Sunday, August 26, 2012

Issue #76 8/26/12- Back to School

What This Is…
Issue #76- August 26, 2012
In this issue: Back to School

It's That Time of Year Again!!…
We've reached the end of August and schools across America are resuming their fall classes.  Some schools have already started, but here in Madison, public school students don't start their classes until the Tuesday after Labor Day.  In honor of the beginning of the school year, I'm focusing this issue mainly on public education.  However, there are a few other "loose ends" to pull together before we turn our attention to public education.

For the most part, the media seems to have either forgotten about the investigation, or is choosing to put their coverage on the back burner.  What this means is that most citizens will forget that there even is an investigation and assume that nothing is going on.  While the lack of information and interest is frustrating to those of us trying to follow the story we all should keep our collective "ears to the ground" to insure that those who are conducting the investigation know that we are concerned about, and support, their efforts. 

Honest Elections…
We are gearing up for another in a long string of important elections.  Of course, all elections are important, but with the current political climate being what it is, recent elections have taken on even more significance.  It is understandable that many Wisconsinites are exhausted and face another electoral cycle with some degree of apprehension and frustration.  Unfortunately, many voters view the political process with increased apathy and feel disenfranchised by recent events.  Even the recall election for Governor in our state failed to bring out truly huge numbers of voters (less than 60% turnout).      

However, we are involved in a conflict that resembles a marathon, not a sprint and need to make sure that we maintain our focus and energy so that we don't experience another election like the one in 2010.  In that election a combination of factors came together and allowed the conservatives in America to seize a significant number of elected positions.  One of the biggest reasons for this change in electoral results was the lack of turnout in key areas, areas that were strong supporters of the Democrats in previous elections.    

The fact that so many Americans choose not to vote is a problem that is compounded by the recent efforts of Republicans to limit people's ability to cast a ballot.  This, combined with redistricting, orchestrated by Republican controlled legislatures means that the political landscape may be permanently altered unless we combat their efforts by making every effort to get eligible voters to the polls.

Wisconsin is home to one of the more restrictive voter ID laws.  One that has been challenged successfully in court, but the GOP here is working to try and reinstate the law in its entirety.

What is most frustrating to so many of us is the hypocrisy of the Republicans on this issue (and most others, but…).  Voter fraud is a relatively insignificant problem when compared to other issues we face regarding our political situation in Wisconsin and across the nation.  Despite all the calls from conservatives that rampant voter fraud is ruining our democracy, the evidence just isn't there.  What is even more problematic for Republicans is that many of the documented cases of fraud involve their own supporters.

It's My Money and I'll Spend How I Want To…
Here's another way to not only save money, but to help our environment by reducing waste in our landfills.

Public Education…
Last year, Wisconsin's public educators returned to work reeling from the events of the previous spring and summer.  We had experienced the sudden loss of our collective bargaining power, the slashing of school budgets and the continuing attacks on our personal and professional abilities.  Public workers in Wisconsin were Public Enemy #1 and educators were among the Most Wanted members of that group. 

What a difference a year doesn't make here in America's Dairyland.  If anything things are looking even more bleak in many ways.  More and more districts will see their collective bargaining agreements end, school budgets will worsen (as property values fall and revenues dry up), and the neediest students will face even more challenging conditions at home and at school.  Through it all, educators will continue to hear that they are getting what they deserve (for 9 months work and poor results), and that they are what is wrong with our state socially, politically and economically.

Maybe we should feel better that this is a national trend, not just something happening in Wisconsin.  No, we shouldn't.  The attacks on public education are happening nationally and are part of an agenda that weakens our ability to effectively combat the power grab being carried out by the economic elite in America.

Educators across the nation are frustrated and angry about the continuing attacks on our profession and the schools that we value so highly.  What makes it even more frustrating is that most of us are simply trying to do the best we can in difficult circumstances.  Yet, we face ongoing attacks by so called "experts" who know little about the students we educate and the conditions we labor under.  These "experts" reach conclusions that are designed to fix our schools, but suspiciously seem only to pad the pockets of a small number while increasing the gaps in resources available to schools and the outcomes that our most at-risk students achieve.  These "experts" use test scores and other data of their own creation to undermine the efforts of public educators.  They then provide "reforms" to fix the schools that they have either broken themselves, or that they have made appear to be failing.

Educating our youth shouldn't be the political issue that it has become.  A truly healthy society values its youth and works to educate them to the highest degree possible.  Instead of looking at our public education system as a resource, it has become a place to make a profit or a place to work to destroy the political power of rivals.  Our young people have become pawns in a game that will result in all of losing in the long run.  Educators find themselves becoming pawns as well as they look for allies who will defend public education instead of catering to a small number of donors who look to profit from educational reforms.

An educated population is a resource that allows for innovation and advances a society in virtually unlimited ways.  Education provides opportunities for individuals as well as society as a whole.  At the same time educated citizens pose a challenge to those in power and are a necessity in a democratic society.  Yet, the current education policies in America limit schools and learning to a practical purpose.  Education should only serve to advance an individuals ability to make a living.  Job skills, training and knowledge are only useful if they help an employer and our economy.  As a society we are missing the true purpose of education and destroying innovation and creativity.  The difference in philosophies regarding education are well explained in these links.

As we devalue education, it is inevitable that those who provide the education are also reduced in status.  The result is the idea that anyone who has knowledge is capable of being an effective educator.  This ignores the reality that developing lessons and curriculum is much different than delivering the material to a group of students.  Educator training is a necessary and vital part of developing an effective system of educating any group of people.   

Our public schools face significant challenges every year, and this year is no exception.  Here in Madison we are continuing our discussion and debate on issues around our Achievement Gaps.  We also are involved in a search to replace our superintendent and face uncertainty in who our new leader will be and what their educational philosophy will revolve around.  Throw in an uncertain budget, an end to our negotiated contract, more and more mandated practices and increased financial pressure on educators and it is difficult to approach the new school year with optimism.   

Yet, if you visit any school in the Madison School District next week, you will find it filled with educators preparing for another school year.  If you were to take time and talk with any of the educators you would hear about the frustrations, but you would also hear hope and optimism as well.  We know that we have lots of work to do to meet the needs of the students who will fill our classrooms, we recognize the political and economic challenges we face and we are committed to making ourselves better in all aspects of our professional lives. 

What public educators need from the communities they serve is some recognition of the challenges we face and support that helps us, rather than hinders our efforts.  While I can vouch for the good intentions and honest efforts of the educators I have worked with, I can't do the same for the political and community leaders who have shaped the policies that we must work under and implement.  The past decades have seen public education unfairly evaluated and unjustly attacked.  The result of these assaults have been unreasonable policies and contradictory objectives that have resulted in educators being made less effective than they would be if left to trust in their own knowledge and talents.   

The past 18 months have been difficult ones for public educators in Wisconsin.  We are battered and bruised, but still standing and ready for another school year.  As a group we have become more aware of the need to promote public education and to force those outside of our world to see what it is that we do and how much we want all of our students to maximize their potential.  We have a duty to reach out to our communities and to society as a whole so that our valuable services and the resources that are our public schools survive and thrive into the future.    

We are asking the communities we live and work in to listen to us with open mindedness and to evaluate our efforts honestly and without prejudice.  Instead of seeing us as an enemy, take us for what we are, public servants who a passionate about our jobs.  We see education as vital to the survival of our society and see every child as a valuable part of our community.  If we can have a truly open and thoughtful conversation about education we can find ways to overcome the challenges we face and realize the true potential of our greatest resource, the people who share our society with us.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Issue #75 August 12, 2012- Troubled Times In America

What This Is…
Issue #75- August 12, 2012
In this issue: Troubling Times, Upcoming Elections and Issue Updates

A Troubled America…
No human being is perfect.  If we can accept this as a fact, then it stands to reason that nothing created or developed by humans will be perfect either.  We find ourselves forced to confront this reality every day in many different situations and activities.  Things break, people are hurt or injured and injustice is done, and we are left to struggle with the aftermath.  In some cases the consequences are relatively minor or an inconvenience.  However, mixed in with the daily failures brought on by our humanness are the tragedies that leave us devastated and questioning ourselves and our society.

The past few weeks have seen two incidents of gun violence that have left almost a score dead and around 100 people injured.  We can't forget that the toll also must include the psychological damage done to those on the scene as well as the damage done to our society's sense of safety and justice.  We mourn as a nation and express heartfelt sympathy and concern for those who have been directly injured in these attacks.  We find ourselves asking, "Why did this happen?" and   "How can we stop it from happening again?"

A vast majority of the events that affect our personal lives have impacts that don't reach many people outside our immediate intimate circles.  While we are all tied together as members of a larger community, these small events are a drop in a lake of shared experiences.  Events like the ones in Aurora Colorado and Oak Creek Wisconsin are boulders that send waves across all levels of our society.  We feel the effects as individuals, but also face the consequences as a collective whole. 

Because these events have such far reaching impacts we face the difficulty of mixing the personal emotions that are felt with a societal response.  Each of us will respond in different ways for different reasons.  There are those who are directly affected by the events and they are forced to deal with their emotions in a highly publicized atmosphere. 

At the same time we, as a collective whole, need to recognize that these events didn't occur in a vacuum and weren't isolated or unique.  They are part of a larger problem that exists in modern America, where violence is a significant issue that directly affects too many of our citizens.  While we never want to politicize any tragedy, the recent events do force us to deal with the unpleasant direction that we are headed in. 

In order to try and prevent future tragedies we must honestly look at the state of our nation and of our society.  The outpouring of grief and messages of support for the individuals and groups affected by these two shootings are overt symbols of our national need to sympathize with the victims and their loved ones.  However, simply sending our thoughts and prayers only goes so far as we try to address what is wrong here.  While they are all that we can offer those suffering from these recent events, they are empty words unless we, as a nation, begin to really look for ways to change our ways of violence and hate. 

One of the most obvious topics of debate after any incident involving gun violence is the issue of gun control and laws that regulate the sale and possession of firearms.  I am not a gun owner, but I recognize the rights of others to own guns.  At the same time it seems like this is an issue that has left the realm of rational debate and become one of emotional entrenching where neither side can actually hear the other.  Any debate over regulation of firearms is met with a torrent of rhetoric that repeats arguments made countless times before. 

I would simply ask a few questions, do we regard all of our Constitutional rights as equal, or are some more important than others?  In other words, do 2nd Amendment rights occupy equal footing with our right to live lives free of gun violence?  Is there a way to regulate guns so that the most destructive weapons stay out of public places?  Are we safer as a society if we are heavily armed?  I know what I think, but we need to have a real public policy debate that isn't dominated by threats      

We also don't see the "other" as real and this affects how we see them.  People who are different from us in any way, large or small, have a separateness that makes it difficult for us to fully appreciate their experiences.  At its most extreme this can dehumanize others and devalue them.  We may not even be consciously aware of this separation of our personal values and experiences from those of others in our society. 

This creates a situation where we mention the fraction of deaths in a cataclysmic event that are American citizens or in the way that we cover news stories that involve the "other" citizens.  At the same time we are experiencing the horror of the two shootings, another news story where 14 human beings died in a single accident got very little press. 

Another aspect of this devaluing of others is found in most stories about the Oak Creek shooting.  Many reports talk about the fact that there has been a rise in the number of incidents where members of the Sikh community have been targeted because they have been confused with Muslims.  These stories ignore the fact that no person should be a target for any form of abuse because of their religious beliefs.  This level of harassment and violence has no place in American society, or in any other civilized community.  We fear and abuse what we don't understand or accept.    

This devaluing of life because of a persons membership in a specific group runs against everything that our founding documents value.  For some reason, a segment of our nation's population has decided to interpret these documents from the standpoint that they only apply to certain groups (based on a variety of characteristics like gender, race, ethnicity, etc.).  Any individual, or group that operates outside these set boundaries is vulnerable to being excluded from the freedoms and protections that our founders held so dear.

It would be one thing if the efforts to impose a specific set of values was limited in scope and isolated to private individuals lives.  However, we live in a society where individuals are interdependent and rely on one another for a variety of needs and wants.  Our founders recognized the dangers of imposing values on a nation as a whole.  In fact the original colonies contained a haphazard and widely divergent set of religious, political and philosophical beliefs.  The idea that there was a unified sense of religious purpose and belief in our founding documents and among our founding leaders is dangerously false.  Contained in our Constitution and other documents are protections from the creation of a national set of religious values, and these protections are vital to our survival as a nation.   

It is exceptionally troubling that we are seeing more and more efforts being made to rewrite the history of our nation to fit the need to institutionalize a single set of religious, political and philosophical values.    

So, where does this leave us in our struggle to cope with the recent tragedies while attempting to protect and strengthen our society as we move into an uncertain future?  It appears to me that we need to come to grips with the idea that our nation is made up of many different groups, with sometimes conflicting beliefs.  At the same time it is important to recognize that all of these differing viewpoints share some common values and rely on the stability of our government for protection and support.  Without a strong and stable America, many of our debates and disputes will become inconsequential. 

We can't afford to continue on our path towards political extremism.  A path that leads to a divided nation where no compromise of discussion is possible and groups are separated into competing and hostile camps.  This route leads to self-destructive policies and a nation that isn't viable over the long haul.  That some of our political leaders are doing this in the name of patriotism is disturbing.  The message is that anyone who is outside of "mainstream America" is less than American and a threat to our way of life.

The farther we move away from a moderate, open-minded debate, the more entrenched people become in their mindsets.  We lose our ability to discuss issues and resolve our differences and instead our discourse degenerates into hostile attacks.  We no longer negotiate and reach "fair and balanced" resolutions and instead find ourselves mired in a perpetual power struggle that benefits the very few at the expense of the majority of citizens.        

The result is the dual tragedy of the horrific loss of life in these attacks and the loss of the true "American Dream" of a diverse society using established political means to resolve difficult issues.  The result of the debate being a truly fair and just society with equal opportunity for all to enjoy their "natural rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".   

Political Upheaval?…
Wisconsinites are tired of the political battles that have besieged our state for over a year.  However, we are engaged in an important struggle that deserves our full attention.  We are truly a divided state with enough conservative presence to have the GOP nominee for Vice President call Wisconsin home, while still being the unofficial birthplace of the Occupy movement. 

There are many races across the state that are of vital importance in the struggle between conservatism and progressivism.  All of the hard-fought gains of the past year are at risk again during the primaries in August and the November general election.  I encourage each citizen to be informed about the races in their area and to really research their candidates before casting a ballot.  We can't afford to simply vote based on the letter after a candidates name without really knowing what they stand for.  

I'm also including something about the senate race in the 12th District.  This is the race for the seat vacated by Jim Holperin and is an important one if we are to maintain our control of the state senate. 

The citizens of Wisconsin need to realize that this scandal isn't just "business as usual" or normal political activity. 

Issue Updates…

Conservatives are trying to portray themselves as champions of the middle and working classes.  Yet, they don't seem to demonstrate any respect for the needs of the working people of America.  The rhetoric is there, but the actions and policies that the GOP advances are damaging to the lives of most citizens.

There is also a real discrepancy between the words that conservative politicians use and their lack of respect for those who labor in blue collar jobs.  While the obvious disdain for educators and public workers is easy to spot, there is an even greater contempt among conservative lawmakers for workers who are in the trades, hourly workers or who do any manual labor.  The recent "reforms" passed here in Wisconsin virtually guarantee that these workers will be harmed the most of any public sector workers.

I can't say it often enough, education isn't just about financial costs or benefits.  To reduce our schools to lines on a ledger is to miss the entire reason we educate our young people and ourselves. 

Unfortunately, educating yourself about voting means not just learning about the candidates, but also includes learning how to navigate a maze of new rules.  It may even mean voting in a new place for a new candidate, even though you haven't changed your address. 

The real shame of all this confusion about voting is that it is really not about protecting anyone's right to vote or making our electoral process honest and fair.  All of the changes are simply because one group wants to maintain power.  At the same time the GOP is calling for an end to the "overregulation" of business, eliminating restrictions on firearms and otherwise making our lives "easier", they complicate one of our most important duties as citizens.  They hope the result will be wins for Republican candidates, even at the expense of truly open elections.    

In addition to being aware of what companies get our money it is also important to make sure that we recognize the efforts of Native Americans and other groups to promote their cultures arts and crafts.   

Sunday, August 5, 2012

#74 August 5, 2012- Battles that can't be lost...

What This Is…
Issue #74- August 5, 2012
In this issue: Battles That We CAN'T Afford To Lose

A War We Need To Win…
Americans take great pride in our nations strength and power, whether that be military, economic, athletic or any other field of human endeavor.  It isn't enough for us to be successful or competitive, instead there is a general national sense that America must be the dominant force in anything we participate in.  We emphasize our successes and relive our triumphs with great enthusiasm.  

Yet at the same time we are often reminded that our dominance isn't guaranteed and we live in a competitive world.  We find ourselves constantly struggling to maintain or in some cases establish our nation's role in different spheres.  One of the most challenging parts of participating in any competitive situation is finding the balance between being competitive, while still operating with class and dignity.  As a nation we often struggle with being proud of our country, while still respecting the accomplishments of others in the world.

It makes perfect sense that, as a nation, we would strive to be #1 in all areas.  Perfection is a noble, if unattainable, goal for all of us to work for.  No politician would be elected, or athlete supported who voiced the goal of finishing 2nd.  However, we must also realize that in many ways it is the struggle and effort that truly measures success and that the ends don't always justify the means.  Hard work and honest effort, even without a "victory" at the end can be respected more than a "win" through devious, illegal or underhanded methods.  I believe that concept holds true in most areas of life.  I strive for success, with the recognition that my efforts may fall short at times.   

This belief may be seen by some as unacceptable.  There are people who believe that the only way to be successful is to "win", no matter the cost or the manner that success is achieved by.  I see this in education on a regular basis as students struggle to learn new material.  We judge them against the standards that have been established for their grade level and evaluate them accordingly.  However, I also make it a point to encourage students for their work ethic and effort.  A student isn't a failure if they work to overcome the challenges that a particular subject or skill may present them.  To judge the value of a student's work by a single set of evaluative tools ignores too many other factors that may influence their long term success more than any individual skill or concept. 

Economics also provides us with examples of the different values that exist in our society.  For me it's acceptable to make enough money to support myself and my family, but there are those who feel the need to be the richest and to be able to always purchase the "best" of everything.  Some would see my attitude as one that goes against the ideals of America, that our nation was build on the desire to acquire more and more.  These are the people who are striving to make their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. million, the people who accumulate wealth beyond their need. 
There is a fine line between positive competitiveness and an extreme, often destructive need to be the top in any area.  We hold up our most "successful" competitors in any field as examples of what all of us should aspire to be, yet we also ignore the reality that their success has been built through the cooperative efforts of others and is sometimes created at the expense of fellow citizens.  We don't want to penalize greatness, but at the same time realize that in a world of finite resources it may not be in our society's best interest to have wealth and power collected in the hands of a few. 

This is especially true in areas like politics, economics and other human activities that rely on cooperative efforts to truly succeed.  These are areas where success is sometimes ambiguous and fleeting.  We all know that any industry is constantly undergoing change as technology, demand or other variables change.  In order to build long-term success it is sometimes necessary to compromise in the present and create a strong base to build from.  Simply looking at our current "bottom-line" and proclaiming success based on our present assets isn't enough to guarantee future success.

These battles for social and economic justice are ongoing and difficult to "win".  Every generation finds itself struggling to address the immediate needs of its present citizens while being sensitive to the past experiences and aware of future needs that will arise.  We see our nation's political, social and economic landscape change over time as new issues and challenges arise. 

What makes our struggle towards a truly just society difficult is the fact that we have difficulty staying on a course that allows all citizens equal opportunity to succeed.  This is due to many issues, some of which are merely differences of opinion and others that are more unpleasant and difficult to address (racism, homophobia, sexism, etc.).  With the natural tendency that humans have to make their world complex it is often difficult to uncover and deal with the real motivations behind our nation's policies.

Unfortunately it is easier for most of us to simply throw up our hands and wonder how we can ever overcome the challenges we face.  Problems like poverty, intolerance and injustice are too big and overwhelming for us to face.  We lose ourselves in areas where immediate success is easier to define, getting that promotion or new job, cheering on a sports team or enjoying entertainment where the "good guys" always win (and you know which characters are "good" and "bad").  We fall for political rhetoric that clearly defines goals for us and we isolate ourselves from the unpleasant realities that many fellow citizens face. 

With all our national pride in our Olympic teams, our military dominance and our economic power we continue to ignore some of our weaknesses.  This article starts out with the line, "RONALD REAGAN famously said, 'We fought a war on poverty and poverty won.' With 46 million Americans — 15 percent of the population — now counted as poor, it’s tempting to think he may have been right."  This raises the question of just what does it mean to be patriotic and proud of our nation.  Are we proud of the glitzy and obvious things, or should we be taking more pride in our ability to create a place where all citizens have an opportunity for success and happiness (like our Constitution declares)? 
With all the resources and power that exists in America, how can we continue to accept the reality that so many of our citizens live in poverty while others enjoy unparalleled wealth?  A nation's health is defined not only by its power relative to other nations in the international sphere.  It is also, and probably more importantly, defined by its internal well-being.  Our society's long term success is protected by the pursuit of social justice in all it's aspects.  We could bounce back from a silver medal in Olympic basketball, we can't recover from an income gap that excludes most citizens from opportunities to be happy, productive citizens. 

Political Upheaval?…
One of the reasons that we are seeing a rise in poverty and other social problems is the fact that our political environment has become incredibly toxic.  In fact it appears that there are those in power who would hold our citizens hostage in order to promote their political, social and economic goals.  GOP leadership here in Wisconsin and on a national level have made it very clear that they want to retain power, even at the expense of many of the people they are supposed to represent.   

This toxic environment is spreading outside the halls of government and into the streets of America.  What started as a peaceful and powerful movement in Wisconsin spread across the nation last year.  The Occupy movement met with uneven responses around the nation and there were some clashes with law enforcement.  As the rhetoric builds towards our national elections and the negative political talk increases we will probably see more heated exchanges both in the press and in our communities.   

Our best defense and most potent offense will hopefully continue to be at the ballot box. 

While the defense keeps trying any tactics possible to stall, the investigation proceeds onward. 

Issue Updates…

Most of us want to be wealthy and enjoy economic success while doing a job that we enjoy and that has maximum benefits.  The reality that most Americans experience is different.  As our economic stratification continues and the gaps between social classes increase we are seeing fewer citizens reach their financial goals. 

Politicians are claiming to be sympathetic and concerned.  Both parties claim to represent the interests of the "common citizen".  They have conflicting views about how to achieve economic success for our nation's residents and are engaged in a vicious battle for dominance in creating economic policy.

What is missing from much of the debate about improving the quality of life for America's workers is a simple thing, the voice of the worker.  In fact many of the policies advanced recently have gone to extreme lengths to eliminate the ability of labor to influence their wages, working conditions and benefits.  Instead of allowing workers a voice, the trend has been to give management exclusive control over all areas that affect the workplace environment.        

In fact conservatives have made it a point to place blame for our economic struggles on labor and labor unions.  They have done so while ignoring other causes for the economic downturn that we are facing. 

Unions are one of the major ways that workers have been able to exert their influence to protect their interests and rights.  Without the ability to have a collective voice in establishing working conditions, wages and benefits workers are at the mercy of management.  As unions have lost membership and power we have seen workers steadily lose ground over the past decades.  This decline has been facilitated by political policies and practices supported by politicians purchased by management and owners of corporations. 

The public sector is in many ways the last defense of unions in America.  These positions are difficult (educating children, although on-line education provides an opportunity), or impossible (you can't have your streets plowed by someone overseas) to outsource.  Because of this the conservative agenda has been to divide and conquer the workforce.  By calling attention to the wages and benefits enjoyed by public workers as being excessive and unreasonable, conservatives are able to deflect criticism away from the fact that CEO's and other wealthy Americans are enjoying a standard of living far above the rest of us.       

It is difficult to predict what will happen next in the struggle for worker's rights.  In reality it is up to us and our willingness to defend ourselves, we can't rely on others to support our interests. 

Americans really believe that their public education system is broken beyond repair.  They hear the news about our low test scores, see stories about behavior in the schools and accept that we are facing a need for extreme measures. 

There are a few realities that the general public ignores when they look at America's public schools.  For starters there's the perception that our schools are failing beyond any hope of repair.  They ignore or justify the success stories that occur every day in our schools.  They hear partial truths and ignore the bigger picture of what is happening in the efforts to educate our children.  Here's an article that was shared from August of 2010 that demonstrates one area where our schools have been very successful. 

They also ignore the reality that our schools are underfunded and the situation is getting worse.  It is difficult to imagine any industry accepting the level of funding that schools receive while facing such high expectations.  Instead of confronting the problems we are moving towards a system where we segregate based on social class and race. 

The education reform efforts also ignore the expertise of the professional educators who work in our schools.  Instead of treating them as experts who have valuable experience and knowledge that can be used to improve educational efforts, we see an effort to marginalize the voice of educators from the discussion.  Educators want to improve the system, but are given little real power to make our schools better places to learn on a larger scale. 

Instead of working to develop a coherent and proactive plan to address the needs of our students and their schools we have turned to a large scale reform system that puts money ahead of people.  The results have been devastating for our most at-risk students and their families.  It's time to change our focus away from politics and economics and really educate our children.    

Great satirical piece about where education reforms could take us.

Education isn't the only place where money has a negative influence.  Our future is being shaped by a few donors with deep pockets.

The impact of money has reached the local level here in Madison.  Mary Burke blames the educator's union (MTI) for her need to outspend them $128,000 to $7,000.  Really?!?!

It's not just spending that impacts our political process.  If the GOP has their way we will have fewer people voting in fewer contested elections.

 If you thought the mining issue in northern Wisconsin was dead, you were sadly mistaken.  Democrats are promising to listen to the citizen's concerns about how mining will affect their communities.  Will it be enough to combat the influence of the WMC and other corporate supporters?  The upcoming elections will decide who gets to control the debate (or if the GOP wins the lack of debate).
Keep looking for ways to support local businesses and help our economy and environment.