February 19, 2011

VIDEO mashup of Cory Mason's speech, rally images

This was posted Saturday by Kelly Gallaher.

Text of Rep. Cory Mason's speech, delivered Wednesday night in front of the State Capitol, is HERE.

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Racine firefighters express 'deep concerns' with bill

The City of Racine Firefighters Union Executive Board sent a notice out today that it has "deep concerns over the budget adjustment bill recently introduced by Governor Scott Walker."

International Association of Firefighters Local 321 said in a statement:
Racine Firefighters understand the challenging budget times we are in. While Racine Firefighters appreciate that Governor Walker exempts Police, Firefighters and State Troopers from his budget adjustment bill, we believe the bill unnecessarily goes too far in several ways:
  • The Governor's Budget Bill prohibits the employer from collecting union dues. That provides no positive fiscal impact to the City of Racine or State of Wisconsin.
  • The Governor's Budget Bill removes Fair Share provisions from contracts. That provides no positive fiscal impact to the City of Racine or State of Wisconsin.
  • The Governor's Budget Bill requires union members to conduct annual re-certification votes to maintain the existence of the union. That provides no positive fiscal impact to the City of Racine or State of Wisconsin.
  • With regard to the fact that we are ordinary citizens who work to improve the City of Racine, better our lives and provide for our families, Racine Firefighters are similar to teachers, snow plow drivers, police officers and water utility workers.
We implore Governor Walker and our legislators to rise above union busting tactics and not erase decades of progress in labor relations that resulted in a level playing field for employers, employees and taxpayers. Governor Walker's budget adjustment bill is an attack on collective bargaining, and we respectfully request that legislators work to make a bill that is fair and that does not eliminate the ability of labor and management to work together peacefully.

Wisconsin needs to move Forward, not backward.

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Couchsurfing comes to Madison for protesters

Need a bed or a place to stay while protesting in Madison?

A Facebook page -- Madison Protester Housing Available -- where those with space to lend and those needing same can connect has been created.

Note: This page is for "supporters of the American worker, to allow supporters of the working class to connect to each other in Madison." If anyone hears of a Tea Party couchsurfing effort, let us know and in the interest of fair play we'll post it as well.

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Watch out, the robots are coming!

Watch out, the robots are coming!

With visions, perhaps, of the Terminator in their dreams, Wisconsin's missing State Senators had better keep a sharp lookout.  It's not just the police seeking the fugitives -- as it was Friday when a Wisconsin State Trooper and the Senate Sergeant at Arms were sent to the home of Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller. (Miller wasn't home, or at least nobody answered the door.)

The state has upped the ante, seeking to make vigilantes of us all. Can "Wanted: Dead or Alive!" posters be far behind?

We received this note from a reader this morning:
Kenosha residents got phone calls last night from police that if they spot Bob Wirch to turn him in to the police!
Robo calls, donchaknow! Weapon of choice in modern political disputes. 

Wirch, D-Kenosha, is just one of 14 Democratic senators who went on the lam Thursday, to prevent the State Senate from having a quorum. Their departure left the Senate unable to rush through passage of Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair" or union-busting (depending upon your point of view) bill. The senators fled to Illinois, and are still in hiding. At first they were in Rockford, but soon cooler heads prevailed and some apparently went to Chicago, where there are better restaurants and the Miracle Mile for shopping.

Meanwhile, CNN has a fascinating historical story, recapping other instances of AWOL U.S. legislators.  Among those who have tried this maneuver in the past: Abraham Lincoln! 
In 1839, a young Abraham Lincoln, serving as a Whig in the Illinois House, jumped out of the building in a futile bid to prevent Democrats from getting a quorum to vote on a banks bill.
Others cited in the story: members of the Florida Senate in 1981, the Killer Ds and the Texas 11 in 2003 and Republican California Assembly members in 1994.

The Associated Press reported this morning that the missing Democrats could stay away for weeks. Or at least as long as their credit cards hold out; somehow, we don't expect to see the cost of this mid-Winter "vacation" on their state expense accounts...

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February 18, 2011

Assembly GOP rushes vote, then rescinds it; Mason 'outraged'

Just a few minutes after the Assembly was called to order on Friday night it was adjourned.

The reason given: security concerns.

Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said he called the session "to force the issue" and gain a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair" bill. Democrats weren't even present when action began, but when they arrived they loudly objected.

That's not why Fitzgerald adjourned the session within 30 minutes. Rather, he told WisPolitics, he sent everyone home because Walker called to tell him to get members and staff out of the building; "their safety could no longer be assured."

Later, a statement was issued by Fitzgerald, Majority Leader Scott Suder and Rep. Robin Vos saying:
The leadership of the Assembly has decided to recess due to security concerns.  We will reconvene on Tuesday morning and are confident that the security concerns will no longer exist.  We are committed as ever to pass Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill and will do so next week.   Millions of taxpayers spoke in November and we will not let them down.   We have a fiscal crisis that can’t be ignored.  We have the votes to pass the bill; it is only a matter of time.
Before the adjournment, the Assembly approached chaos, according to the Journal Sentinel. Republican leaders were pushing action even before the Democratic members arrived, and by a voice vote made sure the bill could not be amended. But with the adjournment, that action was cancelled. The Assembly will resume deliberations at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine,  said the Republicans' actions "violated Assembly rules and traditions" and were "illegal and unprecedented." "You have trampled on our democracy," he said.

He issued the following statement:
“Being in the majority does not mean you get to take away people’s freedom,” said Mason. “It’s outrageous enough that you are determined to trample on workers’ rights, but now, tonight, with your illegal actions, you have trampled on the very foundation that our legislative actions rest upon.”

 The Assembly’s session was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. The quorum call began at approximately 4:56 p.m., and votes to engross the bill and suspend the first and second reading of the bill passed on voice votes. The body was set to vote on final passage of the bill when Democrats were finally recognized by the Speaker. The Republicans have 58 members in their caucus, which meets the three-fifths quorum requirement for a fiscal bill.

 “I have never been so angry or so disappointed,” said Rep. Mason. “The same people sent us here. We swore an oath to our constituents that we would adhere to certain principles that are the foundation of our democracy. I do not even recognize what is happening in this great state.”

 Republicans later agreed to rescind their illegal votes, return the bill to an amendable stage, and then adjourned the Assembly until Tuesday.

 “While I appreciate that my Republican colleagues saw the grievous error of their ways and did the right thing by rescinding their illegal votes, the fact remains that they were hell bent on passing this bill in an unprecedented and illegal way tonight. I am outraged.”

“You get to set the agenda but we have rights. And they will be abided by,” Mason concluded.

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'I've lost sleep, agonized and prayed' over this,
says Wanggaard in open letter to county residents

State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-21st District, sent the media "An Open Letter to the People of Racine County" this morning. In it he apologizes for his full -- and "impossible to empty" -- voicemail box, says he has "agonized and lost sleep" over the upcoming vote, and he details the "workplace protections" that will remain if the bill is passed. He also notes his own union background and the state's "budget crisis." On Wednesday, Wanggaard said he would vote for the governor's "budget-repair" bill.

Here's Wanggaard's letter:

An Open Letter to the People of Racine County

First, allow me thank those who called, emailed, and visited me in Madison over the past week. The vast majority of those citizens have been courteous and respectful. I want everyone to know that, and I want to thank you for that. My office has been overwhelmed with phone calls and emails from constituents sharing their concerns about the budget repair bill. Our voicemail box has been full since Sunday and impossible to empty. To those who could not get through, I apologize—we did the best we could.

I ran for State Senate because Wisconsin is in crisis. I took the oath of office with the knowledge that the state’s current fiscal path is not sustainable in the long term. Over the last six weeks, as I have been briefed on the state of Wisconsin finances, my thoughts have changed. I now know that Wisconsin’s budget trajectory is not sustainable even in the short term.

Wisconsin has a $3.6 billion deficit. We owe over $56 million to the state of Minnesota, accruing interest daily. We owe $200 million to the Patients Compensation Fund. To continue meeting the health needs of Wisconsin families, Medicaid requires an additional $153 million by June 30th. Our budget crisis is not in six months. It is now.

I never imagined I would be voting on something as emotionally charged as this budget repair bill. This debate is not just emotional for the thousands who emailed, called and visited my office over the last week— it is emotional and personal for me. My daughter is a teacher. My neighbors and friends are union. I was a negotiator for the Racine Police Association and a proud public union member for thirty years. I know, personally, the value of opposing parties coming together to find mutual agreement.

But Wisconsin’s budget shortfall can be ignored no longer. The simple truth is this: collective bargaining is changing because Wisconsin’s fiscal crisis demands it. I have heard the concerns of my constituents that they would lose crucial workplace protections. I have worked with my Senate colleagues to ensure that workers at the state and local level, including teachers, have these workplace protections. It is important to note that:
  • State and local employees who have civil service protections for grievance and discipline retain those rights.
  • Public workers serving without these protections will now have those protections.
  • Progressive Discipline still exists.
  • Just Cause is still required for termination.
  • Workplace safety must be addressed at all levels of government
  • Workers retain the right to have a representative present at any grievance, termination, or discipline hearing.
  • The union still exists.
 I would not have supported the bill without these additional worker protections.

I believe this will be the most difficult vote I will ever take. I have lost sleep over this vote, I have agonized over this vote and I have prayed for guidance on this vote. No compromise is perfect and it is said that a good compromise leaves everyone unhappy. That is certainly the case today.

I have debated, argued, fought, and fought some more to retain and add these critical worker protections. The alternatives are no protections and no worker rights or massive worker layoffs. I would much rather have workers keep their jobs and their protections.

This bill has my support because it is better than the alternatives.

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Park High students ticketed for walking out of class

Approximately 20 Park High School students were ticketed Friday for walking out of class in protest of Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to strip collective-bargaining rights from public employees, including teachers.

A Park staff member said they were told this morning that students may walk out. Staff and school police officers were told to let them go without incident. However, when only about 20 students walked out, police gave them a truancy ticket for $64.

Teachers and students around the state are fighting a Walker proposal that would prevent public employees from negotiating for benefits such as pensions and health insurance. The loss of collective-bargaining rights would come on top of steep pay and benefit cuts included in the governor's "budget repair bill."

The state is facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit this year. Some claim instituting Walker's plan will actually exasperate the problem by cutting state income tax revenue (less money for employees means they owe fewer taxes). It also cuts into families' purchasing power, which means fewer dollars collected in sales taxes and less money spent at local businesses.

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February 17, 2011

No such thing as bad publicity?

Was it really just last month that Illinois raised personal income and business income taxes, prompting Wisconsin to open up a full-court press to lure its citizens north?

Well, that was then. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

An old adage in marketing says: There's no such thing as bad publicity. Google that and you get 343,000 results in less than half a second. You tell me whether the international publicity Wisconsin is now getting -- like Thursday night's Huffington Post front page, shown above -- will be good or bad for us in the long run.

How about headlines like these:
Paul Ryan: 'Like Cairo has moved to Madison'
Former Rep.: Wisconsin Gov. Walker is channeling Mubarek
Senators researching whether to use police to get Dems
Good publicity, all of them. More to come in a few days. The Democratic senators, it is now known, fled only as far as Rockford, IL. But that was far enough to force the Senate to put off consideration of Gov. Scott Walker's "budget-repair" bill.

Today is another day. The Legislature did not adjourn; it was unclear Thursday night whether the Senate would be able to meet Friday morning, or whether the Assembly -- whose Democratic members are all wearing orange shirts showing union solidarity -- would take up the bill first. And there's a Tea Party scheduled at the Capitol at noon Saturday, to counter all the anti-Walker protests.

The headlines, and hour-after-hour CNN, FOX and MSNBC coverage are sure to continue. Free publicity! Spreading the brand name Wisconsin! "Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Wisconsin..." is how the newscasts begin, with video of protests! Telling the world all about our business climate. Can't you just see the new jobs pouring in...

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Senate Democrats on the run

Where's Waldo has nothing on Wisconsin's Senate Democrats.

They're off on a secret road trip -- somewhere. Presumably out of state, beyond the reach of State Troopers who have been alerted to find them and bring them back.

Wisconsin Senate President Mike Ellis called the roll of the Senate this morning at about 11:30, needing 20 senators present for a quorum.  There are 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats, but no Democrats showed up.

Word is that the Democrats boarded a bus and headed out of state. How long can they stay away? Will Gov. Scott Walker find another way to gain passage of his "budget repair" bill? Stay tuned.

More here from the Journal-Sentinel.

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Vos: 'We solved the budget crisis without raising taxes'

Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair" bill was passed by the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee by a 12-4 vote this morning. Republicans voted 'yes;' Democrats voted 'no.'

Rep. Robin Vos of Burlington, R-63rd District, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, who chair the Joint Finance Committee, issued the following statement after the bill was sent along to the Senate:
“Two years ago, the Legislature passed a budget repair bill with no public hearing. By contrast, this week we provided a 17-hour-long forum for the citizens of Wisconsin to speak to their elected representatives.

"We listened to the many hundreds of citizens who testified on the bill and to the legislators who brought issues to our attention and, as a result, we made changes. The committee increased civil service protections for public employees, retained benefits for limited-term employees and provided greater flexibility for local governments.

"We cannot ignore the fact that Wisconsin is in a fiscal crisis. Our state is $137 million in the red. While some people seem content with doing nothing, the consequences of inaction are dire. By asking for modest cost sharing from public employees, we solved the budget crisis without layoffs and without raising taxes.”

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Wanggaard: I'll vote 'yes' on amended budget repair bill

 A few minutes before midnight Wednesday, we received notice from Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-21st District, that he will vote in favor of Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair" bill, as it has been amended. As soon as we can find the amended bill, we'll let you know what's been changed.

Here's Wanggaard's statement:
After listening to my constituents and my colleagues, I put forward, with Senator Schultz, a proposal today addressing concerns in Special Session Bill 11.

Over the past seven days, my staff and I have met with and talked to literally hundreds of citizens from Racine County and around Wisconsin. Among the chief fears we heard from union members were concerns about grievances, termination, discipline and workplace safety.

I am thankful to the Joint Finance Committee and Governor Walker for addressing many of my, and my constituents’, concerns.

There is an old saying: “In a democracy, making law is like making sausage.” I never fully understood that statement until this week. No compromise is perfect, but I am thankful that the bill has been substantially modified to add additional worker protection.

I will be voting “Yes” on the amended budget repair bill.

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February 16, 2011

'We won't back down,' Mason tells Capitol protestors

 Mason addressing protestors at the State Capitol Wednesday
Photo by Capitol Photographer Ting-Li Wang

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, referenced John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Winston Churchill as he told protestors at the State Capitol Wednesday night, "We won't back down."

Speaking to thousands of teachers, students, public employees and other taxpayers at a rally in opposition to Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair" bill that would all-but-eliminate collective bargaining for state workers -- taking everything off the table except wages -- Mason said the governor is going too far, especially since Wisconsin was the first state, in 1959, to give public employees the right to unionize.

Here's Mason's speech:
I want to begin tonight by thanking all the people that are here to fight non-violently for workers’ rights. I have never been more proud to be a citizen of this state and this country than I am right now standing here in solidarity with all of you.

Tonight, we stand on the shoulders of previous generations who fought and died for the rights that are threatened here today.

We stand on the shoulders of the workers who were killed by the National Guard in the Bayview massacre fighting for an eight-hour work day.

We stand on the shoulders of the men and women of the AFL-CIO who fought for collective bargaining in the private sector in passing the National Labor Relations Act.

We stand on the shoulders of Eleanor Roosevelt, who worked to pass the UN charter on human rights, a document that includes the rights of workers to organize.

We stand on the shoulders of countless leaders and rank and file members who have negotiated in good faith with their employers and brought democracy to the work place.

Most importantly, we stand on the shoulders of the men and women of Wisconsin who in 1959 made Wisconsin the first state to recognize the right of public employees to unionize.

Tonight, we gather, in the winter of our discontent, to stop the most anti-worker legislation in Wisconsin history. I say again: we are here to stop the most anti-worker legislation in Wisconsin history.

Every generation is called upon to fight for the rights it inherited and improve these rights for the future. Brothers and sisters, this is the fight of our generation.

We must stand in solidarity against Governor Walker’s attack on workers because he goes too far.

When Governor Walker tries to undo 50 years of labor peace, he goes too far.

When Walker eliminates health insurance for unrepresented workers, he goes too far.

When Walker destroys the bargaining rights for health care workers and UW faculty and academic taff, he goes too far.

When Walker threatens the health and safety of public employees who literally put their lives on the line to keep us safe, he goes too far.

When a Washington Post columnist compares Walker to the deposed Egyptian dictator, he goes too far.

When Walker would rather plan to call in the National Guard instead of manning up and negotiating with the workers who serve the citizens of the state, he goes too far.

This is history in the making. Yesterday a reporter asked me if I was excited about Walker’s political misstep and what that could mean for the 2012 election. I told him I would gladly trade any electoral advantage to maintain the rights of Wisconsin workers.

Rarely are we as Legislators called upon to make decisions with so much consequence for the rights of our citizens.

And in these cynical times in which many believe the outcome of this debate is a foregone conclusion, I am calling upon the independent-minded Legislators in the Republican Party to listen to the people who are here today and communicating with you back home.

This is a profile in courage moment. It is a moment to transcend the advantage of partisan politics and November elections, and do right by the people who sent us here: our constituents.

I am asking for courageous Republicans to come forward, join us, and save us from the brink.

Because I can tell from the spirit in the crowd today and now — we won’t back down.

To paraphrase someone else once under siege: We will fight them in these streets and in the hearing rooms. We will fight them in the Capitol and in our communities. We will fight them in the smallest town to the biggest city.

Until reason holds sway over this extreme anti-worker proposal will not surrender and we won’t back down.

Until the Governor listens to the thousands of voices here and around the state, standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, we won’t back down.

Even under the Governor’s threat of calling out the National Guard, we won’t back down.
Until we draw our last breath, we won’t back down.

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February 15, 2011

It's Wanggaard's name we see, but not his ad

I was wrong. Sorta.

In a post Sunday (The revolution comes to Wisconsin) about Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to destroy collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin, I referred to a TV commercial "under State Sen. Van Wanggaard's name" appearing in favor of Walker's plan.

The TV commercial -- it can be found online now -- says:
"All across Wisconsin, people are making sacrifices to save their jobs: frozen wages, pay cuts and paying more for health care. But state workers haven't had to sacrifice; they pay next to nothing for their pensions and a fraction of their health care. It's not fair. Call your state legislators and tell them to vote for Gov. Scott Walker's  budget repair bill. It's time state employees paid their fair share, just like the rest of us."
At the point where the voiceover says "call your state legislators" the ad shows Sen. Van Wanggaard's name and office phone number.

Hence, my confusion.

One of Wanggaard's constituents (OK, it was my wife, marking one of the few times she and I are in political agreement), complained to him via email about the ad's implication that state employees and union workers are not paying their fair share.  "The fact that their benefit packages include benefits in lieu of salary increases is not stated. You represent thousands of workers as cheating."

She received this response from Scott Kelly, the senator's chief of staff:
"I want to correct a misconception that you, and others, are making. Senator Wanggaard is NOT running any TV ads on Governor Walker’s budget repair bill. Senator Wanggaard has also not coordinated or authorized any TV ads either for or against Governor Walker’s budget repair bill.

"Senator Wanggaard is currently reviewing the bill, and is at this time in a briefing by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. He has not taken a position on the bill, and will not until he has had ample time to review it."
The ad, made by the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which is run by Walker election strategist R. J. Johnson, is appearing throughout the state. While the version we see here carries Van Wanggaard's name, other voters see the names of their legislators. In fact, the version I linked to above urges calls to Sens. Mike Ellis of Neenah and Rob Cowles of Green Bay.All three, of course, are Republicans. I've not seen, nor do I expect to see, an ad urging voters to call Democratic Assemblymen Cory Mason or Bob Turner.

My larger expectation in the original post was that the Democratic Party's effort to get voters to call Republican legislators is a lost cause: they will vote in lock-step with their new governor and new majority on this hot button issue -- even as it is a mere symbol and no real solution to the state's budget woes.

But perhaps the widespread protests by teachers, nurses and workers in general -- and common sense and fairness -- will prevail. We shall see by the end of the week.

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February 14, 2011

Next stop ... Starbucks

No offense to the three existing Downtown cafes (Circa, HOPES and Red Onion), but the loss of the Groundskeeper and now Dunn Bros is a serious bummer for anyone looking for an afternoon caffeine fix. It's the first time in my 10 years in Racine that Downtown lacks a cafe with evening hours. Having seen so many come and go it's hard to ask anyone to open another, but it'd be nice (and I can guarantee at least one customer).

And, before I get in trouble, Ben at Circa Celeste is open until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. He's closed Sundays and Mondays.

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The Front Porch: Why Celery Stalks Make for Cool Science

By Mark Gesner

Do you know what happens when you put a celery stalk in water that has blue food coloring?  How about if you put a celery stalk in a glass of Mountain Dew?  Do you think the celery stalk will continue to grow strong and green?

The students in Mrs. Laurie Nikolic’s third grade class at Gifford Elementary School in Racine can tell you about the growth of celery stalks and about how to understand complicated concepts like density.  That’s because the kids in Mrs. Nikolic’s class are learning a lot about science in some pretty nifty ways. According to third grader Luke Behrendt, “the coolest things are the experiments.  We learn while we’re having fun.   Mrs. Nikolic lets us do things like look at the inside of bulbs.  I like it.”  

It’s the experiments that have also captured the attention of Luke’s classmate, Paige Allen.  Paige explained that “not all the stuff you read in books is always true, but with experiments, you can really see what happens.”  Seeing is believing for Paige, and it is also exciting.  Her advice to other third graders is “to not think of science as being boring, it can be fun if you learn by doing experiments.”

Explore the topic of teaching science with Mrs. Nikolic a bit further and it quickly becomes clear that there is a method to her experimental madness.  She’s glad to hear that her students are having fun, because when they’re having fun making it through the science curriculum, she’s pretty sure that they’re also engaged and learning memorable concepts.  “We have built our curriculum on the principle of student inquiry,” explained Mrs. Nikolic.  “We now understand a lot more about how to help kids gain a love for science.”

The third grade teacher attributes much of her new understanding about science to lessons learned at the professional development training she received through her work with a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction funded project called Preparing Outstanding Science Educators (POSE).  It was in this forum provided through a University of Wisconsin-Parkside partnership with the Racine Unified School District (RUSD), that Mrs. Nikolic gained a whole new perspective on science.  “The curriculum we learned about and now teach is all about instilling wonder.   I am able to adapt the curriculum and go with where the students have interest,” she said.  “If they want to know more about why a cheetah has spots, then we’ll explore that topic.  The learning is much more meaningful when the kids have input on what we explore.”

According to Mrs. Nikolic, experiencing the POSE training was an “awesome and invaluable experience that lit a fire under a lot of teachers in Racine.”   Her comments are music to the ears of people like  John Surendonk, RUSD Elementary School Science Coordinator, and Shannon McGuire, Education Outreach Director at UW-Parkside.  When an educator understands how to be comfortable shifting from teacher-led work to building off the wonder of student inquiry, it’s an amazing transformation, according to Mr. Surendonk.  Ms. McGuire agreed, and explained “seeing teachers be rejuvenated and prepared to help students learn in exciting new ways is an awesome thing to witness.”

Mr. Surendonk and Ms. McGuire have had the opportunity, thanks to a cadre of seasoned educators from the university and elsewhere, to provide continuing education to thousands of teachers through programs like POSE and The Chiwaukee  Academy.  The Chiwaukee Academy is a partnership effort between UW-Parkside, RUSD, the Kenosha Unified School District and Carthage College that provides professional development to about 200 teachers each summer on the UW-Parkside campus on topics ranging from Apple’s iLife Integration to Effective Middle School Science Teaching. 

“So many times partnerships end after a grant is over.  We have an example of a partnership that has been sustained and has grown,” said Mr. Surendonk.  In addition to the ongoing Chiwaukee partnership, he also pointed to a current collaboration supported by a National Science Foundation grant called Preparing Urban Lakeshore Science Educators (PULSE).  PULSE is a planning effort to help experienced teachers like Mrs. Nicolic, as well as new teacher education students, to more effectively teach science in urban settings in grades 3 – 8.

Of course, Luke and Paige may not care much about things like POSE, Chilwaukee and PULSE, but they do care a whole lot about how a celery stalk grows.  And while they’ll be glad to tell you that Mrs. Nikolic is a cool teacher who knows how to have fun, they may not tell you exactly what happens to that celery stalk that sat in Mountain Dew.  Hey, if you want to remember lessons about science, Luke and Paige recommend that you do the experiment yourself!

Front Porch Rockers

Good Company: Join the award-winning University of Wisconsin-Parkside Theatre Arts department for Stephen Sondheim’s Company (The Musical). Directed by Jamie Cheatham, Artistic Director and Head of the Acting Program at UW-Parkside, Company is the story of Bobby's 35th birthday and the five married couples, who are his best friends, and his three girlfriends, who are waiting to see if he's ready to take the plunge.  Performances will be in the Communication Arts Theatre on February 18, 19, 24, 25 & 26 at 7:30 p.m.; February 20 at 2:00 p.m.; and February 25 at 10:00 a.m. For ticket information, please visit the UW-Parkside Theatre Arts Box Office website.

A Teach-In about Homophobia and Bullying will take place on Thursday, February 24, 2011 from 4:30 PM to 8:00 PM at Gateway Technical College Racine Campus Conference Center, Michigan Room (101 S. Main St., Racine). Organized by the UW-Parkside Center for Community Partnerships Diversity Programs and UW-Parkside LGBTQ Resource Center, this is an opportunity to help administrators, teachers, and counselors create safer school environments for all students, not just those who are gay and lesbian. For more information or to register, visit the UW-Parkside Continuing Education website, or call Emily Battisti at 262-595-2018.

Saturday Information Sessions and Experience Days: Join UW-Parkside Admissions for upcoming Saturday Information Sessions and Experience Days. Held on February 26, April 2, and May 7 from 9 a.m. - 12 noon in the UW-Parkside Student Center, Saturday Information Sessions are open houses that include a campus tour and an admissions presentation.  Held on March 25th and April 15th Experience Days include a brief admissions overview, Q&A sessions, campus tour and an actual “UW-Parkside experience” provided by faculty.  For more information or to register for either event, please visit the UW-Parkside Admissions website.

 Mark Gesner is the Director of Community Development at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside.   Contact him directly at mark.gesner@uwp.edu.

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February 13, 2011

The revolution comes to Wisconsin

   (Image source unknown. Found on Facebook.)

First there was Tunisia. Then Egypt.

Now the battleground has moved to Wisconsin.

Make no mistake, what's going on in Madison this week is nothing short of revolution. Regardless which side you're on -- with Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislative majority or with Democrats and the state's unionized employees -- there's no doubt the capitol is 2011's Valley Forge, Gettysburg or Tahrir Square. The governor says he has already alerted the National Guard to maintain order.

The governor's so-called budget repair bill (details HERE) guts collective bargaining for hundreds of thousands of state employees, including teachers (but not police and firemen). It would roll back and eliminate provisions workers and management have worked out over decades, increasing the employees' contributions toward pensions and health care while ignoring whatever they gave up in exchange for the status quo.  We're no lawyers, but this ex post facto maneuver strikes us as constitutionally illegal.

Former Sen. Russ Feingold calls Walker's plan "big government at its worst." 
"No private employer can do what the governor proposes, nor should it. For decades, Wisconsin has protected the rights of workers to collectively bargain with their employer on wages, benefits, workplace rules, and many other aspects of their employment. The governor is wrong to suggest that public workers are responsible for the state’s budget woes, and he is wrong to use that bogus excuse to strip them of rights that millions of other American workers have."
A second grade teacher from a rural school district posted an eloquent rebuttal to the governor on Facebook. I don't want to "out" her publicly here, but much of her essay deserves wide distribution:
"...The people who live here are hard workers and proud. But they can't afford the cost of educating their children. My school district has relied extensively on state aid to fund the schools. Unfortunately, the state has dramatically reduced the amount of funding it gives to schools like mine. As a result, our district has faced huge deficits. Last year, the district laid off teachers, which forced it to increase class sizes and reduce special ed services. This year, we are looking at more staff reductions and a salary freeze.

"And now we come to Walker. His proposal to have public workers pay more than 5% of their salary into the state pension and another 12% in health care costs will not save my district any money. Our schools superintendent rather bluntly told us that the state was going to keep the money to cover its own deficit, not provide more state aid to schools. So the working families who send their children to us will still see increased class sizes and fewer educational opportunities, despite these "savings."

"...My district has never required us to pay anything into the pension or for health care. We took those benefits in exchange for a lower salary. People accuse state workers of having cushy jobs, with exorbitant benefits, job security and fantastic salaries. So while admitting this makes me uncomfortable, I'm going to do it so you can see just how ridiculous that accusation is: My salary as a second-year teacher, with a Bachelor's degree and one class short of a Master's degree, is $36,000.

"...Walker's proposal would cost me about $400 a month. Frankly, I won't be able to survive... I'm not sure how Walker thinks reducing the salaries of thousands of workers like me is going to save the economy... With that kind of wage reduction, I won't be able to buy new clothes, go to movies, go out to eat, go to happy hour, buy Christmas presents, buy birthday presents, get haircuts or buy pet food. I won't be able to replace my 20-year-old furnace... I already gave up cable and I drive a used car with more than 140,000 miles on it. So it's clear I won't be buying any iPods or iPhones or anything else shiny any time soon... With that kind of cut, I won't be buying food or gas, either.

"Let me clear up a few misconceptions about teachers: I'm not a babysitter. I don't color all day. I don't get to leave at 2:00 every afternoon. I don't sit on the beach all summer. I get to school by 7:45 a.m. and I work until 4:30 or 5 p.m. At least one night a week, I stay later than 5. I'm supposed to get a half hour of "duty free" lunch every day, but I usually spend that time helping students or prepping for a lesson. There are some days when I don't eat lunch at all. I won't get into how hard it is to find five minutes to go to the bathroom when you have a classroom of 20 kids who demand your constant attention.

"And I already spend my summer working. In my district, many families send their children to summer school. It's free daycare. I don't mind. I'd rather my students spent their summer reading books and playing math games, than sitting zoned out in front of the TV or computer for two months.

"So now I have to make a choice. Do I stay in education and try to make it on $5,000 a year less? Or do I leave and try to find one of those cushy private sector jobs, where you have to pay for health care, but at least you get a decent salary? Um, are there even any private sector jobs left?

"I don't want to leave my students. Because the truth is, teaching kids is a fantastic job. This past week, I taught a four-year-old how to spell his name. I taught another child how to sound out words, so he could start reading a Dr. Seuss book on his own. And I took my class to the Planetarium, where they got to gaze in awe at the planets, moon and stars. The universe, they decided, was a pretty special place. Watching them, for a little while I felt it was."
Walker's measure comes up for legislative hearing Tuesday, with votes expected Wednesday and Thursday. Already, the state has seen worker rallies. More are scheduled.
  • The state Democratic Party has organized rallies at the State Capitol for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Buses will leave Racine from the park and ride at Highway 11 and I-94 at 7 a.m. each day for the noon rally in Madison, returning each day.
  • There will be rallies at the Racine Unified Central Office, 2200 Northwestern Ave.,  on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m.
  • Phone banks were set up this weekend to contact legislators. Local Democrats, working from the Labor Hall in Racine, at 1840 Sycamore (across from Skatetown), were attempting to contact State Sen. Van Wanggaard  to ask him to vote against this proposal.(When I first heard this on Saturday night, I said it was a lost cause, an opinion borne out decisively Sunday night as TV commercials under Wanggaard's name appeared in favor of Walker's plan.) But for those who want to contact him, his office phone numbers are 608-266-1832 and 866- 615- 7510, his email address is sen.wanggaard@legis.wisconsin.gov , and his fax number is 608-282-3561.

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