What does it mean when Elizabeth Burmaster is your party's star government crusader? Your Senator Jefferson Smith via Jimmy Stewart?
Who? Liz Burmaster, state Superintendent of Public Instruction. You know, the Department of Public Instruction - the sleepiest shop this side of the Sealy Posturepedic store.
On her way out of office, she decided it was finally safe to risk the ire of the state teachers union.
I have sounded the alarm on this site for some time about the parlous state of Milwaukee's public schools. The taxpayer-supported schools in the state's most rapidly diminishing city graduates only 45 percent of its students. Below that of Chicago or even New Orleans, for ignorance's sake!
So Burmaster comes along, just as her term is ending, to say:
"We've needed systemic change in MPS for long time. The moment is here; it can be seized." [Burmaster] emphasized the need for a united effort to make quick, major changes to MPS but for the first time hinted that she could use broad powers to make improvements unilaterally if needed. [State superintendent may use power to impose major change on MPS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
You know someone is asleep at the wheel when you make Libby Burmaster (!!!) sound like a reformer. (Yeah, I know, the job is technically non-partisan. Right.)
The teachers union lobby is aghast, of course. If WEAC owns the governor's office, DPI is its downtown teacher's lounge. Like any honest politician, they expect Jim Doyle, once bought, to stay bought. WEAC threw $700,000 into the school superintendent's race to elect milquetoast Tony Evers, Burmaster's quiescent coat holder. There was no countervailing buy from the WMC business lobby. That should shut Paul Soglin's pie-hole for a couple of days. He's all for clean government as long as it is bought and paid for by his side.
So, in a showdown between the struggling kids and the most powerful union in the state, we know where Paul and Dave Zweifel and Ed Garvey stand - side by side, in solidarity forever, with the knee-cappers.
State Sen. Ted Kanavas has urged breaking up the dysfunctional Milwaukee school system into five districts. From that alone you can deduce that he is not a Democrat. I go Ted plus one better: have Gov. Jim Doyle run one of the districts (just to see if he is up to it), Mayor Tom Barrett the second, the state National Guard the third (reveille at 5 a.m.), the fourth to be purely local like an aldermanic district (or two). Allow the fifth district to be elected by the voters of the entire city, although possibly confined to its own geographic entity. See which one of the five does better in year-to-year measurements: GPA, graduation rate, absenteeism, and dropout rates.
Yay-soos Kree-stay: we have America's Most Talented, Dancing with the Stars, the National League Central Division, the Ivy League v. the Big Ten - but we allow no competition in K-12 education?
No liberal heart beats for the kids who are being turned into wards of the state (either welfare, prison, or unemployment) via the surest rust-belt-builder of them all, institutional mediocrity. Promote school vouchers! Encourage virtual schooling! Start more charter schools! Reward home schooling! Choices - because, folks, the status quo is failing.
I say this by way of wondering where is Jim Doyle in all of this. He has been making dull revving noises like a car that can't start on a January morning in 20-degrees below zero cold. But where is the bold action?
Remember the West Wing (Left Wing?) episode called "Let Bartlett be Bartlett"? In Jim Junior's case, let Doyle by Tommy Thompson. Hell, letting Doyle be Scott McCallum would be an improvement.
Doyle is an interesting case. Nominally, he is the kind of Democrat that helped make Wisconsin great. Now I am thinking of Gaylord Nelson, Patrick Lucey, Joe Andrea - Democrats who never lost their identification with people who drove trucks or milked cows for a living. This was before the party was captured by the unilateral nuclear freeze, prisoners' rights, welfare handout crowd (Requiescat in pace Midge Miller.) But these guys thought big and acted large.
Where is the protein?
Doyle has been in office, what? Six years? It seems he has left a smaller footprint on the governor's office than Marty Schreiber.
In lieu of a legacy, the Doyle-ster seems determined to chip away at Tommy G. Thompson's achievements like a timid lapidary instead of carving his own, Gutzon Borglum-scale monument. There is a New Testament, biblical parable about wasting talents somewhere in here.
Tommy reformed welfare from a guilt-induced entitlement to a job training program, not to mention school choice - thereby giving poor children an escape route from under-performing school. He instituted BadgerCare health insurance.
Tommy reformed school finance by assuming two-thirds of school funding, on average. He sealed off the inflationary effect that new money always has on government spending by requiring the qualified economic offer. That also had the salutary effect of stymieing teacher strikes.
And he instituted truth in sentencing, which Doyle is now trying to undo. The Capital Times, while extolling the mass release of state prisoners, noted this in a throwaway, but telling, line " … the plan has critics, including state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, victim's rights advocates and the Wisconsin Sheriff's and Deputy Sheriff's Association."
Jim Junior is whittling away at the performance-based welfare reforms. He is proposing that welfare parents would not have to send their kids to school in order to get full benefits. I guess that's Doyle's version of school "choice." You can choose not to send your kids to school!
Tommy G. cut personal income taxes (by an average 7 percent). Doyle wants to raise them.
Have you ever seen such furious nibbling in your life? It's like throwing a toilet paper tube in the hamster cage.
Now the current occupant wants to undo school reform in a blatant payoff to the obstructionist, anti-reform, status quo vadis teachers union.
School boards all over the state are warning that there is a provision in the proposed 2009-11 state budget...
to specifically exempt school district arbitrations from the requirement that arbitrators consider and give the greatest weight to revenue limits and local economic conditions. Add this to the possible repeal of the 15-year-old qualified economic offer (QEO) law and we fear the scales are tipped to favor the teachers' unions at taxpayers' and students' expense. [Wisconsin Association of School Boards]
So much time, so little reform
I know my fellow conservatives have criticized Rahm Emmanuel for saying (in effect) a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Paging Jim Junior! There is so much low-hanging fruit.
- Wisconsin has 1,921 units of government - the fifth most in the nation, even though we rank 20th in population. Why, for instance, Lafayette County? It tries to support the same infrastructure as Dane County with fewer people than Fitchburg. Streamline!
- Our tax code is too complex - and we have too many forms of taxation. Personal income tax, sales tax, property tax, beer tax, cigarette tax, gas tax, dry cleaning tax, rental car tax (in the Milwaukee Expo Center), tobacco tax, insurance tax, corporate tax, inheritance tax, real estate transfer tax. Simplify!
- The governor should appoint our supreme court justices, subject to state senate confirmation. If it was good enough for James Madison and John Marshall ...
- Did I mention the Milwaukee public schools? Reform!
One area that the Doyle-ster has wisely resisted "reform" - campaign finance. Extorting from taxpayers money they would not willingly spend to finance this or that sorry-loser's campaign is not just anti-democratic. It is madness.
The ordinance amendment moving Madison's curfew for children under age 17 up one hour was referred at Tuesday's meeting to the Tuesday, May 5 meeting. It's sponsored by Alds. Thuy Pham-Remmele and Jed Sanborn. I wrote about it last time.
Common Sense, take a bow
Two great, common sense decisions from Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen. The first, that a sheriff has no right setting bail for his own prisoners. Thank you Dane County D.A. Brian Blanchard and the circuit judges for daring to challenge The Kathleen, ahem, I mean, the sheriff, for using taxpayer dollars to bail out predators that our other tax dollars were spent trying to apprehend.
Secondly, the open carry ruling. It's the right ruling because that is the law. I wrote about this while still a practicing journalist (as Bill Lueders would have it). It is legal in Wisconsin to wear a honking 44-magnum sidearm holstered in full view like Marshall Matt Dillon. But a rape victim who hides a .22 caliber Smith & Wesson in her purse will be carted before a magistrate because Wisconsin is one of only two states that criminalizes concealed carry. Not that that ever bothered the criminal class.
Thank you, thank you, thank you
Top economists tell Congress the administration must change its approach to saving troubled financial firms or risk strangling an economic recovery. [CNN: Let big banks fail, bailout skeptics say]
My friend (deluded though he is) John Nichols opines that what our U.S. Congress needs is "more socialists." Remember that the next time The Capital Times endorses its latest Brenda Konkel for election.
Here, courtesy of the Cousin Johan Blaska Endowed Chair of Political Science and Golf Course Management, is socialism made simple:
An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single student before but had, once, failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said ok, we would have an experiment in this class on socialism. All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.
After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. But, as the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too; so they studied little. The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around the average was an F.
The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great; but when government takes all the reward away; no one will try or want to succeed.