What This Is…
Issue #45- January 29, 2012
In this issue: Recall Information, NCLB Waiver, Attacking Public Education, Walkergate, State of the …, A Free Press, Unions and Mining News
We have seen many dramatic events in Wisconsin over the past year. However, we are also reminded of the fact that politics in the United States is not always exciting or even engaging. The last two months were filled with frantic activity as volunteers worked to collect signatures. Now we enter a period of waiting while legal and political maneuvering takes place. While it may not be an "exciting" time, this is a time to stay alert so that we don't lose our voice or our momentum.
Republicans asked for and received an extra 30 days to look over the petitions and verify signatures. On one hand it seems like a waste of time and resources. With such a large number of signatures there would have to be such widespread fraudulent activity that it seems incredibly unlikely we will see the recalls overturned. The Republicans would like to believe that this will be the case, and will work to undermine public trust in the process. However, it really is more of a delaying tactic designed to allow for more fund raising and more advertising time.
While we may be confident in the validity of our petitioning efforts we can't ignore the potential for political wrangling and deceitful actions on the part of the GOP as they work to defend their candidates. They will take every opportunity to discredit the process and will trumpet any extreme examples of problematic petitions they find. They have done this since the beginning of the resistance to the Walker administration and there is no reason to see them abandoning this strategy. We must be ready to defend our efforts and emphasize the fact that a vast majority of the signatures are valid and were collected in a proper manner.
The fundraising efforts in support of Governor Walker have been impressive. At the same time these efforts demonstrate a reason why he should be recalled. The fact that he is getting such large donations from outside Wisconsin is problematic for many of us.
News & Publications | Wisconsin Education Association Council > WEAC statement on No Child Left Behi
I have several concerns about the way this waiver application is being approached here in Wisconsin. First, the amount of input from citizens and educators is limited in scope. It seems that most of the work on developing any new systems will be done at a higher, policymaking level. While this may include some of the ranking educators, we can't forget that WEAC and other statewide organizations have struggled to protect public education in Wisconsin. WEAC has been under fire from some educators for their lack of leadership in areas like teacher evaluations. As this is a key element in the NCLB waiver process, leaving the representation of educators in the hands of a few representatives may not have positive results for many of us.
Not only are most educators underrepresented, but families who have a huge stake in the state's education system are also potentially excluded to some degree by the process of developing the waiver. Ask around your neighborhood and see how many parents know that DPI is developing a NCLB waiver application.
This waiver has the potential to have a significant impact on the education system in Wisconsin. It will change some of the content taught in schools, alter some graduation requirements and implement new testing mandates. It will also create a ranking system for schools and educators which will be used to distribute resources and to discipline schools that don't meet established goals.
I've talked about the problems facing public education frequently over this past year. With the implementation of Walker's budget it was clear that our schools would suffer significant financial problems as time went by. We knew that the first year would not be as bad as future years would be. That was a scary proposition for supporters of public education, given the challenges of the 2011-12 budgets. As school boards begin work on their budgets for the upcoming school year, expect to see some real stark problems to arise.
While it is difficult for many of us to understand the stance that state Republicans have taken on funding public education, their true motives and feelings are becoming clearer to the general public. There is a real dislike for public education among the GOP leadership and these feelings are demonstrated by their words and actions.
Attention must continue to be drawn to the ongoing issues of potential corruption in the Walker administration. It is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is unacceptable to allow a corrupt administration to maintain power. We must hold our elected officials to a high standard regardless of our political persuasions. The leader of any organization is accountable for the actions of that organization and the people in it. If the alleged incidents are proven to be true than Governor Walker needs to face the consequences of what went on under his leadership. These allegations are not trivial ones.
State of the State vs. State of the Union…
January is a time of reflection and goal setting. This is true in all areas of our lives, including politics. This past week both President Obama and Governor Walker delivered their views on where we've been and where we are headed.
It is interesting that both of these chief executives have been accused of being divisive and of failing to achieve the goals they set during their campaigns. Both face elections this year (assuming no major developments in the recall of Governor Walker). However, despite these general similarities the differences between the two political leaders and their messages are striking.
These two men represent the stark differences in our political ideologies today. It is the contrasting world views and how they chose to deal with their opposition that sets the tone for the current state of our society, nationally and on a state level.
Here in Wisconsin Scott Walker took a "crisis" and a "mandate" and used them to attack the rights of the working and middle classes. His administration faces allegations of scandal and is frequently accused of using questionable political tactics to promote their agenda. Bipartisan efforts are few and far between, unless you count the recall effort.
How did Walker choose to address all these contentious issues? In essence he either ignored them or countered the controversy with generalized comments. In his first State of the State message he talked about the need to sacrifice and the "crisis" Wisconsin faced. Now after a year in office he painted a picture of success, one not consistently supported by data.
At the end of the day, the real state of our society can be judged by the way the common person lives their lives. All the rhetoric in the world is, in the end, just words. What matters is how we treat our fellow citizens, how we care for those who need our help and how we treat those who are different from us. Government exists to provide a framework for a just and civil society. That is what our founding documents say and that is what our nation has claimed to stand for. Economics and politics are simply vehicles for us to use as we move towards a society where people enjoy freedom and equal rights. The nation seems to be headed in the right direction, Wisconsin is struggling to find the path.
A Free Press?…
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
“Nothing could be more irrational than to give the people power, and to withhold from them information without which power is abused. A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with power which knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps
Joseph Pulitzer may have had a vested interest in promoting the press, but this quote clearly states its value, “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery.”
Benjamin Disraeli, a British Prime Minister, said, “News is that which comes from the North, East, West and South, and if it comes from only one point of the compass, then it is a class publication and not news.”
We also face troubling issues with the corporate ownership of our media. Next time you are at a magazine rack, just look at the publishers of the material. There are a limited number of companies that own most of our media outlets. They provide the filter that we see our current events through. It is difficult to imagine that the heads of these corporations are totally hands off and don't have any influence on what is broadcast and printed in our mass media. Once again we see the continuing struggle between a small number of elite who control the majority of the resources and the rest of the citizenry.
“A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny. … Under dictatorship the press is bound to languish, and the loudspeaker and the film to become more important. But where free institutions are indigenous to the soil and men have the habit of liberty, the press will continue to be the Fourth Estate, the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen.”
The attacks on worker's rights have been more visible in the past year than in any previous year in memory. While there has been an underlying, anti-worker sentiment in many policies over the past decades, the past year saw the efforts to restrict the rights of labor increase at all levels of government. This is obvious to us in Wisconsin, but no less visible in Indiana, Michigan and across the United States. Even after the backlash to the GOP's efforts resulted in successful recalls and referenda the Republican leadership isn't backing down.
It would be very easy for workers to give in to the powerful forces arrayed against them. That is probably what the GOP anticipated when they unveiled their plans last year. Instead it appears that the working people of America are waking up and regaining a sense of purpose and pride in themselves. The result the Republicans got wasn't exactly what they were looking for. Instead of a landslide victory, they got a more organized and more committed opposition.
The question remains as to where the events of 2011 will take us. Will we see more unionized workers? What will unions of the future look like?
"I don't think our job is to provide a seat at the table for the tribes, who want to be treated as a sovereign nation."
-The environmental impacts are not certain and have significant negative potential.
-There are questions about the quality of the jobs that will be available to local citizens
-There isn't an author to the bill which clearly benefits interests outside of Wisconsin as much, or potentially more than, local people