Archives for category: Wisconsin

William Schuth, an Iraq war veteran, was insulted when Governor Scott Walker compared fighting the unions in Wisconsin to fighting terrorists in the Middle East.


He is now a teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin and a member of AFT Local 3220, the Teaching Assistants’ Association.


He created a petition on He asks if you will sign it.

A reader sent the following comment. Who knew that America’s greatest domestic threat is unions? Reminds me of Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s unfortunate remark in 2004, when he called the NEA a “terrorist” organization.

The reader writes:

“It’s really great to finally know how Scott Walker really feels about union members in Wisconsin (for all union members in general). His pearl yesterday at the CPAC convention, “If I Can Handle Union Protests, I Can Handle ISIS” is one for the classic hate-speech soundbites-rewind. And of course the fascists in attendance absolutely ate it up! So nice that he holds those who pay his salary in Wisconsin in such high esteem. Ooops… wait a minute…the Koch Bros. pay his salary…forget what I said…

“Maybe he meant “If I Can Handle Teachers Union Protests, I Can Handle ISIS?” In no way could he have been referring to organized firemen or police…”

A pro-voucher group called School Choice Wisconsin has asked school districts to turn over the names and addresses of students, presumably for recruitment to private and religious schools.

“Oshkosh Area School District parents have until Monday to decide whether they want their children’s personal information released to a statewide school voucher group.

“District leaders notified parents Monday about an open records request from School Choice Wisconsin, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit that advocates for school choice programs. Oshkosh is one of about 30 districts statewide to receive such a request.

“The group is seeking a portion of the district’s school “directory data” for each student, including name, address, telephone number, grade level and the school each student most recently attended.

“The data is collected and used for a variety of purposes, but the scope of the group’s request is uncommon, Superintendent Stan Mack II said.

“It’s so unusual; we don’t get blanket requests like this,” Mack said.

“School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender said the group likely would pass the information it requested to private and parochial schools that are part of the state’s voucher program.”

When news broke that Governor Scott Walker wanted to change the purpose of higher education in state law, removing key words, the governor’s staff backtracked and called it a “drafting error.” Critics say that he wants higher education to focus on job training and competition in the global economy. Governor Walker dropped out of Marquette University and never completed his undergraduate studies; is that why he has an animus towards higher education?


Tim Slekar, Dean of the College of Education at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, says there was no drafting error. 


Right here in Wisconsin our Governor, Scott Walker, declared war on the idea of free inquiry and the search for truth. He then went and put forth a budget that cuts $300 million from the UW system. When Governor Walker was called on his blatant attack on the academic mission of higher education—specifically the Wisconsin Idea—his response was a simple dismissal and officially called it a “drafting error.”


According to Jonas Persson and Mary Botarri of the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, Walker wanted to strike language,


ensuring that the mission of the UW is to extend “training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition,” as well as the language specifying that “the search for truth” is “basic to every purpose of the system.”


If you need to go back and read that again go ahead.


Now let that sink in…..


This is an attack on the right to learn and the right to investigate the human condition. This is an attack on the search and journey that promotes ways of living that enhance life.


Why would Governor Walker want to strike language that commits the state university system to improving the human condition and the search for truth?

Just when you thought “reform” couldn’t get worse, couldn’t become more hostile to real education, count on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to think of something utterly reprehensible.

Valerie Strauss reports on Walker’s assault on his state’s great university system, both by cutting its budget by $300 million and changing its purpose.

She writes:

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

After loud public criticism, Walker’s staff said the wording was an error.

Reflecting on Walker’s bold but brainless initiative, Arthur Camins wrote this essay on “What Is the Purpose of Education?”

Governor Walker thinks it’s to prepare the workforce. Camins disagrees:

“But it doesn’t have to be either-or. Education should prepare young people for life, work and citizenship.

“Knowledge of the natural and engineered environments and how people live in the world is critical to all three purposes of education. Critical thinking, creativity, interpersonal skills and a sense of social responsibility all influence success in life, work and citizenship. For example, unhappy personal relationships often spill over into the work environment, while a stressful workplace or unemployment negatively impacts family life. Uninformed disengaged citizens lead to poor policy choices that impact life, work and citizenship. To paraphrase the verse in the old song, “You can’t have one without the others.”

Gail Collins, formerly chief editorial writer for The New York Times and now a regular columnist, has a hilarious column today about Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.


This is a man who seriously should not be in contention for the Republican presidential nomination.


Collins says he needs an eraser to take care of the mistakes and drafting errors that plague his speeches and statements.


She writes about his Big Speech to conservative activists in Iowa:


Mainly, though, The Speech was about waging war on public employee unions, particularly the ones for teachers. “In 2010, there was a young woman named Megan Sampson who was honored as the outstanding teacher of the year in my state. And not long after she got that distinction, she was laid off by her school district,” said Walker, lacing into teacher contracts that require layoffs be done by seniority.


All of that came as a distinct surprise to Claudia Felske, a member of the faculty at East Troy High School who actually was named a Wisconsin Teacher of the Year in 2010. In a phone interview, Felske said she still remembers when she got the news at a “surprise pep assembly at my school.” As well as the fact that those layoffs happened because Walker cut state aid to education.


Actually, Wisconsin names four teachers of the year, none of which has ever been Megan Sampson, who won an award for first-year English teachers given by a nonprofit group. But do not blame any of this on Sampson, poor woman, who was happily working at a new school in 2011 when Walker made her the star victim in an anti-union opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. At the time, she expressed a strong desire not to be used as a “poster child for this political agenda,” and you would think that after that the governor would leave her alone. Or at least stop saying she was teacher of the year.


When it comes to education, Walker seems prone toward this sort of intellectual hiccup. Just recently, he released a proposed budget that would have changed the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement by eliminating the bits about “the search for truth,” educating people and serving society, in favor of the educational goal of meeting “the state’s work force needs.” When all hell broke loose, Walker blamed that one on a drafting error.


She notes that Walker wants to change teacher licensing, so teachers need not have any teacher education or training to teach. “Life experience” would count instead. Anyone should be able to teach, like in the early 19th century. This is a man who seriously doesn’t care about education.





Governor Scott Walker released a budget proposal that contains no significant increase in funding for public schools, but a large expansion of vouchers and charters for the entire state. He wants to remove the cap on the number of students who may receive vouchers to attend private and religious schools but maintain the income limit of about $44,122 for a family of four. He wants a new charter board that he and his allies control. He wants to withdraw support for the Common Core exam known as Smarter Balanced and to cancel Milwaukee’s integration funding. He proposes to lower standards for those entering teaching and to introduce A-F letter grades (a Jeb Bush invention):


If enacted, the proposals would cause major waves in the state’s public school systems, which have faced an onslaught of reforms in recent years, both financially and academically.


The governor’s budget calls for throwing out the new state standardized achievement exam aligned with the Common Core academic standards, which is set to be administered to students in third through eighth grade for the first time this spring.


And he wants schools to receive A-F letter grades on their state report cards, instead of the current descriptions explaining how well they’re meeting expectations.


Walker’s budget plan would also make it easier for anyone with a bachelor’s degree and real-world experience to get a license to become a middle or high school teacher. And to free up aid for districts statewide, the governor wants to end the Chapter 220 program designed to help racially integrate Milwaukee’s city and suburban schools — something he says will redirect $60 million in aid to other districts.


Even the state superintendent complained that Walker’s budget shortchanged public schools:


State Superintendent Tony Evers noted the governor’s budget offered no increase in the revenue limit for public schools, which is the total amount districts can raise per pupil in state aid and property taxes.


“That’s huge,” he said. “Schools are at the breaking point.”


Will this improve education in Wisconsin? Not likely, since vouchers in Milwaukee have not improved the performance of students receiving them, and several of Milwaukee’s charters are in academic distress. Letter grades have nothing to do with school improvement; they are a strategy that typically places extra emphasis on standardized test scores and sets low-scoring schools up for closure. As for inviting non-educators to become middle-school and high-school teachers, that might provide a new labor force to replace experienced teachers, but it is hard to see how it leads to better instruction to turn students over to people who have never taught and have no preparation to do so.


Steve Strieker writes a blog called “Imagine Wisconsin.” Last year, after the teacher-bashing reached new heights in his state, he felt defeated. He was in a state of grief. All year, he was so disheartened that he wrote only two posts for his blog.

Over time, with the help of family and friends, he pulled himself out of his despair, and he felt revived, personally and professionally.

He writes:

“During the peak of the grief, however, I questioned my ability to teach. I thought about taking an extended absence. As the school year started, I didn’t know how I would survive. How could I meet the needs of my students when I was so needy myself?

“Through this despair, I have come to realize how strong I used to be and how much I give psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually to my students. After the fog lifted, I could see more clearly now how much strength is actually required to help needy students on many levels. Teaching is not an easy gig.

“Like Boston Strong in the wake of the 2013 marathon bombing, Teacher Strong is my new mantra for 2015. Teaching comes easy to me when I am healthy and strong. I have been fortunate to have been mostly healthy and strong during my professional career.

“Teachers serve students, parents, and our communities in powerful ways. Teaching takes profound strength to serve an increasing number of students with significant socio-psychological needs.

“My period of despair has left no doubt. To teach, you have to be Teacher Strong. What teachers do is important and matters. What I do matters and makes a difference. In 2015, I will not take being strong and healthy for granted. What is my nature will now be nurtured.

“Goodbye 2014. Goodbye Grief. Hello 2015.”

Tim Slekar, dean of Edgewood College school of education, has a few questions for Senator Vos, speaker of Wisconsin ‘s state senate. He doesn’t ask Senator Vos about his proposal for “the right to work for less.”

No, he asks about the senator’s idea that the state’s students and educators need tough new accountability.

Tim asks:

“WHY, WHY, WHY would you even be thinking about implementing “accountability?” Accountability has a 30-year record of failing children, parents, teachers, and communities. And the disaster of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top over the last 14 years has literally denied a generation of children access to their fundamental right of a powerful and critical education! The only beneficiaries of “accountability” have been you and your friends in the legislature and the companies that have made millions on the sale of tests and data systems to schools. Schools that have simultaneously been drained of money that could have gone towards the only things proven by research to help create an atmosphere in which real learning can occur—health care, basic nutrition, and access to books.

“This leads me to ask again, why? Why engage in behavior that actually damages children, families, and communities? Is the money being offered by lobbyists really worth purposely harming Wisconsin’s kids, families and communities? If you and your colleagues in the legislature really want to help make sure Wisconsin is delivering on its promise to the children of the state, why not simply start by asking for help from people that actually know what they’re talking about. Why not ask a classroom teacher what they need to help educate the children of Wisconsin?”

Senator Vos even wants to crack down on the University of Wisconsin because he is sure its faculty doesn’t work hard enough.

Tim offers his own proposal: why not start with a Legislator Accountability System?

“I have a better idea. Before you start screwing up one of the best systems of higher education in the world all over your perceived issue with faculty workloads, please first implement a transparent system of accountability for you and your legislative colleagues. Provide us with detailed daily workloads—the taxpayers— so we know where and when you are actually working for us. We—the taxpayers— need to be sure that all of you are not “working on administrative and other nonproductive activities.” We—the taxpayers—want efficient legislators. We don’t really have time for you and your colleagues to engage in inefficient legislative practices.

“Also, it would be really helpful if you and your colleagues designed a legislative report card. We—the taxpayers—would like to know if you and your colleagues are actually building Wisconsin’s infrastructure, creating life sustaining jobs, and helping to promote a civil society free of racism, segregation and poverty. Right? I mean we are paying you good money. Shouldn’t we—the taxpayers— know if you and your colleagues really are effective civil servants?”

Dave Zeeicel, the editor emeritus of the Capital Times in Madison loved the idea.

So do I.

For their steadfastness, courage, and consistency in fighting a governor who hates not only unions but public education, I place the teachers of Wisconsin on this blog’s honor roll. Scott Walker is a model ALEC governor, ready to do whatever corporations want, while failing to care for the children of the state. If only he would listen to the teachers of Wisconsin instead of ALEC, the Koch brothers, and big corporations in pursuit of tax cuts, he could secure the future of his state.


The CapTimes wrote an editorial saluting Wisconsin’s valiant teachers’ unions, which have been under sustained attacks by Governor Scott Walker. The editorialist knows that Walker wants to privatize public education and that he had to demonize the teachers’ union and undermine their political power to reach his goal.


The editorial describes the teachers’ unions as “vital defenders of public education” and says:


In recent years, Republican presidential prospect Scott Walker has attacked Wisconsin’s public employees and teachers as part of a cynical political ploy to weaken critics of corporate overreach. Walker’s extremism has been supported extensively by out-of-state special interests that want to privatize public services and public education — so extensively that he has had considerable success. No one is going to deny that.


Despite the governor’s money power, however, Wisconsin is still making labor history.


Walker’s anti-union initiative sought to make it virtually impossible for organized labor to function in Wisconsin by, among other things, requiring that every public worker union in every workplace must go through a process of recertification every year. Walker’s Act 10 set up a complex process where elections must be organized among workers in every community and school district.


To remain as the recognized representatives of teachers and other school employees, for instance, local education associations must win a majority vote not just from the teachers and other employees participating in the election but from all teachers and other workers eligible to vote — whether they participate in the voting or not. Just imagine if corporations had to go through the whole process of reincorporating, issuing stock and setting up business operations every year and you will begin to get a sense of the roadblocks Walker and his out-of-state associates have erected to teacher unions in Wisconsin.


But Walker did not count on one thing.


Wisconsin teachers like and respect their unions enough to thwart Walker’s anti-labor strategies.


This fall, 305 local union organizations representing public school teachers, support staff, and custodial workers held recertification elections in school districts across the state. Despite everything that Walker has done to undermine them, more than 90 percent of the local unions were recertified. Indeed, according to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, 97 percent of its units that sought recertification won their elections.


The numbers are even more overwhelming for American Federation of Teachers union locals in Wisconsin.


“Since recertification elections began in 2011, every AFT-Wisconsin local union that has pursued recertification has won convincingly,” notes Kim Kohlhaas, an elementary school teacher in the Superior School District who serves as president of AFT-Wisconsin.


In many school districts, the numbers were overwhelming.


In Madison, where the Madison Teachers Inc. union has played a leading role in opposing Walker’s anti-labor agenda, the pro-recertification votes have been overwhelming.


The teachers want a collective voice. They have made that clear. Walker will continue to seek ways to silence their voice, so he can promote more charters and vouchers, more schools that welcome non-union, often inexperienced and underprepared teachers. Despite the wealth of research showing that neither charters nor vouchers outperform public schools in Wisconsin, Walker continues to try to destroy public education.


The CapTimes editorial concludes:


Of course, unions will remain under assault in Walker’s Wisconsin. But Walker is spending more and more of his time preparing to abandon Wisconsin and to begin a presidential run that is likely not just to embarrass the governor but also to expose his failures nationally and in Wisconsin. Eventually, Walker will be gone, and Wisconsin will again elect a governor who reflects the best of our values and our hopes….It is vitally important that, when Walker is gone, Wisconsin’s rich legacy of supporting public teachers and public education remains — along with the unions that fight to maintain that legacy.

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