Sunday, September 28, 2014

#181 September 28, 2014- Systematic or Enlightening

Education Defined. . .
Public education in the United States has served many functions, better or worse, over the years.  Just as our founding documents and national rhetoric show a disconnect between the vision of a nation founded on the principles of "Liberty and Justice for all" and the reality of what has transpired over time; so too, our systems of public education have too often left the promise of equality and opportunity for all unfilled.  The vision of education as the cornerstone of a democratic society has been co-opted by politicians seeking a tool to access power, and by those who would use education as a weapon of socialization or domination.  These efforts have left students, families, communities and educators to grapple with an inequitable and inefficient system that serves different groups in different ways and produces unequal results.   

There have been efforts made to address the issues around public schooling in America, but they are too often controlled by those outside of the schools that are being reformed.  It is readily apparent that many of these so called "reforms" find their motivations not in sound educational practice, or in an effort to make the system better for all students.  Instead, these "reform" efforts are rooted in a desire to achieve a specific political, social or economic outcome.  Educators on the front lines in our schools are put in the unenviable position of having to choose between risking their jobs or teaching in ways that they feel are inherently flawed and unjust.     

An education system that does not honor the educator as one of the most powerful supports in a child's life fails to realize the value of local leaders.

Despite claims to the contrary, our public education system has never been uniformly supported financially or pedagogically.  Now, with the waves of  economic and social "reform" sweeping our nation the problems are magnified. 

The teachers have been lying to us. For years. They've been covering it up. Papering over underfunding and mismanaged fiscal priorities with brightly coloured posters and sparkly stickers. Concealing an impoverished system by...

Chicago teacher reports on the effects of privatization of custodial services at her school, and it is a dirty business.

Venture capitalists and for-profit firms are salivating over the exploding $788.7 billion market in K-12 education. What does this mean for public school...

There are many ways that the injustices and inequities play out in our current system of public education.  The Achievement Gaps that our students face are well documented.  The buildings that serve different communities are visibly unequal.  We can also see how our students are tracked and moved in directions that result in unequal outcomes. 

None of this is particularly new or even startling to those who have been paying attention to our educational systems in the present, or the past.  The gaps and inequities have been in place for a long time, and they mirror the gaps and inequities that we see in our broader society.  What is especially troubling about the current state of affairs is the concerted effort to make these unfair imbalances as permanent as possible through policy and legislation.  Whether by directly mandating certain policies (NCLB and RttT), by influencing curriculum and assessment (Common Core) or by controlling educators through intimidation and silencing their voices (Act 10) the current crop of education "reformers" are seeking to institutionalize unjust educational practices.  

A generation ago, our nation enacted the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) which measured the quality of our schools by the state standardized reading and math test scores of students. Schools that did not make the required progress were...

That this follows so closely on the heels of a period of hope in American society; a time when our schools were becoming more integrated and Achievement Gaps were closing, is deeply troubling.  It is also problematic that those who are falsely "reforming" our public schools are doing so in the name of improving outcomes for students and supposedly creating a better system.  They are based on a flawed idea that competition and accountability will create a system that improves educational outcomes. 

The efforts to make a system that will address every need of every student in a uniform way ignores the simple reality that all individuals are exactly that, individuals.  No two learners will be exactly alike and any system of education must take that into account.  Our current "reforms" also attempt to take the multiple facets of education and select a few to apply.  Education becomes a thing that we can identify and quantify (as in getting a good education or a poor one) and loses its status as an active process that is difficult to place a number or value on.

Our current system has become so data driven that we have, in the process of defining a quality education, ceased to deliver what we seek to measure.  We test, we assess, we record and collect data, and in the end we fail to provide quality educational opportunities to our students.  Instead of allowing our students to explore their world and playfully interact with their learning environments we post "learning objectives" and measure their progress as though they are patients in an intensive care unit.  We put our students on an educational treadmill and turn them into piece work employees or assembly line workers who are rewarded for parts of a process, but never get to see the whole product they are working towards.        

Many years ago, I first heard the term "semantic infiltration." It was used to refer to the way that...

A key component in the efforts to "reform" education is the use of standardized assessments to measure progress and to hold our educators and schools accountable.  While assessment is a vital part of any classroom it has become a more dominant aspect of the process than it should be.  As a 4th grade educator I will spend close to 30 hours administering standardized assessments to my students this year.  That is about as many hours of art instruction as they will receive, or as many hours of music as they are allotted.  I hear educators from primary grades talking about how they haven't yet gotten into their curriculum because they are still administering assessments.  Our students who are most at risk are not being taught, all so that we can determine that they need to receive instruction in the areas that our assessments identify as needs.  Yet, any educator in my school building can already tell who is in need of more intensive support, even without specific data about a student.

Over-testing has become a central aspect in the struggle around improving educational outcomes for our students.  Even Progressive educators find themselves falling into the assessment trap when we compare our test scores to those of privatized schools.  We also allow assessment to become a dividing force when we push for students in voucher schools to be tested in the same way public school students are.  In reality, all educators should be banding together to inform our communities and unite in an effort to reduce the amount of testing that all students experience.    

I Refuse to Administer the PARCC: A Letter to the Citizens of Colorado by pegwpen · September 21, 2014 Citizens of Colorado, I address this letter to you,...

We also need to support our students and families when they rise up in protest of false "reforms."  Our students should have a voice in how they are educated and what the environment they learn in is like.  We need to allow our students to grow and develop naturally as people and as learners.  Instead we continually prepare them for the next level, or the "real world."  As one of my students said a couple of years ago, "Mr. Waity, why do we always have to get ready for 6th grade?  Why can't we just be 5th graders and do kid stuff?"

Denver area students walk out of school in protest

One dictionary defines education as either. . .

1. the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.
or. . .
2. an enlightening experience.

The question remains, to we want students in our schools systematically instructed, or enlightened?  It is up to us to decide.

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . Despite all the efforts to derail the ACA there is some relatively good news on the health insurance front. 

Rate filings submitted to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) show the cost of health insurance plans to be offered to Wisconsin residents on the Affordable Care Act's...|By Greg Neumann

We all need to make sure that everyone who is eligible has their vote counted in every election.
Got ID, Wisconsin?
An interactive tool to ensure your vote counts. Brought to you by United Wisconsin.

Wisconsin DMV Official Government Site - Obtaining an ID card
Requirements for obtaining a Wisconsin identification card.

While there is always the important caveat that the Madison economy isn't thriving for all groups, we also know that the Madison way of doing things can work, and can be a positive vision for our state.  
Madison economy thriving in spite of the WMC/Walker Way
Discussions from a graduating Master's student on items including life in the Upper Midwest, the dismal science, and brilliant beverages.|By Jake formerly of the LP

National defense is important, and our security needs to be protected.  However, we can't forget that a huge part of national security is having a stable, well fed, engaged population living in a socially just society.  That's something that unions can help create.

Unions: The Real Homeland Security
Americans are obsessed with national security. Over half of the national budget is spent on defense. The Department of Homeland Security has brought us the biggest bureaucracy in the history of human kind. But for most of us real security...

The Bad . . . If this election continues to be portrayed as a choice between the lesser of two evils then we will struggle to get the turnout that we need.  We may have reservations about Mary Burke, and we may want her to take a stronger stance for public education and labor, however, we know that we will be ignored (at best) and attacked by her opponent.  We need to put our support behind a candidate who will do more than cater to a small group of special interests. 

Democratic nominee Mary Burke has stayed mostly quiet on union issues, despite its potency among organizers

The Ugly . . . All the information and all the effort to get out the vote is being made more difficult by the timing of the decision and the logistics of implementing the law.  This is a horrible injustice and it's happening right now, in our state. 

Agencies: No money to implement voter ID
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell: Implementing voter ID this close to the election 'a mess' : Ct
In a television interview, he says some people will struggle to be able to vote in the Nov. 4 election.|By Lee Enterprises

Sunday, September 21, 2014

#180 September 21, 2014- Organizing for Social Justice

Social Justice, There's Power in the Union. . .
Public educators and their unions have taken a lot of heat in recent years. Bashing educators has become a good way to score political points in certain circles.  We have seen a large number of political candidates take advantage of the climate that exists around public education to promote an agenda that attacks, vilifies and degrades public educators.  Evidence of this reality can be found on a daily basis in the media, and more importantly is impacting the efforts of educators in schools across Wisconsin.  The motivations, dedication and competence of our educators is being questioned on a regular basis. 

Hinsdale Township High School District 86 has launched an investigation into 17 teachers who liked a Facebook post linked to a story about teacher contract...|By Chicago Tribune

A new book by Dana Goldstein offers powerful, historical perspective on our penchant for attacking teachers.

Yet, the issues raised and the "solutions" offered in political circles really aren't about improving our schools or about making our public education system more equitable or closing existing Achievement Gaps.  Instead they are barely disguised efforts to gain political and economic advantages for political leaders, their financiers, and educational profiteers.  The so called "reformers" attack public schools on issues like Achievement Gaps and the supposed wasting of taxpayer money, while at the same time weakening the ability of public educators to address educational inequities and cutting funding for our public schools.     

There continues to be much bluster out there in ed reformy land that money really isn’t all that important – especially for traditional public school districts. That...

» Yet another study finds Wisconsin school-funding system hurts kids and communities | Research...|By skrashen

"Reformers" have created systems that evaluate schools and educators unfairly, and force educators to choose between continued employment and their ethical beliefs about education and social justice.  The emphasis on basics or "Core" instruction puts significant strains on educational resources and limits choices for students in our most at-risk demographics and communities. 

Click on each school name below to download that...

Art and music convey important skills that often are overlooked. Researchers have long touted their positive effects on student brain growth and development, but...

Two early childhood experts argue that the Common Core Standards ignore research on child development.

One of the cornerstones of these "reform" efforts is the attempt to destroy the power of public educator unions.  It is here that a strange coalition of fiscal conservatives, Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats and even some grassroots community leaders has formed around the misguided beliefs that educators and their unions have created the problems that exist in our schools.  The idea that eliminating unions and privatizing schools will improve educational outcomes for all students is fomented by a few extreme examples and willful ignoring of the social and economic conditions that fuel our educational Achievement Gaps.  The result is a climate that is anti-public education, anti-public educator and harmful to many of our students and families.      

Is the legacy of Act 10 teachers as free agents? No, the real legacy is teachers jumping ship.|By Lee Enterprises

I have a question for you... Can you use your finger and identify Chile on a map? I only ask because there are lots of ideas and theories in the US educational...

There are many mis-perceptions about what education "reform" truly is as it is represented in public forums.  Many of these "reformers" claim to be crusaders who are looking out for students, families and communities.  Yet, their efforts often undermine efforts to increase equity for those that they claim to want to help.  In pushing for "reforms" they actually divide communities and weaken the standing of public schools which are often centerpieces of communities.  They drive wedges between different sub-groupings of educators and cause divisions where unity is needed (and should be highly sought after).      

As we go back to school this fall, parents will naturally be fretting about teachers—mainly, did their kids get the best ones? But what if, in the interest of...

With all of the conflict and anxiety around our public schools it is too easy to forget that there are opportunities to build consensus and coalitions around our schools, students and communities.  Despite the imagined differences, the underlying goals and beliefs around public education can be powerful unifiers.  These goals and beliefs are centered around a sense of equity and social justice along with a strong desire to see each child succeed at the highest level possible.  It is in the best interest of every person in society that ALL of our children are provided with the most opportunities possible.  There is no way to predict where our next great leader, scientist, inventor, artist, etc. will come from, and to shortchange any student is to weaken the fabric of our entire nation.  We also can't forget that a democracy is equal to the sum of its parts and every citizen, no matter their status or position, is of significant value. 

This way of thinking is causing many advocates for public schools to ask why we are creating an environment where our students and schools need to struggle so much in order to get the resources that they need in order to have the best opportunities for success?  Why are we eliminating supports and opportunities for those who are in greatest need?  Why aren't we seeing more outrage and action in defense of these students and the schools that provide them with what is one of their best opportunities to create a positive future?  Why have so many citizens accepted the propaganda that paints educators and public education as the enemy of the state?    

American teachers work hard. Like, really hard. This year's education report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development outlines the stat...

The simple answer is that our discourse around education is too focused on an elusive and ill defined "bottom line."  So much of the conversation about our schools is based on a fear that somehow we are not competitive with the rest of the world, or that our own children are somehow being shortchanged in their education.  Fear rarely breeds positive responses, and in the case of public education this is clearly true.  Instead of looking at the bigger picture, putting resources where they are most needed, and supporting those who work and learn in our schools we see the exact opposite happening.  Our public discourse is based on "improving" our schools, and we measure this "improvement" through standardized test scores.  On a more personal level, we see those who have the most power in society use this power to make sure that their communities receive the most and best of what our school systems can provide.  Combine this with the push to make a profit from education and the effects are not surprising. 

What this means is that those of us who have access to political power must work to wield it for the good of our students, our families and our public schools.  Here in Wisconsin our public educators still retain some of the clout, although our power is weakened, that we have built over the years.  Unfortunately, we are often too hesitant to use this, despite the realization that those who oppose us are more than willing to use any and all of their power to destroy what we believe in.  Even after Act 10, the recalls and the protests many of us are still working quietly in our classrooms and schools, somehow hoping that politics and economics will pass us by and let us teach and work in peace.

The daily work that educators do continues to be vital for our students and our society.  We need educators who are dedicated and focused on the students and families they work with.  At the same time, the work that we do is a political and social statement.  How we teach, what we teach and the system that we are a part of are at the core of our society and are the activities that build the future for all of us.  With all the conflict and confusion around public education this means that our work is no longer being done "under the radar" or in a safe, protected zone.  The curriculum that we use, the testing that we do, and the way we deliver educational experiences to our students is now a part of a bitter public debate.

Given that reality, it is time for educators to lead the charge towards a more socially just society.  We need to be a part of the efforts to defend voting rights, promote increasing the minimum wage, and many of the other efforts to defend the rights and privileges of our fellow citizens.  These efforts will improve our communities, help our students succeed and help educators build a coalition that will advance the causes of all of us.  If educators and their unions are a visible presence then we will gain the trust and support of our fellow citizens and weaken the efforts to divide the citizenry of our state and nation. 

This seems to be easier said than done.  After all, unions exist primarily to promote and protect the interests of their membership.  Yet, if we allow our focus to be narrowed to the workplace, wages and benefits, then we open the door for our opponents to exploit the differences between different sectors of the workforce.  The emphasis that Walker and his supporters put on the "Cadillac benefits," high pay and easy jobs that unionized workers hold is a clear example of how our contractual benefits can be used against us.  If union members are out in the community, building alliances and fighting alongside our fellow citizens, then these attacks lose their strength.  Make no mistake, unions still need to fight for their members, but they also can make sure that members' efforts in the struggle for social justice are supported. 

There are many ways that this is already happening, and opportunities for even more in the future.  One way that unions help in the fight for social justice is simply by providing employment protections for their members.  Without "Just Cause" in collective bargaining agreements, educators put their own livelihoods on the line whenever they speak out against a "reform" or unjust policy.  We are also seeing unions and union members becoming more active in movements that support our students, families and community.          

United Opt Out National serves as a focused point of unyielding resistance to corporate ed. reform. We...

A group of teachers at a progressive public school in Néw York City have formed "Teachers of Conscience" and written the Chancellor of the school system to say that they could no longer...

It is also possible for educators to organize outside of their profession and union colleagues.  In fact, it is crucial that we build connections between the many different organizations, groups and leaders who are too often working individually, when collective action could be much more powerful.  If we have learned anything from our experiences in 2011 it should be that there is power in solidarity, but that this joining of interests takes organization and effort.  It must be sustainable, flexible and communication of ideas and actions is vital.     

I am currently part of a group that is seeking to make these connections around issues involving our public schools.  Families, educators and community members have formed an organization called SCAPE (School Community Alliance for Public Education) that is working to bring issues of social justice and educational policies to the attention of the community.  We are looking to join forces with other groups in order to increase the diversity of voices heard in discussions about Madison's public schools.  This effort is in its infancy, but is an example of the ways that we can begin to "think outside of the box" and work to make a difference in our community and our world.  While we are working on getting our website up and running, here is a link to the notes from our most recent meeting which gives an idea of what we are up to.

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . While we know that there is a lot of work to do if we are going to make Madison one of the best places for ALL citizens to live, at the same time it is good to know that we have a strong base to build from.  A lot of work is being done to understand and address the inequities that exist in our community.

2015 Top 100 Best Places to Live Our second-annual ranking of the best small to mid-sized cities in the U.S.As Livability’s editors and writers crisscross the U.S in search of great stories, we find that time and again, the best tales are told in the...
Here's a message that needs to be heard more widely.

We've all been told the workforce is partly to blame for the decline in manufacturing. New research says that idea needs to die.

The only poll that matters is the one we take on November 4th.  However, this data gives us hope as we continue to fight for Wisconsin's future.

For the fourth straight poll, GOP Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke are locked in a neck-and-neck race.|By Lee Enterprises

More and more people are finally paying attention to the student loan debt crisis that exists in this nation. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren promised this morning to keep pushing for her student loan refinancing bill, but again left it to Republicans to come up with a compromise that can satisfy both parties in the Senate.“The next step,” she said...|By Allie Grasgreen

The Bad . . . More evidence that the current administration isn't fulfilling the promises they have made to the people of Wisconsin.  Although, to be fair, they have been doing a good job of keeping the promises they made to those who contributed big money to their campaigns.

Also, a voucher advocate rebrands itself and a chance to see former Gov. Tommy Thompson talk...|By Lee Enterprises

In Scott Walker’s latest ad he is seen standing in a big hole. What some people might not realize is the unsafe example Walker is setting for workers who work...

Laying out his vision for a second term, the Republican governor is also pledging to freeze technical college tuition and cut income taxes.|By Jason Stein

Even as its unemployment rate dipped to its lowest level since 2008, the state lost 4,300 private-sector jobs in preliminary estimates.|By Lee Enterprises

The Ugly . . . The policies that have been promoted by Republicans in Wisconsin only serve to expand the "wealth gaps" that exist.  This creates a spiral of effects that only serve to widen these gaps and harm those who are not part of the economic elite. 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Income inequality is taking a toll on state governments.

Trying to steal an election by any means necessary.

An appellate court panel has added confusion to the state’s midterm elections by permitting officials to enforce a controversial voter ID law.|By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

We need to make sure that everyone is able to vote in November. . . 

UW students without an acceptable form of identification to vote this fall may soon have a new option.|By Channel 3000

Those who want to promote democracy in Wisconsin should focus on voter registration and turnout.|By Lee Enterprises

Even in the face of intimidation and confrontational tactics that seem straight out of our nation's less than admirable past, or taken from the playbook of extremists around the world that our Conservative comrades claim to abhor. 

Tax delinquents, people with warrants are on the group's "watch lists" in cities like Milwaukee, Racine and Beloit, according to posts on its Facebook page.|By Lee Enterprises

Sunday, September 14, 2014

#179 September 14, 2014- Love Educators, Love Their Unions

Union Busting- How Can You
Love Teachers and Hate Their Unions? . . .
We've been hearing the same lines for several years now.  The ones where people claim to value and support their public school, where they claim to respect the educators who work with students and that claim unions have ruined our public schools by protecting "bad teachers" and driving education costs up.  Few who offer this rhetoric stop to consider the full ramifications of what they are saying.  Often they are blindly supporting a politician or political ideology and not really analyzing what their positions really mean.

In a different era these comments and conversations could be responded to and a discussion could be had about them.  They could even be ignored and the business of educating our students could continue.  Unfortunately, we live in a climate where the anti-union/anti-educator rhetoric has been given power beyond what it merits.  The continuing attacks on our public schools have expanded and become a part of our political landscape.    

A conservative group has accused Madison school officials of illegally negotiating new contracts with the local teachers union.|By Channel 3000

Organized labor has been under assault for decades in this country, and if the...

In June, a low-level judge in California caused a stir when he declared unconstitutional a bundle of laws on how public school tenure works in that state. Judge Rolf Treu swallowed whole the argument...

The anti-public education stances that our political leaders have taken have changed the landscape and altered many aspects of public education significantly. 

New pay models aim to reward good teachers but also to avoid losing them to...|By Lee Enterprises

2014 Wisconsin School Funding Study New study: Broken Education Funding System Causes Growing Gap in Opportunities Among Wisconsin Schools and Communities The Forward Institute is releasing an...

Even those who speak out in support of public schools often inadvertently "bash" our schools.  In an effort to support public education and speak out against the privatization movement we too often portray our public schools as being in crisis and demean the accomplishments of our students and staff.  This ends up undermining confidence in our schools and helps fuel the anti-public education spiral that is in place in our state.

With this drastic defunding, Wisconsin's public schools have gotten worse and worse. Programs have been slashed, staff has been cut, and class-sizes are exploding. And if that is not bad enough, state political leaders have vilified our educators, causing a mass exodus of experienced teachers.

Many who support the economic and educational "reforms" do so out of a mistaken sense of justice and equity.  They have been told that unions stand for bad policies, protect bad teachers and have acted to protect educators interests over those of students and families.  They truly believe that they can support Act 10, support Governor Walker and support "reforms" like vouchers all while still being pro-public education and pro-public educator.  They believe the rhetoric that Wisconsin's educator unions have blocked changes that could close achievement gaps and improve educational outcomes for all students.  Add to this the volatile political landscape and the intense emotions that the past few years have generated, and these opinions become even more entrenched and solidify into virtually unalterable dogma or "common sense" arguments. 

National Organization Intensifies Local Efforts to Boost Educational Choice, Releases Poll MILWAUKEE (Sept. 11, 2014) – The American Federation for...

What these viewpoints ignore is the reality that exists in our state's public schools.  They ignore the efforts of educators to support and enhance the educational opportunities that our students need in our modern society.  They stereotype educators and are based on flawed logic and faulty arguments.  In the end we must make it clear that to attack educator unions is to attack educators themselves.

Educators need unions for a number of reasons.  One of the most glaring is the fact that we work in an environment that is incredibly complex and is heavily regulated.  There are layers of federal, state and local government that overlap in ways that are often difficult to comprehend, even for veteran administrators and educators.  Adding to this legal accountability is the ethical and moral accountability that we have to our students and families.  All of these combine to create an environment where educators need the support of a union to help guide them through the legal aspects of our jobs and allow us to focus on the students and families we serve. 

It is also important that our educators are protected and supported in other legal ways.  There are many safety issues that arise in our schools on a regular basis, and along with these are the many different, and often conflicting, views about handling issues around discipline and pedagogy.  Unions serve the role of being the last line of defense for an educator who has tried to do their best, but who has become engaged in a conflict around any of a number of issues that can arise in a school setting.  Even in cases where the educator's actions may have been questionable they are entitled to representation, just like any citizen.  This is guaranteed in our Constitution.  To attempt to remove these rights from the workplace is to forget what makes our nation a special place in the world.

To have these protections means that educators can work, and speak in ways that promote the interests of the students and families we serve.  Anti-unionists have focused on the benefits and salaries of educators trying to divide and conquer the citizenry by creating the imagery of wealthy teachers living off the labor of the taxpayers.  While this is such an obvious fallacy that it may seem laughable, the fact is that the rhetoric has impacted the way that some see public educators (and public employees in general as well). 

This emphasis on the economic impacts that unions have ignores the fact that the employment protections that unions provide may be one of the most important public protections that we have as a society.  Having collective bargaining agreements, grievance procedures and Just Cause protections allow educators (and once again all public servants) to speak out against inequities and injustices that are a part of our educational landscape.  Without these protections, employees in a school are virtually powerless to stand against the tide of "reforms" that too often are even more discriminatory and inequitable than the current system.  Handbooks and At-Will Employment silence those who would speak out and force employees to weigh their own employment against the needs of their students and families.    

Many educators are hoping that through the Common Core State Standards, teaching and assessment can focus more on problem-solving and the process...

'My student had trusted me and jumped through hoops for me all year long, but...

A teacher is refusing to give her students a standardized test. Here's why.

When Dr. Walter Stroup showed that Texas’ standardized testing regime is...

Those who attack educator unions often insult the independence and intelligence of the educators they claim to support.  By saying that educator unions are controlled by "big union bosses" and that members are being manipulated into political actions, anti-unionists ignore the fact that unions are democratic institutions.  Our leaders are directly accountable to the membership, and need the full support of their members to engage in actions of any type.  Here in Madison and across Wisconsin, that means that our resistance to Conservative policies, and our political efforts came from a majority of union members, not from our "bosses."   

The anti-union movement hides behind patriotism and masks fear with aggressive attacks that are designed to silence the voices of workers.  It also has roots in the economic and political elite's efforts to maintain their control of our social, political and economic environment.  In reality, there are few examples of democracy and equity than those found in the labor movement.  While there are the inevitable flaws that any human endeavor has to be found in organized labor, at the same time, the potential for a more socially just society must be recognized in the movements that attempt to increase the power of any groups voice. 

It is in these efforts to reclaim the vision that America's founding documents espouse that unions can begin to rebuild their strength, and regain their place as a voice for the common citizen in our societal discussions.  Fighting to hold on to what we have and to engage in an economic or political debate using existing structures will be increasingly difficult in the post Act 10 landscape.  Instead, unions must change their tactics and move their efforts back to the streets and neighborhoods.  There is more common ground to be found between the "everyday taxpayer" and the labor movement than the current extreme Conservative movement would like us to see.  It is up to us to find that common ground and to call attention to the similar vision that a majority of citizens, no matter what their demographic categories may be, share.        

The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . This November's election is critical for the short term survival of organized labor in Wisconsin.  A Walker victory will set the union movement and worker's rights back after decades of slow, hard fought progress.  We need to see an effort from labor equal to, or greater than the one that drove the recalls in 2011-12.  Remember that the unions in Wisconsin are one of the last lines of defense against a state totally dominated by special interests and big money.

Union members hit the streets and the phones over the weekend to educate...

At the same time we can't forget that this struggle is not just about Scott Walker.  He is only a symptom of the problems that threaten our democratic traditions.  To make the struggle only about defeating Walker is to miss the bigger picture that exists in our society.  Defeating Walker shouldn't be personal, it should be about making Wisconsin a better place for all citizens and restoring a heritage of good government and progressive policies.  Overt anger and bitterness will solidify the opposition to our efforts and make moderates (the few who are left in Wisconsin) less likely to really hear our positions.    

“We have a score to settle with Scott Walker,” said AFSCME president Lee Saunders.

The Bad . . . While the publicity about the failures of the Walker administration to live up to their promises of economic stability and job creation helps our efforts to unseat him, at the same time these failures have had a negative impact on the citizens of Wisconsin.  These kinds of headlines, and this type of failure is bad for all of us. 

The public-private economic development agency, put in place when Gov. Scott Walker took office, continues to generate the wrong kind of headlines.|By Lee Enterprises

Yesterday, Wisconsin received more evidence of Scott Walker’s fiscally irresponsible approach to governing...

I was not a good student in economics at UW-Madison. I regularly skipped that 11 a.m. class because I wanted to finish watching The Price is Right. I justified it by...

The Ugly . . . The wider the income gaps become the more difficult it is for us to achieve the vision of a socially just society that fulfills the true promise of our nation's ideals.  Liberty and Justice for ALL is virtually impossible to realize when most of the all is struggling to make ends meet, and the few are living in a totally different reality.  All of the recent struggles around voting rights, campaign finance and economic policies have their roots in the efforts of the economic elite to preserve their status and power. 

A new study from the Federal Reserve finds that the wealthiest 3% of American households control 54.4% of the nation's wealth.|By Emily Jane Fox

We need to prepare for November and make sure that everyone has what they need to exercise their right to cast a ballot.

"I just can't imagine that this could be implemented by the November election without creating a huge mess," Daniel Tokaji, an election law professor at Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, told...|By Ernst-Ulrich Franzen for the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board

Election Law Blog - Rick Hasen's blog