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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, July 28, 2011

In close vote, MTEA declines additional concessions

by folkbum

In a letter emailed to teachers today (which you can read here), MTEA president Bob Peterson gave the results of the survey:
The survey showed that 52.4% of the membership opposed additional concessions and 47.5% favored them. Based on the results and the many thoughtful comments, the Executive Board decided to not pursue any additional concessions.
Considering that last fall's vote, which involved far larger concessions than those considered this time around, was overwhelming in favor, I think it's clear that Milwaukee teachers feel first, that we're not opposed to giving back, but we also recognize that we have given quite a lot.

But the closeness of this week's vote suggests that there is still room for compromise in the future, if we ever get the right to bargain collectively back. Currently, you might recall, it's against the law for the union and the district to meet and mutually discuss the employment conditions of Milwaukee's teachers.

I am disappointed by the vote, as I have been arguing for months that there are things teachers can give up that would save the district money without significant impact--a furlough day or two, dumping the "sweetener" supplemental pension--for both political and practical reasons. The superintendent--whose response you can read too--is not the enemy here; you can check the archives at his blog to see he agrees with me, and the union, in more diplomatic terms of course, about where the fault lies. Peterson's letter is pretty explicit, in fact, that a lot of teachers who might have voted yes commented that they didn't trust the current Republican leadership in the state and instead voted to protect themselves.

That right there is perhaps the worst damage that Walker and co. have done to the relationship between public employees and their employers. Not that long ago we willing made concessions to help the district and students, but now we feel we have to protect ourselves instead. Thanks, GOP.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mordecai Lee—A descent into hollow reasoning

via mal
Mordecai Lee, Prof of Gov Affairs
UW-Milwaukee
'That 's sort of what this fight in Wisconsin is all about.'

The Rachel Maddow Show featured a superb guest host in Melissa Harris-Perry Tuesday night. 

Unfortunately, no one warned the host or her producers about Mordecai Lee, professor of Government Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Lee was a guest on a segment about Scott Walker's voter suppression-voter ID-close-the-DMV-offices.

Lee is notorious for, and let's be honest, acting like he is a dolt.

He's not. But Lee's commitment to veering into nihilism should the rational method indict the Republican Party is infamous.

A la the Washington Post editorial page, Lee pretends to believe that facts, logic and data show that all political parties are the same; and holding any one party accountable for its lies is missing the insight Lee has on the American political process.

Enlightening the viewers of the Rachel Maddow Show, Lee offers that in Wisconsin, "Partisan politics is a contact sport."

Brilliant.

An indignant Melissa Harris-Perry asked Lee about Scott Walker's closing down DMV offices right after signing the Voter ID law in an effort to make voting more difficult.

Lee said of Walker's DMV scheme: That's a "smooth move."

Asked if Republicans stand a chance in Wisconsin unless they make these draconian Voter ID laws, Lee responds with blather.

So, Harris-Perry presses him, asking Lee for comment on the lower-d, democratic value of obstructing rather than facilitating voters.

Here was Lee's great chance to tell the world that both major political parties are equally guilty of betraying democracy, national and Wisconsin Republican voter suppression programs aside.

Lee did not disappoint.

Said Lee: Since the civil rights movement era, "Every argument about enfranchisement or disenfranchisement has really been about partisan advantage. I don't necessarily think the Democrats have just, purely clean hands. Every party wants to gain an advantage. Democrats want lower-income and younger people to be able to vote. That 's sort of what this fight in Wisconsin is all about."

Got that? Republicans are engaged in a massive voter disenfranchisement scheme; but Democrats do not have "clean hands" because they want to enfranchise voters. Both parties are mere analogues of each other in the strange logic employed by Mordecai Lee.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Today's debt ceiling conundrum

by folkbum

While the conservatives in my comments section are busily prattling on about how Obama is a front for the Chi-coms, or something, here's where we are today. Dem Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is proposing a debt-ceiling deal that gives Republicans everything they have asked for including things they agreed to in the Biden talks and voted for in the Ryan Budget. Yet GOP House Speaker John Boehner is putting forward a plan that is the single thing that Obama has said he couldn't support--a short-term deal that forces us through all of this again in four months.

This is my question for anyone who likes what Republicans are up to: How is it possible to support a party whose sole purpose anymore seems literally to be saying no to anything Democrats propose, even when those proposals are exactly what Republicans say they want?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

E-mails Reveal Randy Hopper Coached Mistress on Scoring State Job

Randy Hopper has denied helping his mistress score a job in the Scott Walker administration. But e-mails obtained by Eye on Wisconsin reveal Hopper advises his mistress "might congratulate [Keith Gilkes, Scott Walker's chief of staff]" on Walker's victory, among other career assistance for Valarie Cass' getting a state job as Walker told Wisconsin, 'we're broke'. Turned out to be good advice for the communications specialist - girlfriend

By Cory Liebmann at Eye on Wisconsin

In March we learned that state Senator Randy Hopper (R-Unknown) left his wife and filed for divorce last year. According to his wife he had taken up with 20-something Republican operative Valerie Cass. It didn't take long for additional reports to surface showing that this girlfriend was hired by the Walker administration under questionable circumstances and at a questionable pay rate.

Some have wondered if Randy Hopper played a role in getting his girlfriend the taxpayer funded job. A number of newly obtained emails now provide a closer view of some of his involvement.

Based on a November 30th email Hopper and Cass wasted no time in trying to score a state job for her.

See the full report at Cory Liebmann at Eye on Wisconsin.

Bay View Middle and High School listening session August 3

by folkbum

My regular readers know that I teach at Bay View Middle and High School (née Bay View High School). Which, while not MPS's best high school, is in fact what you might call the "best of the rest":
Five Milwaukee comprehensive high schools have some sort of entrance requirement, and thus, naturally, have higher scores on the state test, Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Examination (WKCE). Those schools are King, Reagan, Riverside, Milwaukee HS of the Arts, and Milwaukee School of Languages.

A really successful school does not rely on sorting students but takes the students it is given and provides them with the best education possible.

Until recently, Hamilton High School called itself “the best of the rest” having the highest scores on the WKCE of the high schools not screening its incoming students. This year Bay View High School passed Hamilton on the WKCE. Hamilton did not slip so much as Bay View moved ahead being the only MPS high school to show measurable gains on the WKCE.
I can't take credit for this--as a teacher of juniors and seniors, they've already taken the tests whence these scores come. However, I do care about making sure that Bay View continues to do well and improve.

MPS itself seems to have the same idea: The new superintendent is pretty keen on Bay View, and seems willing to invest in the program. There is a new, young and optimistic principal coming in, and the new Board member representing Bay View, Meagan Holman, has made keeping Bay View strong a priority. In addition, there seems to be a new interest among neighborhood parents in getting involved and improving the school.

Which brings us to the listening session (the link is to a facebook even page). It's one of the first steps in the process of figuring out where to go next with Bay View. This is not a discussion about shutting it down and starting over, or anything like that; rather, it's about what to add to the existing success--the district's strongest construction program, music, Project Lead the Way, a growing AP program, and so on--to ensure lasting success at the school. What are your ideas? What's missing? We need to hear your voice.

Bay View Middle and High School Listening Session
Wednesday, August 3, 6-8 PM
BVMHS Auditorium
2751 S. Lenox St., in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood

Saturday, July 23, 2011

America's going Galt

by folkbum

I found this list of things that will happen immediately upon passing the debt ceiling deadline August 2 interesting, as it apparently comprises the full list of what makes Ayn Rand's America great:
• You just cut the IRS and all the accountants at Treasury, which means that the actual revenue you have to spend is $0.
• The nation's nuclear arsenal is no longer being watched or maintained
• The doors of federal prisons have been thrown open, because none of the guards will work without being paid, and the vendors will not deliver food, medical supplies, electricity, etc.
• The border control stations are entirely unmanned, so anyone who can buy a plane ticket, or stroll across the Mexican border, is entering the country. All the illegal immigrants currently in detention are released, since we don't have the money to put them on a plane, and we cannot actually simply leave them in a cell without electricity, sanitation, or food to see what happens.
• All of our troops stationed abroad quickly run out of electricity or fuel. Many of them are sitting in a desert with billions worth of equipment, and no way to get themselves or their equipment back to the US.
• Our embassies are no longer operating, which will make things difficult for foreign travelers
• No federal emergency assistance, or help fighting things like wildfires or floods. Sorry, tornado people! Sorry, wildfire victims! Try to live in the northeast next time!
• Housing projects shut down, and Section 8 vouchers are not paid. Families hit the streets.
• The money your local school district was expecting at the October 1 commencement of the 2012 fiscal year does not materialize, making it unclear who's going to be teaching your kids without a special property tax assessment.
• The market for guaranteed student loans plunges into chaos. Hope your kid wasn't going to college this year!
• The mortgage market evaporates. Hope you didn't need to buy or sell a house!
• The FDIC and the PBGC suddenly don't have a government backstop for their funds, which has all sorts of interesting implications for your bank account.
• The TSA shuts down. Yay! But don't worry about terrorist attacks, you TSA-lovers, because air traffic control shut down too. Hope you don't have a vacation planned in August, much less any work travel.
• Unemployment money is no longer going to the states, which means that pretty soon, it won't be going to the unemployed people.
And, even better, Ayn Rand's America stops sending all aid to states, so within a month or so after the shutdown, everything from schools to hospitals to public safety folds up, too. It will be awesome!

The easy answer, obviously, is the kind of clean debt-ceiling vote that has happened 80-something times in the last 90 years, including many times that Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Paul Ryan and the rest of the GOP Randroid caucus uncomplainingly approved. It would take five minutes.

The less easy answer is to take advantage of the fact that real interest on government debt right now is negative: We can more than take a clean vote, but do a whole additional stimulus, which can simply be a big payday to struggling states (or interest-free loans to struggling states). This is also a no-brainer, which make it kind of ironic that the GOP will never let it happen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sole Latino Wisconsin Rep, Zamarripa, Hits Partisan Redistricting

 State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa  
Virtually no local, public input; Latino community excluded
Milwaukee—Wisconsin's only Latino member of the state legislature blasted the Republican redistricting plan Senate Bill 148 (SB 148) expressing outrage that the scheme excluded public input on both the local level and communities of interest including Latinos.

"Seven days ago only one hearing was held on this massive plan that impacts every single citizen of our great state," said State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee, 8th Assembly District). "The GOP leadership allowed virtually no public input and passed this plan through both houses of the Legislature only one week after the public hearing."

Additionally, members of the Latino community in Milwaukee, who were able make it to Madison, on short notice expressed anger and disgust with the GOP redistricting process, said Zamarripa. "One Latino activist, Juan Carlos Ruiz, spoke passionately about how Latino’s of all political stripes came together on the local level to work on redistricting but were completely left out of the state process."

In order to satisfy their own thirst for a partisan monopoly, the majority party has thrown Wisconsin’s growing Latino community under the bus," said Zamarripa.

"On Saturday, it was reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Governor Walker wanted to work with Democrats," said Zamarripa. "A veto of the blatantly partisan SB 148 is an excellent starting point if the Governor is serious about working with Democrats."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hopper Scandal Playing Loudly in Fondy

Randy Hopper's Girlfriend, not daughter
via mal - Sen. Randy 'Bed' Hopper's (R-Fond du Lac) affair with a 20-something former state Senate committee staffer and GOP lobbyist is playing very badly in Fond du Lac.

It's the family values hypocrisy that grates on folks, apolitical types with whom I spoke the last week, especially women.

Add to that the fact that Scott Walker's top ally is targeting Wisconsin working families, and it's easy to see how every family is feeling betrayed by, and let's be honest, a craven liar.

One Wisconsin Now is raising money to run the ad below, as the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund is mass-mailing a first-rate piece merging the cheating Hopper with the tax-cheating Hopper who, it bears noting, voted to target the middle class, health care and education while getting his girlfriend [while he was still married] a tax-payer-funded $40,000-plus state job.

Monday Morning

by folkbum

Every summer I misunderestimate how much work the summer job is--that's right, kiddos, this public-school-teacher thing, despite the ads, does not actually feature summers on the yacht with champale and caviar--and because of that, I haven't been much use to you, dear readers.

But two notes: One, I accept full blame for the US Women's National Team's loss yesterday. I was able to watch exactly one World Cup match this summer, and it was that one, so obviously, I jinxed it.

Two, remember this week as the GOP wrings its hands in despair that Congress raised the debt ceiling for St. Ronald de Tampico seventeen times in the 1980s. Seventeen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Congrats to all the REAL Democrats advancing tonight

by folkbum

in the recall elections. You can support them financially here.

Also, congrats to Chris Taylor, who will be representing the 48th in the Assembly; and condolences to Beloit classmate Vicky Selkowe, who worked hard and would have made a great rep.

Friday, July 08, 2011

FriTunes: Concealed Carry edition

by folkbum

Eilen Jewell's got a new record out:



Also: Mark Erelli's released an EP to benefit the town of Monson, MA, where he recorded his "Memorial Hall" record and which was hit hard by last months' tornadoes. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

[the title of this post is the sound of my head asploding]

by folkbum

My klout score is higher than James Wigderson's, so I suppose I could just let this slide and try to sleep tonight with an asploded head. But instead, let's catalogue the ways he gets wiggy with the facts instead. (A primer on this fisking can be found in this post.)
  • [W]hen MPS asked the union to make concessions in the pension plan to mitigate the loss of state and federal aid, the teachers union refused.
    False. The district knew federal stimulus funds were drying up, and they predicted that a likely Republican majority in Madison would trim the expected increase in per-student funding. So they asked the union to make concessions and we did.
  • Protecting the benefits of the union’s most senior members will result in the unemployment of 200 of the union’s members with less seniority.
    False. It is the near trillion-dollar gutting of public education--and shared revenue and other programs--by the GOP that is resulting in pink slips all over the state.
  • Last October, at the height of the race for governor, Thornton and the teachers union reached a tentative agreement on a contract through 2013. [. . .] Due to the health care contribution and a freeze in teacher pay for the first year, the estimated savings over the next two years was $50 million.
    Again, a mangling of the facts. Base pay was frozen in that contract for two years, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. The savings over 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 will be nearly $95 million. And in expectation that the federal money will end, a lot of positions funded by that were set to be eliminated. That's part of why there were 1000+ positions eliminated, but only about 500 announced layoffs.
  • [T]he contract agreement was at a time of a great fiscal crisis at the state level.
    Additionally false. It has been pretty well documented that Wisconsin is not, in fact, broke. If we were broke, why would Scott Walker and the GOP be offering hundreds of millions billions in tax breaks?
  • Now the school board and Dr. Thornton find themselves asking the teachers union to agree to the same pension contributions asked for by Walker. These contributions would be at the same level WEAC President Mary Bell said were never a problem, 5.8% of the teachers’ salaries. Of course the MTEA said no to Thorton’s request.
    First, let's dispense with the newspeak. It's not a new pension contribution--the pension contribution doesn't change, as it is set by state law at 11.6%. (The state likes to guarantee minimum income to its top-notch pension program.) It's a 5.8% salary cut, is what it is, and I won't call it anything else. It says something about what Wiggy and his ilk believe about their own position that they lack the guts to come right out and say they think teachers are paid too much. Man up, James. Just say it.

    But second, the union did not say no. The union said it would be happy to negotiate a salary give back once the power to negotiate was restored by the legislature.

    For as much as Wiggy insinuates that unions should have known collective bargaining would disappear, he forgets that, you know, we were all watching, and it wasn't that long ago. No one, not a single legislator or administration employee, said a single word about making collective bargaining between public employees and their employers illegal. Period.

    Further, when Mary Bell and other union leaders said unions would agree to the salary cuts, they said that's why you don't need to eliminate collective bargaining. If unions are allowed to sit down with employers and hammer out a deal, they will. Instead, the GOP ignored Bell and others making that offer--we'll agree to cuts so stop the attack on bargaining--and now they and Wiggy expect unions to still fold. There is a response to that I'd like to offer, but this is a family blog. (Though I will say, Wiggy is Gop in the puppy story.)
  • In the case of the Milwaukee teachers union, this is the same union that in 2010 was willing to let 480 teachers go rather than switch health care plans.
    Switching health care plans would not have saved the kind of money the simple-minded media suggested it would. In addition, almost every single one of those teachers was recalled, after Dr. Thornton took a look at real needs and the actual budget available. He stood up for teachers when his predecessor would not.
  • This is also the same teachers union still fighting to get taxpayer-funded Viagra included in their prescription drug plans.
    This is just a bald lie.
  • Surely some teachers [sic] jobs could be saved if they privatized food service, painting and other services and cut down on the Administrative bloat, for example.
    False again. MPS food service runs a surplus, for example, and the budget this year makes larger cuts to administration, relatively, than to teaching.
  • Or, maybe MPS will see this as a good reason to sell off a few empty buildings.
    What, does Wiggy not check the daily? Is his Bing broken? MPS is well on the way. In addition, the cost of those excess buildings is a pittance--barely ten teachers' worth.

    Oh, and the title of Wigderson's piece:
  • Most MPS layoffs could have been avoided.
    Why yes, yes they could have. But Wiggy's looking in the wrong place for blame. The GOP misdirected voters for an entire campaign season about their intentions for schools, for unions, and for the middle class in Wisconsin. He can't bring himself to be honest about that, either.
So that's, what? nine solid bullet points of wigged out facts? I almost ran out of fingers. But I have one left for the liars and GOP willing to screw the next generation's education and this generation's public servants. Again, it's a family blog, so I won't say which one. Especially because, with my head asploded and all, it's pretty hard to talk to these liars at all.

But those mooching teachers have it way too good

by folkbum
The bottom line: It’s not exactly easy street for our $250,000-a-year family.
Seriously, that's the conflicting message of the political right these days: It's possible to be near poverty at a quarter mil a year, but that uppity mid-career teacher needs a 12% cut off her $45k salary.

Alternatively, you could put it this way: The political right weeps for a family living beyond its means in Naperville, IL (notably pleading to keep their taxes low, not suggesting they move to Aurora), but insists that we cut Medicare before the debt monster kills us all.

Seriously, MJS

by folkbum

It should not take until paragraph 34 out of 38 to reveal that the headline of a story is a lie, or at the very least, an extremely one-sided take on an ambiguous issue.

Also: The advertising skin up all day yesterday made your website utterly unreadable.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Birthday, Boy

by folkbum

Apparently, we all missed capper's blogiversary the other day.

4th of JulyTunes

by folkbum



If you prefer good alt-country to local fireworks displays, head down to Shank Hall for this show. Locals Semi-Twang are opening, and they are a gem on their own.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Some stuff, we did know. It's what no one knew that is killing us.

by folkbum

Here's a comment from the thread below on MPS layoffs that encapsulates a common sentiment and that will serve as a good entree into this post, which I have been writing in my head for the last week or so:
Why not point the finger at yourself, the union, AND MPS administration? You KNEW there were going to be changes. The union KNEW there were going to be changes. MPS admin KNEW there were going to be changes. Instead of waiting to find out what they were, a contract was signed.
The background to this comment is this: My employer, the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and its teachers, represented by our union, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA), have spent much of the last decade in contract-negotiation deadlock. We had a contract that expired on June 30, 2009, and for all of the 2009-2010 school year, we worked without a contract at all. The previous superintendent and his labor negotiators were being quite putzy about the whole thing--phone calls would go unreturned, negotiations would be canceled at the last minute, mutually-agreed deadlines would fly by with nary a peep from the MPS side of Vliet St. Plus, summer 2010 brought an ugly round of teacher layoffs.

In 2010, the Board hired a new superintendent, who came in July 1 intent upon having more of a clean slate to start his tenure, and who directed his people to get down to business and settle the contract. In October, the union and the district came to an agreement, and teachers and the Board ratified it soon after. This contract included many concessions by the teachers, including a pay freeze for two years (and, therefore, no back pay), a new drug plan, and contributions to health insurance costs. The magic benefit-to-salary ratio, which is the right's favorite talking point against MTEA, fell by nearly 7.5%. The contract was to cover not just 2009-2011, the two years that would have been covered if we'd settled by June 30, 2009, but also 2011-2013, which meant neither side had to immediately turn right back around and start re-negotiating for another contract.

Those of you with a rudimentary sense of chronology will be able to figure out that all of this, except the votes to approve the contract by both sides, happened prior to the 2010 election, in which Republicans won a majority of both state houses and the governorship.

Now, what the comment above refers to is the notion that MPS and MTEA should have known that "changes" would be coming to education in Wisconsin based on the November election results. There are a number of honest responses to this, the most basic of which is that neither the union nor the district had as its top concern the politics of the election; both sides simply wanted to not have to worry about having a lack of a contract over their heads.

But it would be dishonest to say that there was no attention paid to the politics. By October, when the agreement was reached, it was pretty clear that the election was not going to be good for schools. Tom Barrett had little chance of winning, the "enthusiasm gap" was real enough to mean that Democrats were better than even to lose one or both state houses. So you know what? Both sides, MPS and MTEA, tried to protect themselves from what they knew was coming.

Because we did, in fact, know things in October 2010. Scott Walker had an education platform, and it was this:
  • Establish benchmarks for students in K-3 and hold back students who can’t read by the end of third grade.
  • Evaluate teachers based on five criteria: 1) Planning and preparation, 2) Classroom and environment, 3) Quality of instruction, 4) Professional responsibilities, and 5) Yearly student progress. The overall ratings will be “ineffective,” “needs improvement,” “satisfactory” or “exemplary.” Teachers with two years of ineffective ratings will lose their teaching license. Those with satisfactory and exemplary scores will be eligible for bonuses.
  • Reinstate the Qualified Economic Offer and tie it to revenue caps.
  • Consider local economic factors in settling contract disputes.
  • Facilitate local efforts to post school expenditures online.
  • Allow school districts to enroll in the state health care plan.
  • Remove the enrollment and eligibility caps on Milwaukee’s School Choice program and virtual charter schools statewide.
That was it. That is a complete and accurate summary of what Scott Walker was campaigning on in the fall of 2010 (see it on his campaign site too). In addition, there was a pretty good sense that Republicans would not follow the then-current statutory annual increase of ~$250 per student in funding across the state.

So when teachers went into the final stages of negotiation, we protected ourselves against the changes that we reasonably expected were coming: The contract maintains evaluation procedures and seniority rules, even though it changes some of the salary-advancement requirements. The contract freezes salary and lowers benefit costs, so it makes a possible switch back to the QEO more doable in the future. And it included changes to the health insurance program that makes joining the state health care plan less attractive for the administration.

At the same time as we teachers protected ourselves, the district wrung concessions from teachers that meant it could spend less in 2011-2012 than the then-statutory increase would have allowed. Figuring that as long as the increase was positive, even if it weren't $250 per student, the district could start the year on a sound footing with few if any layoffs--unlike what they had just gone through in the summer of 2010.

So what drops in February 2011? Not, absolutely not what's listed above. Walker's education platform did not say word one about slashing teacher salary by mandating minimum pension and insurance contributions. Walker did not suggest at all during the campaign that such a thing was coming. And the same is true for eliminating collective bargaining over everything but salary, limiting salary increases to the rate of inflation, and dissolving the unions and the protections that they provide. Not one single word of that was breathed during Walker's campaign--something that Walker has admitted to, since he is not so stupid that he would kill his chances of getting elected.

Further, Walker and Republicans absolutely did not campaign on slashing education spending statewide by nearly a billion dollars a year. I can guarantee you that if the GOP had walked around last fall telling parents and local school boards that they would be gutting the funds provided to schools, they would have lost in a landslide.

So in October of 2010, MPS and MTEA were looking at a contract that was going on two years expired, and both sides agreed that was too long. They were looking at specific and credible campaign promises from Republicans that would mean changes to the way they did business, and both sides agreed to solutions that addressed those promises.

In short, when the comment above asks why we didn't wait another four or six months or eight months until all the changes were settled law, we all, both sides, wanted to be proactive. We negotiated and approved a contract that not only saved the taxpayers money but accounted for the changes to education law that were promised to us by the governor-elect and his GOP majority.

And, worse, had we waited, we would not have been able to negotiate a contract at all! There was no reason to believe that once we did sign the contract, it would suddenly become illegal to re-open the contract for negotiation or work on a contract for 2013-2015 and beyond that responded to any additional changes that may come along. (It remains to be seen whether the contracts signed by other municipalities and districts after the effective date written in the budget repair bill can be challenged in court. The state's Department of Administration offered guidance that implementation of the changes should not begin until July 1, but when the state Supreme Court allowed the bill to take effect it did not change the language of the bill.)

So yes, commenters, we did know that there would be changes. And we accounted for them. It's what we didn't know--what no one knew until February 2011 because Walker and his minions deliberately hid their plans--that is killing MPS and causing additional layoffs. It's what we didn't know that is causing layoffs in districts and municipalities all across the state, and severe cutbacks in services. It's what no one knew that caused an uproar heard around the globe, nearly five months of daily protests at the Capitol, and unprecedented recall elections in all corners of the state.

So why should we point fingers at ourselves? MPS and MTEA negotiated $100 million in taxpayer savings over two years, something that under normal circumstances would be huge. But in the face of the ambush Scott Walker and the GOP sprang on the state of Wisconsin, Walker supporters have no defense left except to blame the victims of that ambush. Very classy.

--

Additionally: Another commenter in that thread asks why MPS couldn't have had our own "Kaukauna Miracle," noting the story that the Kaukauna school district used Walker's "tools" to create a surplus in the face of state-funding cuts. First, read Briane Pagel's brilliant dissection of this "miracle." It turns out that it's pretty easy to claim a surplus after you layoff a big chunk of staff first. UPDATED TO ADD: Economist Jake Formerly Of The LP has a smart take, too.

Second, realize that the fix was always in for Milwaukee, and even with Walker's "tools" in full effect, there was no way to turn a surplus. When state aid figures were made final this week, MPS was down $54.6 million. (This figure does not include cuts to categorical aids and grants, such as the the very successful Milwaukee Math Partnership; MPS estimates its total loss at more than $84 million for next year.) The state's own estimate of what Walker's "tools" could save MPS was $42 million, though state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts and others determined that the state's numbers were high. MTEA, which knows what its members make and what the pension and insurance contributions would add up to, estimated savings through Walker's tools at a mere $36 million.

Either way, you can see the numbers don't add up, and MPS was going to need to find between $40 million and $50 million in additional cuts. Milwaukee was never going to get to a surplus, period.

--

And finally, I will continue to call for MTEA and MPS to work out additional concessions before the window closes at the end of this month.

Bet They Are Not in the Minority

By Keith R. Schmitz

Liberals really have nothing against people making a lot of money. What we give a crap about is how it is used. That's why it would be a great if this impulse would start to get infectious.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqIgb48iq6w

Let's face it. Unlike our junior senator, you get the impression that these people got themselves where they are pretty much on their own, with the exception perhaps of the Disney woman. But if that's her attitude, great!

Nevertheless, these people seem to be smart. Smart enough to know that this country can't keep going the way it is going.



Friday, July 01, 2011

Friday Canada Day Cat Blogging

by folkbum

It's a tough life being a cat in the folkbum household.