Sunday, March 30, 2014

#158 March 30, 2014- Vote for Education

Spring Elections
(and Beyond). . .
Vote on April 1st!!!
Spring elections are notorious for their low voter turn-out.  Encourage every eligible voter you know to get to the polls next Tuesday and cast a ballot.  With the low expected turn-out, every vote counts even more in some very important elections.  Races for school boards and judges may not garner the attention that other contests do, but we've seen just how important these positions are in the continuing struggles locally and statewide.   

Madison School Board
There are two MMSD School Board seats up for election on April 1st.  Ed Hughes, current board president is running unopposed for one.  As a general rule of thumb I dislike "races" where candidates run unopposed.  Democracy works best when there is competition around ideas, beliefs and policies, and without competition candidates have little accountability to the public.

In all likelihood Mr. Hughes will win re-election, but we need to make sure that we stay vigilant and hold all of our elected representatives accountable for being informed and aware of the issues that are so important to our students and schools.        

The second seat is being contested between two candidates, Wayne Strong and Michael Flores.  The official endorsement lists don't give too much for voters to go on.  Both candidates have garnered a solid list of endorsements. 

He's best for Madison School Board because he's so involved and connects with struggling students.|By Lee Enterprises

In a close call, Wayne Strong gets our endorsement for the Madison School Board.|By Lee Enterprises

It is troubling that some of the endorsements have come with little or no real reasoning behind them.  In elections with the implications that this one has, endorsements should be given for strong and valid reasons.  Not, as the Wisconsin State Journal said, "Flores shares many of these concerns, but it is our sense that Strong is better prepared to hit the ground running."  What "sense" and what does "hit the ground running mean?"  If there isn't a strong reason to endorse, then why make this commitment to a candidate that the editorial board clearly doesn't feel strongly about?  Instead, either endorse both, or neither candidate.
While running for elected office can be very confusing, sometimes needlessly so. There are also few people outside of the far right wing, who do not think that money in politics is out of control. That being said, there are a couple of incidences on the Wayne Strong campaign that need to be looked a...
For what it's worth, I'm "endorsing" Flores in the race.  His enthusiasm for our public school system, his personal experiences and his willingness to listen to all voices would add to a Board that needs to be a vocal supporter of our schools, students and educators.  He has demonstrated a clear understanding of the issues, and has been a visible presence in many Madison schools.  Not as a campaign tool, but simply because he cares greatly about what happens in every building across the district.  He has been an advocate for parental involvement, and we need to make sure that this is a priority in a district that too often seems overly bureaucratic and even "unfriendly" at times.   

Issues In Education
Why is this School Board race so important for the future of our schools?  One huge reason is that because of Act 10 and the continuing efforts of our state legislature and governor to control and privatize education in Wisconsin, we need strong local governing bodies to stand up to the outside pressures.  Local school boards and other elected officials become the first line of defense for our students, schools and educators. 
In addition, we are seeing significant changes in curriculum, policies and procedures happening in our district.  We need School Board members who will listen to all parties and be informed about the issues.  It isn't enough to have strong beliefs about what should happen in our schools.  We need individuals who will be able to make decisions that don't simply sound good, but that actually work for our students.

Issues like the Technology Plan, Behavior Education Plan and the new system of budgeting require more than just sound-bite, or simplified arguments.  They are complicated and must be addressed with care, concern and a significant understanding of a variety of issues.  The best decisions will be made if the voices of educational professionals, community members and families are blended together through an open and well understood process.  Something that MMSD has struggled with, but needs to improve on in order to create successful, sustainable plans that will move us ahead in the future. 
Thank you for taking the time to look over the third draft of the Behavior Education Plans for Elementary Students and Middle and High School Students. The plans represent a shift in philosophy and practice with…

The battle for our public schools is intensifying, and we are in a critical time for the future of our schools.  Across the state and nation we are seeing efforts being made to drastically change the way students are taught, and to alter our schools in ways that aren't in the best interests of our students, educators and the community as a whole.  There are many important issues that we must work to address, but the current direction that education is moving actually does more to harm than to help.   

Preeminent education historian and public school advocate Diane Ravitch talks to Bill this week about the private sellout of public schools.
Bill Moyers

Is this education? Is this what we want for our children and grandchildren? Teachers have called the testing regime child abuse and here you get to read about it firsthand. A teacher's recount of t...

Corporate education reformers are coopting the politics of race and labor, author Micah Uetricht explains
New York state legislators reach a deal to protect charter schools as Gov. Scott Walker pushes to expand charter schools in Wisconsin. Ed Schultz and panel discuss.

These struggles are not external ones.  They are very evident across the state and nation, but they are also going on here in Madison.  Standardizing curriculum, emphasizing test scores and undermining the professionalism of educators are realities in schools across America, we certainly want to reverse these trends in a city that claims to value education and respect educators. 

Protecting Elections
Elections matter, and the current Republican leadership in Wisconsin recognizes this.  They also recognize that as demographics change and the effects of their policies are felt, they need to control elections and make sure the "right people" are voting.  This effort to restrict voting rights is very clear and has been articulated by many GOP leaders.  They have tried to garner support by claiming that there is extensive fraud in our electoral system, and while they have failed to produce significant evidence of fraud, this argument does influence the opinion of some voters. 

This week Governor Walker signed a bill that places limits on absentee voting and bans early voting during evenings and weekends.  Unlike bills that supposedly address voter fraud, and that have some support from the citizens of our state (often due to misleading information), this bill was passed despite 2/3 of Wisconsinites voicing support for expanding or maintaining current early voting times.  Clearly we need to rethink the idea that the GOP is the supporter of local control and less government interference in local matters. 

SB 324 puts politics ahead of people, aimed at suppressing the vote of seniors, minorities, and...

Gov. Scott Walker should veto the partisan, anti-democratic legislation aimed at reducing voter turnout.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel|By Ron Kind

The veteran moderate holds no fire in criticizing his party, saying it has lost faith in its ideas and is now resorting to shenanigans to reduce voter turnout.|By Lee Enterprises

The efforts to control the electoral process isn't limited to legal restrictions on voting.  The ability of private citizens, organizations and corporations to buy elections is magnified under current election rules.  We have seen the impact that 3rd party advertising and the spending of large sums of money has on our elections.  This is especially true in local races where campaign budgets are often limited to small amounts.  Are the ads and mailings misleading, untrue, controversial?  Yes, to all of these.  However, they are also effective and powerful and allow special interest groups to buy their way into power.  

A mining town of 6,000 people isn’t too small for billionaires to mess with to get their way. Inside the race bringing in big money.
The Daily Beast

People power is the only thing that will change the current electoral trends.  This means that everyone becomes informed and casts a ballot.  It also means that we seek out, support and encourage candidates who will truly represent the people. Too often we see elected officials represent a limited number of constituents, or simply do what is necessary to maintain their positions and get re-elected.  We also see them flip-flop on issues when they strike close to home.  While I admire her courage and don't wish any illness or problem on anyone, the idea that a personal issue would change a vote is problematic.  When we elect representatives we do so with the understanding that they represent all citizens, this means that they do what they believe is right for the people, not any special interest, campaign contributor or even put their own interests above others.  By running for election, candidates put themselves in a position where they are held accountable to a higher standard of public service than regular citizens.   

A state lawmaker from Lincoln County who once opposed a bill that would force insurers to cover chemotherapy pills says she changed her position...
Daily Herald Media

We also need to be aware of the ways that public opinion is manipulated and our citizenry is controlled through messaging and other means. 

A Senate hearing on inequality featured an updated version of Reagan’s favorite “freeloaders”—now they’re white and middle class.
By The New Yorker

Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that...

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .
The Good . . .  As we watch "March Madness" we shouldn't forget that these athletes are bringing huge profits in for a wide variety of individuals, companies and groups.  At the same time, while they are often receiving scholarships, there are too many questions that can be raised about what type of education these athletes are receiving and what the real purpose of college athletics is.  As with many issues important questions to ask are, Who controls the process and who profits most from it? 

The National Labor Relations Board in Chicago has ruled that football players at Northwestern University are employees and can unionize, the board said Wednesday. In a statement, Northwestern acknowledged the ruling and...
WISC-TV / Channel 3000|By Channel 3000

NCAA Says Its Graduation Rates Hit Record High, But Important ...
Oct 25, 2013 - NCAA The rate of NCAA Division I athletes graduating within six years of ... percent) and African-American men's basketball players (68 percent). ... According to ESPN, only one of the 10 teams that participated in the men's ...

A plug for Wisconsin Basketball, on and off the court. 

Wisconsin graduated every senior on its men’s basketball team the past two seasons, and is on track to do so again.
The New York Times|By Karen Crouse
This is the best way to counter hatred.

Bookmark this under "How to Protest the Westboro Baptist Church."
Mother Jones

The Bad . . . Just give it up already.  Suppressing speech is bad enough, but continuing to fight when you are clearly wrong is a waste of time, money and embarrassing to our state.  

The tickets were tossed out by a Dane County judge in February on constitutional grounds.|By Lee Enterprises

The Ugly . . . We know that many places where the anti-government sentiment is the greatest receive some of the highest amount of government money.  If you don't like the system, don't take the money.
The extent to which the average American’s tax burden would vary based on his state of residence represents a significant point of differentiation...

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