increased accountability that has led to the greater attention to the achievement gap.  However, the use of testing to punish schools and to drive curriculum has not been a positive force in education.  It is clear that what results you get depend on what you measure, and what we try to measure is politically driven. 

A few clear examples of the extreme negative examples of this from the latest edition of Rethinking Schools. 
-Elizabeth Schlessman wrote an article about students in Oregon and their participation in the state's writing assessment.  It seems that students got extra points on the exam if they included colons in their writing.  Almost every student put a reference to time in their piece to get the extra points.  She writes, "It was painful to watch students dutifully insert colons based on their trust that test scores are a definitive and valid measure of good writing."
-In Washington D.C. they use IMPACT evaluations to assess teachers.  The evaluations use value added test scores or observations where teachers are evaluated based on specific strategies and skills.  We all remember Ms. Frizzle and admired the activities and concepts she taught to her highly engaged students.  However, under IMPACT scoring she was evaluated twice and scored minimally effective and barely effective in her evaluations.  In D.C. she would be subject to dismissal with these scores.  IMPACT could spread to 9 more states including Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan in the near future.  Still think we don't need unions for our educators?

State and National News…
Scott Walker and his Republican legislature continue to dismantle our state's progressive tradition.  We all knew that the budget passed this summer was going to be harmful to many agencies and hurt a wide range of Wisconsin residents.  Now the full impacts are being felt.

The budget was only one way to advance the conservative agenda in Wisconsin.  New bills and policy are continuing to be advanced.

Yes to an iron ore mine; no to a bad Assembly bill - JSOnline
Does Walker recognize the damage he is doing?  A true leader is able to see when his/her policies are not effective, admit mistakes and move to address the problems.  Walker's only regret is that he didn't package the legislation in a more palatable fashion.  In other words, he's not sorry he did it, he's sorry he got caught.

It's not just our state officials who are misrepresenting the majority of citizens.  Elected representatives of Wisconsin have been failing us along with national leaders.

Buy Local…
Even though the big holiday buying season is over it is still important to remember to try and change our shopping patterns to support local businesses and labor friendly products.

Small Business Strategies: Shop 'small' this holiday season

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Issue #38 December 18, 2011- Madison Prep, Recall and Our Rights

Issue #38- December 18, 2011
In this issue: Madison Prep, Charter Schools, Recall News, Walker's Agenda Isn't Working, (Dis)Respecting the Constitution.

Madison Prep…
The Madison School Board is holding a meeting on December 19th to vote on the Madison Prep proposal.  This planned charter school has stirred emotions here in Madison.  When I first heard about the idea of a school in Madison that would serve the needs of African-American males my reaction was one of "wait and see".  I liked the idea of trying to do something innovative, and fully recognize the issues that our students are facing in terms of their academic achievement.  Every educator that I know has struggled with the challenge of trying to get our students from struggling populations to "succeed" in the classroom.  Several people who I know and respect were proponents of the Madison Prep idea and I wanted to hear more about what the school would offer Madison students.

After months of negotiations and changing proposals I have to say that I can't support the Madison Prep idea as it currently exists.  It's not that I don't see a need for new ideas in educating our students from struggling groups, it has never been clearer that there is a need for us to address this issue.  My major reasons for opposing Madison Prep center around the issues of accountability, workers rights, the needs of all students and conservative attacks on public education.  In each case local issues are mixed in with larger national ones. 
The issue of accountability is the easiest one for me.  Madison Prep's current proposal puts it outside the direct control of the elected school board, while still using public money.  I believe that, if you are using public money, you need to submit to oversight by the people who represent the public.  If you don't want that oversight then raise money and be a private school.  I find it interesting how conservatives who want to limit government spending can support giving away tax dollars to privatized endeavors like this.  They speak about the need to privatize services, but as Alex Molnar from National Education Policy Center- University of Colorado-Boulder says, "These folks talk about a free market, but they couldn't exist without taxpayer dollars."
The issues I have with the Madison Prep proposal and worker's rights are also clear in my mind.  The educator's union in Madison, MTI (Madison Teachers Incorporated), is taking a great amount of criticism for their role in the projected defeat of the Madison Prep proposal.  Madison Prep supporters have been joined by area conservatives in pointing at MTI as one of the primary reasons the MMSD Administration and School Board are against the plan.  To some degree it is true that the collective bargaining agreement between MTI and MMSD is an obstacle to implementing the Madison Prep proposal as it currently stands.  However, it isn't the only reason, nor is the existing contract the most important reason to oppose the plan.

Don't misunderstand my position, this isn't the knee-jerk reaction of a white, unionized public educator.  I value my union and I value the rights of workers.  I do however recognize that there are times where labor has been its own worst enemy.  I also realize that there are times where organized labor needs to compromise for the good of others.  This isn't one of those times. 

The issues that I have with Madison prep go beyond just the proposal itself and get to the heart of the debate over education policy and worker's rights.  Throughout the debate supporters of Madison Prep have clearly grappled with the cost of paying employees a reasonable wage.  The salaries of employees is, by necessity, one of the largest budget items in a school systems budget.  Madison Prep tried every way imaginable to cut costs in this area, while still preserving administrator salaries in many cases.  The comments made were frequently disparaging towards the support staff, custodial workers and other employees.  The idea of recruiting young African-American males and having them work longer hours for lower pay than their, mainly white, counterparts in MMSD is also problematic.  

The concerns I have about the attacks on public education are more philosophical in nature.  I don't question the intent of the majority of supporters of Madison Prep, I hope that they do hold the best interests of the students as their highest priority.  At its heart the debate over Madison Prep is an example of what is wrong with the attitudes towards public education of our entire nation.  What we have is a complicated set of problems that don't have a single straightforward, easy solution.  For example, the achievement gap is made up of many individual stories with all the complications that humans bring to any equation.  Just a quick look in any classroom in Madison will show you the complexity of the problem and the wide range of efforts that are being made to address the dilemma. 

Madison Prep has become a focal point for local conservatives who want to privatize schools.  The original supporters of Madison Prep who have spoken strongly about the need for a new approach to addressing the achievement gap are now giving conservative views as their supporting arguments.  They are (knowingly or unknowingly) giving these anti-public education sentiments a new venue.  The Madison Prep arguments as they currently stand are eerily similar to those of far right activists in other parts of America.  For example, in 1994 Jeb Bush lost the race to be Florida's Governor by 1%.  He only received 4% of the state's African-American votes cast in that election.  He then teamed up with the Urban League, founded Florida's first charter school and won the next election. 

I'm not saying that supporters of Madison Prep are part of this movement.  I know that there has been talk of the connections between different organizations that support Madison Prep and the larger nationwide charter school movement.  I sincerely hope that the local organizers have been able to keep themselves separate from these outside groups that are more about profit and less about education.

There are many parts of the Madison Prep proposal that make sense.  We need to address the needs of students who are struggling.  However, removing resources from the MMSD budget in order to serve a small number of students in a separate institution doesn't make sense to me.  The Madison Prep plan doesn't appear to address the needs of students with disabilities or who have significant psychological needs.  These students will remain in the regular MMSD programs and have fewer resources available to them.  We all can recognize the impact that poverty has on our student's achievement and I fear that Madison Prep will do what most charter schools in other communities have done…skim off the top students and leave the more disadvantaged behind.

Finally, I believe that we can work together to help make our schools places where all children and families can feel welcomed and challenged in positive ways.  It would be so powerful if we could put the same amount of energy into creating positive outcomes for all students.  Madison Prep would only benefit a small number of students and would create more division in an already divided community.  The ideas in the Madison Prep proposal are not revolutionary and could be incorporated into MMSD programming.  I am convinced that, by using our existing public school structure, we can develop ideas to address the issues facing students, families and educators in today's world.     

Privatized Charter Schools- Bad for Public Education, Bad for Kids 
Part of my negative response to the Madison Prep proposal is based on the approach used by supporters and the timing of their plan.  Here in Wisconsin we already have an anti-education governor and a hostile legislature just looking for new ways to undermine public sector unions.  The move is underway to dismantle our public education system and thereby destroy one of the last union strongholds in Wisconsin.  Getting a publicly funded, private charter school in Madison would be a huge achievement for these conservative forces.

As always I must make the comment that I recognize the fact that our public schools are not perfect institutions.  The public educator unions that represent the employees of these districts are flawed as well.  However, I accept these flaws as part of the democratic society that we live in.  We can't settle for just following the status quo practices and policies, but the institutions and mechanisms for change that we have are central to our stability as a nation.  Our democracy is a slow and complicated process, but it is a way for all voices to be heard and all interests to be represented. 

Charter schools as they currently exist undermine this process.  The basic argument put forth by charter school advocates is that they are looking out for the needs of families.  These families' needs are not being met by the existing public school and frequently it is the educators and their unions that are blocking progress.  They argue that educator unions are standing in the way of reforms that would make our educational system more effective and efficient. 
I would argue that the unions are standing in the way of progress, just not the progress that the conservative reformers would have us believe.  Educators and their unions work to represent the needs of the people employed in the public schools, that is true.  However, as an article in Rethinking Schools recently stated, "As education activists, we have to ensure that our unions and professional organizations stand on the side of children and our communities.  It's not enough to narrowly defend teacher rights without understanding that the future of public schools and the future of the teaching profession are directly linked to broader social conditions and to the politics of democratic participation."
The biggest roadblock that educators and their unions represent to reformers is the path to the big money available in education.  The reformers have seized issues like the achievement gap and other problems in education and used them to advance plans to destroy educator unions and to dismantle public education.  
Conservatives call for reforms that will address the needs of the struggling groups, but really don't have their interests in mind. From Rethinking Schools Fall 2011 "As conservatives and self-styled reformers slash support for schools and social services and attack teachers and other public workers, they do not intend to calculate the human cost of those actions- particularly the cost to children."  Conservatives speak about meeting the needs of the poor and giving opportunities for families to choose a school that will meet specific needs.  Arguments are advanced, "That made it easy to adopt a rhetoric with a civil rights cast to it about closing achievement gaps.  The problem is, the rhetoric and reality were completely at odds." (Citizen from Gloucester Massachusetts where debate over funding for private schools was intense)   This becomes crystal clear when you look at the tools that are given to the address the needs of those struggling in our schools, testing and choice.     
I've already spoken to the issues of testing at some length.  In a nutshell, I believe that testing and laws like No Child Left Behind were put in place in large part to create a system that would lead to the destruction of our public schools.  Setting an unreachable goal and using a flawed measurement to define progress towards the goal wouldn't be a good business model and certainly isn't a good design for making our schools better.
The idea of school choice goes hand in hand with testing.  Remember that when schools begin to be identified as "failing" under NCLB one of the penalties is that the school can be forced to become a charter school.  Staff and administration can also be changed and students' families are given the option to move to other schools.  All of these punitive mechanisms are designed to eliminate the public school as the primary option for families. 
Why eliminate public schools?  Two main reasons exist for the attacks on public education.  One is the educator unions are a cornerstone of the public sector unions' power.  Private sector unions have been weakened significantly over the past decades and public sector unions now stand as one of the last large institutions in the way of domination of campaign finance by the corporate community.  The other reason is that there are large profits to be made in education through charter schools.
Corporate interests have tried to tap into this well of profits for years.  We have seen corporate funded curricula introduced in the classrooms of America.  We have also seen educators fight against these blatant attempts to advertise to a captive audience.  The irony is that, as a public institution, we can not promote any religion, but we can promote the religion of consumption.  We have seen publishing companies sell their products and try to influence the purchases of school districts across the United States.  Once again, educators and their unions were vocal in their attempts to focus the curriculum on approved standards and student needs over companies' profits. 
Clearly the potential profits were not being harvested at the rate corporate America would like to see.  One way to get around this problem is to create schools funded by the corporations themselves.  Unfortunately for businesses, a majority of students attend public schools and not private ones.  NCLB and other legislation laid the groundwork for a typical privatization campaign.  By putting financial pressure on schools (cutting budgets and reducing tax revenue) school performance would suffer.  Add to that the perception created by testing that our schools were failing and public support for funding education would be affected.  As schools began to "fail" more budget cuts would kick in and the results would be an ever increasing cycle of declining performance and decreased educator morale.    
NCLB has been an effective tool for conservative reformers.  However, it isn't their only weapon.  Recent years have seen an increased effort to put legislation in effect that allows privately funded schools to dip into the public well of money.  Conservatives argue that they are doing this so that families can afford to send their kids to the school of their choice, but the reality isn't quite as clear.  Some charter schools are legitimate and effective, some are simply money making schemes run exclusively for profit.  Many of the charter schools are supported by foundations with names that are easily recognizable, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation are two such organizations that heavily finance charter schools. 

In addition to the charter school movement, there is a lot of conservative support for on-line education.  Wisconsin is one of several states which has begun to allow public money to be used for on-line education.  On-line education is considered a cheaper way to deliver services to students.  They spend much less on teachers, frequently less than 20% of their budget.  One way to save money is to do what K12, founded by former Education Secretary William Bennett, did…outsource paper grading to a contractor in India.  However, on-line schools don't have any problem spending money on advertising.  For example, IQ Academy in Wisconsin spent almost $425,000 on advertising in 2007-8.  These endeavors have questionable results and are really seen as investment opportunities.  Rupert Murdoch sees the on-line education business as a potentially $500 billion a year sector in the U.S. economy.    

Other legislation that is used by charter school advocates are parent trigger laws.
Under these laws parents can sign a petition to change staff or to make their school a charter school.  These efforts to collect signatures on petitions can originate from many sources, but several have been documented to come from corporate sponsors and the foundations they support.  One opponent to the trigger laws said, "Signing a petition to close a school does not engage parents in a dialogue, visioning or powerful decision making…It's shortsighted and underestimates the power of communities to make systematic change.  Additionally, it runs a serious chance of abuse and racial polarization where intentions behind the petition may not be just about academics."
There is no doubt that we do have serious issues in our public education system that need to be addressed.  However, a corporately funded, business oriented model is not the best way to run our schools.  Educators need to be in the forefront of the reform movement.  We need to emphasize what is good about public education and work to improve what is weak.  We must communicate with our families and our community and build a working relationship that will enable the children we work with to achieve at their highest potential. 
Recall News …
Of course the big news was the announcement that over 500,000 signatures have been collected for the recall of Governor Walker.  Our work isn't done, but it is great news for our movement!  The stories that are shared by signature gatherers are a strange combination of heartwarming and horrifying.  On one hand there are the stories of people going to great lengths to make their voices heard in the political process.  On the other side, the exact opposite, a concerted effort to bully and hassle recall activists.   

Along with the efforts to recall Gov. Walker, there are still petitions circulating for the recalls of several senators and Lt. Governor Kleefisch.  The excellent results that are coming in for the recall of Walker will allow us to put energy into these other recalls as well.  Be sure to look for opportunities to support recall efforts in all parts of Wisconsin. 

Sen. Fitzgerald's recall is progressing.  Don't forget to look for ways to help out with recalls in other areas of the state too.

We must also be wary of the potential for Republican legal efforts to undermine our efforts.  They will be putting a great deal of time, energy and money into trying to restrict the ability of the people to exercise their rights.

Of course there are the usual misleading and blatantly false advertisements.  These, when combined with a continuing effort to intimidate and harass recall workers makes for a poisonous climate here in Wisconsin.

We've all head the arguments from conservatives about the illegitimacy of the recall efforts against Governor Walker.  They continue to say that recall should be reserved for significant legal or ethical violations and that Walker hasn't committed any offense except for calling out unionized labor.  Recent events may make this defense irrelevant. 

Wrong Way For WI…
It seems like piling on at times, but the more information that gets out about the failed policies of Governor Walker the more support we will have in the recall campaigns.  There are still a lot of people in Wisconsin who believe that Governor Walker has done the courageous thing and is doing what is best for Wisconsin and the people who live here.  His policies are failing on all fronts.


A great map that shows Wisconsin's economic woes in stark detail.

Social Services:


Respect the Constitution…
The written constitutions of our country and our state are a source of pride and strength for all of us.  Well, maybe not all of us, it seems like many of our elected representatives here in Wisconsin would like to forget that this document exists.  The attacks on our rights to free speech and our rights to participate in the political process through voting are key cornerstones to our democracy.  By trying to restrict these rights, Republicans in Wisconsin are undermining the very values they claim to respect so much.

The question remains, how much of these efforts to control the political power in Wisconsin actually are originating here?  As I've said before, Wisconsin is a battleground for a larger war being waged on a national scale.