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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quote of the Day: Are they daring us to strike?

by folkbum

From the Wisconsin Club for Suckers Growth:
Government unions exist chiefly to enable those who seldom produce anything of value to the real economy to take freely from those who produce value every day.
Really? You think that, say, police offers add no value to society? Prison guards? Mail carriers (don't you want your Christmas cards?)? Teachers? The guys who make sure that your shit doesn't pile up in your basement but rather gets whisked away and dealt with in a safe and environmentally tolerable way?

What about the people who invented the internet on which your stupid email travels to me once a week?

I do not really think any kind of a public-employee strike is worth doing, but it's like these fools are just daring the people who (literally) make the trains run on time (or the planes land safely, or the satellites stay in orbit) to walk away and let the rest of world try to get along without them.

UPDATE: See also Z-Dub.

UPDATE THE SECOND: Jill, of Jill Sixpack, in comments: "You forgot snowplow drivers." That may be true this time, but snow plowing is familiar territory for this here blog. Also, I'm pretty sure the CfG emails emanate from the bowels of hell, so snow's not a big deal for them.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cypher Monday

by folkbum

I spent the day skeptical that the 300,000 number I was hearing--the purported number of signatures so far collected in the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker--all day but then dammit if they didn't make it official.

Because it's Cypher Monday, time to do some cypherin': The signatures collector are not, as far as I have heard, verified, but if they're all good, that means that 55% of the needed signatures were gathered in 20% of the allotted time. Impressive. It also works out to about 25,000 signatures a day, or more than 1000 signatures an hour, assuming 24-hour signature gathering.

What I would like to see is a breakdown of where those signatures came from. No doubt Milwaukee and Dane are the bulk of it, but if there's a solid outstate distribution, too, that will be quite heartening.

Friday, November 25, 2011

E-mail Confirms Sexual Harassment Complaint in Scott Walker Administration

Manuel “Manny” Perez - Former Wisconsin
Dept. of Workforce Development
(DWD) Secretary

Patrick Marley and Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel broke a piece late Friday afternoon saying allegations of sexual harassment by former Administrative Services Administrator Allison Rozek against Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Manuel “Manny” Perez, the alleged harasser, were mentioned in an e-mail obtained by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

via mal

Worth reiterating is that if Rozek were a victim, it is hardly upon her to affirmatively proceed to anyone with any allegation. A victim has no legal obligation to bring matters before the state, an employer, or in offenses of a more serious nature, other officials.

If the string of non-denial denials by the Walker administration regarding the allegations that Perez harassed Rozek [and Rozek complained] were to be followed by anyone in the Walker administration trying to trash Rozek, one can bet that such a smear campaign would not play well right now as Walker is facing a recall effort that looks to succeed beyond the wildest expectations of middle-class Wisconsin families.

I put nothing beyond the Scott Walker administration, and the good governor with the pipeline to God, and the Koch brothers.

Write Marley and Walker:

Records released Friday to the Journal Sentinel under the state's open records law included an Oct. 19 email from Rozek to Newson, who was then deputy secretary. Rozek said Newson had set up several meetings of the division she headed without including her.

'I cannot be effective at my job without being given a chance to attend,' she [Rozek] wrote. 'Also, I have sent many emails to you without a response and have asked to speak with you by phone at anytime that is convenient to you - and have been told you do not have time. In two weeks, I have not been given the opportunity to speak with you, yet you speak directly with my staff. Is this treatment due to the fact that I filed a harassment charge with (the Department of Administration) re the past secretary and my prior connection with the current secretary?'

FriTunes: No doors to bust here edition

by folkbum

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

by folkbum

There are many things I am thankful for.

But you're busy, so I won't bore you with the details. Enjoy your weekend.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

RIP, Tim Cuprisin

by folkbum

When I saw this flash across the twitter at lunchtime this afternoon, I felt a literal pang of hurt. Tim was one of those old media types you really got the new media; he always engaged his audience and embraced what he could do with social media. For that, I always appreciated him. Plus, he knew his TV.

I hate adding to the continuing theme of Cancer Sucks, but here it is.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Q: What happens when two key Wisconsin wingnut values clash?

A: The more hateful one wins, of course

by folkbum

Today's topic: "double-dipping." The competing Wisconsin wingnut values: reflexive anti-tax advocacy vs. personal animus against gubmint workers.

Back in the olden days, when I used to be more involved in my union, we hated what the folks are now calling "double-dipping." This is when my (or any) school district would hire a retired individual to fill a job opening. The union's position was that this was artificially limiting opportunities for active union members and artificially keeping potential new union members out of a job. It worked out for the employees, though, because they could draw both a paycheck and their pension, and that was pretty sweet.

Republicans have finally come around to believe in this union-supported position, with legislators trying to ban the practice. Righty talk-show babblers--notably, Mark Belling--have been apoplectic over the issue for weeks. And the wingnut commentariat are out for blood against double-dippers.

There are two reasons why a school--and it's always schools, people, at least in the wingnut imagination--would hire a retiree to fill an open position. One is if there are no qualified applicants to fill the open spot. Better to have a retiree who knows what she's doing than a substitute (for classroom spots) or a novice administrator who would take too long to get up to speed.

The second is to save taxpayer money. It goes like this:

Say we have a teacher, let's call her Employee A. She's ready to retire. For the ease of math, let's say the cost of employing her is $100,000. She's got a $65,000 salary, with $35,000 in benefits, including a $20,000 health insurance package, pension (12% of salary), payroll taxes (8% of salary), and some other stuff like dental and life insurance. If she retires, she's eligible for retiree health insurance that covers, say, 2/3 of the cost of the plan, but that's the only taxpayer cost upon her retirement. (If she's old enough to qualify for Medicare, that cost may not even be there.)

Don't taxpayers pay her pension?, I hear you asking. True, we do, but we pay for her pension while she's working. No new tax dollars are required to pay her pension upon her retirement. It's already paid for; the money is there in the award-winning Wisconsin Retirement System, and she is paid from those funds already collected. (In their defense of double-dipping at the daily paper the other day, William J. Holahan and Charles O. Kroncke did a really crappy job explaining this, which is why you get letters to the editor from the wingnut contingent who insist that the pension payouts cost taxpayers in real time.)

So, cost of Employee A as she works: $100,000. Cost of Employee A when she retires: $13,000, for that retiree health insurance. There are two possible scenarios, and I'll call them, for the sake of convenience, Scenario 1 and Scenario 2.

In Scenario 1, Employee A retires and the district hires Employee B to take her place. B is likely younger and less experienced, so his cost to taxpayers is less. Let's say a salary of just $45,000 and benefits proportionally reduced to about $30,000. So his cost to taxpayers is $75,000. Throw in the cost of A's retirement health insurance, and the total cost now is up to $88,000. Yippee! The district is saving $12,000 over the cost of paying just A while she was working.

In Scenario 2, Employee A retires but gets hired back at her old salary. That's $65,000, plus some payroll taxes (about $5,000) and the retiree health insurance. But nothing else--because she's retired, she gets none of the other benefits of being an employee--no pension contributions, no sick days, no dental or life insurance. That's a grand total of $83,000--for a savings of $17,000 over pre-retirement, and an additional savings over hiring a new guy as her replacement. Yippee times two!

Indeed, when you look at an actual case, not just numbers made up for the sake of easy math, this is what you get--savings. North Lake, a subject of that article, is one district Belling was on about lately, yet the administrators of the district note that the one "double-dipper" saves money: Her "compensation package--$58,746 in all--was less expensive than a new teacher's would have been"--and $16,000 less than what North Lake says a new hire would cost. The same is true for the spark that lit this thing, the administrator up in Green Bay. Unless the person they hired to replace him got 2/3 or less of the first guy's salary--unlikely, let's be honest there--paying him his salary but not any bennies saves UW-GB money.

Now in Used-to-be-Land, Republicans and wingnuts liked saving taxpayer money. Word is they still do. But you know what impulse is stronger? Hating public employees. So rather than embrace the position that saves money, they look at the situation and all they see is public employees--those god-damned teachers--taking both a salary and a pension at the same time and they can't stand it. It is much better, in wingnut-land Wisconsin, to hate on the public employee than to celebrate the tax savings.

Remember, opposing this double-dipping is a union position from way back. If Republicans are coming around to it, it can only be because their spite is so strong.

Friday, November 18, 2011

WELS Church Censors Interview Between Accused Child Porn Possessor and Mark Neumann

Update: Child porn charges filed against WELS church official (MJS).

WELS church communications director, and advisor to the WELS Synodical Council and Conference of Presidents, Joel Hochmuth, has been arrested on child porn charges, WISN reported.

Via mal

This morning the WELS church scrubbed Hochmuth's interview with prominent WELS member, U.S. candidate Mark Neumann [and member of the WELS Kingdom Workers national Board of Directors (Spring 2011 Newsletter; p.5),] from the WELS site, where the two discussed the "Good Lord," "Christian principles," "abortion," and God's plans for Neumann in politics.

The interview page now reads: "You do not have sufficient privileges to view the requested page. If your user account has access to this page, please log in."

This message began appearing after the piece, WELS—Mark Neumann's Church—Comm Director Arrested on Child Porn Charges, was posted here this morning.

The claim of "sufficient privileges" contradicts the site's Technological page reading: "Sign In is not required for, ... ."
WELS Board member, Neumann and whole of WELS leadership should condemn Hochmuth and Neumann should use his considerable influence with his church to ax this guy.

WELS should stop covering up, and start speaking up.

Do what Joe Paterno refused to do.
I don't care if it's Penn State football, the Catholic Church or WELS, preying on children is flat-out wrong, and silence is acceptance.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Response to WASDA study sad, stupid spin

by folkbum

It's been, oh what's the word for it, interesting to read responses to the WASD survey out a week ago. Almost all the criticism of the survey--and, recall, this is a survey of quantifiable, confirmable data, not whether people's feelings are hurt--flows directly from the official Walker campaign memo Governor's office press release (pdf) last week.

That response, if I may paraphrase, was mostly Well, the whole sky didn't fall down so #winning! (My pop culture jokes may not be timely, but at least they're trite.)

No, seriously. Here's one direct quote from the Walker response: "67% of districts for grades 4-6 are keeping the same class size or decreasing." So, yes, a lot of districts were able to stave off disaster in this area but, you know, a full third didn't. And they're all like that.

The most prevalent of the criticisms is this: "Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Janesville school districts account for 67% of teacher layoffs for the entire state." This line of "leave out Milwaukee" was evident in the critique by Esenberg ("hatchet job" is his headline) for example, who typed out that "a huge percentage of reduction in force came in Milwaukee. The DPI uses this to maximize the extent of the cuts when it chooses to present statistics on the number of students who attend a district in which something has happened."

The implication being that if those three districts were removed from the data, everything would look grand. So let's do that--remove those three from the data. What do we get?

In the original survey, including Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Janesville, the percentage of districts eliminating teachers was 64%. Of 349 non-Milwaukee, Kenosha, or Janseville districts responding to the survey, 224 reported cutting teacher positions for this school year, or .... drum roll .... 64%. Here it is in a picture:

The black Xes are the districts you can safely ignore because they so obviously screw up the data so much, what with no other parts of the state being red, apparently, according to the WASDA critics.

And including MPS, Kenosha, and Janesville in the stats do not significantly skew the data, contra Esenberg. Let's do a bit of a thought experiment and imagine that these districts had fully applied the lash Walker's "tools." Since 59% of districts in the survey with no binding contracts laid off teachers, odds are good that these districts would have still cut teaching positions. Indeed, if MPS had gotten concessions from teachers--as I argued the union should have acceded to--more than 400 teaching positions would still have been cut, though half of them through attrition rather than layoff.

(An additional bit of math: If you assume that all the remaining 73 districts that didn't respond to the survey were not under contract, and assume that they all bucked the trend and did not lay off teachers, you still have 44% of out-of-contract districts statewide laying off teachers. But that's based on two unsupported and unlikely assumptions, meaning the real percentage is likely higher. Note: I used Erin Richards's "about two-thirds" estimate for how many Wisconsin districts were not under contract.)

But perhaps the most pernicious of the critiques of the WASDA survey is this: The survey, the story goes, shows that the "reforms" are working.

How do they claim that? One made a graph, because apparently when school districts follow the law that forces them to reduce their levy, it's visualizable news.

It's usually wrapped in the guise of "we didn't have mass layoffs and still balanced the budget!" The afore-mentioned Esenberg shoveled that here, for example, and it's in pretty much every other response. But this requires you to believe that 7,700 fewer state and local workers (pdf) is not "mass layoffs."

It also requires you to believe the budget is balanced. Or, as Esenberg writes at that link, "For the first time in years, Wisconsin has a budget that wasn't balanced by borrowing from Peter to pay Paul and through smoke-and-mirrors accounting." Which would be true if it weren't false: "In fact, the document shows that based on GAAP accounting, the state would have been left with a deficit of $3 billion by 2012-13 under Walker's budget. That compares to the $2.9 billion GAAP deficit he inherited at the end of Doyle's term, the state's financial statements show."

In the end, the spin and lies are just disheartening. I mean, your taxpayer dollars could have paid an art teacher. Instead, they paid for this sentence from the Governor's office about the WASDA study: "According to the results of the survey released last week, the school districts that responded and utilized the reforms put in place earlier this year mostly either stayed the same or were able to improve the educational opportunities available to their students." In order for this to be true, "mostly" would have to be redefined to about 40%, two out of five, less than half. Because the 59% of school districts that responded and utilized the "reforms" still made cuts.

To sum up: The best responses are absurd or patently false. Your modern WisGOP, everybody. Absurd, patently false.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When the "other view" is extremer than the extreme "our view"

by folkbum

I am deeply disappointed that in this morning's paper (yeah, I'm behind) not only does the Journal Sentinel's editorial "our view" push, hard, the MMAC takeover/ dismantling of the Milwaukee Public Schools, but they tossed the opposing view to George freakin' Mitchell to claim the MMAC's plan doesn't go far enough.

George. Mitchell.

There's a lot of disingenuity in the MMAC's plan--like shuttling the worst 20,000 MPS students into their own district while saving the better students for MMAC's magic pony and charter school farm. But that alone is less upsetting than the Journal turning over prime op-ed real estate not to someone interested in saving MPS, but rather to one of the great architects of Milwaukee's stunningly mediocre school-voucher experiment.

Was there no one in the Journal's rolodex to the left of Milton Friedman? Terry Falk not available? (That I don't believe.) And, hey, they know where I hang out--and nothing.

The question I have for MMAC is this: Where are the jobs? They're the business folk, right? Maybe they've heard about this unemployment thing we have going on. Milwaukee has better than 8% unemployment. More than a third of African American men here are unemployed. Good family-supporting jobs are disappearing from the public and private sectors without replacement. And study (pdf) after study shows clearly that high unemployment--and prolonged unemployment--have deleterious effects on educational achievement. Poverty is the one consistent indicator of poor student performance.

Yet the MMAC twiddles its thumbs, plotting how to burn Milwaukee's public schools, and the Journal provides the kindling.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

RIP, Dick Wheeler

by folkbum

Though I never met him personally, Dick Wheeler and the Wheeler Report couldn't help but influence and shape this blog's coverage of and commentary on state politics. He will be missed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

by folkbum

This blog wants to give thanks to and for the veterans who have made this country what it is.

Thank you.

Updated - Sexual Harassment in the Scott Walker Administration?

Manuel “Manny” Perez - Former Wisconsin
Dept. of Workforce Development
(DWD) Secretary
Alleged Inappropriate Conduct at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD)

Silence from Scott Walker Administration on Allegations

Update: In request to a question, employees experiencing retaliation for indicating a hostile workplace on behalf of a fellow employee enjoy an actionable cause of action in a civil rights complaint if she or he is retaliated against.

- via mal

Amid the allegations [denied] of sexual harassment against Herman Cain, come allegations of sexual harassment of a former Walker cabinet official who resigned suddenly in May 2011.

Unlike Herman Cain, Walker administration officials contacted refuse to disavow the allegations, declining an opportunity to knock down a potentially destructive political development just days before the start of the Nov. 15 recall effort against Scott Walker

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Manuel “Manny” Perez announced in early May that he had resigned to pursue new opportunities in the private sector.

New allegations have now come to light that Perez resigned because he sexually harassed or engaged in "inappropriate conduct" with a high-level Wisconsin DWD administrator, Allison Rozek, whom Perez announced had been appointed in late January, according to a DWD employee.

The source refused to be identified by name or position because of expressed concern about the sensitivity of the topic.

 "Yeah, there was harssment going on with Rozek and Perez, but no one knows if a formal complaint was ever lodged on paper," the source said. "It was handled, I think, informally."

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has often been touted by Walker as a premier policy vehicle to creating promised jobs on which Walker campaigned.

But Perez, two Walker spokesmen, including a DWD spokeman, contacted refused to knock down the allegations, ala Herman Cain.

This writer can't buy a, 'this is total bs, no-basis-in-fact' quote.


Contacted by phone Friday, Manuel “Manny” Perez was asked and e-mailed the following questions:

  • Were you contacted by anyone at DWD regarding a workplace complaint regarding Ms Allison Rozek and you during your tenure as DWD Sec?
  • Can you knock down the allegation that Ms Allison Rozek made a workplace complaint that you dealt with during your tenure as DWD Sec?
Perez refused to knock down the allegation of sexual harassment and a workplace complaint, referring this writer to past media statements pointing to opportunities in the private sector and his having accomplished much in a very short period of time in his tenure at the DWD, as the reason he left.

Perez avoided addressing the two questions above asked vocally and by e-mail of him.

His response e-mail received late Friday afternoon reads: "I have already stated publicly the reasons for my leaving DWD," again avoiding the question of whether there was a workface complaint  ... period.


Asked about the alleged harassment through an e-mail, repeated phone calls, and through a receptionist's message, Rozek did not respond to the queries.

No direct communication was ever made with Rozek for this story.

Rozek departed suddenly in late October under circumstances that left a DWD spokesman unable to say whether she resigned or was fired, as was reported in the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Rozek reportedly submitted no letter of resignation.

Worth reiterating that if Rozek were a victim, it is hardly upon her to affirmatively proceed to anyone with any allegation. A victim has no legal obligation to bring matters before the state, an employer, or in offenses of a more serious nature, other officials.

Perez’s resignation came in May, some four months after he was appointed to the high-profile post by Gov. Scott Walker.

Perez' story

Perez told the Hispanic News Network that he felt "the time is right to pursue other opportunities in the private sector knowing that the Department of Workforce Development is moving in the right direction and that we have accomplished great things together in a very short period of time."

But the news was widely greeted with groans and disbelief.

Wrote Blogging Blue on May 12: "I can’t wait to hear the real reason why Manny Perez resigned, because I’m betting there’s more to this story than Manny Perez has simply decided he should be 'exploring business opportunities.'"

"The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Perez stated he was escorted out of DWD headquarters on his last day as part of normal procedure to prevent theft by departing executives, but later recanted his account," noted WKOW's Inside Scoop (May 25).

[Updated Note: Perez said to me that the security escort was precipitated as a routine precaution regarding a "bomb threat" that day; in an on-the-record quote.]

Perez being escorted off the work premises by security has been verified by another DWD employee, speaking on background for fear of losing his or her job.

Perez denied the report again Friday, reached by phone.


Shortly after the time of Perez' departure, WKOW's (Madison) Tony Galli asked Perez' successer, Scott Baumbach, if Perez were the subject of a “workplace complaint” prior to his abrupt resignation. The question was deflected in the interveiw: DWD interview.

Galli followed up with another report (May 25), reading in part: "A department of administration spokesperson declined comment Wednesday on whether a workplace complaint was lodged against former secretary of workforce development Manny Perez, before Perez resigned abruptly May 11 after less than five months on the job"

On June 20, 2011 Galli reported, "Department of administration officials said no workplace complaints were lodged against former workforce development secretary Manny Perez before Perez abruptly resigned in May after less than five months on the job."

"In a letter, DOA legal counsel Elisabeth Dieterich told WKOW27 News there’s no record of any complaint in connection to Perez’s workplace conduct."

Walker Administration

An e-mail for this story to the Office of Governor Scott Walker Press Office was referred to the DWD's press office.

"A press release on former Secretary Perez's departure was issued on 5/11/11 statewide and his departure was widely reported in the news media," e-mailed John Dipko, Communications Director of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), and who is a well-regarded pro in the flack business.

Dipko responded to another question on the allegations, writing, "It is not DWD's practice to comment publicy on personnel matters."

To this day, news of Manny Perez' resignation and appointment appears blacked-out by the Walker administration.

As of Thursday evening, not one online press release on this high-profile position regarding Perez' appoitment or resignation exists on the Office of the Governor Media Center, and not online press release exists on the DWD News Releases - 2011, despite a spate of releases on appointments made by Perez after Perez was first hired in January; and Dicko's statement of the press release issued May 11 that does not exist online.

Asked about the lack of acknowledgement of what the WKOW report queried was a “workplace complaint,” the DWD employee said sarcastically, “That’s a shocker. No one [at DWD] is going to want to talk to you about it [sexual harassment allegations].”

The full quote of Gov. Walker's comments on the governor's press release entitled, "Department of Workforce Development Secretary Manny Perez to Return to the Private Sector," reads:

I appreciate Secretary Perez's willingness to serve Wisconsin," said Governor Walker. "The Department of Workforce Development is vital to our mission of creating 250,000 over the next four years. Already we have made important strides; in our first few months in office we have seen more than 24,000 private sector jobs created, including more than 11,000 manufacturing jobs. Recently, CEO magazine recognized Wisconsin as having the most improved business climate in the nation. We’ll work diligently to make sure that DWD's leadership team continues to be able to help our economy grow. Wheeler Report
Questions remain

Why won't anyone in the Walker administration knock this allegation down?

How about a 'this unnamed source has it all wrong.'?

Some initial thoughts on the proposed MPS health-care benefit changes

by folkbum

In short--and, as I'm up waaay past my bedtime, short is what you get--the devil is in the details.

The changes are summarized in the blue book for next Tuesday's meeting, available, here (pdf), and more thoroughly in this attachment (pdf, including a lot of annoying sideways pages). The district is offering two briefing sessions at Central Office on Monday prior to Tuesday's Board meeting (at 4:00 and 6:00), where presumably all this will be hashed out.

But here's what it looks like: Steep jumps in premiums for either plan, the PPO or the EPO (HMO), and steeper jumps in out-of-pocket costs for both plans. Indeed, the deductibles for the cheaper EPO plan, for example, increase ten times their present amount under the proposal.

The changes in premiums are not unreasonable by themselves. Under the current contract, teachers are paying 1% (single) or 2% (family) of their salary as a premium; here, the premium for most teachers would be either 12% or 14% of the plan cost. The current salary deductions for an average teacher earning $55,000 in base pay add up to about 5% of the plan cost; the change would hit younger teachers harder because the premium shifts from percentage of salary to percentage of the plan cost. And the difference in premium between the EPO and PPO is totally worth it for having broader choice of providers.

But combined with sharp increases in deductibles and out-of-pocket fees, the changes become significantly unreasonable. In the grand scheme, this is because the US health care system is full of crap, providing mediocre quality care at prices the rest of the world just doesn't have to endure, of course, and there's little any one of us can do to change that. But if this goes through, combined with changes to how pensions are calculated, and even assuming no other changes or reductions to the salary schedule after the contract expires in June 2013, teachers in MPS can expect 10%-20% less take-home pay, depending on what their salary is now.

Remarkably, many people will insist that this--like layoffs--is good for the local economy.

(As an aside: I wouldn't be surprised, even given this and the presentation of the facilities master plan report, if the most contentious item on the Board's agenda for Tuesday is the proposed changes to food service.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Some initial thoughts on the MPS long-range master facilities plan

by folkbum

My "beat" when I write about education here in Milwaukee tends to be Bay View and the Bay View-adjacent areas (plus, I teach at Bay View Middle and High School), so when the district's long-range master facilities plan report (pdf) (shorter executive summary here, pdf) went live earlier tonight, I immediately scanned through for the impact on Bay View and Bay View-adjacent schools. The short answer on that front? None. No Bay View schools are recommended for any closure or movement in year one of the plan.

The caveat being that the plan doesn't list any specific recommendations for schools in years 2-10, just general numbers like "open 2 elementary schools" or "close 6-9 secondary schools." After year one, in other words, schools in my "beat" may be on the table.

What's on the table in year one, though, is this (links to MPS school pages for reference):Because I do not know these schools well, I can't comment personally on whether this is a good set of changes. However, the report makes a persuasive case for each one. No doubt every one of these proposed changes will have detractors, and what the Board ultimately does with the recommendations is, of course, to be seen. Tuesday's Board meeting will probably be long and possibly contentious.

But one major thing strikes me about the report and its recommendations, which is that the closures and movements recommended for year one actually do not address the excess capacity MPS already faces. The report identifies an excess capacity right now of more than 9000 student seats (assuming 90% capacity utilization as optimum) but cuts capacity by barely anything at all. This is in part because the plan expands some programs and creates a whole new 6-12 Montessori program (1250 projected students enrolled). In essence, while some elementary seats do disappear, others shift around and new seats open up at the 6-12 level. This creates an issue for years two through ten when additional seats will need cutting to make up for the ones created in year one.

I know some of this is because MPS is lopsided, with half-empty programs where they don't need to be and schools stuffed to the gills in other parts of the city that need relief. But at this time of budget crunch--more in my next post!--any opportunity to cut more wasteful costs should be seized.

The most important table in today's WASDA survey

by folkbum

I got the survey report last night (thanks, Anonymous Source!) and was told it was embargoed until after this morning's press conference. But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has gone ahead and made it available to everyone (pdf), as it accompanies their story this morning, so I'm hitting publish now instead of later.

It's a survey of school district administrators--and this is an annual thing, so don't think that this is something new propagated by anti-Walker forces--that shows hiring trends, program availability, class sizes, and so on.

The key part of the survey for me, though it's not mentioned in Tom Tolan's write-up, is that it does account for whether school districts were bound by contract extensions or instead had full access to the "tools" that Walker and Republicans claimed would help schools balance their budgets without cutting staff or programs. The survey's finding? "Differences between districts that had contracts compared to those without union contracts were not statistically significant." In table form (click to embiggen):

The report shows that in or out of contract, most districts cut positions and that, in fact, districts without contracts saw higher student-teacher ratios as well as a faster increase in the student-teacher ratios. In other words, the districts with the greatest flexibility to use Walker's "tools" were the districts with the largest and fastest-growing class sizes.

This graph also kills me:

That's the three-year trend for job losses in Wisconsin schools. Combined with predictions from districts that next year's cuts will be as deep or deeper, we're looking at 10,000 jobs lost in public education between 2009 and 2013. That's just devastating.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

RIP Andy Rooney, Joe Frazier, and Heavy D

by folkbum

These things always come in threes, and this was a pretty non-obvious set. Well played, Reaper. Well played.

Friday, November 04, 2011

FriTunes: I recommend these benefit shows

by folkbum

I'm copying and pasting (with slight edits and links included) this message from my friend Brett:
This Friday, November 4th we have an eclectic group of performers playing an eclectic bunch of tunes down at Milwaukee's home for great acoustic music, the Coffee House, 631 N. 19th Street (19th and Wisconsin) starting at 8:00. The theme is "A Wainwright Family Reunion" with songs by Loudon as well as the McGarrigle Sisters, the Roches, Rufus and Martha and possibly other Wainwrights as Loudie has some pretty talented cousins and siblings as well. These will be performed by David Kaye, Jym Mooney, J. P. Spencer, as well as the quartet of Sandy Stehling, Ruth Williams, John Granzow, and Gary Kitchin. All this for only four bucks plus a couple cans of food as this is a food pantry benefit.

Another show, this one benefiting the children of Bobby Jiles, Jr. will be happening on Sunday, November 6th in Menomonee Falls at J Riley's, N85 W15964 Appleton Avenue starting at 2:00 p.m. About a month ago Bobby was killed in an accident and leaves behind six children. We'll be starting with a Casa Kemnitz style jam to go on until about 5:00 so you are invited to bring instruments, voices, or just your own good self. Confirmed participants include John King, Bill Pelrine, Ives Iverson (it's just not a jam without Ives), Tom Martinsen, Steve Yeo, Stewart Hamel, and myself. If I left you out please accept my apologies but you are certainly welcome. The jam will be followed by a concert with performances by poet JoAnn Chang, the Mambo Surfers, Michael Drake, and Dangerous Folk. All this plus a silent auction with many interesting and valuable items (thanks to all who donated) and a 50/50 raffle as well as snacks and other food. Thanks also to J Riley's for donating the space and Muscatel Mary for putting this all together. All this for only five bucks, and all proceeds will go to the trust fund for the kids.
I was asked to be a part of the Wainwright family reunion show, but due to a previous contractual situation, I had to turn it down. I would have done this song, though: