Sunday, August 31, 2014

#177 August 31, 2014- Happy Labor Day!!

Different Versions,
Same Reality. . .
Reality and truth are too often portrayed as absolutes based in either common sense or a shared perception of ideas, actions or events.  Yet, we know that different people can experience the same thing and come away with very different perceptions of what occurred.  These differences in "reality" result not only in different interpretations of the "truth" but also create different visions for our future as we move forward from our present circumstances.  It is also true that our own ideologies and biases cause us to define words and concepts differently.  In a nation as diverse as America the inability to agree on a common version of our past, a common interpretation of our current situation and a common vision for the future is often problematic.  This isn't to imply that there are no moral absolutes, or that we are free to act in any way that we choose, but rather a recognition that (within certain parameters) there can be different interpretations of things, and that even if our perceptions are significantly skewed they still influence our reactions and actions.  

Make no mistake about it, diversity of thought and opinion offer significant potential as well.  After all, without divergent thinking we will find ourselves continuing on the same pathways, and ending up with the same results over and over.  The idea that we can be condemned to repeat our past mistakes, or that we should expect different results from the same thoughts and actions cause us to question our ability to improve our future.  We need to have alternative viewpoints and hear the opinions of those who would cause us to question our own version of "reality" if we are to make any progress as individuals or as a society. 

This tension between the safety in consistency in beliefs and the challenge of diversity in thinking creates a number of different emotional states for people.  For some of us, the tension is an opportunity for growth that creates a feeling of hope.  For others, it is a source of fear and anxiety that causes hatred and resentment towards those who challenge or threaten our viewpoints.  Which of these reactions we have is based on many different things and can be different for individuals and groups.  Among the most important factors that influence our reactions to challenge and change are our own stability and sense of security, our ability to accept uncertainty, and the guidance, leadership and support that exist around us.

An example of the effects that multiple "truths" can have is clearly demonstrated in the current climate around public education.  The majority of us would agree that education is important to individuals and to society as a whole.  We can agree that all of our citizens should receive some formalized education and that it should be of the highest quality possible. 

Residence halls are being prepped, school supplies are flying off the shelves, and the sports season has already started. As local K-12 and college students get ready for classes, which|By Lee Enterprises

Yet, from the very beginning of the discussion we see terms and concepts defined differently, resulting in a wide variety of policies, goals and objectives.  Should our educational system strive to be a "melting pot" and create a uniform vision of citizenship?  Should it be a training ground for future employees and focus on "practical" skills?  Should it be a place where a variety of options are offered and critical thinking is developed and encouraged?  Should education fill multiple roles?  Should we have a public vision of education that is supported by our society?

Here in America we have chosen to answer these questions in a variety of ways, but a majority of our students receive their K-12 educations in public school settings.  While I am of the opinion that this system is the best one for a democratic society, there are challenges associated with trying to define and provide a quality education for millions of students who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences.  This tension has been a source of positive growth, but also has resulted in a system that fails to fulfill its vast promise in many ways. 

Our current dialog about public schools is one that is filled with rhetoric, misleading statements and inconsistencies.  Current Conservative leadership (and unfortunately many leaders from other ideological viewpoints as well) has cast a shadow of doubt over our public education system and distorted the public's view of what is happening to our students and educators in our nation's public schools.  The result is a collection of misperceptions, inconsistencies and outright fallacies that make the already difficult job of educating students that much more challenging.

There is a perception that our public schools cost too much and that too many resources are being funneled into our public education system.  Ask anyone who works in a school and they will tell you that there is a need for more resources and more financial support for our schools.        

Why? To give it to his friends. Walker gave his corporate friends HALF A BILLION DOLLARS in tax...

» Fewer teachers, more poverty mean challenges for kids in Wisconsin’s public schools | Research and...

The dialog around our professional public educators has become extremely negative in recent years.  This, combined with cuts to take home pay, loss of collective bargaining agreements and a general reduction in support for educators has decayed morale in our public schools. 

The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District is trying to rebound from one of...|By Hillary Mintz

Some of the less-experienced teachers hired to replace retiring veterans are...|By Erin Richards

There is still no deal between the teachers union and the school board in Galesburg, Illinois, as the teachers strike now enters its third week.

The teachers' strike has ended, representatives from the Board of Education and Galesburg Education Association announced early Thursday morning.

For the second week in a row in his new home, Kenneth Maldonado’s evening...

Imagine if you had to spend hundreds of dollars of your own money just to get...

We are subjecting our students to more and more assessment and more standardization of curriculum as we seek to hold our school systems more "accountable."  This effort to increase accountability and to make our schools more "rigorous" has changed the pedagogical landscape and reduced opportunities for many students to experience the arts, extracurricular activities and even cut into science and social studies instruction.     

Look at the testing chart.

A new study out of USC and the University of Pennsylvania finds that...|By Los Angeles Times

It should come as no surprise that it is our most at-risk students and those from groups that have been historically under-served by our public education systems who suffer the most.  We cut supports, increase academic "rigor" and still expect more from our students, educators and schools.  Students, educators and those who actively support our public schools may recognize the need for these services and supports, but our political leaders and policy makers too often fail to support these needs with resources or their words.       

Poor students don’t just need teachers. They need social workers.|By Daniel J. Cardinali

Not all students have the same access to advanced courses and electives, which could be a symptom of gaps in achievement.|By Lee Enterprises

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Wisconsinites have a chance to make a strong social, political and economic statement this November.  Our gubernatorial race has implications that go far beyond the borders of Wisconsin.  It is a race that is winnable, but we need to make sure that we get the vote out and keep the focus on issues that matter.    

Stop obsessing over the Senate. Wisconsin is the real battleground.

Past polls have showed the governor's race in a dead heat, while the August...|By Lee Enterprises

WPT will instead have an election special with Democrat Mary Burke on Oct. 16.

Burke agreed this week to a proposed Oct. 16 debate at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Walker declined that one.|By Patrick Marley

The Bad . . . Governor Walker has turned Wisconsin politics into a cesspool of corruption, and he isn't apologetic about it.

Gov. Scott Walker said Saturday he played no role in soliciting donations from a...|By Daniel Bice

A fresh batch of emails emerged Friday night that shows Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was deeply involved in raising money for an ostensibly independent group focused on fending off the recall.They came in a court filing from a special...|By James Hohmann

The governor dismisses the halted John Doe probe as a "political witch hunt"...|By Lee Enterprises

The Ugly . . . Our nation is divided in so many ways.  The rhetoric and demagoguery from our Conservative "leaders" does nothing to heal the wounds and unite us as a nation.  

From an NAACP member to an MLK Day-condemner.

No other president has had to put up with the kind of opposition that Obama has.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

#176 August 24, 2014- Changing The Post Act 10 Landscape

Public Education, Teaching
and Activism
In a Post Act 10 Wisconsin. . .
By now we all know the "reality" about public education in Wisconsin, and around most of the United States for that matter.  The issues, problems and challenges around our public schools have been pushed into the spotlight of politics and the arguments around school "reform" are well documented in the press and social media.  If you haven't heard about vouchers, standardized assessment, Achievement Gaps and the arguments for and against collective bargaining for public educators then you have just not been paying attention.

The problem is that the "reality" that is presented to the general public about public schools is not the reality that our educators, students and families really live, work and learn in.  The dialog around public education isn't shaped by the participants in the process, but rather is based on a collection of mis-perceptions, political ideology and widely divergent views about just what education means to our students and our society as a whole.  In other words, we are having conversations and making decisions about our schools based on political, social and economic ideology and not on the needs of our students and educators, or on the educational value of any specific policy or initiative.

This isn't to suggest that education and teaching isn't a political, social or economic endeavor.  Public education is, and always will be, firmly entrenched in these different spheres of human thought and activity.  If our schools are to live up to their responsibility of guiding students towards becoming productive, contributing citizens then we must engage our students in critical thinking and problem solving.  Once we move beyond simple rote learning we immediately enter into the more challenging, and even controversial aspects of education.  There is little controversy involved in teaching students basic facts, however, once we want our students to apply their knowledge and look at the realities around them, the process becomes more uncomfortable for those not directly involved in schools and classrooms. 

As an educator I believe it is my job to get my students to question as much as possible.  They need to use the skills that they are learning to look critically at the world and to use their knowledge as a tool to guide their thinking as they decide who they are, and what they stand for.  Education is neutral, but the results are not.  We know that different people can use the same knowledge and skills and arrive at very different solutions or results.  We also know that this challenges everyone involved in the process, and even provokes some anxiety as our long standing beliefs are challenged and even overturned.  Yet, we also need to accept that, as Frederick Douglass said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."  Our ethical and moral growth as a society is based on the challenging of the status quo and the refusal to accept things as they currently are, but to constantly strive for something better, a more socially just society.  This is something that is difficult for many to accept and embrace.  It is easier to live in a reality that we already know than it is to move ahead and explore a new vision.  This isn't a condition that is new to modern Wisconsin.  Change is always difficult and challenging in some aspect or another. 

We also know that self-interest is another factor that contributes to the "charm" of a more conservative way of thinking.  Our children are our hope for the future, and every family has a huge stake in making sure that the members of their family get the best opportunities.  We may, or unfortunately may not, want others to succeed as well, but it is only natural that we put our own interests ahead of others.  This means that we will see support for programs and efforts that benefit our own, and will see resistance  against putting resources into things that will benefit others, especially if those efforts are seen as impacting our own interests in a negative way.

What has happened is that political leaders have taken these two aspects of human nature and used them for political gain and to benefit their financial supports who gain economic advantages from the enactment of specific policies.  Never mind that this is harmful to our society as a whole, instead these small number of wealthy and influential people have taken advantage of the struggles that so many of us are facing to advance their own agenda, and to reap huge profits as well.  They have manipulated public opinion so that enough voters have forgotten that most people like their public schools and the educators who work with their children, and instead are accepting propaganda that paints our public schools as failing and our educators as uncaring and inept.               

Eighty-nine percent of Wyoming residents believe their local teachers are...|By Gallup, Inc.

Here in Wisconsin we have seen some very extreme measures put in place.  Whether it was the record cuts to public education in the 2011-13 budget, or one of the many other anti-education acts by our so called "leaders", the effects have been significant and negative.  Unfortunately, Wisconsin's public educators aren't alone in facing these challenges.  Some of the biggest threats to our public education system are. . .

Vouchers and Privatization- We know that there are those who view our schools and students as an untapped opportunity for financial gain.  Privatizing our schools gives them an opening to gain access to the profit potential that exists. 

Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch have secured over $100,000, combined,...|By Lee Enterprises

Across the state, 8.9 percent of students were enrolled in a private school last...|By Lee Enterprises

Anti-Union Efforts- There has been significant effort put into destroying the power of public sector unions.  Educator unions are among the last bastions of unionism in America and the efforts to discredit our public schools are often based on the desire for the removal of a political obstacle that stands in the way of conservative political gain.  What is forgotten is the fact that unions are one of the primary reasons that America has had a prosperous middle-class and are often the only voice that speaks for the workers of America.  These attacks take on many forms, but are all aimed at reducing the ability of workers to organize and to influence policy that impacts their jobs, and the opportunities that their students enjoy.       

Teacher job protections are being challenged, and a lawmaker and former school principal explains why that’s good.|By Frank Bruni

"The more we give, the more they want. They more they want, the more they take....

Act 10 and the "Marketplace"- The anti-union effort's crown jewel in Wisconsin is Act 10.  Now that the Supreme Court has ruled it appears that Act 10 is here to stay for the immediate future.  While we can make many predictions (almost all of them dire), the full impacts of Act 10 remain to be seen. 

» Act 10 is having far-reaching repercussions on schools from one end of the state to the other |...
New models for teacher pay are a result of legislation that allows districts to...|By Edgar Mendez

The district’s superintendent has resigned amid high staff turnover and...|By Erin Richards

There are those who will tout the effects of Act 10 as being positive, and who will point to the power of the "market" and its ability to provide solutions to the challenges we face.  This is a na├»ve and harmful attitude to take.  The idea that a market will provide our most at-risk communities with educational opportunities is simply not realistic.  Instead, what we will see is a shortage of qualified instructors, a lack of educational opportunities for our communities of poverty and color, and a stratification of education that will mirror our existing discrepancies in wealth and health care. 

TIPPECANOE CO., Ind. (WLFI) - It's a problem for area school superintendents who tell News 18 they are losing experienced teachers at a rate…

Testing and Standards- No commentary on education would be complete without mentioning these two features of the "reform" movement.  In highlighting the "failures" of our public schools, "reformers" have made it clear that we need to increase both the "rigor" and the "accountability" in our schools.  Even supporters of our schools have turned to using tests to validate our students' achievement, while ignoring the fact that success on a test does not equal success in life, or even real academic achievement.  Our standards and tests have become a cornerstone in the education for profit schemes sweeping across America.  They are also becoming an integral part of efforts to evaluate educators and to influence curriculum.   

ACT composite scores in Wisconsin and the nation as a whole did not change substantively from last year’s results.|By Karen Herzog

The union's board voted unanimously to declare no confidence in State...|By Allie Bidwell

Read what's going on in Florida.

It has come to our attention that your older brothers and sisters have been showing up to Kindergarten completely unprepared for the requirements of a rigorous education. It is time to nip this indolent behavior in the bud....

Is there hope for the future?- With our unions reeling (Madison is now the only district in Wisconsin with a collective bargaining agreement in place), school budgets slashed, educators retiring and/or leaving the profession in droves, and private schools gaining footholds in many communities, the question of hope for the future becomes vital as we work to hold on to what we have.  There are many people who are articulating the views and needs of public educators.  In many ways the message is quite simple, we are dedicated professionals who, with adequate support, resources and time, can do our jobs very well.  We are frustrated with the message of failure being delivered so publically and want to engage in a real and meaningful discussion about what education means and what our students and schools need to succeed.  In other words, we don't want to just hold on, but rather to change the direction that our society is currently moving in.    
Teachers overwhelmingly report that they love their jobs, but hate their workplaces. Teachers weigh in on why they love the classroom and how things could change to make their lives easier.

'Don’t tell us that you know more about good instruction than we do." And six...

Reformers misunderstand how central human relationships are to the educational process.|By David L. Kirp

However, we are learning that being right, having excellent ideas and working hard in our own classrooms/schools/neighborhoods isn't enough to change the course that our current educational policies are taking.  While we may be exhausted after our 3+ years of struggling against the Walker administration, and we may feel that we can't continue our fight against what seems to be an inevitable tide of "reform" (who hasn't heard an educator give up and say, "I don't like all the testing, but our kids need to know how to score well on a test.") everyone who is committed to our public schools needs to continue the effort and work collectively to make a difference.  Every little bit helps and there are many areas we can put our energy into. 

Make the best of what we have- There are often opportunities to find a positive in any initiative or policy.  Here in Madison we have an opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues during the contract day (during our Monday PCT/Early Release times) and we need to make the most of this.  We need to claim this time for our own and not allow it to become the realm of administration and data.  Our discussions about students, curriculum and school policies need to be focused on making the best possible outcomes for our students a reality.  Working together we can achieve more, if we retain the power for ourselves as professional educators.   

Mastering the craft demands time to collaborate—just what American schools don't provide.|By Sara Mosle

Participate in unions and pro-education organizations- No one can fight these battles alone.  We need the support of like-minded colleagues and organizations that can help us maximize our efforts while maintaining our morale.  Organizing for action is the cornerstone of any movement and we can take heart at the many examples that can be found, some even in our own "backyard."  We should never underestimate the power of a group of like minded individuals, working together to change things for the better.

Over one hundred Chicago public school students, parents, and community...

Chicago teachers show how to organize an effective boycott of standardized...

Back to school: Once political allies, the National Education Association and President Obama are now in conflict over teachers' tenure, students' testing.

We must be able to think for ourselves and remember that our leaders/bosses may not have our  best interests or those of our students at heart. 

A Texas court bans employee claims for fraud.

Work for social justice- Done well, public education is the cornerstone of a socially just society.  As educators and supporters of public education we need to be activists.  This will allow us to build connections with our communities, other organizations and will help fuel our efforts and engage our colleagues and friends.  What is good for our families and communities is good for our schools and vice versa .

'There is no need for innocent children to go hungry because' of the civic unrest...

Eligible students will no longer need to fill out paperwork to receive free or...|By Lee Enterprises

School has been canceled for the week in Ferguson, Mo., as civil unrest...|By Elise Hu

Spend our money wisely- We can't keep giving our money to the very companies and individuals who seek to destroy our public schools. 

I just signed a petition to Public School Teachers, Parents, and Supporters:...

Have a little fun and smile along the way- This is serious business, and incredibly hard work.  Don't forget to celebrate, laugh and recharge on a regular basis.  

The Holderness family went viral in December of last year with their...|By Zoe Marcus

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . It's great to see Mary Burke's campaign becoming more aggressive in going after Walker about his economic record.  Walker's administration has played around with jobs numbers, given huge amounts of public money away to his political supporters and failed to be accountable for managing public funds, yet they will tout themselves as being economically sound and the best choice for Wisconsin.  Burke needs to make it clear that her ideas are better for most Wisconsinites and that she is more accountable to the "everyday taxpayer" that Walker claims to be so supportive of. 

She tells an interviewer that slower growth was a product of a different time in...|By Lee Enterprises

MADISON (WKOW) -- Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Mary Burke said people are starting to hear her message that Wisconsin's economy is falling behind the rest of the Midwest in an interview she did for Capitol City Sunday that will air this weekend on WKOW 27.|By Greg Neumann

Scott Walker told Wisconsin he'd have a new plan for job creation in his second term by the spring, but spring has come and gone, and a lot has happened since then.|By WisDems

Coming soon to Wisconsin.  We need to recharge and regain the energy that we had during the 2011 protests.  Putting the focus on what we can, and should, achieve as a united, inclusive society is a huge piece of this effort. 

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Organizers of regular protests at the North Carolina...|By Lee Enterprises

The Bad . . . Thanks to Governor Walker (and other Conservatives around the country) for "saving" us a little money in the short term and costing us a lot of money in the long run.

If officials decide to change course and expand the program in the next state budget, taxpayers would save $261 million to $315 million through June 2017.|By Patrick Marley

The decision by Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican lawmakers not to expand...

The Ugly . . . Too many people still believe that those on welfare are lazy and are trying to cheat the system.  As a society we need to remember that we are all in this together and support our fellow citizens.

As the unrest continues in Ferguson there are many issues to think about.  One is the role of the press in bringing these stories to our attention in a meaningful and productive way.  We have Constitutional Rights that are an outgrowth of our nation's historical efforts to hold those in power accountable.  The current efforts by those in power that are directed against a variety of groups is in direct opposition to these long-defended beliefs.  For Conservatives to tout the 2nd Amendment while ignoring the rest of the Bill of Rights is irresponsible and hypocritical.  It is up to all of us to hold those in power accountable and help our nation live up to the sentiments expressed in our founding documents by applying them to all citizens regardless of race, religion or political ideology.     

Ferguson police were caught on camera Sunday night threatening to mace one...|By Gabrielle Bluestone

Since the 1990s, police agencies across the country have armed themselves...

The lack of passion of white youth across the country for Michael Brown says a...|By David J. Leonard

Sunday, August 17, 2014

#175 August 17, 2014- Back to School

Public Education-
Challenges and Opportunities . . .
With the start of the school year fast approaching it is time for educators, families and students to begin preparing for another year of teaching and learning.  Educators in Wisconsin find themselves pulled between different aspects of the educational enterprise.  At its most basic level we are preparing for this year just like we would any other.  There are classrooms to set up, curriculum to prepare and new students, families and colleagues to meet.  Despite all the upheaval and the many changes in the educational landscape, there is a certain stability and reassuring quality about the start of a school year.  New school supplies, new material to learn/teach and a chance for a fresh start all provide hope and opportunity. 

At the same time, we can't forget the many challenges and conflict that surround our public schools, public educators and the students we serve.  While many prepare to make this a successful school year, we are still seeing the movement to privatize public education exercise its considerable political clout.  We are also seeing and feeling the impact of the policy battles that have been ongoing for the past few years.  All of these "reform" efforts put pressure on educators and impact students, rarely in a positive way.

Unfortunately, we see too much fighting for the wrong reasons about the wrong issues.  The attacks on public educators are one clear example of this phenomena.  The movement to attack teacher "tenure" has taken off and is yet another instance of the use of "common sense" and righteous outrage used for political and economic advantage.  Educators in America's public schools are held accountable in many ways and we don't have unlimited, universal protections once we have worked beyond our probationary periods.  The misconceptions around "just cause" and other legal protections that educators enjoy provide fodder for those who would bash educators and replace qualified professionals with the equivalent of "educational temp workers."  These less experienced, minimally trained employees are cheaper and less vocal in their critiques of new policies that serve to increase the profitability of education and reduce the quality of instruction for many students (especially minority students and students of poverty).      

David Boies, who helped lead the legal charge that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban and represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore is becoming chairman of the Partnership for…|By Motoko Rich

Hosts of "The View" caused a stir in the education world this week after…

The conflicts over the Common Core Standards are continuing and will escalate in the near future.  Make no mistake, standards are necessary and we need to have a conversation around what our students should know and how to assess their progress.  Yet, the political battles around the standards are not benefiting students, but are lining the pockets of educational profiteers and shifting the balance of power away from classrooms and into legislatures and boardrooms.  All of the conflict has created a volatile climate that has impacted educators' abilities to prepare for, teach and assess students.

Our daily afternoon roundup of the best stuff on and beyond.|By Lee Enterprises
Slekar slams officials for making a political tactic out of the change in education...|By Lee Enterprises

We need to have a discussion about the standards, but that conversation should be lead by classroom educators, not politicians or businesspeople.  We can't forget that anything that impacts public education will have a significant effect on our most at-risk populations.  Decisions about education shouldn't be made for profit, or by people who don't work on a daily basis with students.  

The corporate under-written Common Core standards and tests are at best a...

In an excerpt from her book Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch reveals the individuals and corporations behind education reform movement.

If we look at the standards carefully and craft standards that meet the needs of our students then we will see more successful outcomes for everyone.  Simply increasing "rigor" or making assessments more difficult will not make our students smarter, increase the engagement of students or educators, or provide an environment that produces productive, positive citizens.  The current movement to make public schools more accountable and more "rigorous" has failed to close Achievement Gaps and has created inequities that harm many students and communities.   

Since the beginning of this year, many legislators and critics have dubbed Common Core "developmentally inappropriate." They argue that the new Math and|By Reema Khrais

When defenders of the Common Core say these standards are tools that…

An examination of students’ transition to high school shows too many are not…|By Lee Enterprises

The end results of these conflicts are damaging to our society as a whole.  To assume that our schools can fix all of the problems we face, while at the same time catering to the needs of special interest groups is unrealistic at best.  We have always had our struggles around education, but we also have seen great successes emerge from our schools.  Creating a positive climate around our public schools will serve to build community, increase student engagement and move our society in a socially just direction.   

By next fall, New Orleans will have only five public schools—those operated by...

Union president Mike Lipp says teachers are apprehensive over new evaluations of their work...|By Lee Enterprises

School officials say a variety of circumstances led to the unusually large number...|By Lee Enterprises

At the same time we face many struggles around public education, there is also reason for hope.  Educators are organizing, becoming more aware and involved and working to control the pathways that we take in educating our students.  It is only through a joint, collaborative effort that we will be able to change the current course of public education, but together we can make that happen.   
The Power of Teacher CollaborationBy Lily JonesJuly 18, 2014 12:20 pmTeaching is simultaneously one of the hardest and one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. We often say that students make it worth it, but there’s something else that can make or break your happiness as a teacher: your colleag…

Tonight, WISN-TV reported that Milwaukee Public School enrollment was up...
The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Wisconsinites have an opportunity to make a strong political, social and economic statement this November.  While we know there are many obstacles it is up to us to turn out, vote, and earn the government we need to move us forward.      

Voters headed to the polls Tuesday to vote on a number of local election races. Check back after 8 p.m. for live results feeds.

The Post's Chris Cillizza called the Wisconsin governor's race a possible...|By Lee Enterprises

Conservatives’ traditional-values script is being used against them as...|By John Harwood

John Dickerson: Why Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker risked criticism from the right to attack his Democratic opponent

His Democratic opponent is running the right race.

The Bad . . . One of the barriers in the way of a successful November election is the confusion and apprehension caused by the Voter ID law and subsequent Supreme Court decision.

Voter impersonation is a dumb way to steal an election, which is why it rarely...
How low can the Wisconsin Supreme Court go? It's a serious limbo competition. But the court's voter ID decision two weeks ago is right down there.
Another issue is the amount of money that will be spent to influence the election. 

A data visualization detailing Scott Walker and Mary Burke's campaign...

There are many issues that are of importance in the November election, but the economic ones will be among the most important to voters and will have the greatest effect on the outcome.  The problem is that the economic "facts" are more difficult to comprehend and easier to "spin" than one might imagine.  Depending on who you listen to, and what their political goals are, we are either in a recovery, or headed towards another recession.  The simple reality is that many Wisconsinites are not seeing the benefits of any recovery and this happens for many reasons.  

The U.S. is still producing around $800 billion a year less in goods and...|By Neil Irwin

A new report for the U.S. Conference of Mayors shows that low-paying hospitality...|By Peter Coy

Organized labor and worker's rights are topics that will stir up a great deal of controversy in the next few months.  This is unfortunate, the rights of workers to organize is something that has historically benefitted not only workers, but the economy in general.  How we go about defending the rights and privileges of workers is very important. 

The latest labor reform proposal to make unionizing a civil right sounds helpful,...|By Barry Eidlin

Labor unions in Wisconsin will have their day in the sun again, according to Joy...

We also need to remember that how we spend our money influences more than just our own individual financial situation.

Borders filed for Bankruptcy. But before they did, this Chicago store had a...

The Ugly . . . The issues around the unrest in Ferguson can't be ignored, but are not easily explained or understood.  As a society we need to put issues of race, equity and social justice at the forefront of our dialog around making our communities safe for all citizens.  As our political, social and economic divisions widen, hatred and fear increase.  This trend only builds more and more tension between different groups in our society.

As I noted yesterday, I can't help but to compare law enforcement's reaction to...

Fancy weapons, 9/11 and fear of crime turned local forces into small armies.

Racial tension is a long standing problem in our society, but the divisions and fear go beyond race.  We can find many examples in our history of conflicts that have erupted between many different groups. 

Here’s a bit of history that you probably never learned in school.|By Brandon Weber

As with any societal problem, the solution lies in the common citizens and our responses to events and attitudes.   
Dorothy Brown: Power structure dominated by whites in town that is 68% black. Those who sat by silently after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out|By Dorothy A. Brown
Michael Johnson of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County is slated to bring...|By Lee Enterprises

Chaos broke out in the streets of Ferguson on Friday night, the same day that police announced the name of the officer who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown and released footage appearing to show Brown stealing cigarettes from...