cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
The races for Germantown School Board seats were about as I had expected in this largely conservative district. The group of three who were touting their conservative perspectives won rather decisively (with margins of 2-1 or better). This was a highly contentious set of races and we will now observe what this means for the School Board. Will there be contentious issues through-out the terms of these new Board members, or was that discussion largely politically-driven? Will these races prove to have been the precursor to a more contentious overall political climate, or was that largely the result of the 'education system' being the driver of those feelings?
Governor Walker's Act 10 bill was hit by a federal judge who found that unions could not be required to re-certify on an annual basis, and who found that the State of Wisconsin must collect union dues as has been done for many years. That was not quite the victory that it is being billed to be, but it does take a little of the sting out of Act 10 from the unions' perspective. It is a long way from overturning the law.
As the saga of the MATC employee and her use of an MATC credit card for personal purposes continues to unfold, the revelation that no audits had been performed for a decade is astounding. John Williams, the new VP of Finance at MATC, who came on board in July, 2010, ordered a routine audit soon after making that discovery. That audit resulted in the discovery of the theft that had been routine for seven years. The audit found that the woman accused is suspected of running up more than $10,000 per MONTH in illegal charges.
Sheboygan voters decided they wanted to end the saga with their current mayor and turn a new page. To his credit, the mayor stated that he had now been sober for 200 days, but the damage was done. I hope he will continue to be sober.
I read of the Milwaukee School Board's refusal to permit the food service work to be outsourced in spite of the fact that these union employees were being favored with "fringe" benefits equal to an additional105.8% of their compensation. That is right; if they are earning $10 per hour (and I feel certain that is way too low but it is easy for comparison purposes), their benefits are costing another $10.58 per hour for a total of $20.58 per hour.
We are witnessing one of the worst types of political campaigns this year. We are watching as politicians try to convince one group that it is being intentionally victimized by the other group, and that it would really be part of the "Haves" if it weren't for the political tricks being played on it. Class warfare, pure and simple.
Admittedly, my youthful days in school are long past, but Columbus Day, when we honored the man who 'discovered' America has apparently changed.
President Obama will address the pre-K to 6th grade students all across America on Tuesday, September 8th. On the one hand, that sounds like a neat idea. On the other, it sounds somehow Orwellian.
There is new federal give-away program called "Race to the Top" that involves stimulus funds for schools that have innovative proposals for improving teaching and learning. Wisconsin may be one of few states unable to qualify due to a law that sits on our books.
The Germantown School District is, as discussed last week, between that proverbial "rock and hard place" that confronts us all from time to time. Ric Ericksen, whose responsibility is the business side of school administration, was quoted in the article posted on July 14th on the Germantown Now website, indicating that the district is wrestling with the various options.
Tomorrow the world of education in Wisconsin changes. The QEO will be a thing of the past and school boards will be tested when bargaining with their union members.
The Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, has put out the word today that the Swine Flu has not been as bad as had been feared. She said that schools were no longer being told to close when a positive case had been found.
President Obama is moving headlong into national control of more and more essential areas of our lives. We have seen nationalization of banks and auto manufacturers and insurers. There is a heavy push going on today for a national health plan that would ultimately wipe out the private sector.
I continue to be amazed that the politicians, and their public health department, are closing even more schools in Milwaukee over the "Swine Flu" pandemic.
The QEO, qualified economic offer, is virtually dead since the language inserted into the state budget by Governor Doyle to reward WEAC has survived Joint Finance Committee review. Given that the Democrats control both the Assembly and the Senate, anything in the budget bill after the committee finishes its review will pass.
The Journal Sentinel staff has assembled its overview of some of the key issues that will be decided by the Joint Finance Committee in Madison as the "budget" process goes forward over the next days and weeks. One of the things that should jump out at us all is just how much of the budget deals with things that aren't budget items, but instead with things that the Governor chooses to hide where they'll not be subject to debate on a free-standing basis.
Remember to vote tomorrow, Tuesday, for the several offices that are found on the ballot depending upon where you live in the village. Those races appear as follow:
The totals spent by WEAC on behalf of Tony Evers, current Deputy State Superintendent and their pick for the state superintendent's position on next Tuesday's ballot, have been made public.
I have received some details concerning the Germantown Education Association's negotiations with the Germantown School Board that give a better overview of that process.
The Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent has indicated that he may favor year-round schools as part of the solution for poorly-performing students. There are many things that come to mind, but, initially, I'd simply have to wonder if this is a solution if parents of those poorly-performing students don't buy into the importance of education today. What's going to change in the current equation other than getting more teacher time with each student (who attends) before they simply drop out, thus continuing the roughly 50% rate of graduation in that system?
If this can be made workable on a uniform and well-defined basis, I am absolutely in favor of rewarding those teachers who exceed the requirements. I've listened to what passes for both sides of the argument, and it seems there are ways in which this could be accomplished without creating a subterfuge where all students suddenly become "above average" as was the case in the fabled Lake Wobegone.
It would appear that, for the first time in a long time, we'll actually have a race for this post. The top two vote gatherers were Tony Evers and Rose Fernandez.
What will it be like after the QEO program is killed?
Governor Doyle has included the ending of the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO) provision in the new biennial budget that he announced last evening. This would presumably happen coincident with the beginning of this biennium which would be July 1, 2009.
The Journal Sentinel has maintained "data on demand" databases for some time and I noted that the Germantown School District data has been refreshed with more current information.
There are four races that we will be able to vote on in Germantown on Tuesday. Those are:
As I read the article written by Thomas J. McKillen in the February 14th edition of the Express News, I couldn't help but think of the old-time "schoolyard bullies".
Our school board is dealing with a range of issues from kindergarten to school upkeep to wage and benefit negotiations. All seem thorny and all seem to require more money. Our board members are, I believe, genuinely trying to do their best to fairly resolve all their issues however some are more vexing than are others. The coming elections provide the opportunity to retain one member or replace that member, and to select the replacement for another who has decided not to continue his service. I must confess that I would not want that responsibility, and I am very happy there are those who are willing to accept it. These people do not get rich doing this.
A new education coalition known as the Wisconsin School Finance Network has been formed to lobby for more state aid for education in spite of the serious financial situation we now find ourselves attempting to work out from under. This coalition counts the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), the American Federation of Teachers - Wisconsin, Fair Aid Coalition, School Administrators Alliance, Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance, Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, Wisconsin PTA and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards as its members.
Tom Kertscher reported yesterday on the business incubators that are owned and operated by MATC (Milwaukee Area Technical College for those of you new to the area) on the south and north sides of Milwaukee. We wrote about these money-consuming abuses last year. At the time, of course, we were hopeful that we'd be out from under this 'stuff' by now given the effort then underway to be permitted to move from this taxing district to another.
The Germantown Youth Futures organization is sponsoring a program that I previewed during my Citizen Police Academy experience last year.
Those are the number of potential candidates for the State Superintendent position in Wisconsin this spring. The number is assured of being at least three. Two others are attempting to "rehabilitate" the signatures ruled as irregular. Those two are Lowell Holtz who is the Superintendent of the Beloit School District, and Todd Alan Price who is a professor at the National-Louis University. Holtz had 1,930 signatures that met the requirements and Price had 1,884. 2,000 is the magic number. They have until tomorrow to make the necessary changes/corrections if they hope to be in the race.
I do not intend to take any sides in this piece, but to simply state the facts as I see them. If you feel that I stray, please express your thoughts in a comment.
The case concerning Robert Zellner, a former Cedarburg teacher who has been in and out of the news for some 3 years over the viewing of pornography on a school computer on a Sunday afternoon, shows the clout that is wielded by the state teachers' union, WEAC.
Today we'll explore the WEAC insurance companies called WEA Insurance Group.
I want to shift the focus now to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC as it is commonly known. Following this, we'll look at the WEAC affiliate that delivers health and other insurance coverages.
While we are discussing the area of compensation, I want to take a 'hypothetical' person whom we'll name Jane Doe, and look at her compensation package.
First, there was a story by Thomas J. McKillen in the November 15th edition of Germantown Express News concerning the November 10th School Board meeting. In that story there were quotes attributed to Jon Stachowiak who is the President of the Germantown Education Association. The article stated:
The angst that followed the election concerning the defeat of the referenda items has subsided a bit. I want to explore the whole subject of education in our community and state, and have been discussing many issues with those involved including school board members from communities in Wisconsin, educators and taxpayers. I have no idea how long this series will run, but the input of the citizenry is important and I hope this might provoke some additional rational discussion.
A few short weeks ago, our governor mentioned that we would be contending with as much as a $3 billion budget shortfall in the next biennium.
The voters in Wisconsin have decided that the Democrats are going to run the state for at least two years. They control state government and can, if they choose, push their way past any Republican opposition. That remains to be seen, however I suspect the power vested in the Democrats will be too much for them to resist. Just as there is a 'pent-up demand' in the Democrat majority in Washington, there is also that same force at work in Madison.
Wow, voting day is finally here and my telephone will quit ringing so much, my mailbox will be less cluttered and I can either celebrate or cry in my proverbial beer. This election 'season' has seemed to go on forever. Several things are at top of mind this morning...
There is more and more speculation as to the potential that we'll see a 'clean sweep' by Democratic candidates on Tuesday, November 4th at both the state and federal levels. I hope that isn't the way it turns out, but I'm tiring of being beaten about the head and shoulders every time I read a newspaper article or watch the bulk of the television news items. Maybe that is the intent. If us conservatives can be sufficiently demoralized, maybe we'll just stay home. Not this conservative!
I had intended to scan a copy of the sample ballot for Germantown however that wasn't sufficiently legible. So, we'll list the offices for which there are candidate selections to be made by all of us who are registered to vote in the village.
The Sunday Journal Sentinel contains a story by Tom Kertscher that discusses the school referenda with interviews of Bruce Warnimont, school board member, and others representing both sides of the debate over a new elementary school and the operating cap 'forgiveness' that would permit an additional $500,000 for operations of the new school.
That was the title of an editorial appearing this morning in the Journal Sentinel. It went on with a header that read: "Germantown officials should drop the effort to secede from the Milwaukee Area Technical College. The savings aren't worth the cost."
The July 25th edition of the Small Business Times includes a great article featuring an interview with Michael Grebe, President & CEO of the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation based in Milwaukee. The Foundation has spent something in the range of $250,000 to develop the project referred to in the title.
The Journal Sentinel carried an article this morning about the Practical Nurse program offered by MATC. This program has been on probation for some time and that continues. Another evaluation visit is scheduled for the Fall of this year.
News reports indicate that Village President Tom Kempinski is considering asking the Board to approve a referendum that would appear on either the September ballot or the November ballot. This referendum would deal with just how Germantown voters desire to fund some $2,000,000 per year in road repairs, if they desire to do so. The choices apparently would be borrowing, increasing property taxes or a combination of both or none.
A pizza-crust maker in Green Bay is coughing up $188,000 to be paid to 500 Hispanic applicants. This employer, TNT Crust, is accused of having received 500 applications and of not hiring anyone as the result.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featured an editorial this morning concerning the possibility that Germantown will pursue the secession effort from the Milwaukee Area Technical College district. They spoke of 'outreach' by MATC and re-established their position that Germantown should remain in the MATC district.
I don't know if the MATC has a public relations agency under contract but, if it does, they deserve a raise..more than the president of MATC deserves the one he just received! It is impossible for any PR firm to cover the smell of this institution.
MATC has now ended the suspense. Whew! It has officially increased its tax take by the 4.9% that it miraculously managed to get down to from the original 'straw man' of 6.4%. This codifies the fact that MATC's appetite for tax dollars has risen by some 30% over the past five years. MATC's leadership, if it can be called that without demeaning the word, just can't seem to understand that, while it is impervious to the wants and needs of the citizenry it serves, it really has permitted its reach to exceed our grasp.
In keeping with the protocol we have established, we'll lead with the response of Senator Darling to each question in this chapter.
The move toward filing the documents necessary to seek secession from the Milwaukee Area Technical College tax district has begun to draw some debate amongst the politicos in Germantown.
MATC students along with all technical college and two-year college students in Wisconsin have a more difficult time gaining their education as the result of lenders leaving this marketplace.
The UW Board of Regents decided that tuition had to go up 5.5% for students at the four-year universities. They laid the blame in large part (3% of the 5.5%) at the feet of the legislature that mandated free tuition for veterans. There are some 3,200 veterans now registered as students under this program; the program was originally intended to pay 50% of the tuition and that was raised to 100% last fall.
There seems a very real sense in our community that bodes ill if the school board decides to pursue a re-vote on the same bonding issue from the spring election this fall.
The MATC has developed yet another draft budget after the first such exercise produced the need for a 6.4% property tax increase (see Blog of April 23rd). At the time of that budget draft, the governor apparently said he would not countenance such an increase. MATC announced then that it would go back to the old drawing board and see what could be done to get down into the range of 'as little' as a 5.0% to 5.5% property tax increase.
It is difficult, at best, to process information and understand whatever bias one might've injected. There may be bias or it might be imagined. The bias, if present, could be caused by the processor or it could have been injected into the process itself through the data gathering effort.
I received an email from a regular reader this morning asking me what my opinion was concerning the announcement that the elementary school bond issue will be back on the November ballot. He forced me to give thought to something I had managed to push from my mind for about a week, but that hiatus is over.
It appears that the Assembly and Senate have reached sufficient agreement to bring a budget repair bill to a vote later this week.
It was reported a week ago that the school board had interviewed the desired applicants and narrowed the field to three 'finalists'. Sources indicate that while three of the six who were interviewed were to be invited for a follow-up interview, none were labeled as 'finalists' at this point contrary to press reports.
We've gone a long time between Blogs centering on MATC, but it is again time to take a critical look. A 'headline' from some time ago suggested that MATC just can't help itself. That seems to be the case. They certainly don't seek out the kind of news coverage they tend to generate. No organization would want to be in this type of 'limelight' and yet they do it to themselves over and over and over again.
Governor Doyle recently signed a bill that establishes age 15 & 1/2 as the age at which a person residing in Wisconsin can make his or her decision to donate organs if they were to die. The age until now had been established at 18. This was included in Assembly Bill 570 that was co-sponsored by Rep. Jeskewitz and Rep. Wasserman, names familiar to our community.
The Center on Wisconsin Strategy and the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families, both found in Madison, have released a report that reaches the startling conclusion you see in the headline above.
Governor Doyle signed the bill that permits continued funding of virtual schools, with a relaxed cap on enrollments while a study is being conducted to determine their effectiveness on several different fronts. This is a temporary 'fix'.
The actual make-up day involved is the 'lost power' day at the High School. Snow days are to be dealt with separately. See comment below.
There were two items in the newspapers today that are particularly troubling and those are:
This is one of the periods that are often joked about by the citizenry. With no sessions being conducted in Madison, we all can feel a little less threatened. The major snag in that logic at the moment is that both houses will continue to debate the budget repair needs given the anticipated revenue shortfall of some $650 Million. I have discussed the primary differences between the Governor and his Democrats and the Republicans often in past Blogs.
The question posed above is that which we will see on the April 1st ballots in the Germantown School District. The District obviously encompasses more than just the Village of Germantown.
The uglier side of politics reared its head in the last couple of days. In this instance, the victim appears to be the virtual school movement and its students and their parents. The larger loss is the innovative approach to education that looked to be worth fully exploring.
I had the opportunity to visit the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Body Worlds exhibition that is now being featured. I had seen the publicity information so I felt that I had an idea of what to expect.