Tax Foundation: State & Local Tax Burden Hits All-Time High

Curtis Dubay [430K PDF]:

State and local taxes will consume a record-
setting 11 percent of the nation’s income in 2007. Since 1986, the state-local tax burden had never fallen below 10 percent or risen
above 10.9 percent. Figure 1 charts the course of the nation’s state-local tax burden since 1982.
This estimate of state-local tax burdens at an all-time high comes at a time when personal and corporate incomes have risen for almost
four consecutive years, sometimes at a remarkable pace. Along with low unemployment, these rising incomes have boosted tax collections substantially and helped most states meet their revenue expectations with ease since 2004.

Wisconsin ranked 6th: Tax Burder as a % of Income = 12.3%; 4,736 / 38,639. Via TaxProf.

Learning About the Past: Where history isn’t bunk

The Economist:

Across the world, approaches to teaching children about their nation’s past are hotly contested—especially at times of wider debate on national identity.
IF THE past is a foreign country, the version that used to be taught in Irish schools had a simple landscape. For 750 years after the first invasion by an English king, Ireland suffered oppression. Then at Easter 1916, her brave sons rose against the tyrant; their leaders were shot but their cause prevailed, and Ireland (or 26 of her 32 counties) lived happily ever after.
Awkward episodes, like the conflict between rival Irish nationalist groups in 1922-23, were airbrushed away. “The civil war was just an embarrassment, it was hardly mentioned,” says Jimmy Joyce, who went to school in Dublin in the 1950s.

Software’s Benefits On Tests In Doubt

Amit Paley:

Educational software, a $2 billion-a-year industry that has become the darling of school systems across the country, has no significant impact on student performance, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education.
The long-awaited report amounts to a rebuke of educational technology, a business whose growth has been spurred by schools desperate for ways to meet the testing mandates of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law.
The technology — ranging from snazzy video-game-like programs played on Sony PlayStations to more rigorous drilling exercises used on computers — has been embraced by low-performing schools as an easy way to boost student test scores.

No Child Left Behind testing eased for more students

AP & Amy Hetzner:

The Bush administration is letting more children with disabilities take simplified tests under the No Child Left Behind education law.
The change, outlined in final regulations Wednesday, would triple the number of children who can take tests that are easier than those given to most students under the 2002 law.
Roughly 10% of special education students – those with the most serious cognitive disabilities – currently can take simplified, alternative tests and have the results count toward a school’s annual progress goals.
Under the new rules, about an additional 20% of children with disabilities could take alternative tests and have those count toward a school’s progress goals.

“Let’s put the kids first”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial:

The new board must not chase away Andrekopoulos. He has worked indefatigably and creatively to transform MPS into an effective system of schools.
We have referred to one board faction as the reform wing and the other as the union wing. Those labels best describe what unites them but not necessarily what divides them. The reform side is not necessarily anti-union, and the union side is not necessarily anti-reform.
Bonds, an education professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, may find board support for his call for a more rigorous curriculum. We backed Bonds but hope he doesn’t take the board down the policy cul-de-sac of renewed busing. It won’t lead to more integration, his stated goal, for lack of white students to go around.

Capitol press conference on school funding

From Tom Bebee, Institute for Wisconsin’s Future:

Wisconsin Association for Excellent Schools (WAES) and other school-funding reform advocates will be gathering at the State Capitol in Madison on Thursday, April 19, to support Senate Joint Resolution 27 and Assembly Joint Resolution 35 asking the Legislature to change Wisconsin’s school-funding system.
We need you to attend, if possible, and support these important resolutions.
A press conference will begin at 10 a.m. in the Assembly Parlor. This would also be an excellent opportunity to set up meetings with your legislators or their aides and talk about school funding, the joint resolution, and reform. If you need help, let me know. It would be a good idea to visit the WAES website at to study up on the resolution and its intent before you go.
If you plan to attend, please let me know by responding to this e-mail so we can make sure that all groups and organizations in attendance are recognized. Resolution sponsors Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts and Sen. Roger Breske are hosting the press conference.

Federal Study Finds No Edge for Students Using Technology-Based Reading and Math Products

From the Education Week Web site:

A major federal study of reading and mathematics software has found no difference in academic achievement between students who used the technology in their classrooms and youngsters who used other methods.
The $10 million study of 15 educational software products is the most extensive federal study yet to follow methods that the U.S. Department of Education considers scientifically rigorous.

Madison BOE elections 2007: Voters 2, MTI 1

The Isthmus article Blame for the media illustrates a long-obvious truth: John Matthews is Madison’s Mayor Daley, a ward boss of our very own, and he gets very angry when his political control slips.
Matthews wanted to control the selection of Board members for three seats in 2007. Odd-year elections are especially important to Madison Teachers Inc. because odd years are the years in which the 2-year MTI-MMSD contracts are negotiated.
This time Mr. Matthews failed. He couldn’t find a suitable candidate to run against Johnny Winston, Jr., so he labeled and publicly berated him for not being Bill Keys. In Mr. Matthews’ mind that failure left only two seats in play. He won with Beth Moss and lost with Marj Passman.

Continue reading Madison BOE elections 2007: Voters 2, MTI 1

MTI points to inadequate coverage as a reason for Passman’s defeat

Blame for the media
“Half isn’t enough,” John Matthews, the head of Madison Teachers Inc., was saying shortly after Marj Passman conceded her school board loss to Maya Cole and Beth Moss claimed victory Tuesday night at Fyfe’s.
Matthews, whose union played a key role in both candidates’ races, says Passman’s victory was needed to provide a greater push for the Legislature to increase school funding.


Cole, Moss and Winston – Newly Elected and Re-Elected to the MMSD School Board

Tuesday, April 3rd Madison votes returned Johnny Winston, Jr., to the School Board and elected two new board members – Maya Cole and Beth Moss.
Election of Cole, Moss may ease thoughts of school closings As candidates, both Cole and Moss have said they would look for other places to make cuts rather than disrupt families and neighborhoods through school closings.
School Board winners to pick superintendentIn winning her second bid for a School Board seat after losing to Arlene Silveira by 79 votes last year, Cole is the third candidate to be elected in three years who has called for radical change in the way the board does business, joining board members Lawrie Kobza and Lucy Mathiak.
“I feel like my message resonated with people all over the district,” said Moss, who co-chaired a grassroots effort to help pass last year’s successful school funding referendum.

Extra effort could garner two diplomas upon graduation

From a story by Shawanna Robinson in the Daily Journal, Park Hills, Missouri:

Farmington High School Senior Jake Goff will graduate from Farmington High School this May with not only his high school diploma, but an Associate of Arts Degree from Mineral Area College as well.
He is the first of what the district hopes will be many students accomplishing such a feat. The Early College Pathway Program recently received a stamp of approval by both the Farmington R-7 Board of Education and the Mineral Area College Trustees.
The Early College Pathway Program is one where the Juniors and Seniors enrolled would finish their senior year with their high school diploma and either a transcripted 42 (credit hours) general education block from Mineral Area College transferable to most Missouri four-year universities or, such as Goff, with a 62 (credit hours) Associate of Arts degree from Mineral Area College. Goff will actually graduate with 64 credit hours this May.

High School “Better Newspaper Contest”

From the Wisconsin Newspaper Association via the DPI newsletter of State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster:

Student journalists are invited to enter their best work, published in their school newspapers during the 2006-07 academic year, in the high school “Better Newspaper Contest,” sponsored by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA).
The entry deadline is April 16 for awards to be presented in May at end-of-year assemblies. The contest period has been shifted from previous years to allow awards to be presented during the current academic year.
The contest annually recognizes student achievements in high school newspapering. The panel of judges from Wisconsin’s newspapers includes publishers, general managers, editors, reporters, photographers, copy editors and other staffers.
Any student enrolled in a Wisconsin public, parochial or private senior high school may enter. Information is available at WNA Student Newspaper Contest.

Cole’s vision makes her best fit for board – Vote Today

Vote Today – I’m endorsing Maya Cole for Seat 5.
A letter to the editor
On Tuesday, please join me in voting for Maya Cole.
For many years, I’ve been an active advocate for Madison’s schools, working on campaigns and task forces, as well as a volunteer in schools and a PTO officer. I’ve been encouraged by the substantive discussions the School Board has undertaken this past year with new perspectives, but there is more work to be done.
With annual budget cuts in the millions of dollars, doing business as usual jeopardizes our neighborhood schools, puts academic excellence at risk and alienates the community by pitting parent against parent.
This short-term planning cannot continue, and Maya Cole won’t let this happen.
As a board member, she will work with the School Board to develop a long-term plan.
Cole will also work with and be open to ideas from teachers, parents, students and the wider community. Her openness, innovation and fresh perspectives will help strengthen Madison’s excellent schools.
I support Maya Cole for Seat 5 on the School Board.
Barbara Schrank
Published: April 2, 2007

Ruth Robarts: Let’s take school closings off the table, start the planning needed for another referendum

Ruth Robarts, who supports Maya Cole and Rick Thomas for School Board, wrote the following letter to the editor:
I voted no on Carol Carstensen’s proposed three-year referendum for several reasons.
First, a referendum requires careful planning. Two weeks’ notice did not allow the School Board to do the necessary analysis or planning.
Second, the referendum is not part of a strategic long-range plan. The district needs a 10-year strategic plan, and such a plan must address the structural deficit created by state revenue limits. It must also bring businesses, community organizations and the city of Madison into the solution. While referendums for operating dollars will be necessary, without planning they are of limited use.
Third, relief from the state revenue limits is not on the horizon. Gov. Jim Doyle has no proposal for eliminating the revenue limits. Madison’s state representatives recommend that we focus our lobbying efforts on small -cale, stopgap funding issues.
There are some steps that the School Board can take to increase public confidence and pass operating budget referendums in the future.
1. Direct the administration to find the best ways to use the Doyle Building to generate revenue for the district. In 2006, the board defeated this proposal (Kobza and Robarts were the only yes votes.) Using the building as a revenue-generating asset could also move administrators to school buildings and help keep the schools open.
2. Negotiate changes in health insurance coverage for teachers to minimize future costs. Administrators and other unions have recently made such changes without losing quality of health care.
3. Take the closing/consolidation options presented by the Long Range Planning Committee off the table. Look for more focused approaches to saving money, such as moving the Park Street Work and Learn Center into an under-enrolled elementary school as we did in the past when we housed WLC at Allis School.
4. Invite the community to join in a strategic planning process as soon as possible. As long as the state and federal governments shirk their responsibilities and the state over-relies on residential property taxes to pay for essential local services, there will be a gap between the tax funds available and the cost of the high-quality, comprehensive K-12 school system that we want. We need a plan as badly as we need the elimination of the revenue limits and a progressive tax to adequately fund our schools.
Ruth Robarts
member, Madison School Board
Published: April 2, 2007

Keep the board functional: Vote Cole

A year ago, I joined other volunteers to help with the recount of the votes in Maya Cole’s slim loss to Arlene Silviera.
After the recount had been going for a while (I can’t remember whether it was the second or third day), the process clipped along smoothly with volunteers and the city clerk’s staff bonding with somewhat dark humor about the tediousness of the effort.
All of a sudden, someone helping Arlene harshly and loudly blurted out, “Those people can’t touch the ballots!” Someone helping Maya had handed a pile of ballots to one of the clerks, as everyone had been doing for the last day or two.
The room fell silent, as rooms do in reaction to something unpleasant.
Maya calmly stepped over to the person and matter-of-factly said, “Marj, we don’t want this to become antagonistic. We’re just being certain that all of the ballots were counted correctly.” Everything returned to normal.
The incident starkly shows the styles that Marj Passman and Maya Cole will bring to the school board if elected. I prefer Maya’s.
As I said before, the personalities of Bill Keys, Bill Clingan, and Juan Lopez reduced the board to ineffectivenss.
No one should want to put a person on the board with an interpersonal style that will again cripple its efforts.

Academy makes the improbable possible for teens

A column by Miami Herald writer Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Words tumble to mind by way of description. Words like desolate. Words like tough. Words like hard and mean and grim and sad. Words like dead. Bail bonds and liquor stores are what passes for industry here. Ragged row houses, many boarded and abandoned, crowd one another like strangers in a bus shelter.
Now consider the girl who goes to school here. Danielle Branche, 16, is tiny, has a pretty smile and speaks with self-possession about her dreams.
”When I graduate, I want to go to either Antioch College in Ohio or Point Park University in Pittsburgh, and I want to get my bachelor’s in both dance and business management so I’ll be able to open my own dance company,” she said.
Consider the neighborhood. Consider the child. If they seem not to fit each other, well, that’s the point. Welcome to St. Frances Academy. Welcome to What Works.

Ruth Robarts Deserves a Medal

Ruth Robarts’ roller coaster
DOUG ERICKSON 608-252-6149
Ruth Robarts steps down April 23 after 10 years on the Madison School Board, and, no, she’s not expecting a cake from her colleagues.
Although Robarts first ran as a facilitator – “That didn’t work out so well,” she says now with a guffaw – she became known more as a budget hawk and contrarian.
Along the way, she’s been praised as a straight-shooting maverick and criticized as an obstructionist who just likes to carp.
She chose not to seek re- election. Her replacement – Maya Cole or Marjorie Passman – will be elected Tuesday.
Robarts’ legacy differs markedly, depending on who’s talking, but most agree she traveled an interesting route from a team player to an outsider to a can’t-be-ignored-because-the- voters-like-her force.
She finishes her board service less lonely due to the elections in recent years of like- minded colleagues Lawrie Kobza and Lucy Mathiak. But Robarts cautions that in the last decade, it has become more difficult for candidates not endorsed by the teachers union or tied to the board majority to get elected.

Continue reading Ruth Robarts Deserves a Medal

Why the Union Vote?

via a reader email:

I believe that people can do much more as a group coming together around common causes than is possible to do individually – from unions to religions. But problems arise when people start identifying with the group itself. We give away our individual control in lieu of having someone or something that we think is greater than ourselves make decisions for us. It becomes tribalism.
I’ve really worked at researching the views of the candidates for the school board race. But I have to admit I have not had time to become informed about some of the other races in the April 3 election. Similarly, many people in Madison who don’t have kids in school (that’s most of Madison) aren’t up on the School Board race.
For these reasons I think voters turn to groups such as the teachers union (MTI) or politicians’ endorsements of candidates.
My husband and I are dissatisfied with the current situation for students in MMSD. There are long standing problems with finances, and growing problems with school behavior and education. Probably all of us know at least one family that’s left the public schools or even Madison because of this. We think it’s time for change.

Continue reading Why the Union Vote?