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Member since: Thu Apr 29, 2010, 03:31 PM
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Wisconsin: What is it that they cannot see?


Aldo Leopold: the father of the conservation movement likely would not understand recent moves to cut funding to education and conservation.

Those of us who love Wisconsin can't explain why our affection runs so deep, but I am afflicted deeply with it and have been since I was a boy 70 years ago and my parents drove us three brothers north from Illinois to spend weeks in the woods and on the lakes. I can't put into words the profound power of this love but it absorbs my whole being in an all-consuming way. Those of us who are so afflicted instantly recognize it in others, including Increase Lapham, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Gaylord Nelson, Warren Knowles, Fran Hamerstrom and Lorrie Otto among the many great hearts and minds who preceded us. We also recognize it in our peers who reside in this grand natural mansion, a home that comforts, welcomes, entertains and thrills us. This recognition bonds us tightly. "You love Wisconsin?" I ask quietly when I see this thing in others as I hike, hunt, fish and witness the symphony of its life. "I share it," I confide and we need say no more. We are now bound permanently in a community best described as family.

From this mysterious, shared attraction to our natural home, our Eden, sprang two of its greatest institutions:

■The progressives, who dedicated themselves to understanding, protecting and sharing the natural assets that spark such intense good feeling, who left us with methods to regenerate the forests, protect the "beautiful sheets of water" that are the inland lakes and wild rivers, guard the integrity of habitats that support our nonhuman relatives. These men and women replanted the forests and prairies, saved threatened species, protected shorelines and wetlands. They spent their votes, energy and taxes on the technologies to keep running water clear and breezes pure, on purchasing and restoring the special places, including glacial moraines, savannas, prairies, cliffs, beaches, wetlands and the ancient pockets of rare plant and animal communities.

■The University of Wisconsin, which was guided by a generous vision called "the Wisconsin Idea" under which the university extended its reach to the state's boundaries to help local citizens learn how to nurture and maintain their place in order to live prosperously, in harmony and at peace. In the classroom, the task was to instill a love of learning and to ask, if only that we assume some humility: What primal forces of creation gave us our blessed place, our Garden of Eden? From this need to understand and search for truth evolved the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Idea, which together have brought us honor and respect.

Today, both institutions are under attack from those seemingly confined by the limits of personal ambition, who lack the wonder that guides us, who see our home as a thing to be sold to the highest bidder, to be closed off, carved up and carried away in boats, trains and trucks, leaving wounds that will take centuries to heal, if ever they do heal.

Wisconsin: Cuts to UW System could seriously hurt state's economic growth


UW-Madison is a premier public university and is especially strong in scientific research. The university generates $1.1 billion annually in research funding, a significant amount of which is spent in Wisconsin, putting it fourth nationally in academic research and development and fourth globally in U.S. patents received. This research generates incredible innovations that can and do create new high-growth companies in many industry sectors, from software to medical innovations to advanced manufacturing technologies.

Many successful start-ups have emanated from Wisconsin's research universities, and this entrepreneurial activity seems to be increasing, though there is much room for improvement. Recent examples include the launch of the next generation of computer network intrusion detection systems, developed by UW-Madison computer science professor Paul Barford, and the UW Carbone Cancer Center's discovery, development and patent of a cancer treatment that limits radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. The goal should be to increase the number and quality of companies that emerge from the entire UW System.

As significant as any products emerging from these campuses are the highly educated and innovative leaders they create. A recently released study from The Brookings Institution ranked Madison the top U.S. metro area for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates, with one in four of the area's graduates earning a degree in these fields. That's nearly double the national average.

UW System graduates are fueling the growth of many strong Wisconsin companies. As members of the business community, we see this first hand. Exact Sciences, one of the state's fastest-growing biotech start-ups, emerged from two employees in UW's Research Park to an expected staff of 800 by the end of 2015, with more than half of the current R&D and lab team coming from the UW System. Similarly, Wisconsin start-ups that The BrightStar Foundation invested in during 2014 are projected to make 775 new hires over the next three years.

Wisconsin: School choice group seeks personal data on students


School choice advocates have requested the names, addresses, phone numbers and grade levels of every student enrolled in 30 different public school districts, gearing up for a marketing campaign should lawmakers lift the enrollment cap on Wisconsin's statewide voucher program.

But what School Choice Wisconsin sees as a legal way to augment its mailing list, public school supporters see as a legal affront on personal privacy. The issue is prompting some district leaders to revisit options for limiting the release of student data, including reminding parents of their ability to opt out.

"While the district must comply with the request required by law, I find it difficult to believe that this was the intended purpose of the (open records) law," Green Bay Area School District Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld wrote in a letter to parents this week, informing them of the data request.

School Choice Wisconsin, which lobbies for public money to support the education of children in private schools, made requests under the state's open records laws recently to obtain student directory information from Green Bay, Oshkosh, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Wausau and at least two dozen other districts.

Non Sequitur: The Assault Rifle Sportsman

Wisconsin: Letter from John Forester, the Director of the School Administrators Alliance

from my email ...

As you know, Governor Walker formally introduced his 2015-17 State Budget proposal and it is clear that the all-out attack on public education continues in Wisconsin. And, the lion’s share of the attack can be categorized in three general areas: 1) the proposed $150 per pupil categorical aid cut in the first year of the biennium, 2) dramatic expansion proposals for private school vouchers and privately-run charter schools, and 3) damaging education policy prescriptions on Common Core, school accountability, assessments, and teacher preparation and licensure; as well as the elimination of the Local Government Property Insurance Fund.

There is a lot of detail in this budget which impacts public education. It will likely take the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) until the end of February or more to complete their analysis of this budget. DPI may have something late next week. We will pick up the fight against voucher and charter school expansion, and policy in the budget next week. For now, SAA members need to focus on the impact of the proposed $150 per pupil aid cut in the first year of the biennium. Consider the following:

§ Anything less than an inflationary increase in per pupil revenues will require reductions in educational opportunities for public school children.

§ Governor Walker’s budget plan includes no revenue limit per pupil increase in either year of the biennium.

§ Although the Governor indicated in his budget address on February 3rd that school revenues remained essentially flat, his budget plan actually imposes a $150 ($127 million statewide) cut in the per pupil categorical aid in the first year of the biennium. This $150 per-pupil categorical aid was in the 2014-15 state budget base and expected in each year of the 2015-17 biennium.

§ Therefore, even though the Governor proposes to add about $142 million (about $165 per pupil) to the per pupil categorical in the second year of the biennium, the net result is a cut of approximately $135 per pupil ($112 million) over the biennium. But, the biggest issue is the impact of that first year cut on your budget and your ability to provide high-quality educational opportunities for the children you serve.

§ In addition to the $142 million in the per pupil categorical in the second year of the budget, the governor also proposes spending

$211.2 million in increased school levy credits ($105.6 million in each year) and $108 million in increased general aid with no corresponding revenue limit increase. Therefore, this $319 million is “school funding in name only.” It simply flows to taxpayers as property tax relief and schools cannot spend one dime of it on the educational needs of their students.

The battle lines have been clearly drawn and there is no denying that the threat to public education is very real in this budget process. I call on each district administrator to assemble your leadership team, collaborate on your district message and craft your plan for influencing your parents, your staff, your community, your media and your lawmakers — and then coordinate the delivery of that message. This budget will harm your school district and the children you serve. Never has it been more important for you to reach out to your legislators and your community. In your communication, please cover the following:

§ Invite your legislators to your school(s). Use the opportunity to show them some of the great educational opportunities that kids in your district are afforded. Show them what learning looks like today in your schools.

§ Highlight the budgetary and human impact that the Governor’s proposed $150 per pupil aid cut in the first year of the budget will have on your school district. Emphasize the lost educational opportunities for your students.

§ Encourage your legislators to support putting the $211 million in school levy credits and the $108 million in increased general aid (with no revenue limit increase) into a form that you can spend on the needs of the children you serve. Many legislators have already said that they support putting more money into schools if May revenue estimates show more revenue is available. I say, “Pay the Kids First!” I believe our civic-minded Wisconsin citizens will say keep my $5 or $10 in projected property tax relief from this “school funding” and use it for the children.

§ Tell your district’s story. They need to hear it.

§ Encourage your legislators to stand up for Wisconsin school children.

§ Thank them for listening and for working for the citizens of Wisconsin.

Please send a letter (phone calls work too) using the information discussed above to the members of the Joint Finance Committee and your legislators as soon as possible. I know many of you have already contacted your legislators, and I thank you. I also ask that you contact them again. For your convenience, I have provided links to the Senate Directory, the Assembly Directory and Who Are My Legislators. Please copy your letter to the SAA.

In my 13 years of representing the SAA, I may have been in a few fights that, upon reflection, maybe I should not have been in. This isn’t one of those. So let’s fight. Let’s fight for everything that is good in public education. Let’s fight for all the reasons we made education our life’s work. But, most importantly, let’s fight for the children we serve today . . . and for those we will serve tomorrow.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for all your efforts on behalf of Wisconsin school children.

John Forester
Director, School Administrators Alliance

Dear Scott Walker, thanks for the memories ...

Within weeks of being sworn in as Governer (sic) of Wisconsin, Scott Walker had earned a unique mix of scorn and contempt from our best and brightest citizens. For your pleasure, here's a small sample of what Wisconsinites told Scott they think of him.

Jackson Browne's new album, "Standing in the Breach"


On a deeply felt folk-rock set, the great singer-songwriter keeps fighting for freedom and love

"You don't know why, but you still try/For the world you wish to see," Jackson Browne sings on "Standing in the Breach," the title track to his 14th album of new material and his first in six years. It's a characteristic sentiment, one that reaches back to the Seventies, when Browne distinguished himself as one of America's most visionary and important songwriters. In now-classic songs like "For Everyman," "Before the Deluge," "Running on Empty" and "The Pretender," Browne took a hard look at why the values of the Sixties seemed to die for so many people when that decade passed. Those values – freedom, compassion, generosity – remain vibrantly alive for him, and on this superb, inspiring album, he once again stands waiting for everyman: "The change the world needs now," he sings, "is there, in everyone."

What's most compelling about Browne is that he understands how greed and destruction in the public world devastate our private lives, rendering love both more necessary and harder to sustain: "It's hard to say which did more ill/Citizens United or the Gulf oil spill." The 10 songs on Standing play like conversations between lovers trying to reassure each other of their commitment in a world that devalues human connection of any kind in favor of profit. "You think I'm wishing I was some other place," he sings on "Yeah Yeah," "but in fact I'm right here/With my shoulder to the wheel, baby/And my heart in the deal."

Musically, Browne's signature sound remains country-tinged folk rock, infused with the spare elegance of Protestant hymns. "Leaving Winslow," whose title nods slyly to that famed "corner in Winslow, Arizona" that Browne immortalized with co-writer Glenn Frey in "Take It Easy," propels forward on an infectious rockabilly beat, as does "You Know the Night," set to lyrics by Woody Guthrie. The rocker "If I Could Be Anywhere," featuring keyboardist Benmont Tench and drummer Jim Keltner as guests, beautifully fades out on a dreamlike melody that evokes the more-perfect world Browne believes we still can attain.

At 66, Browne has been an activist long enough to realize that his most firmly held ideals may never achieve fruition. But, like John Lennon, he's enough of an artist to understand that imagining the world as it should be is the first step in bringing that world about. However, the next step – doing something – is even more important. "Which side are you on?" Browne asks, quoting the old union anthem. There's only one answer as far as he's concerned, and he makes an eloquent case for it on this album.


A fundamental question in UW debate: Will it be pursuit of knowledge or simply employable skills?


The concrete meaning of a $300 million cut is not easy to comprehend, especially since it follows $452 million in separate cuts since Walker was elected. According to UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, shutting down the schools of law, business, nursing, pharmacy and veterinary medicine combined would not cover her campus's share of the cut. Nor would laying off a third of the faculty. Nor would laying off more than 1,000 staff. The cut is timed to coincide with a tuition freeze, so the university cannot make up the lost revenue. No suddenly discovered efficiencies, limited autonomies granted to the Board of Regents or faculty "doing more work" (as Walker urges) will offset a gap of this magnitude. The consequences are as obvious as they are inevitable: mass layoffs, closing campuses or both.

Since this proposal was announced last week, my colleagues and I have puzzled over Walker's motivations. But the broader picture came into focus with the bombshell disclosure that either he or his staff sought to rewrite the university's statutory mission, deleting "to serve and stimulate society," "public service," "improve the human condition" and "the search for truth," replacing this language with, "meet the state's workforce needs." The outrage was so intense that he quickly promised to withdraw the wording change. Nevertheless, it all makes sense now.

Walker's ambition is to convert the University of Wisconsin into an enormous technical college. His goals are not to pursue knowledge and serve the broader public interest, but to supply employers with job candidates. Crank students through vocational training, and don't bother with holistic cognitive development. Elite faculty with their prestigious research grants and top-tier doctoral students with their cutting-edge dissertations are in the way of dramatically expanding trade-school style narrow job training. Diminish the university enough, and most of them will leave. Let somebody else worry about scientific breakthroughs and humanistic innovation. We need to do what employers want — and nothing more. The deeper ideology here mistakenly equates business interest with the public interest.

Walker is woefully misguided. The accumulated wisdom from generations of universities, in part, is that it is precisely the drive to expand human knowledge that generates the skills most useful in the widest variety of jobs. It is largely university-led innovation today that creates the industries of tomorrow. Converting the university into a vocational school would devastate the state's long-term economic viability, to say nothing of nonfinancial quality of life. Could attacking universities be the next frontier in the assault on the public sector?

Turns out Walker has been cooking the University's books for a while now ....


One of the more interesting things I found was that in 2010-11 all Federal Direct Loans started to be passed through the UW System budget. This resulted in an additional ~$700 million/yr being added to the System budget, giving the appearance of a large increase in both funding and spending, when it was really just a change in how this money was counted. (So, while the 2014-15 total UW System budget is ~$6.1B, it must be adjusted to ~$5.4B if we’re going to make meaningful comparisons with the Doyle years.) In my spreadsheet I back these Direct Loan dollars out of the budget so it is more of an apples-to-apples comparison with earlier years.

It’s also interesting to note that debt service has gone from a little under 3% of the total system budget under Doyle to over 4.5% now under Governor Fiscally Responsible.

The Progressive: As Oscars Near, 'American Sniper' Draws Protest


This year’s Academy Award race for Best Picture is a classic Hollywood Left vs. Right contest, pitting a biopic about an American marksman against Selma, a film depicting Martin Luther King Jr.––an apostle of peace who was actually assassinated by an American sniper.

The pacifist organization CODEPINK took aim at American Sniper, protesting what’s being ballyhooed as the highest grossing U.S. war movie ever made, at a February 2 Directors Guild of America screening attended by director/producer Clint Eastwood and star/producer Bradley Cooper. Sniper, which has grossed more than $282 million in ticket sales, is an adaptation of Chris Kyle’s American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History about the “legendary” Navy SEAL who shot 160-plus Iraqis; CODEPINK denounced the film as militaristic propaganda.

“It’s important for people of conscience to be critical of the ways Hollywood perpetuates war and racism, quite frankly, through film. . . which influences and reflects society,” said Sophia Armen, L.A. campaigner for CODEPINK Women for Peace.

The antiwar group identified American Sniper as “ahistorical and a narrative really quite similar, actually, to the narrative we were all too familiar with during the Bush era. . . The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan really terrorized, more than stopped terror. The film completely absolves the U.S. of its many crimes in Iraq and perpetuates the American war mongering narrative. . . that’s really rooted in anti-Arab racism, which is quite apparent in the film,” stated Armen, a U.S.-born twenty-three-year-old of Armenian ancestry who participated in the demonstration on the Sunset Strip in front of the headquarters of the DGA, the trade association that represents movie and television directors.

Thank you Code Pink.
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